Human Rights and extractive industryPublished by MAC on 2005-12-09
Human Rights and extractive industry
9th December 2005
More than twenty NGOs have contributed to a major report, published under the auspices of the International Network for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ESCR, New York), aimed at the United Nations - specifically Professor John Ruggie, the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Human Rights and Business (SRSG). To date Ruggie's meetings with various NGOs, business and governments, have sparked widespread criticism for failure to focus on binding regulations for extractive firms, and meaningfully involve community organisations. The professor will be continuing his consultations through 2006.
The Report cites several cases, already covered on the MAC website, confirming our contention that mining companies are getting away with complicity in numerous human rights abuses.
Joint NGO Report on Human Rights and the Extractive Industry & Consultations with UN Special Representative on Human Rights and Business
by ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group Press Release
9th December 2005
We are eager to share the attached Joint NGO Report on Human Rights and the Extractive Industry. The ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group recently assembled a series of case studies on the extractive industry, highlighting patterns of violations and gaps in the protection of human rights. This report relies on the contributions and input of many committed human rights advocates, representing over twenty different organizations. This Joint NGO Report includes suggested Next Steps for the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Human Rights and Business (SRSG), Professor John Ruggie. A draft of the Joint NGO Submission was circulated at the UN Consultation on Human Rights and the Extractive Industry in Geneva, 10-11 November 2005, and the final version was given to Professor Ruggie at a consultation with NGOs in London, on 9 December. The report has been well-received by many, and we hope that it will be a valuable resource for the SRSG and for those continuing to challenge human rights violations and lack of accountability in the extractive sector.
At the Consultation on Human Rights and the Extractive Industry, Professor Ruggie suggested that recent media coverage highlighted deep structural issues in the sector. Debunking a common 'illusion that dealing with the host state provides powers of absolution' for corporations, he stressed the importance of the social relations of production and the seeming comparative advantage of operating with social license from affected communities. Most business representatives seemed keen to focus the discussion on scaling up existing voluntary initiatives, learning lessons, and reporting, while repeatedly noting the importance of good business bringing about democracy when they operate in weak governance zones. Some business representatives were strongly critical of the UN Human Rights Norms for Business. Professor Ruggie acknowledged that fundamental disagreements remain, particularly in reference to the UN Norms, presumably due to businesses' fears of additional legal liabilities.
Recognizing the failure of different voluntary standards, the ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group has consistently advocated that there is a need for a common, international set of standards articulating the human rights responsibilities of business, which must ultimately be enforceable. The UN Norms represent a valuable step in this direction, providing a starting point for further work. As Professor Ruggie attempts to clarify concepts of complicity and the sphere of influence of corporations, the Joint NGO Submission stresses the importance of looking at specific cases in different sectors and regions. Similarly, in highlighting patterns of human rights violations involving corporations, the Joint NGO Submission emphasizes the need for workers' organizations, indigenous and other affected communities and NGOs to have a strong voice in ongoing UN consultations on business and human rights.
The ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group would like to thank the following individuals and associated organizations for their contributions and input to this report: Tricia Feeney (RAID), Hubert Tshiswaka (ACIDH), Alessandra Masci (Amnesty International), Legborsi Pyagbara (MOSOP), Chris Newsom (Stakeholder Democracy), Bill Van Esveld (International Human Rights Clinic, NYU School of Law), Nick Hildyard (The Corner House), Lillian Manzella (EarthRights International), Joji Cariño (Tebtebba), Ingrid Gorre (LRC-KsK), Mario Melo and Juana Sotomayor (Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales), Ute Hausmann (FIAN), Elisabeth Strohscheidt (Miseror), Fraser Reilly-King (Halifax Initiative Coalition), Ravi Rebbapragada and Sreedhar Ramamurthi (mm&P), Roger Moody (Mines and Communities), Gavin Hayman (Global Witness), Daniel Owusu-Koranteng (WACAM), Joris Oldenziel (SOMO/ OECD-Watch), Daria Caliguire and Chris Grove (ESCR-Net Secretariat). We also express our gratitude to Human Rights Watch for allowing us to include their case study, 'Sudan, Oil and Human Rights.' We are particularly grateful to Tricia Feeney, co-coordinator of this Working Group and Director of RAID, for her leadership in drafting this Joint NGO Submission.
Further Engagement with the UN Special Representative on Human Rights and Business
In September and October, the Special Representative to the Secretary General on Human Rights and Business (SRSG), Professor John Ruggie, held brief initial meetings with NGOs in New York, Geneva, and London, while also meeting with members of the business community and government. During meetings with NGOs, he suggested the need to focus on issues of national level enforcement by states while looking at the best practices of companies. In pursuing his mandate, Professor Ruggie spoke of his desire to achieve consensus among different stakeholders. He highlighted the efforts of the corporations involved in the Business Leaders Initiative for Human Rights to test different standards, including the UN Norms, and he mentioned that he had sent a survey to transnational companies regarding their approach to human rights. However, Professor Ruggie also expressed his desire to consult widely and explained that he had begun fundraising with governments to overcome financial constraints. NGOs emphasized the importance of including affected communities, as well as NGOs worldwide, in these consultations.
The Opening Remarks of Professor Ruggied at the Wilton Park Conference on Business & Human Rights, on 10 October 2005, are available on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre at: http://220.127.116.11/UN-Special-Representative-public-materials.htm, and the official Wilton Park summary of the meeting is available at: http://www.wiltonpark.org.uk/documents/conferences/WPS05-33/pdfs/WPS05-33.pdf. On 8 December 2005, Professor Ruggie also participated in The 2005 Business and Human Rights Seminar: Exploring Responsibility and Complicity, organized by the Business Leaders' Initiative for Human Rights (http://www.bhrseminar.org/). His remarks on complicity and sphere of influence have been posted by Business and Human Rights Resource Centre at: http://www.businessumanrights.org/Categories/UNintlorgs/UNintergovernmentalorgs/UN/UNSpecialRepresentativeonbusinesshumanrights. In articulating 'the way forward,' Professor Ruggie stated, "The strategy of imposing direct obligations on companies under international law for the broad spectrum of human rights does not recommend itself at this time, if our aim is to achieve practical results."
In 2006, Professor Ruggie intends to hold regional consultations, beginning in South Africa in March. This will ideally be followed by consultations in Asia and Latin America. The SRSG's mandate also calls for another expert meeting on a specific sector. The ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group is eager to ensure that affected communities and NGOs around the world are involved in these consultations. In addition, as Professor Ruggie works with a legal team at Harvard and other colleagues to fulfil his mandate, it would seem appropriate for human rights groups working on corporate issues to submit additional case studies and reports for his consideration. Similarly, the SRSG might be invited to conferences or venues that would allow him to consult more widely with members of indigenous and other affected communities and NGOs.
For more information on the ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group, we encourage you to visit our website at: http://www.escrnet.org/EngGeneral/corporate.asp, where we will also be posting the Joint NGO Report on Human Rights and the Extractive Sector, as well as links to case materials and reports. You are also welcome to join the ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Discussion Listserv, by sending an email to ESCRemail@example.com. Finally, we welcome your participation and input into ongoing efforts; please feel free to contact us through firstname.lastname@example.org.