Posts Tagged ‘corporate accountability’

Adidas and Human Rights Defenders: no longer run-of-the-mill?

December 8, 2016

In 2012 – in the run up to the London Olympics – the Playfair 2012 Campaign (supported by War on Want and others) highlighted the appalling experiences of workers making Adidas official Olympic and Team GB goods in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. “Around the world 775,000 workers, mainly women, in 1,200 factories across 65 countries make Adidas products. Almost all of the jobs are outsourced to factories in poorer countries, yet through Adidas’ buying practices the company has enormous influence over their working conditions, and ultimately their lives. In the run up the London 2012 Olympics research has exposed the harsh reality of life for these workers.” The campaign demanded Adidas to end worker exploitation. playfair2012.org

In a report of 11 March 2015 on Labor Rights Abuses in Cambodia’s Garment Industry Human Rights Watch noted that brands can do more and said “For example, Adidas wrote to Human Rights Watch that it first started privately disclosing its supplier list to academics and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 2001 and moved to a public disclosure system in 2007.”

In an article in Open Democracy of 17 June 2015  Mauricio Lazala and Joe Bardwell under the title: “What human rights?” Why some companies speak out while others don’t.state that:More recently, civil society has called on FIFA sponsors to respond to human rights concerns at construction sites for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. So far, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa have issued statements supporting workers’ rights in the country

In an article published on 16 November 2015, ISHR Director Phil Lynch explored the role, responsibility and interest of business when it comes to supporting human rights defenders and protecting civil society space. He mentions Adidas in the following context: The fourth and final category of actions, perhaps the most important but also the least common, involves business actively advocating and seeking remedy for human rights defenders and against laws and policies which restrict them. Such action could be private, as I understand to be the predominant approach of Adidas. It could also be public, such as the open letters and press statements issued by Tiffany & Co and others for the release of Angolan defender and journalist Rafael Marques

On 31 December 2015, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre listed in its “KnowTheChain” (a ranking of 20 apparel and footwear companies on efforts to address forced labour in the supply chain) Germany-based Adidas as number one out of 20.

On 21 June 2016 Adidas published its policy on HRDs: “The Adidas Group and Human Rights Defenders“. As there is such a dearth of corporate policies specifically on human rights defenders, here follows the key part in quote:

The threats faced by human rights defenders come in many forms – physical, psychological, economic, and social – and involve the interaction of many factors (poor governance, the absence of the rule of law, intolerance, tensions over development issues, etc.) and can be triggered by different actors, both private and State.

In his report to the General Assembly in 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders recommended that both States and businesses should play an active role in supporting and promoting the role of HRDs working in their sectors. This should include, for example, speaking out when human right defenders are targeted for their corporate accountability work. Businesses must also cease and abstain from supporting any actions, directly or indirectly, which impinge upon defenders’ rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

The adidas Group has a longstanding policy of non-interference with the activities of human rights defenders, including those who actively campaign on issues that may be linked to our business operations. We expect our business partners to follow the same policy; they should not inhibit the lawful actions of a human rights defender or restrict their freedom of expression, freedom of association, or right to peaceful assembly.

We value the input and views of all stakeholders and we are willing, and open, to engage on any issue, be this related to our own operations or our supply chain. Often, our engagement with human rights defenders is constructive, especially where we identify areas of shared concern. For example, with respect to transparency and fair play in sports, or environmental sustainability, or the protection of worker rights in our global supply chain. In these instances, we may actively support the work of the HRD and derive shared value from our joint endeavours in, say, improving working conditions, safety, or the environment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ivette Gonzalez: profile of a Human Rights Defender from Mexico

July 11, 2016

Ivette Gonzalez: Human Rights Defender from Mexico

In the ISHR Monitor of 1 July 2016 there is an interview with Ivette Gonzalez who works as a strategic engagement associate for Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER) in Mexico. Ivette was in Geneva to participate in ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme.

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In Mexico, Ivette’s work at PODER is framed around the business and human rights agenda. PODER works to strengthen civil society to achieve corporate transparency and accountability with a human rights perspective. Ivette spoke to ISHR about her motivation to become involved in human rights work, in particular advocating for business and human rights:

‘Injustice and inequality as well as understanding the imbalance of wealth distribution and power triggered my motivation.’

