Construction of the Botnia pulp mill in Uruguay / Photo: Stefan Thimmel
As a result of globalization, transnational corporations have not only extended their economic activities, but also their sphere of influence in social, political, cultural and ecological terms. As the annual revenue of some corporations exceeds the gross national product of many countries, they gain a more powerful position in respect to national governments. Transnational corporations influence living standards by relocating production-sites; they also play an important role in international affairs and the generation of international as well as transnational law.

Against this background ECCHR is organizing an international conference in cooperation with "Bread for the World"  and “Misereor” on “Transnational Corporations and Human Rights”. The Conference will take place on October 9 and 10, 2008 in Berlin. Since the 1970’s, the United Nations, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have developed international guidelines and set standards for corporations. These tools are intended to regulate or at least govern corporate activities in respect to Human Rights. In addition, a multitude of ‘codes of conduct’ were created through private (corporate) and national initiatives.

Nevertheless severe Human Rights abuses committed or facilitated by transnational corporations were not prevented by these measures. In fact, corporate practices in regard to the abuse of Human Rights are widely criticized as they violate the most basic rights of workers as well as citizens.

Public awareness, either to the direct or indirect involvement of transnational corporations in war crimes and crimes against humanity, has increased as a series of tragedies at the feet of major corporations have served to demonstrate the critical responsibility transnational corporations have to protect and ensure Human Rights.  Some examples include the Chemical Disaster in Bhopal (India), the involvement of the oil company Shell in the execution of the Nigerian environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa by the Nigerian government, forced resettlements, assaults and corruption in connection with the construction of the Three Gorges Damn in China, and the fueling of conflict in Sierra Leone through so called Blood Diamonds.

Holding transnational corporations legally accountable is difficult because there is a clear lack of applicable norms as well as the implementation of existing legislation. The extent to which, if at all, transnational corporations are directly bound to international law and Human Rights standards remains in question. Additionally, corporate abuses of Human Rights cannot be brought before the regional human rights courts. Complicated supply-chains as well as the allocation of enterprises into different subsidiaries make civil litigation and criminal proceedings before national courts complex and difficult . This process is further complicated as a variety of litigation strategies using different national jurisdictions and international mechanisms must be employed.

The conference brings together social and judicial scientists, practitioners and representatives of Human Rights and development cooperation. This approach intends to confront the risks and opportunities associated with holding transnational corporations accountable for their Human Rights abuses. The conference will include a juxtapose binding legal instruments and code of conducts while taking into consideration aspects of extraterritorial state responsibility and the role of the civil society.
Day one of the conference will focus on the effects of globalization on transnational corporations and Human Rights. Moreover we will look to analyze the roles of states and human rights organizations in this process.
We appreciate the participation of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof. Olivier de Schutter and of Menno Kamminga, Professor of international law in Maastricht.
Moreover the lawyers Peter Weiss und Michael Ratner (both from the US based Center for Constitutional Rights) and Colin Gonsalves (Human Rights Law Network, India) will share their experiences as well as Jurists and other practitioners from Liberia, Nigeria, Argentine and Germany.

Day two of the conference will see three working groups concentrate on the factual problems of extractive industries, inhumane working conditions and child labor. The access to resources and the privatization of common goods will also be a focal point. The working groups would facilitate an intensive exchange between the participants of the conference and our high profile speakers. Each topic will be discussed from the practitioners’ perspective as well as from an analytical point of view. In the afternoon, the scope of legal accountability of transnational corporations as well as different ways to hold corporations accountable, legal proceedings, soft law procedures or voluntary codes of conduct, will be the topics of discussion.

There is no conference fee, but due to limited capacities we appreciate your registration under:



International Conference on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, October 9-10, 2008 in Berlin

Venue: Representation of the Saarland in Berlin, In den Ministergärten 4, 10117 Berlin (Click here to view the map.)

October 9, 2008

3:00-5:00 p.m.
Effects of Globalization on Human Rights and the Transnational Struggle for Human Rights

3:00-3:15 p.m.  
Wolfgang Kaleck (ECCHR) and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights and ECCHR)

3:15-4:15 p.m.
Transnational Corporations and Human Rights in a Globalized World
Prof. Dr. Saskia Sassen (Columbia University, USA)

4:15-5:00 p.m.

Stateresponsibility and extraterritorial Stateobligations in respect to Transnational Corporations and Human Rights
Prof. Olivier De Schutter (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food)

5:00-5:30 p.m.  
Coffee Break

5:30-7:00 p.m. 
New approaches of the Human Rights Movement

5:30 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.
Colin Gonsalves (Human Rights Law Network, India)

5:45 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.   
      Panel Discussion
1. Alfred Brownell (Lawyer, Liberia)
2. Audrey Gaughran (Amnesty International – International Secretariat, UK)
3. Sif Thorgeirsson (Business & Human Rights, UK)
4. Michael Windfuhr (Diakonisches Werk / Brot für die Welt, Germany)
5. Colin Gonsalves (Human Rights Law Network, India)

Chairman: Wolfgang Kaleck (ECCHR)

7:00 p.m.

