Tag Archives: human rights

Christine Bader on ‘The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist’

Christine Bader spoke at the Carnegie Council earlier this month about her book, The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When GIrl Meets Oil. Essentially, the book is her attempt to reconcile her own time working in corporate social responsibility for BP and feeling like the company was doing all the right things out of a genuine desire to get it right, with the fallout from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

I was investing in the health and well-being of communities, living around big BP projects, because everybody in the company who I worked with understood that what was good for those communities was good for business.

It was fascinating work. I was going to West Papua, at the remote tip of Indonesia. Then I was working in China on a chemicals joint venture, where we were going to be bringing 15,000 migrant workers into a town of about 30,000 people, again ensuring that we could mitigate the risks and the upheaval to communities there. It was fascinating, amazing work [full transcript here].

Bader concludes, later, that those projects were model projects because there was so much potential for things to go horribly wrong: an enormous amount of political and social risk – and international attention – that made the corporate social responsibility environment there different, perhaps, from that of other projects.

So there were all these factors that created this perfect storm for senior management to basically give us whatever we wanted that we thought was necessary to mitigate the risks.

I didn’t realize at the time that that was so unique, that I could call up headquarters and be like, “Hi. Could I have $100,000 to do a human rights impact assessment?” “Sure. Take whatever you need.”

That’s part of the journey of the book, actually—years later, wondering what happened with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, actually going back and thinking, “What was so special, what was so unique about my time there?”

So that’s what I think happened there. There was a sort of perfect storm of factors that made the company throw whatever we needed behind trying to get this project right.

The whole talk is very interesting. Bader argues from the assumption that development is inevitable, but that companies have a responsibility to mitigate the externalities on local communities. She further argues that the corporate philanthropy model is flawed, and that the proper social role of the corporation must be constantly kept in mind: i.e. companies shouldn’t play a large political role or step into positions of governance or governance training.

Bader’s views are very similar to my own, but I found it refreshing to hear a former insider’s perspective, and to be reminded that corporations are on the whole made up of good people who want to do the right thing, or at least not the blatantly wrong and abusive thing. The challenge is to create a regulatory framework that aligns these largely decent instincts with the legal purpose of a corporation: to make profits.

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Dear Minister Morrison

I’ve just emailed this to Scott Morrison’s office, having already called. I encourage other Australians to write, email or phone and register concern about the complete lack of accountability and transparency in Operation Sovereign Borders.

Email: minister@immi.gov.au
Phone:  (02) 6277 7860

Dear Minister,

I have been following the events on Manus Island with increasing alarm and have long been concerned about conditions at our offshore processing facilities. The arbitrary detention of asylum seekers is an egregious breach of international law and demonstrates a complete lack of compassion and understanding. It is even more heinous when you consider that 90% of asylum seekers are eventually found to be refugees, and have fled persecution, violence, and hunger in their homelands.

I do not ask you fling open the borders but I expect, as a citizen of this country, a reasoned political debate that doesn’t demonise or dehumanise asylum seekers, that is transparent, and that is honest with the Australian public about our responsibilities under international law and the true magnitude of the boat people “problem” (hint: the number of people arriving in this way is vanishingly small next to visa overstays).

Specifically and in the short term, I would ask that you initiate a transparent Australian-led investigation into the problems on Manus Island, as these people were in our care at the time of the incident, not that of the PNG government. Further, I would ask for a similarly transparent investigation into the report of burns to asylum seekers on boat that was turned back. Please note that to suggest one operation involving a small group of service people may have gone awry is not to indict the entire Australian Defence Force, whose work I respect.

Finally, I ask you to support Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, in her work and allow her to visit both Nauru and Manus Island. The people who are housed there are within our power, and thus under international human rights law are within our sovereignty, and the AHRC’s remit.

Australia has long been a well-respected middle power with a reputation for supporting international law and human rights around the world. Please don’t trample that reputation, and our values of mateship, compassion, and a fair go, into the dust.

Sincerely,

Camden Luxford

What I’ve Been Reading

Aid on the Edge of Chaos take a look at Philip Tetlock’s research on expert judgement and draws some compelling lessons for the development field.

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Anthony Faramelli examines the Duggan inquest in the UK and what it tells us about the politics of fear and security in the post-9/11 world:

the pre-​emptive doc­trine util­ized by state sponsored man­hunts works be­cause the non-​existence of what has not ac­tu­ally happened, but might one day happen be­comes more real than reality due to the af­fective nature of fear. The felt reality of threat le­git­im­ates pree­mptive ac­tion, once and for all.