Regarding the risks she and her organisation face on a daily basis, Ivette acknowledged that a focus on safety concerns is necessary in Mexico. PODER has implemented a very strict security protocol in the office to ensure they can work in safe conditions. All members, both those in the field and in the office, are required to follow the protocol.

‘By working in business and human rights, we are aware that powerful actors can consider our work as a threat.’

In the last few years, Ivette feels that human rights defenders and journalists are more at risk in Mexico. Discrediting campaigns point the finger at NGOs and defenders, questioning the legitimacy of their work and even accusing them of taking advantage of victims of human rights violations.

Implementation of laws for the protection of defenders

When talking about particular changes to legislation Ivette would like to see in Mexico, she mentions that the creation of laws is not the issue, but their implementation is. In Mexico, a law and protection mechanism for human rights defenders exists, but the mechanism needs to be improved with the inputs of the users of it and the people at risk. For that to happen, it is crucial that civil society are involved in the process and monitoring.

‘Even though Mexico already has the legislative tools in hand, using these tools, making them concrete and practical for defenders and activists on the ground is the missing step.’

Information is power

Regarding her goals at the international level, Ivette admits that the human rights agenda needs to have an impact at the international level, because some actors are large transnational corporations based in many different countries, and there is a lack of access to justice for the victims of corporate activities in the host and home countries.

Ivette interacts with UN mechanisms including the Special Procedures. PODER has interacted with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Business and Human Rights. In speaking of interacting with the Special Procedures, Ivette acknowledges civil society’s critical role in providing information to Special Procedures.

‘My recommendation for the international community would be to work together and form coalitions. Building new structures and making steps towards change, can be best achieved by working together.’

Learning and advocating in Geneva

Regarding her participation in HRDAP, Ivette is grateful to have been able to receive such a significant amount of information on how to effectively engage with the UN system, as well as how to efficiently use it in her existing work. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge with other civil society organisations and assisting affected communities to engage with the UN. She appreciated the opportunity to lobby various actors, as well as learn how to approach missions and engage with the system – including Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies.

‘During HRDAP, I met very brave defenders with whom I developed professional relationships. Sharing experience and expertise can strengthen our work in the pursue for the respect of human rights.’

Source: Ivette Gonzalez: Human Rights Defender from Mexico | ISHR

Consilium EU adopts conclusions on business and human rights

June 21, 2016

On 20 June 2016, the EU Council adopted its conclusions on business and human rights [its 3477th meeting – COHOM 78]. The full document is available through the link below. The main paragraph mentioning human rights defenders is no 19: “The Council recognises the importance of building capacity both within EU Delegations and Member States’ embassies to work effectively on business and human rights issues, including supporting human rights defenders working on corporate accountability and providing guidance to companies on the Guiding Principles. The Council invites the High Representative and the Commission to develop the necessary tools for EU Delegations to help meet these needs, including through building on the support and best practices of Member States.”

Source: Council conclusions on business and human rights – Consilium

Angela Mudukuti, human rights defender from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre

December 28, 2015

Though positive engagement with businesses should be considered a preferred option when it comes to promoting corporate respect for human rights, sometimes the open legal confrontation of human rights violators is the only way to make progress. This is when human rights defenders such as Angela Mudukuti, a lawyer running the International Criminal Justice Programme at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), are critically needed.  The International Service of Human Rights (ISHR) published an interview with her on 27 November 2015.ISHR-logo-colour-high

She defends a holistic approach to justice, where corporate accountability should be sought whenever businesses are involved in violations, regardless of the sectors or human rights affected.  And in cases of complicity in war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity, she says “corporate accountability is important to all the victims”.

Given the weighty consequences they face if their responsibility for such gross violations is revealed, Angela’s experience is that corporate entities are mostly reluctant to facilitate engagement with human rights defenders, making litigation procedures the only way to ensure transparent investigation and accountability. Yet, suing companies and especially major corporations for complicity in gross human rights violations can prove to be dangerous, even for the best-trained defenders. “We work regionally and so we often face regional and local threats. For example: infiltration into your information databases; other security threats which can be physical in nature… corporate entities … have the ‘muscle’ to intimidate you and they will seize any opportunity to do so…

Angela and other members of the SALC team have also experienced personal threats, but she remains positive, seeing these challenges as an “indication that you are doing the right thing” and a part of the burden carried by most human rights defenders in the world. She also highlights that threats do not come only from corporate or government entities, but also from “individuals who disagree” with the work she is doing.

