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WSF: Corporate Actors Must Be Held Accountable

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI INDEX: IOR 51/001/2004 18 January 2004

World Social Forum: Corporate Actors must be held accountable

(Mumbai, India) Amnesty International's Secretary General has called for greater corporate accountability in the struggle to make "another world possible".

"Economic globalization has expanded the reach of corporate power and it is more urgent than ever that companies be brought within the rule of human rights law. Voluntary initiatives by themselves are not enough - voluntary approaches only work for the well-intentioned. The historical reality is that some form of legal framework is necessary to restrain abuses."

Speaking at the launch of a new publication The UN Human Rights Norms for Business, Towards Legal Accountability, Irene Khan argued that corporate actors have a vital role to play in protecting and developing human rights around the world. The UN norms are an important step towards the creation of an international binding treaty that will hold companies to account for human rights violations, she said.

"Sadly there is great resistance to the Norms. At a time when the entire multilateral approach represented by the United Nations is itself facing an unprecedented threat from the fall-out of the 'war on terror' the Norms have come under attack both by Governments at the UN and by businesses."

"By using the Norms as a basis for lobbying and campaigning, civil society groups can help ensure that companies face up to their responsibilities to apply and refer to the Norms, but can also demonstrate support for the entire multilateral UN system and the international standards it sets," Ms Khan said.

"The Norms are the first authoritative and comprehensive set of global business standards and, as such, establish clear rules for corporate behaviour on human rights. For this reason it is essential that the Norms receive the full support of governments, companies and financial institutions."

"Some corporations around the world are contributing to human rights violations with impunity. In the diamond fields of the DRC Amnesty International has worked on the cases of suspected illegal diamond miners shot dead by state security guards. Most are unarmed and fired on with out warning. The company running the diamond concessions and the authorities turn a blind eye to these killings."

"In Bosnia-Herzegovina we are currently working on a project looking at discrimination in employment on grounds of ethnicity. Many returning minorities face enormous difficulties in finding employment."

"It is nearly twenty years since the disaster at a chemical plant in Bhopal, India, claimed the lives of thousands of people. The failure of US Corporation Union Carbide to ensure minimum safety standards, directly contributed to the disaster. Sadly, too little has been done since then to ensure legal accountability for companies operating at a transnational level," Irene Khan concluded.


The UN Human Rights Norms For Business: Towards Legal Accountability. Read the full report online at


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