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23 Jul 2020

Paul Frestus Mvula of the Church and Society Programme at CCAP Synod of Livingstonia

Lawyers' insights on corporate legal accountability: Paul Frestus Mvula, Church and Society Programme, CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, Malawi


  1. What are the biggest challenges you face in your corporate legal accountability work?

There are a few challenges we have faced so far.

2. What key opportunities do you see for promoting corporate legal accountability (at the national, regional or international levels)?

One opportunity that I see is the possibility of a favourable ruling that favours the locals to have an influence in future mining advocacy work within the country as well as regionally and internationally.

The second opportunity is that there is potential to influence legal and policy frameworks within the region to protect indigenous local communities following landmark rulings.

The legal fraternity will borrow lessons from landmark rulings and apply them in their local settings thereby strengthening their laws and court procedures and processes at national, regional and international level. This will also bring increased interest among the legal fraternity.

Multinational companies will become more responsive and accountable to the local needs and promote more engagements with the locals. In addition, multinational companies will engage in programs that leave tangible benefits to the locals and not only central governments.

It will also help to track effective implementation of the African mining vision.

As CSOs and mining communities get involved in litigation, this will build capacity of the local communities and CSOs thereby boosting their confidence to face any multinational company

3. What key lesson(s) have you learned in your efforts to advance corporate legal accountability?

Multinational companies continue to focus much more on profits with little regard to community needs.

Malawian courts are too slow to process cases and pronounce their judgments. Understandably, this is the same problem within SADC region. Thus, mining communities go for years waiting for their court cases thereby making them lose interest in the process. This discourages other mining communities to pursue the litigation route in the future.

There is a need to make litigation resources (manuals/guides) available to more CSOs including local communities. This could help in preventing litigation that are sometimes costly since communities will take multinationals to task via other routes i.e. advocacy.

Naming and shaming continues to be the best tool to hold multinationals to account particularly for those from countries or regions that value human rights.

There is a danger that multinationals can buy off lawyers representing the community. This could effectively kill off any case.

Poor countries have challenges to counter multinationals. Even when cases of human rights violations commence against such companies, governments such as the Malawi government, tend to side with multinationals in the spirit of ensuring that foreign direct investment is not affected.