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The Upstream Journal

A magazine on social justice since 1975

  • The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

    The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

  • Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

    Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

  • More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

    More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

The Upstream Journal

Journal

HudBay Minerals Inc. being taken to court in Ontario for operations in Guatemala

Angelica Choc.

Angelica Choc.

For the first time a lawsuit against a Canadian mining company over alleged human rights abuses abroad will be heard in a Canadian court. After opposing it for more than a year, HudBay Minerals Inc. has agreed to have the case heard by a Canadian court. But the company says that the charges should be thrown out, arguing that it cannot be tried in court here for the actions in Guatemala of its former foreign subsidiary at the time.

In what could potentially be a landmark ruling for Canadian corporate accountability, members of the Mayan Q’eqchi community of Lote Ocho have brought three lawsuits against HudBay Minerals Inc. in the superior court of Ontario.

The charges against Hudbay

One: In September 2010, Angelica Choc, widow of Q’eqchi’ community leader and teacher Adolfo Ich Chaman, filed a claim against HudBay Minerals and its subsidiaries HMI Nickel Inc. and Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel (CGN) for their responsibility in the death of her husband at the hands of security personnel employed at the Fenix mining project on September 27 2009, during a protest over the land occupation. She says that several people saw Adolfo Ich Chaman dragged away to a building on the mine site, where he was attacked with machetes and shot.

Hudbay denies security personnel were responsible. “Based on internal investigations and eye witness reports, HudBay and CGN are confident that CGN personnel were not involved in his death.” Continue Reading

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  • 2014 / Mar
  • By Olivia Zeydler
  • 0
Journal

Business and Human Rights

business_zeydler

Monitoring the actions of corporations to ensure their accountability is a challenge. They work all over the world, under several jurisdictions, have power in the market economy, and operate on a large-scale, impacting the environment and the lives of many people.

Initiatives such as the UN Global Compact and the use of corporate social responsibility reports are ways that corporations voluntarily report on their impacts. But critics argue that these are insufficient, because they are nonbinding.

To create a more effective framework to help businesses prioritize human rights, in 2005 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed John Ruggie of Harvard University. The result was the the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, approved unanimously by the Human Rights Council in 2011.
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Journal

Cocoa industry and child labour

“There’s something that is really unsavory and horrible about companies, and the people that run those companies, being able to be so wealthy at the top of the supply chain. But at the bottom you see a level of exploitation that is almost unmatched. Still, the chocolate industry is transforming, and a good portion of that transformation is due to consumer pressure.” – Sean Rudolph, Campaigns Director, International Labour Rights Forum

A boy drying cocoa beans.

A boy drying cocoa beans.

70% of the cocoa exported worldwide comes from West Africa, primarily from Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. More than 109,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry work in what the US Department of State calls one of the worst forms of child labour. 10,000 are estimated to be victims of human trafficking or enslavement.
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African countries take a hit in federal budget says Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Excerpts from the CCPA’s Alternative Federal Budget 2013:

“Despite sometimes marginal increases in wealth, income is concentrated among a more wealthy minority and many people live precariously on the margins of poverty. Globalization and free trade may have brought with it growth in some parts of the world, but it certainly has not been equitable neither between countries and regions, nor within them.

Against this backdrop, Budget 2012 delivered a punishing message to the world’s poor. Between FY2011–12 and FY2014–15, Canadian aid is set to decrease by 7.6%, from $5 billion in 2011 to $4.66 billion in 2014–15.

Between 2011–12 and 2012–13 alone, it is estimated that Canada’s ODA will drop by almost $320 million, assuming no additional supplementary estimates in 2012–13. This is equivalent to the Canadian International. Continue Reading

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Journal

Farmer suicides

241,679 farmers in India committed suicide between 1995 and 2009*

framer with plow BW
Dr. Raju Das, an associate professor at York University, has done extensive research on economic development policy, agrarian change, and poverty in India. Here is some of what he had to say:

Dr Das BW

Dr. Raju Das

In 1991, the Indian government scaled back support of small-scale farmers and increased investment in infrastructure serving large agribusiness. Farmers saw decreased input subsidies, privatization of government industries, and an increase in foreign investment encouraged by tax incentives. Opening up markets to inexpensive foreign goods eroded the competitiveness of India’s crops. Forced to sell at lower prices and denied subsidies by the government, the wages of India’s farmers began to plummet.

Open markets have also given international corporations the platform to push genetically modified (GM) seeds with higher crop yield potentials, but the seeds are sold to farmers at a cost two to ten times higher than traditional seeds.

Irrigation is required for these higher yields, but the government has failed to provide irrigation facilities in any adequate way. Seventy percent of farmland still depends on monsoon rainfall, so when drought comes farmers suffer. Continue Reading

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Journal

“Letters to politicians” Do they make much difference?

If you have hopes for change that go far beyond the borders of your riding, you may question the usefulness – or the point at all – of writing to your local MP.

