Amnesty International has urged zero tolerance for companies who continue to profit from human rights abuses in cobalt mines, ahead of the 12th Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains, which takes place in Paris between 17-20 April.
In two major reports* Amnesty International has shown how the majority of companies sourcing cobalt from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have likely contributed to or benefited from human rights abuses.
“The fact that abuses persist years after the OECD put responsible sourcing guidelines in place raises the question of whether this Forum will be anything more than a talking shop for businesses. We are calling on states and companies alike to put human rights, not profit margins, at the heart of their discussions - this should be an opportunity to make real progress towards cleaning up the cobalt supply chain,” said Seema Joshi, Head of Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International.
“In particular, companies need to take concrete steps towards addressing the suffering of victims and providing effective reparations. Former child labourers in the DRC don’t magically start thriving at school when companies cut their ties with exploitative mines. Even if a company has stopped sourcing from high risk areas, it still has a responsibility to help people who have suffered past human rights abuses linked to its business to rebuild their lives.”
Ending human rights abuses in the diamond industry will also be a key part of the OECD agenda. Amnesty International and others have criticized the Kimberley Process, a 2003 diamond certification scheme established by the UN, for having too narrow a focus and letting companies off the hook.
Published on April 17, 2018
KnowTheChain is a resource for businesses and investors who need to understand and address forced labor risks within their supply chains.
In 2016, KnowTheChain has ranked 60 of the largest global companies in three high risks sectors on their efforts to address forced labor and human trafficking risks in their supply chains. Each sector benchmark includes individual company scorecards, a findings report and resource and action guide for the sector:
In 2017, KnowTheChain undertook an analysis across the three sectors, reviewed its benchmark methodology, and evaluated to what extent companies address forced labor risks specifically in sugarcane and leather supply chains.
In 2018 KnowTheChain will benchmark 125 companies across the three sectors.
For more information, contact Felicitas Weber at email@example.com.
Published on the Business & HR Resource Centre.
A team of UN experts today presented their preliminary observations on steps that should be taken by the Royal Thai Government and businesses to improve corporate respect for human rights and to strengthen access to effective remedies.
“We welcome the clear ambition of the Government to become a regional leader on business and human rights and encourage it to take decisive steps towards this objective,” said Dante Pesce, vice-chairperson of the Working Group on business and human rights, at the end of a 10-day visit to the country. (Full mission statement in English and Thai.)
The experts noted how reports on trafficking and forced labour in the fishing industry had been a wake-up call for the Government, which had resulted in a concerted effort to stamp out abusive business practices. They called on the Government to take similar action in other sectors such as agriculture, energy, manufacturing and construction.
“The Government and businesses should improve policies and mechanisms to identify, mitigate and remedy human rights risks, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including for mega projects promoted by Thai companies and investments in other countries in the region,” said Surya Deva, the other member of the Working Group’s visiting delegation.
During the visit, the experts consulted with government authorities, the business sector and a wide range of civil society actors, including representatives of groups who are particularly at risk of business-related human rights abuse, such as migrant workers, human rights defenders, community activists, persons with disabilities and sex workers.
“One critical challenge for Thailand will be to end recurring attacks, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, union leaders and community representatives who speak out against business-related human rights abuse,” the experts said.
“More must be done to protect civic space, including protecting human rights defenders against civil and criminal defamation law suits filed by companies to silence those who stand up for the victims of abuse,” they added.
The experts welcomed the openness of the Government to discuss remaining challenges and to see how these could be tackled and addressed in a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights to be completed later this year.
“We have urged the Government to develop this plan through an inclusive and transparent process that includes all interested parties, including – and in particular – the critical voices, and we are hopeful that the Government will be able to deliver on its commitments,” the experts said.
The Working Group’s final report, including findings and key recommendations, will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019.
Published on OHCHR on April 4, 2018
By Simon Harvey
Ferrero has revealed the sources of its palm oil amid an initiative by Greenpeace International to clamp down on deforestation by producers of the commodity before the end of the decade.
The Italy-based confectionery maker issued an extensive list of 116 oil palm mills, which includes suppliers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and Colombia. Ferrero said it will update the list every six months and provide updates on its sustainability progress.
