Thursday, September 7, 2017
Several recent reports advance the conversation about corporate accountability.
Amnesty International and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre released the report Creating a paradigm shift: Legal solutions to improve access to remedy for corporate human rights abuse on September 4. The report, which follows up the proposals contained in Amnesty’s 2014 report Injustice incorporated: Corporate abuses and the human right to remedy, sets out an agenda for legislative reform, focusing on parent company liability, Forum non conveniens and the Mandatory Collection and Disclosure of Information. The study explains that “A number of significant legislative initiatives in the last two years point to the beginning of a paradigm shift. Those driving legal reform must keep this momentum going and capitalise on the various legislative advances by tailoring proposals to their particular legal system, even if change is achieved through incremental steps over time. The aim of this publication is to highlight those legislative developments and fuel further legislative solutions to improve access to remedy for corporate abuses.”
In August, a report commissioned by a group of NGOs was published, Removing Barriers to Justice: How a treaty on business and human rights could improve access to remedy for victims. The report is aimed at supporting the mission of the Inter-Governmental Working Group on business and human rights, established by the Human Rights Council in 2014 “to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.” The report examines five case studies that document the challenges facing victims and identifies areas for reform. It concludes that “There are fundamentally two levels at which the Treaty can deliver change. The first recognizes that the majority of the barriers identified in this report exist at the national level, that is, within domestic law. Therefore change needs to happen at the level of domestic law reform in multiple countries if these barriers are to be effectively removed. The second approach calls for something more radical, by placing binding obligations on businesses, and backing that up with some form of monitoring, supervisory or judicial body at the global level. There are good arguments in favour of either approach. It is possible, and may be desirable, to pursue both strategies under the Treaty, calling upon States that ratify it to both amend their domestic law and to pave the way to an international supervisory regime.”
And a timely study reported in the journal Climate Change on September 7 traces the connection between climate change and specific fossil fuel producers. Study co-author and professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford Myles Allen explains the importance of the findings: “This study provides a framework for linking fossil fuel companies’ product-related emissions to a range of impacts, including increases in ocean acidification and deaths caused by heat waves, wildfires and other extreme weather-related events. We hope that the results of this study will inform policy and civil society debates over how best to hold major carbon producers accountable for their contributions to the problem.”