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.
- John Ruggie
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 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.