Environmental pressure group Greenpeace is committed to eradicating deforestation caused by palm oil plantations and its impact on climate change by 2020 and is encouraging companies to disclose their sources.
The non-governmental organisation said decades of deforestation by the commodity producers has not only set the conditions for forest and peat-land fires but also endangered the health of people across south-east Asia, exploited workers and encouraged child labour.
Earlier in March, Greenpeace issued its 'Moment of Truth' report highlighting companies' ''readiness to come clean about where their palm oil comes from and finds that brands are not on track to meet their commitments to a clean palm oil supply chain by 2020.
In a 19 March statement, the NGO said: "We called on them to disclose publicly the mills that produced their palm oil and the names of the producer groups that controlled those mills. If disclosed, this information would show whether brands had forest destroyers in their supply chains."
However, Ferrero published its list ahead of its scheduled announcement on 15 May.
''Ferrero fully welcomes Greenpeace's request for further supply chain transparency and agrees that this is an essential component of sustainable sourcing and supply chain responsibility," the company said in a statement.
''Ferrero recognises the important industry momentum generated by Greenpeace through its report 'Moment of Truth' and feels strongly about demonstrating its absolute dedication to transparency."
Chief operating officer Aldo Uva added: "Transparency is a first key step towards industry transformation and we believe that a holistic approach with on-the-ground actions are necessary to create [a] long-term positive impact on the palm oil sector and we are committed to it."
Published on JustFood on March 26, 2018
By VALERIE BAH
On a research trip to the Kamituga gold mine in her home province of South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), activist Marie-Rose Shakalili noticed something that’s often minimised in stories about mining in her country: that “women work disproportionately hard, breaking up stones, transporting and sifting them, grinding them into powder.”
Shakalili described a “brutality of gendered roles in mining operations” in the DRC, with women finding that their labour is undervalued at each step. “For a basin of crushed rocks, a woman might earn the equivalent of $3 a day, but since it’s backbreaking work, they often feel the need to bring [their] children… to assist them,” she added.
“Women who are active in the mining sector lead very difficult lives,” Shakalili continued. After finding an almost total lack of research and statistics on their conditions, she travelled to Kamituga to speak directly with women working in some of the region's many artisanal and small-scale mine sites – where people mine informally using rudimentary tools and sell (mostly) unprocessed products to traders and companies.
A 2016 report from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), released just a few months before Shakalili’s research, is one of the few other studies of women’s experiences in the DRC’s informal mining sector.
Based on a survey conducted in Katanga province, it described alarming trends including labour and sexual exploitation on mining sites and security forces (state and private) appearing to protect corporate interests to the detriment of local populations.
At one artisanal mining site known as “Huit Cent,” for example, the report said that armed security forces have exacted “taxes” from workers and prevented them from organising.
The DRC mining industry is a prime example of how unbalanced corporate power threatens the rights of women, whose voices and experiences are too often marginalised or ignored altogether. Cases like these are why feminist activists have joined the international mobilisation for a new binding treaty to regulate the impacts of transnational corporations.
Artisanal miners produce 90% of the mining sector’s revenues in the DRC, according to the World Bank. They constitute between 500,000 and 2 million informal workers at the bottom of supply chains. They perform the hard manual labour that feeds into the industrial operations of international mining corporations, which process and sell the mined products abroad.
International mining corporations may have vast economic resources, political influence, legal armour, and media connections to shape public narratives about their activities. Members of local, often rural, communities may not benefit sufficiently from their operations and, with far fewer resources, often struggle to access justice when they suffer harm.
They may not be able to afford lawyers, for example, or they may be unable to travel long distances to courts, or even understand such proceedings and relevant documents, if they speak a local dialect or indigenous language.
The underrepresentation of women in local government exacerbates the ways in which their voices are sidelined, Shakalili adds.
“The mining sector is overstacked in favour of men,” said Shakalili, who told me about meetings that she observed, as part of her research, between mining company representatives and government officials where she found women and their concerns were routinely absent.
The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), where I work, is part of the Treaty Alliance coalition which believes that new international laws are needed to regulate the impacts of transnational corporations. Our existing legal tools are not sufficient.
In 2002, a new Mining Code was introduced in the DRC to regulate this sector. But it was drafted under advice from the IMF and World Bank which have, according to the civil society watchdog Gender Action, privileged the growth of the mining sector while disregarding its gender impacts.
