Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Corporate Human Rights Violators

International human rights organisation, Global Exchange have named the multinational corporatations most noted for human rights violations in 2005.

"Corporations carry out some of the most horrific human rights abuses of modern times, but it is increasingly difficult to hold them to account. Economic globalization and the rise of transnational corporate power have created a favorable climate for corporate human rights abusers, which are governed principally by the codes of supply and demand and show genuine loyalty only to their stockholders."

It is a sorry list of 14 big corporates, including
- Caterpillar
- Chevron
- Coca-Cola
- Dow Chemical
- Dyancorp/CSC (private security contractor)
- Ford Motor Company
- Kellog Brown and Root (subsidiary of Halliburton)
- Lockeed Martin
- Monsanto
- Nestle USA
- Phillip Morris USA/Altria Group Inc.
- Pfizer (drug company)
- Suez-Lyonnaise Des Eaux (SLDE) (French water mulitnational)
- Wal-Mart

The Global Exchange report includes a writeup detailing the human right abuses committed by each money hungry corporate, together with some helpful links to other watchdog organisations with a special interest in each company (eg. Coke Watch).

Several of these corporates are being sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act, a law that allows citizens of any nationality to sue in US federal courts for violations of international rights or treaties.

"When corporations act like criminals, we have the right and the power to stop them, holding leaders and multinational corporations alike to the accords they have signed. Around the world, in Venezuela, Argentina, India, and right here in the United States —citizens are stepping up to create democracy and hold corporations accountable to international law.

With the Bush Administration demonstrating nothing but absoulte contempt for international law with its invasion of Iraq in 2003, it ought to be no surprise there are so many US based corporations on the Global Exchange List.

DynCorp, Kellog Brown and Root and Lockeed Martin are all eager Iraq war profiteers, keen to help Bush suck the oil money out of Iraq by exporting the profits back to the States. These three corporates rogues deserve a post of their own.

Some other lowlights,
Caterpillar has refused to end their corporate participation in house demolition by cutting off sales of specially modified D9 and D10 bulldozers to the Israeli military, supplying equipment that kills Palestinian civilians and peace activists.

Chevron: In Nigeria, this large petrochemical company "has collaborated with the Nigerian police and military, who have opened fire on peaceful protestors who oppose oil extraction in the Niger Delta". Watching BBC World last night I caught an advertisement from Chevron aiming to cast doubt at the potential of wind power - the message appeared to have a remarkable similarity to the line promoted by our very own Contact Energy in their the so-called 'Positive Energy' campaign last year!

Coca-Cola Company: "...leads in the abuse of workers' rights, assassinations, water privatization, and worker discrimination. Between 1989 and 2002, eight union leaders from Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia were killed after protesting the company's labor practices. Hundreds of other Coca-Cola workers who have joined or considered joining the Colombian union SINALTRAINAL have been kidnapped, tortured, and detained by paramilitaries who intimidate workers to prevent them from unionizing. In Turkey, 14 Coca-Cola truck drivers and their families were beaten severely by Turkish police hired by the company, while protesting a layoff of 1,000 workers from a local bottling plant in 2005."

Dow Chemical is involved in human rights abuses worldwide: "environmental destruction, water and ground contamination, health violations, chemical poisoning, and chemical warfare.". In their hometown of Midland, Michigan, Dow has been "producing chlorinated chemicals and burning and burying its waste including chemicals that make up Agent Orange. In New Plymouth, New Zealand, 500,000 gallons of Agent Orange were produced and thousands of tons of dioxin-laced waste was dumped in agricultural fields."

Ford Motor Company. "Every year since 1999, the US Environmental Protection Agency has ranked Ford cars, trucks and SUVs as having the worst overall fuel economy of any American automaker. Ford's current car and truck fleet has a lower average fuel efficiency than the original Ford Model-T...Amazingly, despite the company's recent greenwashing PR campaign, its record has actually worsened. According to Ford's own sustainability report, between 2003 and 2004, the company's US fleet-wide fuel economy decreased and its CO2 emissions went up".

Monsanto, more widely known as the largest producer of genetically modified seeds on the planet, are not as well known for their use of child labour. They should be. "In India, an estimated 12,375 children work in cottonseed production for farmers paid by Indian and multinational seed companies, including Monsanto. A number of children have died or became seriously ill due to exposure to pesticides."

Nestle: Earlier this year "the International Labor Rights Fund and a Birmingham law firm filed a class-action lawsuit against Nestlé and several of its suppliers on behalf of former child slaves...In 2001, Save the Children Canada reported that 15,000 children between 9 and 12 years old, many from impoverished Mali, had been tricked or sold into slavery on West African cocoa farms, many for just $30 each."

Pfizer: One of the largest and most profitable pharmaceutical companies in the world (Revenues of $52.5 billion in 2004). Produces Viagra, Zoloft and many HIV/AIDS related drugs (Rescriptor, Viracept and Diflucan/fluconazole). "Like other drug companies, they sell these drugs at prices poor people cannot afford and aggressively fight efforts to make it easier for generic drugs to enter the market....Pfizer and other drug companies have refused to grant generic licenses for HIV/AIDS drugs to countries like Brazil, South Africa, and the Dominican Republic, where patients are forced to pay $20 per weekly pill for drugs like fluconazole, though the average national wage is only $120 per month....To ensure its profits, Pfizer invests heavily in US campaign contributions. Though it can't seem to afford to offer life-saving drugs at affordable prices, it was able to scrounge up $544,900 for mostly Republican candidates in election cycle 2006 (still in progress) and $1,630,556 in the 2004 election cycle."

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At 11:21 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be picky, but the Ford one isn't a Human Rights violation, really, is it?


At 11:52 am, Blogger Joe Hendren said...


Global Exchange are quite clear they are using a wider definition of human rights, a definition they argue is more closely grounded on the UN declaration on human rights (1948), and compare this to the narrow definition promoted during the cold war by the US and USSR, largely as a self interested tool to bash each other with. Its well worth a read.

Global Exchange - a new definition of human rights

environmental issues are likely to be covered under the declaration's guarantee to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself (and herself).

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care, and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

plus the right to housing would seem to have been violated if your house ends up under water :)

In any case the aim of such a report is to raise awareness of the abuses being committed by multinationals - not debate the meanings of words!

At 8:47 pm, Blogger Xavier said...

But then, anyone who drives a vehicle, or burns coal, or uses electricity produced from coal is also then violating human rights, but that very definition

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