October 10, 2008

9:00 a.m. - 01:00 p.m.

Working-Groups on Selected Problems

09:00 a.m. – 09:15 a.m.
Dr. Miriam Saage-Maaß (ECCHR)

09:15 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
    Agribusiness and the Right to Food
Prof. Dr. Olivier De Schutter (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food)

10:00 a.m. - 01:00 p.m.  
Working-Group: Extractive Industries and Resource Conflicts

1. Seema Joshi (Global Witness, UK)
2. Jean-Claude Katende (ASADHO Katanga, DRC)
3. Jacqueline Moudeina (Lawyer, Chad)
4. Boniface Dumpe (Center for Social and Corporate Responsibility, Nigeria)
5. Karina Martins Kato (PACS - Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul)

Chairman: Vincent Neussl (Unit: West Africa, Misereor)

Working-Group: Inhumane Working Conditions and other Labor Rights Violations
1. Dr. Rolf Geffken (Institute for Comparison of Labor & Industrial Relations, Germany)
2. Ingeborg Wick (Südwind – Institute for Economics and Ecumenism, Germany)
3. Katherine Gallagher (Center for Constitutional Rights, USA)
4. Alfred Brownell (Lawyer, Liberia)
5. Wigand Cramer (German Metalworkers' Trade Union (IG Metall)

Chairwoman: Elisabeth Strohscheidt (Misereor)

Working-Group: The Right to Water, to Food and to a Healthy Environment
1. Patrick Sindane (Coalition against Water Privatization, South Africa)
2. Ana María Suárez Franco (FIAN International)
3. Andreas Blüthner (BASF Micronutrient Initiatives)
4. Dora Lucy Arias Giraldo (Corporación Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo“, Colombia)
5. Yann Queinnec (SHERPA, France)

Chairman: Danuta Sacher (Brot für die Welt) / Valentin Aichele (German Institute for Human Rights (DIMR))

01:00 p.m. - 02:00 p.m.

02:00 p.m.  – 02:30 p.m. Presentation of Working Group Results

02:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Scope of Accountability of Transnational Companies for Human Rights Violations

Prof. Dr. Menno T. Kamminga (University of Maastricht, Netherlands)
William Bourdon (Sherpa)

Chairman: Denise Bentele (ECCHR)

3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.  
       Coffee Break

04:00 p.m. - 06:00 p.m.

Chances and Disadvantages of Litigations, Soft Law Mechanisms and Codes of Conduct
1. Dr. Karsten Nowrot LLM (University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany)
2. Peter Weiss (Center for Constitutional Rights, USA)
3. Tillmann Rudolf Braun, M.P.A. (Harv.) (Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, National Contact Point for ‘OECD-4. Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises’, Germany)
4. Dr. Andreas Blüthner (BASF Micronutrient Initiatives, Germany)
5. Jacqueline Moudeina (Lawyer, Chad)

Chairman: Michael Windfuhr (Brot für die Welt, Germany)

06:00 p.m. – 06:30 p.m.  
       Closing Remarks


Maria Florencia Arietto is a criminal lawyer. She received her legal education at the Universidad de Buenos Aires where she graduated as a lawyer and later specialized as a Criminal Lawyer. She is an attorney at a Private firm in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that focuses on Tributary Criminal law and Criminal law for minors. In 2006/2007, she represented the descendants of Roberto Quieto for torture, kidnapping and homicide during the dictatorship. Today, She is the Trial attorney for the case against Mercedes Benz Argentina for crimes against humanity and the trial attorney for the Argentina foreign debt that corresponds to the period 1976/1983. She also concentrates on defending the minors that are in prison, or in risk to be in prison due to the Buenos Aires police´s groundless accusations.

Andreas Blüthner has served as Strategy Manager of the Malnutrition Initiative of the chemical company BASF AG since 2006. From 1998 to 2005, he was an international law advisor for the European Governmental Affairs Department of BASF AG. In 2002, he volunteered with the United Nations with the cooperation of BASF AG and the United Nations Volunteers Program in Panama, Ghana and Thailand. In 2004, he worked as a Business Associate in the Global Affairs and Human Rights Department of the German Foreign Office in Berlin.

Among his many publications, Welthandel und Menschenrechte in der Arbeit – The Compatibility of Human Rights at Work within the WTO-System was published in 2004.
He is a lecturer on international economic law at the University of Mannheim and a host scientist at the Centre for European Economic Research, Mannheim (ZEW).

