5 Years of Failure: Why UN Voluntary Measures Aren't Stopping Bad Business Behavior

by Anne van Schaik, FoE Europe & Lucia Ortiz FoE International | Thursday, June 16th marks the 5th anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Yet, violations of human and environmental rights continue, and access to justice remains as difficult as it ever was.

Just look at the pollution by Shell in the Niger Delta, where there still hasn’t been a proper clean up. Or consider oil palm company Wilmar’s track record of land grabbing and deforestation, and lack or corporate accountability by either the company or its financiers. Then there is Chevron which refuses to pay compensation for oil damages in Ecuador. And seven months after the largest environmental crime in Brazil at Doce River, caused by Vale and BHP Billiton, no concrete solution was presented to the affected population.

"The truth is that neither the UN Guiding Principles, nor the related National Action Plans, have been able to hold large multinational corporations to account." We’d like to be celebrating today to commemorate the fact that five years ago in Geneva the members of the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles, written by then UN Special Representative on business and human rights, John Ruggie. That this lead to dramatic changes in laws and corporate behavior, safeguarding rights for all. But we’re not celebrating. Sadly. Because…

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Photo: Scarcity of fish, Uganda. FoEI/Flickr. Some Rights Reserved