According to a 2015 briefing from NGO Global Witness, existing frameworks like the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance, have done little to ensure that companies operating in the DRC source conflict-free minerals, pay their fair share of taxes, or protect workers at the “bottom” of supply chains.
Though the Global Witness briefing does not discuss the demographics of artisanal miners, feminist research like that from WILPF highlights the specific vulnerability faced by women in the industry, who face gendered “violations of all kinds” – including barriers to job promotion beyond hard labour; lower pay than men; and sexual violence at work.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has warned that conflict-affected areas are a “‘grey zone’ in terms of business and human rights” despite “heightened risks for gross human rights violations, of which companies may be perpetrators or accomplices.”
International humanitarian and human rights laws have fallen short of being able to “efficiently prevent, address, mitigate or account for business-related human rights abuses in conflict-affected areas,” hence the need for new laws.
Discussions on a proposed Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations have been underway at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva since 2014. Negotiations over a draft treaty text are now expected to begin later this year.
Organisations including FIDH see this proposed treaty and the negotiations process as an opportunity to clarify human rights obligations for states and companies, including where businesses may play a role in “exacerbating or driving” conflicts.
At AWID, my colleague Inna Michaeli explains: "War and conflict are not just profitable for the widest range of industries, they can in fact be caused and driven by economic and corporate interests.”
Michaeli has been working with other activists to lend a feminist perspective and raise awareness on the possibilities that a binding treaty offers women human rights defenders.
Industries from mining to construction to banking and telecommunications “can all profit from conflicts and thus maintain a political interest in their continuation,” she said. “Given the vast economic and political power corporations hold today, this really is about human lives."
In the DRC, Shakalili is also thinking about local structures that could help to minimise harm on mining sites. “To facilitate the survival of women,” she said, “we are talking about cooperatives so that women, and the children that they support, are represented in terms of earning and ownership [in the sector].”
Shakalili is one of 48 women human rights defenders who spoke about extractive industries impacts on their communities, and women in particular, in a 2017 report published by AWID and the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC).
This report highlights a chilling statistic from a UN special rapporteur: out of 156 killings of women human rights defenders in 2015, 45% were of environmental, land and indigenous rights activists. Mining was one of the most lethal sectors, along with hydroelectric projects, agribusiness, and logging activities.
Many of the women cited in this report also criticised extractive models of development, demanding sustainable alternatives that would respect ecosystems, minimise economic disparities, and enable communities to thrive.
Published on Open Democracy on March 22, 2018
A Primark spokesperson said: “We can confirm we have published information about the factories which manufacture products for Primark on our website.
“For a number of years, we’ve been working closely with industry partners sharing information about where Primark products are made. This has included for example, details of our suppliers, their factories, as well as our supply chain practices. Partners have extended from bodies such as the Ethical Trading Initiative, to organisations monitoring industry standards, notably the International Labour Organisation’s Better Work programme.
“Information about suppliers’ factories in the 31 countries from which Primark sources product is now available on our website. Details include factory names, addresses, number of workers and gender split of the workforce.
“A factory is detailed on the map only after it has produced products for Primark for a year and has become an established supplier. During the first year, a factory has to demonstrate that it can consistently work to Primark’s ethical standards, as well as meet our commercial requirements in areas such as quality and timely delivery. Factories featured on the map produce over 95% of Primark’s products for sale in our stores.
“Primark has not published details of its suppliers’ factories up to now, as we regarded this information as giving us commercial advantage. However, with 98% of the factories making products for Primark also manufacturing for other brands, and with a number of those retailers now publishing details of their sourcing, we have taken the decision to share our information.
“Primark does not own any factories and requires all its suppliers’ factories to meet its Code of Conduct, which is based on the standards of the International Labour Organisation, a United Nations body. Primark’s Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Team, which consists of over 100 people based in key sourcing countries, is responsible for monitoring compliance with its Code. This team will also be responsible for providing updates to the Primark Global Sourcing Map on a twice-yearly basis.”
Published on Primark on February 7, 2018
Jewelry is meant to be a symbol of beauty, love, and commitment. Every year, consumers purchase nearly US$300 billion of jewelry for themselves or for loved ones. But increasingly, promoting the story of beauty, love, and commitment is not enough – customers want to be sure that the precious minerals and gems in their jewelry have been sourced responsibly.