Other practical obstacles can impede SALC’s human rights work such as a lack of access to information to build proper advocacy, and resistance from legal administrative bodies. Yet, this does not prevent SALC from extending their litigation work into advocacy, which is jointly conducted with local organisations throughout Southern Africa: “The first thing is to decide if litigation is viable or if the same results can be achieved by other means. Secondly, should we decide to litigate we need to determine how we can structure the advocacy around it because raising awareness is very important.”

 

Many corporate entities involved in gross human rights violations have transnational activities for which the “ramifications transcend boarders”. This makes the work of corporate responsibility defenders even more challenging, and is one of the reasons why SALC has a regional focus. Angela says the regional nature of violations also demands that the international community “be united and prioritise business and human rights (…) in Southern Africa and in other parts of the developing world”.

The SALC is also looking to address  the devastating environmental implications of various corporate projects.

Follow Angela on Twitter at @AngelaMudukuti.

Defender profile: Angela Mudukuti from Southern Africa Litigation Centre | ISHR

Environmental Human Rights Defender Muhammad Dairyman Indonesia

November 23, 2015

In the series Human Rights Defender Profiles [ISHR] this time: Muhammad Darisman, from West Java, Indonesia:

In the context of breakneck pace of economic development Muhammad Dairyman stands out. He currently partners with U.S.-based Worker Rights Consortium to monitor and improve working conditions in garment factories, but he is also the founder, since 2009, of a local NGO that raises awareness of occupational disease and victim’s rights. He has led campaigns to highlight the ongoing (and legal) use of asbestos in Indonesia and across the Asian region, and to raise awareness about the negative health impacts on workers and communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Contrasting views of human rights in business: World Bank and IT companies

November 19, 2015

Here two contrasting statements on the theme of business and human rights. One describes the hesitation of the World Bank to apply human rights criteria and even use the word human rights (posted in the Huffington post of 18 November 2015 by Nezir Sinani [www.twitter.com/NezirSinani] and Julia Radomski, and the other is a piece written by Owen Larter and Nicolas Patrick entitled “Microsoft & DLA Piper – Why Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders are Right for our Business” [published in the ISHR Monitor on 27 October 2015]. Read the rest of this entry »

Alejandro González, corporate accountability human rights defender from Mexico

September 21, 2015

A bit belatedly, I refer to the interview (19 June 2015) with Alejandro González in the Newsletter of the ISHR. Alejandro is a human rights specialist who works for PODER, an award winning and multi-faceted civil society organisation based in Mexico that helps build the capacities of communities, workers, NGOs, and other civil society groups affected by corporate malfeasance and accompanies their accountability campaigns.

We help communities participate in the consultative process. In the end, it is about what communities want. We are not in favour or against the project. We make sure communities know their rights and are aware of the potential positive and negative impacts of the project.’ Free, prior and informed consent of the local communities is needed to pass development projects in indigenous regions of Mexico. Recent reforms, however, have opened the energy sector to both national and international investment. Mexico is currently in a maelstrom of speculation. ‘This is a dangerous situation. Many powerful companies in Mexico have a poor track record in human rights and we are concerned that local communities will lose their power to defend their land rights. Communities affected by gas speculation can either be obliged to sell their land or be forcibly dispossessed. It is vital that we observe, facilitate and publicise these negotiations.’

PODER, together with rural communities, is currently conducting an ex ante human rights impact assessment on extractive projects in Puebla, Mexico. In other states, such as Hidalgo, Oaxaca, and Sonora, PODER conducts participatory research with communities and accompanies their advocacy efforts. In Oaxaca it is part of an international mission to monitor the Free, Prior and Informed Consent process regarding the construction of wind farms by Australian, Dutch, Japanese and Mexican corporations.