Tillmann Rudolf Braun
is the Deputy Head in the division of International Investment, Debt Rescheduling, and Development Banks within the Directorate-General for External Economic Policy of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology in Berlin. His professional responsibilities include, among other things, serving as the national contact person for the OECD-Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on behalf of the German Federal Government.

Braun has been working for the German Federal Ministry of Economics since 1995, when he started in the Directorate-General for Economic Policy, Bonn. He took a leave of absence to study for a Master of Public Administration Degree at Harvard University. He also served as an assistant to the Special Representative of the German Chancellor for negotiations on compensations for former slave laborers and Parliamentary Adviser for the FDP Caucus in the German Bundestag. In 2003, Braun returned to the Federal Ministry of Economics, Directorate-General for External Economic Policy.

He has published and lectured on international investment law and on Germany's bilateral investment treaties, inter alia: "The New German-Chinese Bilateral Investment Treaty—A Commentary and Evaluation in Light of the Development of Investment Protection under Public International Law", ICSID Review—Foreign Investment Law Journal [with P. Schonard (Fall 2007, 1-22)], "Investment Protection under WTO Law—New Developments in the Aftermath of Cancún," Beiträge zum Transnationalen Wirtschaftsrecht, 2004, (Paper 28, University of Halle-Wittenberg, 2004).
In the spring 2009 term, Braun will hold the position of Global Fellow and Visiting Scholar from the Government at New York University School of Law, where he will conduct research on globalization and international investment law.

Alfred Lahai Brownell
is the President and Founder of the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Liberia (Green Advocates), based in Monrovia. "This group, though inconspicuous in terms of 'blowing their own horns,' remains the bulwark between a country of lawlessness and a free people of liberty ruled by justice for all," writes The Analyst, a leading Liberian newspaper that named Alfred Brownell and a colleague at Green Advocates 2005 Human Rights Advocates of the Year.

While a law student at the University of Liberia, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law,  Brownell and several of his peers launched Green Advocates and put in place Liberia's first framework for environmental law. They set out to work with impoverished, rural communities to ensure them a voice in decisions affecting their communities' natural resources. The group also works to promote environmental protection legislation and to ensure that existing human rights and environmental laws are enforced.

Brownell graduated from the University of Liberia, College of Agriculture and Forestry with a B.S. in General Agriculture in March 1994.  In 1999, he graduated magna cum laude from Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia with a JD/LL.B. Finally, in 2002, he graduated from Tulane Law School, New Orleans, LA, USA with an LL.M in Environment and Energy Law.
Brownell has helped win imposition of UN Security Council sanctions on Liberia's timber exports and has also aided the UN in enforcing a travel ban on corrupt government officials and business partners of former president Charles Taylor. He is currently leading campaigns to reform Liberia's extractive sector.

Wigand Cramer is a sociologist and economist who works currently as the Political Secretary and District Chief of the IG Metall trade union for the regions Berlin-Brandenburg and Saxony. After working twenty-two years in the IT Industry as a freelancer, company employee, consultant, trainer, member of the work council and joint works council, supervisory board member, trust director, strike chief, executive director and chairperson, he began working in 2002 for the IG Metall in the Siemens Team. His key aspects of activity are that what he describes as "the wild east," as well as the microchip industry in Saxony. Wigand is married and has four children.

Boniface Dumpe
is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Social & Corporate Responsibility (CSCR) in Nigeria. CSCR is a non-governmental organization that serves as a neutral liaison between multinational oil companies and the local communities in which these companies operate in the Niger Delta. CSCR monitors the activities of oil companies to ensure that they operate within global standards while also bringing to their attention specific issues concerning community members. In particular, they monitor the handling of oil spills and other environmental hazards resulting from operations.

Along with handling oil company-community conflicts, CSCR monitors prisons and police stations through their “Access to Justice” division. They provide legal aid to citizens and facilitate the release of illegally detained persons and inmates of minor offences.

Ana Mariá Suárez Franco is the National Group Coordinator of the Justiciability Program for FIAN International. In this role, she assists with programs monitoring public policies and she is involved with extraterritorial obligations and international lobby work. She received her legal education at the Pontifical Javerianan University Bogotá, the University of the Andes Bogotá, the Universities of Heidelberg and Mannheim in Germany, and at the American University in the United States in 2004.

In 2008, Franco submitted her Ph.D. thesis entitled "Justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Latin America." In 2002, she was awarded a Master of Law, with the thesis, "Human Rights as a Condition for Development Cooperation at the World Bank," from the Max-Planck-Institute for Public International Law at the University of Heidelberg.