The conditions under which gold and diamonds are mined can be brutal. Miners – including children – are injured and killed in unsafe gold or diamond mining pits. Indigenous peoples and other local residents living near large-scale mines are forcibly displaced. In conflict zones, civilians suffer enormously as abusive armed groups and criminal networks enrich themselves by exploiting gold and diamonds. Mines are polluting waterways and soil with toxic chemicals, harming the health and livelihoods of whole communities.
Jewelry companies are not doing enough to ensure they are sourcing responsibly, and many fail to publicly and transparently report on the due diligence efforts they say they undertake. Companies often rely on the Responsible Jewellery Council, which brings together over 1,000 companies in the jewelry supply chain. But the Responsible Jewellery Council promotes standards that allow companies to be certified even when they fail to support basic human rights. The Kimberley Process, another scheme often used by companies, is focused too narrowly on diamonds linked to rebel forces, applies only to rough diamonds, and places no responsibility on companies. Governments rarely require industry actors to undertake robust human rights due diligence. The United States and the European Union have adopted laws on the responsible sourcing of gold (as well as tin, tungsten, and tantalum), but more countries need to follow their lead, and laws should apply to a wider range of minerals.
Jewelry companies can meet the demand for ethically sourced jewelry by putting responsibility and transparency at the heart of their business – and a few have already begun to do so. Under existing voluntary standards, established by the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, companies are expected to put in place a “due diligence” process to identify human rights risks, address these risks, and account for their efforts to the public and to independent auditors.
We, the undersigned NGOs and trade unions, are calling upon the jewelry industry to turn its commitment to responsible sourcing into effective action.
Jewelry Companies Should:
Published on HRW on February 8, 2018
Eleven years after 540,000 litres of toxic waste were dumped in Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital Abidjan, victims are still in the dark about the potential long-term impacts on their health, Amnesty International said today, following the publication of a long-awaited report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
More than 100,000 people sought medical assistance, after a local company hired by the commodities giant Trafigura dumped toxic waste at various sites around Abidjan in August 2006. Reported symptoms included breathing difficulties and burning skin, and to this day people complain of serious health issues they believe are related to the incident, including skin and eye problems.
Despite this, the Côte d’Ivoire government has never monitored the victims to check for long-term health effects. UNEP’s report, which was commissioned by the government and follows an environmental audit of 17 sites affected by the dumping, has strongly recommended that the Côte d’Ivoire government carry out a representative health study of affected individuals, and consider the need for long-term health monitoring.
“The victims of this disaster have been abandoned to live under a cloud of fear and uncertainty for more than a decade. It’s absolutely unacceptable that, so many years on, they remain in the dark about the potential long-term health impacts,” said Lucy Graham, Researcher on Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International.
“UNEP’s call for a health assessment vindicates long-standing appeals by local communities for government action. The Côte d’Ivoire government took a key step forward by commissioning UNEP’s report, but it now needs to follow through on the report’s recommendations. The people of Abidjan have waited in fear for long enough.”
At the Côte d’Ivoire government’s request, UNEP and the World Health Organization (WHO) will organize a meeting of public health experts in March to analyse the health impacts of the dumping and consider the need for long-term health monitoring for the victims.
Amnesty International has called for health monitoring for a number of years and has compiled a list of recommendations on health studies and monitoring for the meeting of public health experts.
The organization is calling on the Côte d’Ivoire government to establish a medical study to assess any long-term impacts of the dumping on health, and to implement a plan for long-term health monitoring of affected individuals.
Amnesty International is also calling on the Dutch government to provide funding for this work because, six weeks before the waste was dumped in Abidjan, Dutch authorities allowed Trafigura to export the waste from Amsterdam despite knowing it was hazardous and required specialist treatment.
Clean-up and treatment work continued at some of the sites affected by the dumping until as late as 2015 and 2016. UNEP’s report, which is the first independent assessment of the success of these operations, found that pollution levels did not exceed national or international standards requiring further clean-up. However, UNEP notes that this does not preclude the possibility that the community is still affected by health impacts from exposure to the toxic waste in 2006.
