Extractive companies have had adverse impacts on a broad array of human rights, such as resettlement of communities without adequate consultation and compensation; environmental degradation and its effects on health, sources of livelihood and access to clean water; as well as charges of forced labor, rape and even extrajudicial killings by security forces protecting company assets, with some cases meeting the legal definition of corporate complicity.
Natural resources are at the beginning of every supply chain. Their development is essential to the production of energy, consumer goods and food. This means that there are high stakes involved in their use, development and depletion. Natural resources can therefore be a great source of wealth for both governments and local communities, and bring benefits to all citizens. In practice, however, investments in oil, gas, coal, minerals, renewable energy, and large-scale agriculture are often entwined with human rights abuses. This is particularly the case in some of the world’s poorest – but most resource-rich – countries. Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, it is the responsibility of the companies developing these resources, as well as their buyers and investors, to safeguard the human rights of workers and affected communities affected by their activities.
As Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege explained in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:
We love nice cars, jewellery and gadgets. I have a smartphone myself. These items contain minerals found in our country. Often mined in inhuman conditions by young children, victims of intimidation and sexual violence.
When you drive your electric car, when you use your smart phone or admire your jewellery, take a minute to reflect on the human cost of manufacturing these objects.
As consumers, let us at least insist that these products are manufactured with respect for human dignity.
In this “Big Issue” area, discover sector-specific analysis, initiatives, and news coverage, as well as general coverage and guidance on responsible natural resource development.
For example, for the extractives sector you can find:
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s Ugandan Oil Industry Mapping
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s analysis of banks and investment firms financing extractives projects in Southern Africa
Information about Lawsuits against extractives companies
The Corporation Human Rights Benchmark’s ranking of the world’s biggest extractives companies
Developments in multistakeholder initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
In the agricultural sector, you can find:
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s briefing note on Sugar Contracts and Their Impact on Land and Workers’ Rights
Information about Lawsuits against food & beverage companies
The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark ranking of the world’s biggest agricultural companies
KnowTheChain’s ranking of 38 food & beverage companies
Please also see our Renewable Energy & Human Rights page for tools and resources on that sector.
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