Ana Mariá Suárez Franco has written and published much dealing with the right to food. Two of her latest publications are manuals: "How to Use the Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food to Monitor Public Policies" and ''How to Document Violations of the Right to Adequate Food" (both published in 2007 by FIAN international). She was born in Bogotá, Colombia.

Katherine Gallagher has been a Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) since 2006, where she focuses on holding individuals, including US and foreign government officials, and corporations, including private military contractors, accountable for serious human rights violations. The cases on which she is currently working include: Arar v. Ashcroft, Matar v. Dichter, Saleh v. Totan and Estate of Ataban v. Blackwater. Prior to joining CCR, Gallagher worked at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia from 2001-2006. She has also worked as a legal advisor for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Kosovo, with the United Nations International Independent Investigating Commission in Beirut, Lebanon, and with the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown. During the negotiations to establish the International Criminal Court, she worked as a member of the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice in the International Criminal Court.

Katherine received a joint M.A. in Journalism and Middle East Studies from New York University in 1995 and a J.D. from the City University of New York in 2000. She is a frequent author on topics involving the issue of international criminal law, extraordinary renditions and human rights, and how to litigate International Human Rights Cases in U.S. Courts.

Audrey Gaughran is Head of Economic Relations and a researcher on Zimbabwe at Amnesty International in London (International Secretariat). She is also acting coordinator of a British network of 300 development organizations known as BOND (British Overseas NGO's for Development). She, along with Antonio Tujan and Howard Mollet, published the article "Development and the 'Global War on Terror'" through the Institute of Race Relations (Race and Class Vol. 46, 2004, 53-74).

Dr. Rolf Geffken is the founder and director of ICOLAIR, a labor institute based in Hamburg. He has been a labor lawyer since 1977. From 1995 to 2004, he made several research trips concerning labor laws to India, the Phillippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. In 2004, he organized and managed the first German-Chinese Conference on labor-law in China. He received his legal education at the university of Hamburg from 1967-1972 and his Ph.D. with distinction at the University of Bremen in 1978.

Since 1971 he has written various publications on labor law and other legal fields. Some of his latest publications are: "Arbeit in China: Arbeit, Arbeitsbeziehungen und Arbeitsrecht in der VR China, Taiwan und Hongkong" (Baden Baden, 2004), "Der Preis des Wachstums: Arbeitsbeziehungen & Arbeitsrecht in der Volksrepublik China" (Hamburg, 2005), and "Labour and Trade Unions in China" (Brussels, 2006). He is also a lecturer at various universities in Germany and in Asia.

Colin Gonsalves is the Founder Director of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and a Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court of India. A human rights litigator in India, Mr. Gonsalves specializes in human rights protection, labor law, and public interest law.  He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, where he started his professional life as a civil engineer but was drawn to the law through his work with the mill-workers' union in Bombay. As such, he commenced formal legal study in 1979 and litigated his first case on behalf of 5,000 workers locked out of their jobs while still in law school. Upon graduation in 1983, he co-founded the India Center for Human Rights and Law in Bombay and developed it into a national network of over 200 lawyers and paralegals under the auspices of The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN).

Mr. Gonsalves is an active litigator in the Supreme Court of India and several state high courts. He has brought numerous precedent-setting cases to the Supreme Court of India in the sphere of both civil and political rights as well as social and economic rights. One of Mr. Gonsalves' most significant achievements has been his co-development of the Indian People's Tribunal (IPT), an independent organization directed by retired Supreme Court and High Court Judges that investigates human rights violations.

Mr. Gonsalves has written, edited and co-edited numerous articles and books on a range of human rights law issues.  Additionally, he co-founded and serves as Editor of "Combat Law," a Human Rights Law Magazine.

Wolfgang Kaleck, specialised lawyer in criminal law, is General Secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights e.V. (ECCHR, long-time president (2000-2008) of the progressive Republican Lawyer’s Association (RAV). Moreover Kaleck is the spokesman of the “Coaltition against Impunity, Truth and Justice for der German disappeared in Argentine”.

He worked closely with Amnesty International, CCR and Human Rights Watch on cases regarding Germans disappeared in Argentina, the detainees in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and the former Uzbek Minister of the Interior. Together with CCR he filed two lawsuits in Germany against former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking members of the US administration and military for gross violations of international law in regard to human rights abuses in Abu Ghraib.

Menno T. Kamminga is a Professor of International Law at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and has been director of the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights since 2000. From 1987 to 2000, he was a Senior Lecturer in International Law at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and from 1978 to 1987, he served as a Legal Adviser at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London.

In 1973 and 1974 Kamminga was awarded two Masters Degrees of International Law and International Relations at Groningen University and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, respectively. He earned a Ph.D. from Leiden University in 1990.
He is Chairman of the Netherlands Government Advisory Committee on International Law and a member of the Netherlands Government Advisory Committee on Human Rights. Kamminga is also a member of the editorial board of the Netherlands International Law Review, and a co-rapporteur of the Committee on International Human Rights and Practice of the International Law Association.