“While these findings will be a relief to those living or working near the dumpsites, they are just the tip of the iceberg. People in Abidjan have waited for ten years to know if these areas are safe – and there is still so much that they do not know,” said Lucy Graham.
“We welcome the answers provided by UNEP’s report, but many questions remain. What exactly was in the toxic waste dumped in Abidjan? What are the health implications of the dumping and lengthy clean-up operations? Only when affected communities have the full picture will they truly be able to move on with their lives.”
For a summary of the disaster, its health and environmental impacts and a full list of Amnesty International’s recommendations on health studies and monitoring, please see the new briefing A Toxic Legacy.
Published on AI on January 31, 2018
By Yolanda Redrup
The World Wildlife Fund in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand have joined forces to stamp out illegal fishing and slave labour in the tuna fishing industry using blockchain technology.
In partnership with US-based software company ConsenSys and information and communications technology implementer TraSeable, WWF has been able to help tuna fishing and processing company Sea Quest Fiji to track using blockchain the journey of the tuna from when it is caught, through processing and to the distributor.
WWF is now in discussions with tuna retailers to complete the "bait-to-plate" cycle with the hopes of creating a QR code for consumers on tuna tins that would tell them if the tuna had been sourced sustainably and ethically.
WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O'Gorman said the technology would likely be ready for commercial use in the tuna industry by the end of the year.
"The next phase is to work with the retail sector. We've worked on the front end and now we need to look at the rest of the supply chain, right up to the plate," he said.
"There's a number of technical and logistical challenges ... but we're in discussions with a few retailers ... and through the course of this year I think we'll get from bait to plate and be able to address the sustainability and human rights issues."
According to WWF, commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world with a high rate of injury and sometimes death due to unsafe working conditions.
A report from January 2014 found members of a South Korean fishing vessel called Oyang 70 were often beaten or punished for little or no reason and would be made to stand on deck during extreme weather conditions with no food or water. Crew members also reported incidents of sexual harassment and rape. These allegations came to light when the ship sank, killing six men.
In the past six years many other incidents of workplace deaths have also been revealed in the fishing sector, including the discovery of the body of a Chinese crewman on a Taiwanese fishing boat that had been stabbed in the neck and kept in a freezer.
Sea Quest volunteered to trial the technology as the Fijian fishery has made a name for itself in the market based on its commitment to sustainability and ethical practices. It exports predominantly to the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
"From the moment the fish comes aboard the vessel the blockchain technology captures their journey in a digital manner and allows every person through the supply chain to see the story of that fish," Sea Quest chief executive Brett "Blu" Haywood said.
Mr O'Gorman said consumers wanted to shop ethically and the development of the blockchain technology would enable them to do so in the near future.
"We see blockchain technology as being able to step up the transparency in the supply chain, which previously was difficult or quite expensive to do," he said.
"It's a very exciting revolution that's about to transform the industry and will deliver multiple sustainable development goals."
WWF is also investigating the use of blockchain for other seafood industries and for fundraising initiatives. It also held two hackathons in 2017 to develop solutions to environmental sustainability issues using new technologies.
Mr O'Gorman said it was supporting a start-up that had emerged from its second hackathon to develop a blockchain for charities to show consumers how their donations were being spent.
Published on The Financial Review on January 7, 2018
By CHRISTOPHER PATZ
A fire in a textile factory in Pakistan killed over 260 workers on 11 September 2012. The workers were producing directly for the German clothes retailer KiK! (“Kunde ist König!” or Consumer is King!) in a building without fire alarms, emergency exits, or fire extinguishers. Of the roughly four hundred relatives and injured survivors, only four were able to afford to bring claims for compensation against the clothes brand in Germany, financed by German NGOs. These four separate claims all argue the same thing: the brand broke its duty to ensure the factory had fire safety measures in place. In August 2016, German judgesaccepted jurisdiction over the cases and granted the four individuals legal aid.
Now, at the end of 2017, the roughly 400 remaining survivors and relatives are time-barred from bringing more cases, as they were unable to raise the necessary funds in time.
Collective redress (also known as “class action”) is a procedure allowing many individuals to bring their judicial claims together in a single proceeding against a common defendant. It economises the proceedings for claimants by enabling them to run the one same case for many, at roughly the same financial cost and risk. It economises the functioning of the judiciary, as numerous identical claims are dealt with together, thereby saving the courts time and resources.