It’s an interesting dissection of the construction of sovereignty and nationhood:

na­tional iden­tity is neg­at­ively con­struc­ted in terms of what it isn’t, or rather what it must be pro­tec­ted from. However this Other does not ne­ces­sarily have to reside out­side the na­tional bound­aries … The Manhunt Doctrine as elab­or­ated by Grégoire Chamayou ex­pli­citly ap­plies to all 21st cen­tury wars that are fought by gov­ern­ments against ex­ist­en­tial threats that do not have a na­tional al­le­gi­ance and, as such, may be loc­ated any­where and every­where around the world, in­cluding (and es­pe­cially) within the na­tional ter­ritory (the wars on drugs, crime, ter­rorism, etc.).

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Seth Kaplan’s op-ed in the New York Times, What Makes Lagos a Model City, is another addition to the growing grey literature on successful cities – Bogotá is a frequently cited example – and argues for continued devolution to local government. As globalisation continues to erode accountability at a national level there’s something to be said for new experiments in devolved governance.

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Spain’s judges have been very active in the prosecution of egregious violations of international human rights law, but it looks like their leash is going to be considerably shortened: David Bosco for Foreign Policy places the blame squarely on Chinese pressure. Kate at Wronging Rights puts it best:

With the latest change, the courts will now be limited to hearing cases in which both perpetrator and victim are Spanish nationals or residents. Which is pretty much what the Spanish courts would be doing anyway.

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I’ve been tweeting a lot of Venezuela but haven’t read much commentary in English. A pair of interesting Spanish links:

Holding Economic Power to Account: Toward the meaningful accountability of transnational capital (ABSTRACT)

The paper I’ll be presenting at the G20 Youth Conference in May. There’s a little more on the direction I’m approaching from here(This was updated 2 March 2014 as a later draft saw me head off in a slightly different direction; below is the abstract for the paper I’ll actually be taking to the conference. Original is at end of post).

From ‘Gift’ to ‘Right’: Moving beyond corporate social responsibility to corporate accountability

Multinational enterprises stride across the international stage, rivaling states in their economic size and power but only subject to international laws via the laws of individual states. These entities have enormous capacity to affect the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities worldwide, and an international community that professes democratic values must provide mechanisms by which MNEs can be held directly accountable to the communities in which they operate.

Adequate mechanisms must provide for three stages of accountability: provision of information, discussion and explanation, and rectification. Furthermore, they must be based on clear accountability rights rather than voluntary compliance by MNEs, and significant barriers to access must not exist. Measured against these standards, existing international mechanisms for accountability are found lacking, for when we consider access, power, and the importance of accountability rights, the dominant rhetoric of corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes rather unhelpful. The challenge is to move beyond CSR to a global accountability regime that challenges existing inequalities of power.

(Following is the abstract from a previous draft, initially published here on 3 Feb 2014).

Holding Economic Power to Account:  Toward the meaningful accountability of transnational capital

Multinational enterprises stride across the international stage, rivaling states in their economic size and power but only subject to international laws via the laws of individual states. These entities have enormous capacity to affect the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities worldwide, and an international community that professes democratic values must provide mechanisms by which MNEs can be held directly accountable to the communities in which they operate.

Adequate mechanisms must provide for three stages of accountability: provision of information, discussion and explanation, and rectification. Furthermore, they must be based on clear accountability rights rather than voluntary compliance by MNEs, and significant barriers to access must not exist. Measured against these standards, existing international mechanisms for accountability are found lacking. While the G20’s embracing of the transparency agenda is commendable, more action must be taken to move from voluntary to mandatory compliance and enable meaningful access to rectification.

El Perro del Hortelano: Transnational Capital, Human Rights, & Sustainable Development

I’ve been thinking about this film a lot recently. It made a huge impression on me when I saw it for the first time in Peru: I find the imbalances of power created by hyper-mobile capital and global inequality very troubling, and this film paints quite a devastating picture of the negative side effects.

I’m very excited, then, to be able to present a paper on the topic of holding transnational corporations (TNCs) accountable for their actions within local communities at the 2014 G20 Youth Conference in May. I believe TNCs can be a very effective and beneficial driver of growth and technology transfer, but I’m concerned by the lack of meaningful mechanisms by which individuals and communities can successfully defend their rights, especially in the Global South. My jumping off point was Kate Macdonald’s 2008 report The Reality of Rights: Barriers to accessing remedies when business operates beyond borders and the philosophic basis to my argument, if you will, is that the protection of rights should not lie with consumer boycott or shareholder advocacy in the North, but with the provision of meaningful opportunity and sufficient voice and power to communities in the South, such that they can demand for themselves the responsible, sustainable, and rights-respecting action of TNCs, in accordance with local priorities and cultural preferences.