Kamminga is the author of Inter-State Accountability for Violations of Human Rights (1992), editor with Zia-Zarifi of Liability of Multinational Corporations under International Law (2000), and, with F. Coomans, of Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties (2004). He has written numerous articles in the fields of general international law, international human rights and international environmental law.

Jean Claude Katende is the president of ASADHO (Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme – African Association for Human Rights). This association was founded in 1991 by a group of young lawyers, doctors and journalists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in response to the Mobutu government's announcement that it would begin a process of democratization.

Katende is a well-known activist in the DRC, and his organization has campaigned against abuses in the natural resource sector for many years. He is a member of the National Executive Committee of the “Publish What You Pay” coalition and of the committee of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Carlos Lopez-Hurtado is the Legal Officer and Chair of the International Economic Relations Program of the International Commission of Jurists (International Secretariat Geneva). He received a Ph.D. in Public International law at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. Between 2001 and 2002 he was a visiting scholar at Oxford University, Lincoln College, where he conducted research leading to his Ph.D. dissertation, "WTO Legal System and International Human Rights Law." He worked for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights until 2007 and has researched and written about social clauses in international trade agreements, human rights and trade and investment, social labeling and the protection of labor rights, the rights of the accused in international criminal law and more generally on public international law, reservations to human rights treaties, etc. In 2005 he went to Nepal to become the first Legal Advisor to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal.

Lopez-Hurtado has worked for various NGOs in Peru and at the international level, represented the Peru National Human Rights NGO coordination before treaty-bodies and has collaborated with FIAN, the International Council of Human Rights Policy and other organizations. Since January 2008, he leads the ICJ work on business, human rights and accountability that promotes the consolidation and development of international standards on business accountability and the enhancement of access to justice by victims of human rights abuse by companies.

Jacqueline Moudeina is a human rights lawyer who defends victims of the former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré. She fought against impunity in order to bring Habré in his Senegalese exile to trial. Moudeina is President of the “Chadian Association for Human Rights" (ATPDH – Association Tschadienne des Droits de l'Homme). She has repeatedly received death threats and was severely injured in a grenade attack in 2001. After fighting in N'Djamena in February of 2008, she again had to leave her country under threat to her safety, but she returned to Chad after five months. She received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in April of 2002 and the Dickinson School of Law, Pennsylvania, USA awarded her a special prize for her involvement in human rights defense trough its program "Scholars at Risk" in 2004 .

Moudeina and her organization have also challenged the Chad/Cameroon Oil and Pipeline Project, a 650-mile oil extraction and transport project financed by the World Bank and completed in 2003; ATPDH is advocating for a more just national oil policy. She urges that Chadian people desperately need the kind of sustainable development that oil revenues could finance, as well as compensation for the land loss, environmental damage and related health problems.

Karsten Nowrot is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Transnational Economic Law Research Center (TELC) in the Faculty of Law, Economics and Business at the Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. He received his legal education at the Universities of Kiel/Germany, Surrey/UK, Halle-Wittenberg/Germany and the Indiana University School of Law/USA. He holds two German law degrees with distinction from 1997/2001, and was awarded the degree of Master of Laws in 1998 as well as his Ph.D. in 2005, both with distinction. His primary research interests lay in the areas of International Economic Law, Public International Law and European Union Law. He has taught courses on issues of international, European, and German law at universities in China, Germany, at the Russian Federation, as well as at the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Jordan.

Nowrot is a prolific author on topics involving the issue of transnational corporations and human rights. His doctoral thesis is entitled, “Normative Consequences of the Participation of Transnational Enterprises in the Law-Making Processes of the International Economic System.” In addition to numerous other contributions, he has received the Commerzbank Research Award 2004 in recognition of his research project “The International Legal Status of Transnational Corporations in the World Economic System.”

Michael Ratner is the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit legal organization dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ratner was co-counsel in representing Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court in 2004. His leadership in the arena of human rights continues to strengthen the role of the international rule of law to promote justice and oppose armed aggression. Over the last four decades, CCR has lent its expertise and support to virtually every popular movement for social and racial justice. Since 9/11, CCR has spear-headed the struggle to restore the fundamental right of habeas corpus and continues to combat the illegal expansion of executive power and the American torture programs that have undermined fundamental rights in the name of the so-called "war on terror," by representing victims of torture, rendition and domestic spying.
Ratner is the author of many books and articles, including The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld A Prosecution by Book (2008), Against War with Iraq, (2003),  Guantanamo: What the World Should Know (2004), and the textbook, International Human Rights Litigation in U. S. Courts (1996). He has taught law at Yale Law School and Columbia University Law School and is the co-host of the popular radio program "Law and Disorder."

