UN report shows need for business curbs

28 March 2007 - 11:37am
Press release

Special representative Professor John Ruggie will today present the UN Human Rights Council with findings of his two-year inquiry into the regulation of corporate human rights abuses. His report will support the growing view among international rights experts that companies can indeed violate human rights as a result of their activities, but that there is currently a "permissive environment" which allows corporations to escape the consequences of such human rights violations "without adequate sanctioning or reparation".

Professor Ruggie will also criticise governments for their failure to control human rights abuses by corporations in the global economy, noting that most rely instead on voluntary 'corporate social responsibility' initiatives, which have been widely criticised for being ineffective. States which fail to take action against corporate human rights abuses are in danger of "breaching their international obligations", according to Ruggie.

War on Want has long criticised the British government for failing to meet its obligations in this regard. The government's official submission to the UN argued that corporations should not be made to face legal responsibilities for their actions under human rights law. It has also consistently refused to provide a right of redress to workers or communities harmed by British companies operating overseas.

John Hilary, Director of Campaigns and Policy at War on Want, said: "Professor Ruggie's report is a wake-up call to the government on the need to hold British companies to account for their actions overseas. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have claimed the moral high ground in the fight against global poverty, yet they have allowed British companies a free hand in their operations in many of the poorest countries in the world. It is high time that the British government took action to protect the world?s poor from corporate abuse."

War on Want cites these examples of corporate abuse from its recent reports:

  • mercenaries employed by private military firms in Iraq have committed numerous human rights abuses, but the British government has failed to introduce any regulation of their activities;
  • women in Colombia and Kenya growing flowers for UK supermarkets continue to face health problems and risk miscarriages through exposure to pesticides;
  • employees in Bangladesh regularly work 80 hours a week for just 5p an hour, in potential death trap factories, to produce cheap clothes for British consumers of Primark, Tesco and Asda.

 

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media officer - (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 office. (+44) (0)7983 550728 (mobile)

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