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Some thoughts on the minutes of the Dec. 2013 “single-stakeholder” (business only) meeting at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

An excellent and comprehensive set of minutes is available from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Even though it was an exclusive meeting, the transparency provided by the reporting is admirable and helpful to the process.

The meeting was a “second pillar” meeting, i.e. addressing the obligation on business to “respect” human rights imposed by the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” framework  of the UN Guiding Principles.

Hence the quantities of baroquely intricate corporate language, such as the first speaker’s discussion of the “period of ‘absorption’ [that] has been taking place whereby leadership companies are working to integrate the UNGPs into management systems and core business processes.”

To be fair, there was discussion of specific examples and practices.  A speaker from Microsoft described two human rights impact assessments his company conducted with respect to beginning and expanding operations in Myanmar and China, respectively.

The minutes note several efforts to think about fresh and/or practical ways to engage businesses that are not yet conceptually invested in the notion of human rights.  For example, expanding from Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) programs, which most companies have, maintain respect for, and which have an obvious overlap with key human rights areas.

Similarly, the participants note that the most progress thus far has been made via sector-specific initiatives: companies in a sector understand their shared challenges with sufficient concreteness to conceive of potential practical steps, and may have sufficient experience working with each other to get collective efforts going in a more reasonable time.  Sector-specific work is by far the most realistic possibility for meaningful results in the near future and should be prioritized. Continue reading

New BHRRC Quarterly Report

The latest Quarterly Report from the Business & Human Rights Resources Centre is out.  These periodic BHRRC reports, together with BHRRC’s weekly newsletters, are the best and most comprehensive resources available on corporate accountability / business and human rights lawsuits and other developments.  The latest reports summary of developments with lawsuits in national jurisdictions is as follows (for links to more information on each, see the Report itself).  I hope to be able to provide further comment on some of these cases shortly. Continue reading

Donziger, Ecuadorians File Emergency Motion to Stay Judge Kaplan’s RICO Decision

Reprinted from ChevronToxico

New York, NY – Saying the decision in Chevron’s RICO case is without legal precedent, New York Attorney Steven Donziger and two Ecuadorian villagers today filed papers with Judge Lewis A. Kaplan seeking to stay his decision granting an injunction and other remedies to Chevron after it was hit with a $9.5 billion judgment in Ecuador for deliberately dumping toxic waste into the rainforest.

The papers, filed by Donziger’s lead appellate attorney Deepak Gupta, argue that Judge Kaplan’s decision is highly likely to be thrown out on appeal and will cause “irreparable harm” if not stayed pending the appeals process, which can sometimes take two years or more.

The papers, which can be read here, argue that Judge Kaplan’s RICO decision “seeks to preemptively undermine the judicial decree of a foreign sovereign nation and, in so doing, to let Chevron Corporation off the hook for decades of deliberate pollution in the Amazon rainforest.” The brief adds: “Along the way, it sidesteps jurisdictional hurdles, runs afoul of fundamental norms of international comity, and contravenes multiple decisions of the Second Circuit arising out of this same long-running controversy.” Continue reading

Second Circuit Response, Part I

Second Circuit Decision in Chevron Corp. v Donziger et al.:

PART I: Rubber-Stamping Biased Findings Designed to Intimidate Foreign Courts and Protect an “Important” U.S. Company

[W]e are dealing here with a company of considerable importance to our economy that employs thousands all over the world, that supplies a group of commodities, gasoline, heating oil, other fuels and lubricants on which every one of us depends every single day. I don’t think there is anybody in this courtroom who wants to pull his car into a gas station to fill up and finds that there isn’t any gas there because these folks [the Ecuadorians, as part of their efforts to enforce their environmental judgment] have attached it in Singapore or wherever else.

—U.S. federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan, Feb. 18, 2011

The Second Circuit opinion in the Chevron Corp. v Donziger et al. case has been a disappointment for those who (try to) think that U.S. federal courts are “above the fray” of ideological politics and corporate interests. The opinion is a blatant “hatchet job” on Steven Donziger, the New York-based human rights lawyer who for the last 20 years has teamed up with Ecuadorian indigenous nationalities and Amazon farmers to press an historic environmental lawsuit against Chevron, and who Chevron considered so dangerous that in 2009 its top strategists crafted “long-term strategy” to avoid the environmental liability, a strategy that they succinctly summarized, in internal emails, in two words: “demonize Donziger.” Continue reading