The recipient of many honors, Ratner was also included in The National Law Journal's list of "100 of the Most Influential Lawyers in America."

Saskia Sassen
is the Lynd Professor of Sociology and a member of The Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. She is currently a Centennial Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. Her most recent book is titled Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton University Press, 2006) and was published in German by Suhrkamp (2008) as Das Paradox des Nationalen. Sassen has completed a five-year project on sustainable human settlement for UNESCO with a network of researchers and activists in over thirty countries. She is a member of both the council on Foreign Relations and the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Cities, and was chair of the Information Technology and International Cooperation Committee of the Social Science Research Council (USA). Her books are translated into sixteen languages, and she has written for The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, the International Herald Tribune, Newsweek International, and the Financial Times, among others.

Olivier De Schutter is a Professor at the University of Louvain and at the College of Europe. He serves on the Global Law School Faculty at New York University, and is a member of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. His current research focuses on the links between governance and fundamental rights, especially within the framework of the European Union, and on globalization and human rights, specifically on the accountability of transnational corporations. Relevant publications in this area include, “The Accountability of Multinational Corporations in European Law,” in Non-State Actors and Human Rights [Ph. Alston (ed.), OUP 2005], “Transnational Corporations as Instruments of Human Development ,” in Human Rights and Development: Towards Mutual Reinforcement [Ph. Alston and M. Robinson (eds.), 2005].

Patrick Sindane´s interest in what was happening around the world especially around issues of human rights began shortly after finishing his matriculation exams. He joined the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), one of the leading social movements in South Africa. He is now working for the Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP) as an Organizer/Spokesman and assisted both the APF and CAWP in doing a research on the effects of prepaid water meters in the communities and also on HIV/AIDS and water. Two books resulted from this work.

Sif Thorgeirsson, a citizen of both Iceland and USA, now based in London, manages the Resource Centre's Corporate Legal Accountability Project. The project is working at developing an online information hub on corporate legal accountability for human rights abuses, highlighting significant lawsuits in all parts of the world. The Resource Centre will launch a special "corporate legal accountability portal" on its website in September 2008. The portal will clarify each case in non-legal language, and present special commentaries by leading advocates and legal experts.

Thorgeirsson was formerly a Researcher at Yale Law School on international human rights issues (including business & human rights). She was an associate at Troutman Sanders law firm in Washington D.C., where her practice focused on project development and finance in the energy sector, international law and corporate law. She received her law degree from George Washington University Law School in 1998. While studying law, she worked as a research assistant to international law Professor Ralph Steinhardt, working on subjects including human rights and corporate responsibility.

Michel Uiterwaal is a lawyer at Böhler Franken Koppe Wijngaarden, Amsterdam (Netherlands). He has handled many human rights-related cases as counsel or co-counsel, including: representing Nigerian plaintiffs and a Dutch NGO in holding Shell headquarters and Shell Nigeria liable for oil spills in Nigeria, a tort case on behalf of survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, a claim against the Dutch State for failure to protect civilians in the UN Safe Area, and in cases before the European Court of Human Rights. In 2003 and 2004 he was an assistant in the defense team at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Uiterwaal received his legal education at the University of Amsterdam, and was awarded the degree of Masters of Laws in 2003; his master thesis was entitled, "The possibility of civil cases in Dutch courts on transnational human rights violations."

Peter Weiss is currently a Vice President and cooperating attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights, with which he has been associated for forty years.  He is a practitioner of human rights law and Vice President of FIDH (Federation Internationale des Droits de l'Homme). He has been involved in the long-term with the campaign to rid the world of nuclear weapons. He is President of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and Vice President and former President of IALANA (International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms).

Weiss is a member of the Executive Committee of Americans for Peace Now, which advocates a just peace for both sides in the Middle East. In the past he has been President of the American Committee on Africa and Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. He lives in New York with his wife Cora.

Ingeborg Wick has been a research fellow at the SÜDWIND Institute for Economics and Ecumenism in Siegburg, Germany since 1991. From 1975 to 1990, she was the director of the (West) German Anti-Apartheid Movement. She studied Romance and English Language Studies as well as Political Economics at the universities of Heidelberg and Bonn.

Wick is the author of a number of publications on topics including working conditions in the worldwide textile and clothing industry, social standards in world trade, female work, and informal employment. She is also a member of the Clean Clothes Campaign.



