Human Rights Perspective
Agrochemical transnational corporations, which produce and/or market agricultural inputs, products or services, have been aggressively advancing their corporate interests. In the process, they have violated and continue to violate the spectrum of basic human rights - health and life, a healthy environment, safe working conditions, and livelihood among others.
Poor peasants, small-scale farmers, agricultural workers, rural women, children, and indigenous and agricultural communities around the world suffer from the adverse health effects of pesticides. Accurate statistics on health effects of pesticides are not available, but estimates range from one million to 41 million people suffering health effects around the globe. Even the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic suffer from the body burden of pesticides with the contamination of their ecosystem.
These communities continue to lose their control over their seeds and knowledge. Peasant and small-scale farmers have been driven into debt, bankruptcy, and suicide through rising production costs due to the high costs of external inputs.
The corporate model of agriculture also threatens biodiversity and environmental sustainability. Monocultures or monocropping have increased pest incidence resulting in higher usage of and increased dependence on pesticides. As pests and pathogens develop resistance to pesticides, ever-stronger chemicals are used. GE crops have also contaminated landraces and natural varieties of major food crops such as corn or maize and rice.
To know more about the human rights violations, read the case summary here.
Although international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exist, current national and international laws or mechanisms provide legal loopholes and safe havens to the TNCs. Oftentimes, governments lack the political will to hold TNCs legally accountable as they are deemed, thanks to their propaganda, economically important. For almost thirty years, the victims and survivors of the Bhopal tragedy have yet to find justice for their ongoing suffering.
The ICJ criteria
To address and fill the governance and enforcement gaps existing in current international human rights laws and mechanisms which permit TNCs to abuse human rights at home and abroad with impunity, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) established a set of criteria to establish civil liability and criminal culpability in existing international and national law for corporate conduct, i.e. corporate complicity in gross human rights abuses. These criteria represent progressive but fundamental step in holding accountable corporations or any legal entity for that matter. They are an invaluable tool for victims of human rights abuses and defenders of human rights in their pursuit for justice and redress
A corporation can be deemed to have the requisite state of mind in cases where it had employed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach. On the other hand, causation is established if it can be shown that the act or omission of the corporation has enabled, exacerbated or facilitated the gross human rights violations.
Close proximity - refers to geographic closeness, the duration, frequency, intensity and/or nature of the connection; or interactions or business transactions.
Silent presence - when the corporation or official exercise such influence, weight and authority on the principal perpetrators that silence is taken to mean encouragement or moral support.
Economic benefits - if the corporation derives economic benefits from the business transaction that enabled, exacerbated or facilitated specific human rights abuses