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Rights for Whom? Corporations, Communities and the Environment

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A growing body of work is documenting how the operations of European companies outside the European Union have been implicated in violations of internationally accepted human rights and environmental standards. The European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) has highlighted many of these cases, including oil spills committed by Shell in Nigeria, chemical poisoning suffered by workers in Motorola’s supply chain, and the forced relocations of local communities in Anglo-American’s South African operations. Click here to read these.

Rights for Whom? reviews the potential impact of ECCJ’s proposed legislative changes through an exploration of three case studies:

 Trapped in chains - Independent research highlights the working conditions in the factories of a major garment manufacturer for European retailers such as C&A, H&M and Carrefour in India.

 The powerful and the powerless - Colombian lawyer’s organisation CCAJAR reports on claims of lost labour rights and the murder of union members working for Unión Fenosa operations in Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

 Failure to communicate - GroundWork reports how local communities near ArcelorMittal’s steel plant are suffering environmental damange and displacement in South Africa.

The causes of these and other violations are complex, but it is clear that significant gaps in the way multinational operations are governed has exacerbated this behaviour. As Professor John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, has stated: “The root cause of the business and human rights predicament today lies in the governance gaps created by globalization - between the scope and impact of economic forces and actors, and the capacity of societies to manage their adverse consequences. These governance gaps provide the permissive environment for wrongful acts by
companies of all kinds without adequate sanctioning or reparation. How to narrow and ultimately bridge the gaps in relation to human rights is our fundamental challenge”.

The ECCJ believes there is an array of governance gaps that Europe has a unique opportunity to address. Through its power to implement legally binding
reforms, the European Union (EU) can not only lead the debate internationally, but it is also in the position to take effective steps to enhance compliance with internationally agreed human rights and environmental
standards, and to help those impacted by violations of those standards achieve greater access to justice.

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ECCJ Secretariat
Rue d’Edimbourg 26
1050 Brussels - Belgium


Telephone number: +32 (0) 2 893 10 26