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Corporate giants are falling down on human rights, says study | US & Canada News

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Too many multinational companies are neglecting to protect human rights despite investors and customers urging them to do so, according to the 2020 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark.

When it comes to protecting and upholding human rights, some of the most powerful corporations on the planet are falling down.

That’s the conclusion of a report out this week by the World Benchmarking Alliance that compiles data to compare and rank companies’ performance on achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 2020 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (PDF) surveyed 229 major global corporations and found that nearly half of them had at least one allegation of a serious human rights issue levied against them, but only four percent of companies adequately remedied the situation with the victim.

Corporate human rights disclosures were measured across five sectors including agriculture, apparel, extractives, information and communication technology manufacturing and – for the first time – the automotive industry.

Researchers found that only a minority of companies “demonstrate the willingness and commitment to take human rights seriously”, and the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated glaring inequalities and human rights negligence throughout global value chains.

The failures begin with due diligence says the report, which found that nearly half of the corporations studied – 46.2 percent – didn’t perform on that metric.

“Human rights due diligence, despite being so crucial for the effective management of human rights risks, remains an area of poor performance across all sectors, with nearly half of the companies assessed failing to score any points for this part of the assessment,” wrote benchmark lead Camille Le Pors.

The automotive industry earned the worst ranking since the benchmark was first published in 2017 for its repeated failure to manage and document human rights risks in supply chains.

Automakers Ford Motor Company, Groupe PSA and Daimler faired best in promoting human rights due diligence within the company culture, while Great Wall Motor Company, SAIC Motor, Chongqing Changan and FAW Car Company ranked the worst.

A worker inserts insoles inside shoes at a shoe factory for the brand Ambitious amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Guimaraes, Portugal [File: Catarina Demony/Reuters]

“Even for those companies with robust commitments and management systems, these do not automatically translate at a practical level, with allegations of severe human rights violations regularly raised, even against some of the highest-scoring companies,” Le Pors wrote.

The benchmark found that while Unilever, Adidas, Eni and Ericsson have improved in demonstrating human rights due diligence, others including Starbucks, Ross Stores and Phillips 66 are lacking when it comes to progress.

The private sector and especially major multinational corporations have a crucial role to play in advancing the United Nations 2030 SDGs.

And while some companies are meeting the targets of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), entire sectors are simply not on track to meet the 2030 goals unless urgent action is taken.

The World Benchmarking Alliance underscored the need to bridge the divide between human rights and climate change issues, stressing that the two are interconnected. For example, it noted that auto companies that took action on climate issues lacked action in the human rights sphere and vice versa. The two issues, however, require a holistic approach, the report argues.

Meanwhile, governments, stakeholders and investors all could play a part by enacting regulations, setting standards and engaging in advocacy work.

That leadership is crucial because without government regulation and standard setting, very few companies will take it upon themselves to ensure human rights and the environment are protected, the World Benchmarking Alliance warned.



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Colombia launches ‘elite force’ to target rebels, drug gangs | Crime News

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The new unit consisting of 7,000 personnel will be deployed to border with Venezuela and to drug trafficking hotspots.

Colombia on Friday launched a new military unit to target coca crops and cocaine production, illicit mining, and the illegal armed groups who use such activities for financial gain.

Colombia’s decision to launch the unit, known as CONAT in its Spanish initials, came while the country was preparing to restart aerial spraying of coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate – possibly starting at the end of March – depending on the government receiving approval from the Constitutional Court.

“The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the structures of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to illegal mining, the trafficking of wildlife and people, and – of course – any transnational form of terrorism,” President Ivan Duque said at a military base in Tolemaida.

Colombia, considered the world’s leading producer of cocaine, suspended aerial spraying of glyphosate in 2015 following warnings by the World Health Organization that the chemical was potentially damaging to health and the environment.

The new unit will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

The new unit, consisting of 7,000 personnel, will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo, Defence Minister Diego Molano said.

Colombia has faced constant pressure from the United States, a major destination for cocaine, to reduce the size of crops of coca, the drug’s chief ingredient.

During 2019, coca crops covered some 154,000 hectares (380,000 acres) in Colombia, with a potential to produce 1,137 tonnes of cocaine, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. There are no figures available for 2020.

The armed forces eradicated 321,240 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca last year, according to the government, and seized 500 tonnes of cocaine.

Drug trafficking has long driven Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has left more than 260,000 dead and millions displaced.

During his address, surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, Duque also said the force would pursue “without qualms” members of the ELN – the last active rebel group in Colombia, as well as drug gangs and ex-FARC rebels who have abandoned the terms of a 2016 peace deal, he said.

“Soldiers, it is a morally necessary, morally correct battle … Let’s go for the defence of Colombia!” he said.

Surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, President Ivan Duque also said the force would pursue ‘without qualms’ members of the ELN and ex-FARC rebels [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

When he first announced the creation of the elite force earlier this month, he said many of its targets “are protected in Venezuela” though he did not mention direct military action in the neighbouring country. On Friday, Duque did not mention Venezuela.

But his statement prompted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to pledge to “respond forcefully”.

From Caracas, he said the country’s security forces should “clean the barrels of our rifles to answer them at any level we need to answer if Ivan Duque dares violate the sovereignty of Venezuela.”

Colombia and dozens of other countries recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, prompting Venezuela to break off diplomatic ties with its neighbour in 2019.

Colombia has repeatedly accused Venezuela of providing refuge to leftist armed groups, a charge Caracas has denied.



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