The Coalition Against Water Privatisation in South Africa (CAWP), comprised of community based organization and non-governmental organization, has been organizing and advocating for South Africa’s right to adequate and affordable water access. This struggle has intensified as several major municipalities have entered into private water contract with some of the largest private water service corporations in the world – including Suez. The Coalition Against Water Privatisation with its partners has made great strides in education, research and awareness building to help strengthen communities in their fight against water privatisation and commodification

In 2004 the CAWP filed the court case against the installation of pre-paid water meters in Soweto. On the 30th of April 2008, the Johannesburg High Court declared pre-paid water meters both illegal and unconstitutional. The City of Johannesburg appealed against the ruling and now the case is expected to be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. The CAWP is a founder member of the Africa Water Network (AWN) launched on the 24th of January 2007 during the World Social Forum, Kenya.

Green Advocates is leading other human rights and environmental groups calling for a halt to slave style and child labor at Bridgestone/Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia.  His research work with workers on the plantation led to the filing of an Alien Tort Claim Complaint against Bridgestone/firestone in the United States. He was also successful in delaying the expansion of a multinational rubber plantation owned by SOLFINCO/Liberia Agriculture Company until the company could dialogue with local communities and meet Environmental Impact Assessment requirements.
  Led by lawyer Alfred Brownell, Green Advocates provides financial support to emerging community-based organizations representing people directly affected by the abuses and helps these groups develop their human rights strategies and organizational strength.

Brownell and Green Advocates also provide legal representation to community leaders who are targeted for harassment and imprisonment for standing up against the practices of rubber plantations. In 2005, Brownell secured the release of 107 community leaders who were illegally detained when they resisted violent displacement from their traditional lands to make way for expansion of the foreign-owned Liberia Agriculture Company rubber plantation.
More recently, Brownell helped free thirteen Firestone plantation workers who were arrested while striking to demand better working conditions and free and fair elections for a union to represent the interests of workers and their families. For decades, the existing union has been run by the Firestone company itself. Police detained and beat the striking workers and fired tear gas indiscriminately into densely populated settlements to break up the strike.

Green Advocates promotes national policies that would stem corruption and abuses related to natural resource extraction.  For example, Green Advocates pressed successfully for the passage of the Reform Forestry Law.  The new law promotes access to information, transparency and accountability; establishes safeguards for the environment; explicitly prohibits illicit activities in the forest sector, providing specific penalties for corruption; and provides for benefit sharing and greater participation of local forest-based communities.

To generate increased public pressure for reform, under Brownell leadership, Green Advocates founded two national networks, Publish What You Pay and the Civil Society Budget Network, to convene rights groups to press for transparency and accountability in the management of Liberia’s economy and its natural resources.  Under Brownell’s leadership, the Publish What You Pay Coalition successfully campaigned for Liberia’s entry into the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives (EITI) and will be the first country to pilot forestry under the EITI, which will provide greater oversight of the management of Liberia’s natural resources.  Working with the Civil Society Budget Network, Green Advocates has started to bring an end to 162 years of secrecy associated with the national budget and helped local communities challenge corruption and demand that the government promote economic, social and cultural rights by allocating sufficient funding to education, health care and development.

In a country where warlords’ plunder of natural resources funded its civil war, Green Advocates under Brownell leadership is helping develop the long-term ability of five rural communities to defend their rights to physical security, political participation, equality under law, dignity, a healthy environment, and health. Ultimately, victories gained will build a national legal framework and movement to defend the rights of communities and place a check on abusive powerful interests.

Human Rights Law Network
In 1983, Mr. Gonsalves co-founded the India Center for Human Rights and Law in Bombay and developed it into a national network of over 200 lawyers and paralegals under the auspices of The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)

Since co-founding HRLN in 1989, Mr. Gonsalves and his colleagues have built the organization into India’s leading public interest law group, working at the intersection of law, advocacy and policy.  Mr. Gonsalves strives to use the law as a shield to protect the human rights of the poor and of marginalized communities in India.  Over the last two decades, Mr. Gonsalves has played a prominent role in investigating, monitoring, and documenting human rights violations, producing “know your rights” materials, and conducting training seminars as well as workshops for lawyers, activists, judges, police and civic administrators.  He developed the HRLN from a fledgling legal-aid organization to a national network of legal centers located in 23 states across India.



Links Concerning Transnational Corporations and Human Rights

Existing General Norms Concerning Transnational Corporations

The Business & Human Rights Resource Center has compiled the following list of human rights and labor standards.


Voluntary International Regulations

• OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has made Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which are annexed to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. They provide voluntary recommendations for multinational corporations operating in countries adhering to the Declaration to develop ethical and responsible codes of conduct. The Guidelines cover business ethics on issues such as employment, environment, and human rights; they are legally non-binding. The Declaration and the Guidelines were adopted by the OECD on 1976 and revised on 1979, 1982, 1984, 1991 and 2000.