Had collective redress been available in Germany, all fire survivors and relatives of the deceased workers could have brought one combined claim against Consumer is King!. However it isn’t, and its availability across EU Member States is a disharmonised patchwork. The Consumer is King! case is just one current example from an EU Member State where the lack of collective address has resulted in the denial of access to justice for hundreds of people having suffered grievous harm.
In October 2017 the European Commission announced plans for EU-wide legislation for collective redress. But unlike previous, non-binding efforts from the Commission that applied to all victims of corporate harm, the current binding proposal is only for consumers. So if people who bought jeans from Consumer is King! somehow suffered harm as a result (say, the jeans didn’t perform the way they were advertised), they could join together and claim their rights against the company as the consumers of its products. But those who made the jeans, or any others suffering harm as a result of the company’s malpractice (hypothetically say, a factory waste spill, or discriminatory hiring practices), are not afforded the right.
Whilst it is very clear the Commission’s proposal comes in response to the VW Dieselgate scandal (where consumers in the US were able to obtain billions in compensation, whilst those in the EU struggle to obtain anything), it is far from clear why others harmed by gross business misconduct are excluded from the proposal.
One study has found that over half of the companies listed on the UK FTSE 100, France’s CAC 40 and the German DAX 30 have been identified in allegations or concerns regarding adverse human rights impacts. Without question, not all these allegations or concerns would meet the requisite standard of proof required by a court in order to order compensation. Nonetheless the numbers are alarming, and testify to the reality that whilst globalisation has granted corporations much freedom of operation, rules for their accountability and the protection of the people they harm lag behind.
Harm caused by large corporate entities seriously affects all manner of people. When a mine barrage breaks and 100,000 square meters of cyanide laced water spills into the Danube river system, huge numbers of people suffer as a result. In 2000, collective redress was not available for the Romanian and Hungarian victims of the worst environmental disaster in Europe since Chernobyl. It isn’t today, and indeed it still wouldn’t be under the Commission’s current proposed legislation.
Similar situations persist in cases of discrimination, labour abuse, violations of anti-trust law as well as data protection. The disharmonised patchwork of collective redress across the EU also has a negative impact on fair competition, as varied corporate exposure to deterrent (injunctive) and corrective (compensatory) action across Member States means some companies are more easily subjected to class-action litigation than others, depending on where they operate within the single market. This is creating an unfair playing field for companies.
Compared to consumer cases, the barriers to justice in corporate environmental harm and human rights cases are typically even more extreme. To begin with, such cases require masses of expert evidence, testimony, and studies in order to prove causation of harm; they involve prolonged legal fees, not to mention the intimidating prospect of financial ruin in the event of loss (the loser-pays principle standard to EU legal systems means a claimant must pay the defendant’s legal costs if the claimant loses). For a corporate defendant on the other hand, the decision to litigate is often hardly even a matter for consideration. 69 of the world’s 100 largest economies are corporations, not nation-states. Such a disempowering set of circumstances often leaves individuals with claims against large corporate entities with a convenient and oft-proclaimed right to access justice and remedy on paper, but not in practice.
The worldwide deficit concerning access to remedy in cases of harm occasioned by corporations is real and significant. It has been acknowledged by the international community and is the subject of one of the tree pillars of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (UNGPs), a breakthrough, yet non-binding international instrument agreed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 and endorsed by all major European countries as well as the EU itself. The UNGPs confirm that States have a duty to ensure the effective functioning of their judicial systems for victims of business harm. This means addressing the clear and blatant power imbalances between individual claimants and large, well-resourced corporations.
Allowing individual claimants the right to bring their cases together is a concrete and effective way to fulfil this state duty, and gives tangible practical effect to the right to effective remedy for victims. Indeed, it is a plea being made by international and European human rights bodies and public agencies including the Council of Europe, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, the European Economic and Social Committee as well as a diverse cross-section of civil society and various MEPs.
By crowning the consumer king, the EU commission ignores the legitimate right to remedy for all other people suffering serious harm occasioned by irresponsible corporate conduct. Europe can still seize the opportunity to make equal the right to effective remedy for all those harmed by business malpractice.
Published on Open Democracy on December 20, 2017