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Business and Human Rights – Time to Hold Companies to Account

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image of International Criminal Law Review

It is not widely appreciated that the recent six year conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo was the deadliest war since World War II. An estimated 3.8 million people, mostly civilians, lost their lives as a result of the conflict. The West must accept a large degree of responsibility for this tragedy as the war was fuelled to a great extent by western multinationals. These companies either directly or indirectly purchased or exploited the natural resources under the control of the various armed groups.

Unscrupulous corporations can engage in this behaviour with impunity in weak governance zones. Human Rights NGOs have tried to hold some of these companies to account by filing complaints in the UK using the "soft law" mechanism of the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises. However, the British Government displayed a breathtaking unwillingness to hold companies to account. It is increasingly clear to both responsible business and the human rights community that a robust accountability mechanism must now be created.

Affiliations: 1: Barrister 36 Bedford Row, London


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