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Business and Human Rights

    April 04, 2017

    Some of the world’s largest companies are selling food and cosmetics containing palm oil that is tainted by shocking human rights abuses, including forced and child labour. Corporate giants, such as Nestlé , Kellogg’s, Colgate, Unilever and Procter & Gamble are turning a blind eye to the exploitation of workers in their palm oil supply chain. These companies reassure their customers that they are using “sustainable” palm oil, yet Amnesty’s research reveals that the palm oil is anything but.

    These companies buy palm oil from plantations run by Wilmar in Indonesia. Amnesty has discovered severe labour abuses at Wilmar’s plantations, including unsafe working conditions, discrimination against women, unrealistic targets and penalties, and children doing hazardous work.

    Write a lettter:

    Contact the makers of Dove soap, KitKat chocolate bars, Knorr soup, Pantene shampoo, Gerber baby cereal, Colgate toothpaste, Palmolive dish soap and Magnum and Parlour ice cream and demand that they take responsibility for human rights abuses in their palm oil supply chain.

    March 27, 2017

    By Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights Campaigner. Follow Tara on Twitter @AIBHRGuatemala.

    The Mount Polley copper mine tailings pond spill in August 2014 may have faded from the headlines, but people in BC living near the spill site who rely on the region for food, medicines and livelihoods are still suffering from all they have lost. And, they are concerned that Quesnel Lake and its tributaries may be irreversibly contaminated by toxic tailings from the spill and ongoing mine water discharges. 

    March 22, 2017

    The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), of which Amnesty International Canada is a member, is concerned and disappointed that the 2017 federal budget failed to announce the creation of a human rights ombudsperson for the extractive sector.

    Communities, workers, and indigenous peoples outside of Canada whose human rights are impacted by Canadian extractive companies have few options to have their voices heard and their problems remedied. They continue to wait for the Canadian government to address the international corporate accountability gap and to advance human rights around the globe.

    “The Government of Canada has said it shares the goal of ensuring that Canadian extractive companies respect the rights of all people, no matter where they operate”, said Moderator Jordan Cantwell of the United Church of Canada. “What we don’t know is why we haven’t yet seen concrete action when a ready-to-go proposal for a human rights ombudsperson has been handed to them.”

    February 10, 2017

    Young activists from Guatemala recently shared with Amnesty International their experiences and motivations for putting their lives on the line to fight for the rights of their communities and the environment.

    On April 27, 2013, Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy was shot and seriously injured alongside his father, Adolfo, outside the entrance to Tahoe Resource’s Escobal silver mine. The BC Court of Appeal has just ruled that the case against Tahoe Resources for the shootings can go ahead in Canada. After the attack and in response to the death of a 16 year old activist in their community, Luis Fernando and his friends started a peaceful resistance group to give youth a voice.

    Here is their story, in their own words.

    February 10, 2017

    Spokespeople available for interview

    President Donald Trump’s proposed suspension of a ground-breaking transparency law on conflict minerals will reward irresponsible business practices and seriously undermine global human rights protections, Amnesty International said today.

    “The conflict minerals law is a vital way of breaking the chain between horrific human rights abuses in Central Africa and consumer products like smart phones. By requiring companies to be transparent about how they source minerals, it throws light on shameful and secretive business practices that allow companies to benefit from conflict and abuse. Suspending it would be a boon to irresponsible companies and the perpetrators of violence in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Audrey Gaughran, Head of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

    “Claims by President Trump that blocking this vital human rights protection would somehow protect US national security is patently illogical and absurd. This is a shameless proposal which threatens to unravel years of progress in ending the trade in conflict minerals.

    February 03, 2017

    Adolfo Garcia (pictured, second from the left), is a quiet, serious middle-aged farmer from Guatemala. Once the Guatemalan government began issuing mining licenses in Santa Rosa, he dedicated his life to protecting the land and water for future generations of farmers and residents of his small town in south-east Guatemala.

    Adolfo has since experienced terrible injustice and violence. During a peaceful protest in 2013, Adolfo, his son, and five other men were shot and gravely injured outside a silver mine owned by Canadian company, Tahoe Resources. Adolfo’s then-teenaged son, Luis Fernando, was shot in the face, requiring extensive and painful reconstructive surgeries to enable him to breathe again. Adolfo and his wife nearly lost their family home to pay for the operations. 

    January 26, 2017

    A UK High Court ruling that two Niger Delta communities devastated by oil spills cannot have their claims against Shell heard in the UK could rob them of justice and allow UK multinationals to commit abuses overseas with impunity, Amnesty International said today.

    The High Court ruled today that Royal Dutch Shell cannot be held responsible for the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd. This is despite the company having profited from decades of abuses and environmental destruction in the Niger Delta. The communities are expected to appeal.

    “The Ogale and Bille communities have been hit by multiple Shell spills, threatening their health and drinking water. The UN found groundwater contamination in Ogale was more than 450 times the legal limit – when Amnesty investigators went back four years later, Shell still hadn’t cleaned up the pollution. This ruling could mean that the communities will never receive meaningful compensation, and that the oil spills will be not be properly cleaned up,” said Joe Westby, Campaigner on Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

    January 23, 2017

    On Thursday 26 January the UK High Court will rule on whether two Niger Delta communities whose environment and livelihoods were destroyed by oil spills can have their claims against Shell heard in the UK. The case could set a precedent for holding other UK-based multinationals to account for abuses committed overseas.