I’ve been thinking of this film because it’s an excellent example of the difficulty of holding capital to account when it operates in a distant corner of a youthful democracy, with the greatest impact falling on minority indigenous groups.

Holding Economic Power to Account:  Toward the meaningful accountability of transnational capital (ABSTRACT)

Perspective Lost: The Uncivil Debate on Asylum in Australia

The polarisation of Australian opinion on the issue of asylum seekers has reached extraordinary levels. This is a result of the highly emotive nature of the issue, along with two other important factors: its successful securitisation, and high levels of confirmation bias on all sides.

The political elite, finding it easier to choose one side of the discursive war they are responsible for starting than attempting to end it, have pursued hardline policies.  All perspective has been lost, and the punishment of asylum seekers for having the temerity to cling to hope in a hopeless situation has become acceptable.

The full article can be read in the AIIA Queensland’s November newsletter, page 11.

A letter to Queensland Senators, on Temporary Protection Visa

It occurs to me that as an impassioned democrat I should, perhaps, draw on that great democratic resource: impassioned letter writing.

Next week the Australian Senate will discuss the Greens’ motion to disallow Temporary Protection Visas. I encourage you to contact your Senators and ask them to exercise compassion. Queensland’s Senators are:

Senator the Hon Ronald Boswell – The Nationals
Senator.boswell@aph.gov.au
(07) 3001 8150

Senator Sue Boyce – Liberal Party
online@sueboyce.com.au
(07) 3862 4044

Senator the Hon George Brandis QC – Liberal Party
Senator.brandis@aph.gov.au
(07) 3001 8180

Senator Mark Furner – ALP
Senator.Furner@aph.gov.au
(07) 3881 3710

Senator the Hon John Hogg – ALP
Senator.hogg@aph.gov.au
(07) 3843 4066

Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig – ALP
senator.ludwig@aph.gov.au
(07) 3229 4477

I sent each Senator the following email and will be calling their offices on Monday. Please join me.

Dear Minister,

I am writing to you in the hope that you will support the Greens’ motion to disallow Temporary Protection Visas.  In the hope that you will, together with your fellow Senators, reaffirm the values that make this country great: a fair go, mateship, support for the underdog. This is not a country that turns its back, slams the door shut, closes its heart.

But it is not only compassion that should convince you TPVs are a bad idea. They have no deterrent effect: it is well-established that their introduction simply led to increased numbers of women and children risking their lives on leaky boats. If they are not intended for deterrence, one imagines the intent is to punish those who have arrived by boat: a breach of international law, which prohibits the punishment of refugees for their mode of arrival, and an intent unworthy of this nation.

But perhaps it is not intended to punish, but merely to prevent refugees from putting down serious roots in this country, in the hopes that they will, one day, be able to leave. It is difficult to comprehend the value Australia gains from this policy: indeed, the Department of Immigration and Border Control, on page 5 of the Community Programmes Service Providers’ Newsletter #8 recognises the benefits refugees can bring to Australian businesses. “They provide employers with unique skills, international experience and diverse cultural perspectives”.

Knowing that these refugees are liable, every three years, to have their TPVs revoked makes investment in these unique skills less attractive to potential employers. It robs the Australian economy of a source of growth and may, in some cases, contribute to welfare dependency.

But perhaps this is a national security issue. In that case, I fail to see how keeping an often traumatised and certainly vulnerable refugee community on the margins of our society – discouraging them from integrating into the community, from embracing our liberal democratic values – can possibly make us more secure. Why breed discontent and resentment where we could embrace different perspectives and a demonstrated determination to survive and thrive?

For me, though, this is not about economics or national security. It is about compassion. Please, Senator, try, for just one moment, to imagine a world turned upside down. A world in which Australia is no longer safe for you and I, a world in which torture and hunger and persecution are suddenly a part of our day-to-day, a world in which we are forced to flee. A world in which the only sanctuary we find is temporary.

I would be consumed by fear.

But we were lucky, you and I, to be born into the Lucky Country. Please, remember the arbitrariness of this luck. We did nothing to deserve it. But we can, through our actions, earn it, and extend that luck to the most vulnerable among us.

Please.
Support the Greens’ motion to disallow Temporary Protection Visas.
Sincerely,
Camden Luxford