With issues that tend to be global in focus, such as international human rights, World Bank reform, and corporate social responsibility, it is important to know how citizens can engage. I asked five experienced Canadians with varied perspectives for advice on how much change you can affect with a letter:

    Francis Scarpaleggia, Liberal MP
    Mark Eyking, Liberal MP, Party Critic for CIDA
    Hélène Laverdière, NDP MP, Opposition Critic for International Cooperation, the Americas and Consular Affairs,
    Warren Allmand, former Liberal MP,
    Alain Roy, Director of Campaigns and Activism for Amnesty International Canada

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Journal

Giant’s walk

INNU2012_0075The deceased grandfather of Nikashant Antane, a young Innu man, came to him in a dream and said, “Get up and help your people.” So Antane, also called Michel Andrew but known in his community as “Giant,” started walking to raise awareness about diabetes in Innu settlements and to reconnect Innu youth with Nutshimi, the country. Continue Reading

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Shell oil challenged by law from 1789

Shell gas flare at Rumuekpe which sits just next to a large

Shell gas flare at Rumuekpe in the Niger Delta, the main oil-producing region. Nigeria is the fifth largest exporter of oil to the United States, but most local people are still poor. 70 percent of them try to survive on less than a dollar a day. Photo: Elaine Gilligan/Friends of the Earth

US Supreme Court to decide if corporations can be pursued in American courts for their role in human rights abuse abroad

An obscure US law from 1789 may have the potential to hold corporations, governments and individuals accountable for international human rights violations. The Alien Tort Statute grants US courts jurisdiction in cases of certain violations of international law, and cases can be brought by foreign citizens. The law reads: “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

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Journal

A new global advocate for universal access to renewable energy

solar panel BWWhen the first session of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, last year, I was already in the area and attended on behalf of the Social Justice Committee. IRENA is to be an independent, international agency run by countries who want to move into a future that doesn’t rely on nonrenewable energy sources like fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Much of the inspiration for IRENA came from the work of Hermann Scheer, a German politician, activist, writer and an outspoken advocate for renewable energy. Opposed to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries until his death in 2010, he tried to counter their message that a future powered by renewable energy is naïve and not possible, a path that will cause severe economic hardship and leave people freezing in the dark.

Founded in January 2009, IRENA now has more than 100 member countries, and 58 others have signed in support and/or applied for membership. Canada is not a member, and has not indicated support. We have not even reached the stage of thinking about developing our own national “energy road map,” a stage reached by many European countries thirty years ago. Continue Reading

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Journal

World Bank told to get real, be more sensitive

The 2012 evaluation, “Results and Performance of the World Bank Group,”  found that it continues to fall short of its goals, mainly because it needs to be more realistic and sensitive to the local “political economy”

The World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group examined the effectiveness of its activities. Here are excerpts from its recent annual report, along with our take on what it means:

“Although country programs have met their objectives more often than not, the record falls short of the 70 percent performance standard set in the World Bank’s Corporate Scorecard. There is little disagreement on the need to strengthen realism and results frameworks for country programs, a finding supported by recent IEG country program evaluations and an evaluation of the Bank’s matrix system. Realistic country programs typically show an understanding of the country’s political economy and are characterized by selectivity and focus on areas in which the Bank can best add value.”

Upstream’s translation: The World Bank continues to neglect the needs of the people it is supposed to serve, operates in an imagined environment, and leaves out stuff it doesn’t like – like human rights abuse and oppression.

“In infrastructure, agriculture, and beyond, evaluations regularly stress the relevance of high-quality project design and effective progress monitoring to project outcomes. They repeatedly refer to overambitious project design, inadequate consultation with stakeholders, insufficient candor during supervision, and failure to follow up on problems identified during supervision missions as reasons for less-than-satisfactory achievements.”

Upstream’s translation: When you don’t include the people affected, things don’t work.

“Human development was the only area in which the share of projects rated moderately satisfactory or better in development outcome ratings improved between FY06–08 and FY09–11. Although the change is not statistically significant, it is a positive development for the sectors that can be examined further.”

“Since the mid-2000s, ratings for human development operations have been poorer than those in other areas.”
Upstream’s translation: The economy, not the people, is still the point of World Bank programs.

“Dialogue with a range of stakeholders is important in driving the demand for change. An in-depth understanding of political economy and associated risks is key to assessing ownership of and opposition to a particular intervention, as well as the likelihood that it will succeed and its eventual impact. More effective management of governance and anticorruption risks calls for greater consistency in the Bank’s approach to setting risk tolerances across client countries as well as a harmonized control framework across Bank financing instruments.”

Upstream’s translation: Another way of saying that the people affected don’t have a say, their realities aren’t taken seriously, and the World Bank’s Washington-based technocrats need to get real.

What wasn’t in the report? No mention of these words or phrases: human rights, rights-based development, consent, empowerment.

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