Public Panel Debate on Corporate Accountability

Public Panel Debate on Corporate Accountability

7th July 2010, Amsterdam

The public panel debate: “Corporate Justice? In search of effective remedies for victims of corporate abuse” can now be viewed online. This panel debate was organised by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), OECD Watch and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre on July 7th 2010 in Amsterdam. This public panel debate can now be viewed online.

This panel debate was organised on the occasion of the launch of FIDH’s guide “Corporate Accountability for Human Rights Abuses: A guide for Victims and NGOs on Recourse Mechanisms” and OECD Watch’s new report “10 Years On: Assessing the contribution of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to responsible business conduct”.

UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food Professor and former FIDH Secretary-general Olivier the Schutter opened the floor with a presentation of the different developments that took place since the 70s and which led to the current state of affairs in relation to corporate accountability. The Special Rapporteur highlighted some obstacles victims face and emphasized the complementary role judicial and non-judicial mechanisms should play.

Katherine Gallagher, Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and Vice-President of FIDH, elaborated on the possibility of using the United States’ Alien Tort Claims Act (ACTA). Used by several victims of corporate misconduct to file a court case against US companies that have violated international law in countries outside the United States, the application of the ACTA remains difficult for victims and lawyers who face numerous legal and practical obstacles.

Joris Oldenziel, coordinator of OECD Watch, spoke from his experience on the effectiveness of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises complaint mechanism that was put in place in 2000. Using as a starting point the fact that after ten years only 5 of 96 cases were successful, Mr. Oldenziel discussed improvements to be made to ensure the National Contact Points can contribute to remedy human rights violations involving companies.

The last panelist, Menno Kamminga, Professor of Public International Law at Maastricht University and Trustee of Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, discussed some of the pros and cons of both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, putting forward his view on the complementarity between these two types of remedial mechanisms. He is of the opinion that all available mechanisms for remedies need to be used. Good mechanisms will survive, but pressure from victims and NGOs is an important requirement to further improve these grievance mechanisms.

The panel debate continued with questions from the audience and reactions of the panelists on statements presented by the moderator. The debate was centered around key emerging issues such as out-of-court settlements, the role of States and the scope of their extra-territorial obligations as well as the need to reflect upon the application of standards and mechanisms in emerging countries.

The video of the public debate can be viewed here.