Conference on the 8th and 9th of September 2017
Large companies often tout their commitments in terms of “social responsibility” (CSR). But when their activities violate human rights through their subsidiaries or partner companies, their real responsibility is rarely recognized and victims struggle to obtain redress (source: AI French Section).
Oil pollution, toxic waste spills, deadly gas leak … The activities of multinationals or their subcontractors can have dramatic consequences on the environment and human rights. When they are not deadly, these disasters can destroy the lives of thousands of people, contaminated by fumes or forced to flee their homes.
In many cases, these tragedies could have been avoided. From the Bhopal disaster in India in 1984, to the toxic waste scandal in Côte d’Ivoire in 2006 or the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013, measures could have been taken to prevent these tragedies.
The exploitation of natural resources is too regular at the expense of people and the environment. Entire families can be brutally evicted from the land where they have always lived without being able to assert their rights. They are almost never consulted on projects that disrupt their lives. They are even more rarely compensated. When they try to obtain justice, they run into the inefficiency of judicial systems and the lack of information, when it is not corruption that can exist between states and companies.
In some areas of conflict or tension, the activity of multinationals can fuel deadly trafficking. This is the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia in Myanmar, where the mineral trade often maintains the illegal financing of armed groups. Gold, tin and tungsten are used to make our phones or electronic devices. Cobalt is often extracted by children. In this way, we must stop the trade in these “blood minerals”.
There are, however, more and more applicable standards and standards in International Public and Private Law (United Nations Corporate and Human Rights Guidelines, Guidelines for Multinational OECD, International Finance Corporation’s Environmental and Social Sustainability Performance Standards, Ecuador principles, etc.), and national law (national legislation imposing legal obligations – French law of 27 March 2017 on the duty of vigilance of the parent companies), to be argued for the defense of victims of corporate abuse, as for the advice to the companies themselves.