The government wants to use this case as a model – to set a precedent for all future negotiations. If it goes poorly, the consequences could be devastating … We have met frequently with the Dutch, European Union and other embassies to amplify the voices of local people. We have also conducted extensive research into the companies and provided this information to the community, to help them make informed decisions.’

Standing up to powerful economic actors is dangerous work. In 2013, Héctor Regalado Jiménez, member of the Popular Assembly of the Juchiteco People, was shot and killed after opposing the wind farms. ‘Another activist we were working with died in a suspicious car accident. We still don’t know what happened, but this is a common modus operandi in Mexico. The killers make it look like an accident. Community leaders are frequently subject to death threats and assaults.

Since PODER does not directly advocate on land rights issues, Alejandro is not in as much risk as the human rights defenders it supports, though he and his colleagues face increasing surveillance. He believes that a powerful political and corporate élite pose a major challenge to the work of business and human rights defenders across Mexico. ‘There is a small group of families who control most of the market. It is a secretive group who meet with the president and cabinet members behind closed doors. Together they decide the laws and regulations. That’s how they pushed through the reforms that opened up the energy sector.’

To address this lack of transparency in the government and private sector, PODER is involved in online platform  such as “Who’s Who Wiki” (rindeucentas.org) and ‘MéxicoLeaks’ – a whistleblowing tool that allows people to send information of public interest through secure technologies that protect the identity of the source. The information received through MéxicoLeaks is then verified, analyzed and published by the partners of the alliance, made up of civil organizations and media outlets. “The investigations that follow allegations communicated via ‘MéxicoLeaks’ are dangerous. In a two-year period, 10 journalists were murdered and 326 attacked. We have seen an increasing use of cyber attacks – as hackers force outlets offline or bombard them with viruses. Any journalist who exposes government corruption can expect to lose his job.”

Despite these adverse conditions, Alejandro is positive that good business practice is in the best interests of businesses. ‘We make corporations aware that human rights violations are a material risk. For example, if a company pollutes a river, there will be mobilisation and litigation against the company as well as a huge attack on their reputation – all of which costs money. Making corporations aware of the cost of violating human rights puts pressure on them to improve their due diligence.

In Mexico we would like to see a civil society powerful enough to be on equal footing with both the authorities and the private sector. For this you need information, complete transparency in everything the government does and strong accountability mechanisms. The private sector must prioritise human rights with due diligence, and not merely refrain from doing harm, but actively to do good.’

 

Alejandro González: Mexican corporate accountability human rights defender | ISHR.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/mexico/

Soraya Aziz Souleymane: a ‘business and human rights defender’ from the DRC

September 3, 2015

On 1 September 2015, the ISHR carried an interview with Soraya Aziz Souleymane, a business and human rights defender from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Soraya holds the role of Deputy Field Office Director in charge of The Carter Center’s Mining Governance Program in the DRC, part of a new generation of young activists and NGO workers dedicated to seeing their country reach its potential.

Soraya started managing grants to affected communities at a large mining company’s foundation. She described her frustrations with the limitations of working within the foundation; she had discovered that many of the decisions about where and how to disburse the funds had already been made as part of the initial negotiations with affected communities. She soon decided to move into the corporate structure itself.

[When I joined the corporation,] it was an exceptional time, because the company was just beginning work in a new area and there was a need for many people… so much so that I was able to create a whole community relations department from the ground up. 

Despite the positive experience of getting the first community relations department off the ground, Soraya said she still wasn’t satisfied. She described the realization of the limitations of working with projects, saying: My impact was limited just to this one small community. I couldn’t take those impacts and apply them to others. Also, all the policies had to be linked to production, to the generation of profit for stakeholders and investors. That’s how companies have always worked, and this was no different.

Feeling sidelined after production began at the mine, she joined The Carter Center’s office in 2014.

Soraya described her transition from private sector to civil society, highlighting both challenges and opportunities:

At the company, it was good – we had resources, support, the voice, we had almost immediate access to the ministries, no problem. A big challenge at The Carter Center is that we don’t have the same financial resources or the same level of influence. But other things are better, at least for me. My primary goal now at work is to change the situation of communities –  all communities – not simply to increase production or placate one group. 

