Ecuador wins support of UN on protecting international human rights
10 de Julio de 2014 - 10h22
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The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) has passed a motion proposed by Ecuador and South Africa to set up a legally binding instrument holding transnational corporations to account for their activities under international human rights law. The vote was carried with 20 states in favour, 14 against and 13 abstentions with wide support from the global south, and despite strong opposition from the US and EU states.
In proposing the resolution, Ecuador’s Ambassador to the UN, Luis Gallegos Chiriboga, stated that the Council owes its existence to those who tirelessly fight to protect human rights and the victims of human rights violations, including those that are most in need of protection and support. He called upon the Council to redress the lack of protection for victims of violations of human rights abuses carried out by transnational corporations.
Ambassador Gallegos observed that those affected by disasters caused by Union Carbide in Bhopal (India), Shell in the Niger Delta (Nigeria), and Chevron in Ecuador, among others, are still waiting for remedy and fair compensation. He also noted that these corporations benefit from binding international protections but only have voluntary agreements to regulate their own actions, leaving victims of harmful corporate activities without access to legal protection.
The vote follows a declaration launched by Ecuador in September 2013 and supported by more than 80 nations and 600 organisations to move from voluntary guidelines for corporations on human rights to a legally binding framework. The declaration put together the concerns of countries across the global south about activities of transnationals that violated the human rights of local communities through environmental damage, the displacement of indigenous communities and the burden of debt among many other issues.
Ecuador has its own painful experience of corporate human rights abuses and denial of justice. From 1964 to 1992, Chevron-Texaco was responsible for spilling no less than 71 million litres of toxic oil waste and 64 million litres of crude oil on more than 2 million hectares of the Ecuadorian amazon, according to a court in Ecuador after a nine year trial. This resulted in severe water and food contamination causing immeasurable harm to the local populations, one of the largest environmental disasters in history.
The affected communities won their court case in Ecuador, and Chevron was ultimately ordered to pay $9.5 billion in compensation. However Chevron has refused to comply with the court’s judgement and even used its considerable economic power as the world’s second largest oil company to undermine Ecuador’s economy, discredit its government and intimidate activists and advocates for the communities affected. After a judicial process lasting more than 20 years, those affected by Chevron-Texaco’s damage have still not received compensation.
The vote is an important step in Ecuador’s campaign for effective international legislation on corporate responsibility, and provides hope for communities across the world campaigning against human rights abuses by companies such as Chevron.
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