• Global Compact

The United Nations Global Compact is an initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies and to report on their implementation. The Global Compact is a principle-based framework for businesses and is the world's largest global corporate citizenship initiative. It states ten principles within the categories of human rights, labor, the environment, and anti-corruption. The Global Compact brings together companies, UN agencies, labor groups and civil society.

The Global Compact was first announced by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in an address to The World Economic Forum on January 31, 1999, and was officially launched at the UN Headquarters in New York on July 26, 2000.


• Codes of Conduct

The 1990s saw an increased emphasis on corporate social responsibility, including a proliferation of corporate codes of conduct. These emerged after a major shift in the economic role of the state and in policies toward transnational corporations (TNCs) and foreign direct investment. Whereas in the 1970s many national governments had sought to regulate the activities of TNCs, the 1980s was a decade of deregulation and increased efforts to attract foreign investment. A similar trend occurred at the international level, where efforts at regulation had been unsuccessful.

It is in this context that the recent wave of voluntary codes of conduct must be situated. US companies began introducing such codes in the early 1990s, and the practice spread to Europe in the mid-1990s. Voluntary codes of conduct range from vague declarations of principles applicable to international operations to more substantive efforts at self-regulation. They tend to focus on the impact of TNCs in two main areas: social conditions and the environment. A variety of stakeholders, including international trade union organizations, development and environmental NGOs, and the corporate sector itself have played roles in the elaboration of codes of conduct for international businesses.

-    United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)

-    Corporate Codes of Conduct (International Labour Organization)

• UN Norms on the Responsibility of Transnational Corporations

The United Nations Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights unanimously approved the "Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights" on August 13, 2003. Together with the interpretative commentary, these Norms constitute an authoritative guide to corporate social responsibility. They are the first set of comprehensive international human rights norms specifically aimed at, and applying to, transnational corporations and other business entities.

-    United Nations Economic and Social Council

• International Labour Organization

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labor issues. One of the principal functions of the ILO is to set international labor standards through the adoption of conventions and recommendations on a broad spectrum of labor-related subjects which are referred to collectively as the International Labour Code. These subjects include: freedom of association, health and safety at work, working conditions in the maritime sector, night work, discrimination, child labor, and forced labor. The organization received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.


The 97th International Labour Conference (ILC) took place between May 28 and June 13, 2008, in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. The Conference is the annual tripartite meeting of the International Labour Organization’s 181 member states. This conference adopted a declaration on "Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation" and a resolution on strengthening the ILO’s capacity to assist its members’ efforts to reach its objectives in the context of globalization.

• Kimberley Process

The Kimberley Process (KP) is a joint government, industry, and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds (rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments). The trade in these illicit stones has fueled decades of devastating conflicts in countries such as Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as “conflict-free.” As of September 2007, the KP has 48 members, representing 74 countries, with the European Community and its member states counting as an individual participant.



• John Ruggie Reports

John Gerard Ruggie is the Kirkpatrick Professor of International Affairs and Director, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, at the Kennedy School of Government; and an Affiliated Professor in International Legal Studies at Harvard Law School. Since 2005, Ruggie has served as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre created a portal, at John Ruggie’s request, to facilitate communication and sharing of materials related to the mandate. In addition, the following reports analyze the situation of human rights protection by businesses and governments. They concern both international guidelines and existing national laws and make recommendations for better implementation.

-  (2/22/2006)

-  (2/9/07)

-  (4/7/08)

-  (5/15/08)

-  (5/23/08)

-    See also: 

-           (List of documents prepared by and submitted to SRSG on Business and Human Rights as of July 2008)

• Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has become the world’s leading independent resource on the subject. They seek responses from companies to allegations of misconduct, thus ensuring that coverage is balanced and encouraging companies to address concerns raised by civil society. The website covers over 4000 companies in over 180 countries. Topics include discrimination, environment, poverty and development, labor, access to medicines, health and safety, security, and trade.


Area-Specific Regulations

• Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) entails that private companies take responsibility for the impact of their practices on customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, communities and other stakeholders, as well as the environment. Many corporations have adopted such a commitment on a voluntary basis. Many countries and political bodies have developed guidelines to which businesses can refer regarding CSR. Below are a few examples of these.

-    European Union:

-    Canada:

-    Poland:

• Norms-Based Exclusions in Norway

Norway has established investment rules for its government pension funds which prohibit the investment in companies that are violating human rights and other ethical standards.


The Swiss organization was founded in 1999 to replace the “Academy for Human Rights /AMR.” Originally called Human Rights Switzerland, the organization took its current name in 2006. /MERS aims to better anchor human rights in Switzerland by promoting human rights in Switzerland, raising public awareness of human rights issues, organizing projects in the field of education on human rights, offering information to non-governmental organizations, and coordinating and compiling complementary NGO reports about human rights conventions.