Soraya also uses her new role to engage in direct advocacy with the DRC government.  As she said, the chance to influence the policies of the state is ultimately a great opportunity. She also emphasized the value of gaining perspective through exposure to different sectors, and dismissed the idea that working for a company was ‘treason’. Instead, she noted that this kind of movement back and forth, especially within a sector, can lead to a lot of evolution and changing perspectives. It can also lead to more cooperation. We’ve seen many times when civil society and companies have joined forced against the government to say, “No, that will not fly.” It’s a strategic alliance.

…….

And despite the challenges, Soraya has a passion to do this work, and an optimism about civil society. I think my background, the fact that I am Congolese and that I have worked in the sector means I have real interest in and capacity to influence what my country becomes – my children will grow up here. 

I am very optimistic because there are many young people who are innovators, who are open to new ideas, who are willing to sit down with a range of stakeholders. They are also willing to say to the international community, “No, we don’t need x, we need y.” 

And as for the government, the emphasis is also on frank discussion, even when there is a disagreement. As Soraya says, We must work with them for change – and we must be clear that this is not the same as working for them, as accepting the problem.

-See more at: Soraya Aziz Souleymane: Business and human rights defender from the DRC | ISHR

Filipino nun wins Weimar human rights award 2015 for fight against mining excesses

August 11, 2015

<p>Sister Stella Matutina explains the threats of large-scale mining in Mindanao during a conference in Manila in early August. (Photo by Leon Dulce)</p>

Sister Stella Matutina explains the threats of large-scale mining in Mindanao during a conference in early August (Photo by Leon Dulce)

A Benedictine nun, Stella Matutina, is the recipient of Germany’s “Weimar Award for Human Rights” 2015 for her anti-mining advocacy in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

Sister Stella Matutina has been recognized for “[engaging] herself extraordinarily for the rights of the native population, despite being exposed to permanent threats to her safety due to her engagements”. “This highlights the situation of Mindanao and the Philippines in general where the poor, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the human rights activists and defenders of the environment endure harassment and face risks and death,” the 47-year-old nun told ucanews.com (Jefry Tupas, 7 August 2015) . More than a personal recognition, Matutina said the award acknowledges the “collective sacrifices” of freedom and environment defenders in the face of a “systematic effort to limit democratic space and security threats”.

Matutina has been a vocal opponent of attempts to convert the farmlands in Mindanao to plantation crops like palm oil, pineapples, and bananas. She has also led a campaign against the entry of large-scale mining companies in tribal communities in Mindanao. In 2012, the Philippine military labeled Matutina a “fake nun” and accused her of being a communist New People’s Army guerrilla. In 2009, soldiers detained Matutina and two other anti-mining activists in the town of Cateel in Mindanao for giving a lecture on environmental awareness to residents of an upland village. Early this year, authorities charged Matutina, other Church leaders and human rights activists with kidnapping, human trafficking, and illegal detention for taking care of displaced tribal people in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.

These are proof that helping the oppressed, the poor, the abused comes with great risks,” said Matutina, chairwoman of the Sisters Association of Mindanao and secretary-general of the environment protection group Panalipdan.

Since 1995, the Weimar Award has honored individuals or groups engaged in the fight for freedom and equality, the prevention and condemnation of genocide, the right to free speech, and the respect and preservation of political, ethnic, cultural and religious rights of minorities, among others. The award comes with a 2500,00 Euro stipend.

The same Weimar Human Rights Award went in 2000 to Father Shay Cullen of the Peoples Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance (PREDA) Foundation for his work defending the rights of children and women, victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation in the Philippines.

via Filipino nun wins German human rights award ucanews.com.

worth noticing also is the language of Radio Vatican used in its own announcement:

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/08/07/philippine_nun_honoured_with_german_human_rights_award/1163662

London discussion on business and human rights defenders on 14 July

June 28, 2015

The International Service for Human Rights [ISHR] and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre [BHRRC] organize a well-stocked panel on “Business and the protection of human rights defenders” on 14 July 2015 (12h30-14h30) in London: DLA Piper, 3 Noble Street, London. RSVP by Friday 10 July. The discussion.. Read the rest of this entry »