    “This ruling will have wide-ranging implications for corporations based in the UK that abuse human rights abroad. If the court rules that the communities cannot have their case heard in the UK it would effectively be a green light for UK multinationals to profit from human rights abuses and environmental destruction around the world,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

    Two separate legal actions have been brought against Shell on behalf of more than 42,000 people from the Ogale and Bille communities in Nigeria’s Rivers State, who live with appalling pollution caused by oil spills.

    December 07, 2016
    Peruvian water and land defender Máxima Acuña is one of 10 individuals and communities we're taking action for during Write for Rights on Saturday, December 10th, International Human Rights Day. Join Write for Rights to stand with Máxima! 

    Máxima Acuña is a water and land defender in Peru. She has survived years of harassment, intimidation and vicious beatings by police and mining company security personnel over her right to defend the environment and her home from a massive gold and copper mine.

    Her property shares a watershed with 4 lagoons that, if the company gets its way, would be drained and turned into tailings ponds. She has been forced into court to defend her family’s property rights to the land where they live and grow crops –and she has won. In September, she was beaten severely. It is staggering to comprehend the level of violence she has endured to defend her rights. 

    November 29, 2016

    ●       Unilever, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble among nine household names contributing to labour abuse

    The world’s most popular food and household companies are selling food, cosmetics and other everyday staples containing palm oil tainted by shocking human rights abuses in Indonesia, with children as young as eight working in hazardous conditions, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

    The report, The great palm oil scandal: Labour abuses behind big brand names, investigates palm oil plantations in Indonesia run by the world’s biggest palm oil grower, Singapore-based agri-business Wilmar, tracings palm oil to nine global firms: AFAMSA, ADM, Colgate-Palmolive, Elevance, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever.

    November 25, 2016

    Thanks to the actions of thousands of Amnesty International supporters around the world, Apple, Samsung, Sony and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce are launching The Responsible Cobalt Initiative. The Initiative aims to improve the lives of children and adults who mine cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    Ten months ago, Amnesty International research brought to light serious human rights abuses, including child labour, in cobalt mines in the DRC. Read more

    Cobalt is used to power our cell phones, yet no cell phone companies were addressing the problem. So Amnesty International campaigned throughout the year for electronics companies including Samsung and Apple to take responsibility for human rights abuses in their supply chain. Thanks to the actions by human rights supporters, we are starting to see some progress. The Initiative is a welcome first step, but it is crucial that we see improvements on the ground.

    September 02, 2016

    By Erika Guevara-Rosas

    Chills ran down Tomás Gómez Membreño’s spine when he first heard about the brutal murder of his renowned friend and ally, the Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, six months ago this week.

    A fellow environmental activist and second in command at the Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Tomás feared he would be next.

    Berta’s work was widely and globally acclaimed and had earned her international awards - if someone could violate the sanctuary of her home and shoot her dead, it was too frightening to contemplate what could happen to any of the country’s lesser-known human rights defenders.

    Tomás also knew the hopes to have a proper investigation and to ensure the crimes against human rights defenders would not be repeated again were slim, in a country where authorities rarely condone attacks on activists.

    Tragically, he has a point.

    Six months after two armed men walked into Berta’s home one evening and murdered her in cold blood, Honduras has become a no-go zone for anybody daring to protect natural resources such as land and water from powerful economic interests.

    August 31, 2016

    Released Thursday 1 September 2016, 10:00 Tegucigalpa (16:00 GMT)

    An insidious wave of threats, bogus charges, smear campaigns, attacks and killings of environmental and land activists in recent months has made Honduras and Guatemala the most dangerous countries on earth for those protecting natural resources, Amnesty International said in a new report six months after the brutal murder of Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres.

    We defend the land with our blood explores the increasing stigmatization, threats, attacks, killings and lack of justice faced by individuals and communities fighting to protect the environment from large-scale mining, logging and hydroelectrical projects.  

    “Defending human rights is one of the most dangerous professions in Latin America but daring to protect vital natural resources takes these risky jobs to a whole new, potentially lethal level,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. 

    August 18, 2016

    Released  00.01 GMT 19 August 2016

    Commodities giant Trafigura must come clean over the contents of toxic waste dumped in the Côte d’Ivoire capital Abidjan ten years ago, said Amnesty International today.

    Trafigura has never disclosed exactly what was in the 540,000 plus litres of toxic waste dumped at 18 sites in Abidjan on 19 August 2006. More than 100,000 people sought medical attention after the dumping for a whole range of symptoms including dizziness, vomiting and breathing problems, and authorities reported 15 deaths.

    “A decade on from one of the worst environmental disasters of the 21st century, Trafigura and governments alike have abandoned the victims to suffer a toxic legacy. Meanwhile, Trafigura has rebranded itself, claiming it is a transparent, responsible company. This corporate giant, which posted profits of US$1.1 billion in 2015, must not be allowed to completely wash its hands of this disaster,” said Lucy Graham, researcher in Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights Team.

    July 19, 2016

    Released  20 July 2016 00:01 GMT

    The Myanmar government must immediately order the relocation of a sulphuric acid factory built dangerously close to a village, which is continuing to operate despite grave concerns over its health and environmental impact, said Amnesty International today.

    Residents of Kankone village told Amnesty International on a recent research mission to Myanmar that they are suffering from strong-smelling factory emissions that are causing respiratory, skin and eye problems.

    The emissions, the residents said, have also damaged crops in the area. Soil samples examined by a government department and an environmental NGO in 2013 revealed high levels of sulphates in the soil. The test results, while limited, are a cause for serious concern about the factory and its impacts.

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