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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

Are corporations above the Law?

Ever wonder why some companies seem to operate with impunity, polluting our planet and trampling on basic human rights in Thailand? That’s simply because there is no law that regulates them! No Law to stop them!

If only we had a Mandatory Human Rights & Environmental Due Diligence (mHREDD) law, things would be very different…

Let’s find out what mHREDD is and why we need it!

How it all started…

It all started in 2011, when the United Nations (UN Human Rights Council) adopted the UNGPs, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, voluntary guidelines to hold companies responsible and prevent their negative human rights and environmental impacts. Few years later, countries were encouraged to develop National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights to implement the UNGPs and ensure responsible business conduct…

But, the reality on the ground is quite different. The truth is that voluntary measures such as the UNGPs & National Action Plans didn’t do anything to bring about corporate accountability in Asia. THEY ARE NOT ENOUGH! #StopNAPping

Corporate abuses keep devastating the environment and people’s well-being, with companies making more and more profit!

The Flaws of Thailand’s NAP-BHR 1

In 2019, Thailand’s launch of the country's first National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP-BHR) was a supposed step towards responsible business conduct. Four years later, it is evident that the NAP-BHR’s voluntary measures are insufficient in curbing human rights violations and environmental damage caused by corporations. The persistence of these violations, both within Thailand and abroad, reveal the shortcomings of the NAP strategy.

#StopNAPping: Despite the inclusion of priority areas identified by Manushya Foundation in the NAP-BHR, crucial issues raised in joint comments by Manushya Foundation and the Thai BHR Network were left unaddressed. The NAP-BHR has left out those driving Thailand’s economy and protecting our planet: sex workers, indigenous peoples, gig workers, domestic workers… and it does nothing to stop defamation SLAPP cases against human rights defenders who bravely speak their truth to power to denounce corruption and corporate abuses!

The absence of guarantees for the protection of these groups, ineffective anti-SLAPP measures, and the lack of concrete steps towards mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence rendered the NAP-BHR 1 ineffective in ensuring corporate accountability. Instead, it allowed companies to engage in "greenwashing" and "corporate capture" of BHR efforts.

A Global Assessment: The Shortcomings of Voluntary Measures

Recognizing the repeated failures of voluntary measures at the global level, a growing chorus of voices, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment (who emphasized the urgency of mandatory due diligence laws), has called for the implementation of mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) legislation. Such laws would require businesses to conduct thorough assessments of their human rights and environmental impacts and take preventive measures to avoid harm. Implementing mHREDD legislation would be a major step forward in overcoming the accountability gaps presented by voluntary measures, such as NAPs and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Now, more than ever, we must take decisive action to hold businesses accountable and stop corporate impunity!

The Need for Mandatory Human Rights & Environmental Due Diligence

Enacting Mandatory Human Rights & Environmental Due Diligence (mHREDD) legislation would bring about real change and ensure responsible business conduct. Manushya Foundation, along with civil society across Asia, is leading the change to advocate for mHREDD legislation and a legally binding Treaty on business and human rights. It's time to end corporate impunity and secure justice for affected communities.

The Phichit Gold Mining Case

The Phichit gold mining case exemplifies how international corporations violate the human rights of Thai people and damage the environment with impunity. Toxic substances leaked from the Chatree gold mine, located at the border of Phichit and Phetchabun Provinces in Central Thailand. They contaminated the environment, including the soils and water sources, and had a severe impact on the health and livelihoods of the local villagers. For years, they fought to protect their rights and the environment, and have undertaken numerous efforts to seek effective remedy and solutions for the negative impacts they experience. Despite the government's closure of the mine in 2017, the villagers were not offered any form of redress or compensation. In 2022, the Thai government prioritized Profit over People and the Planet, granting four new licenses to Akara, the Thai subsidiary of Australian Kingsgate, allowing the company to re-open the Chatree complex on 21st March 2023. After the mine's reopening, field documentation indicated the reemergence of environmental and human rights harms. This case underscores should serve as a stark reminder of how large international corporations can violate human rights and damage the environment without accountability. It is time to prioritize People and the Planet over Profit!

Thai Banks financing Dams projects in Laos: a rising false climate solution

Laos' construction of dams has resulted in disastrous consequences for the environment and local communities. Man-made disasters, forced evictions, inadequate compensation, and the loss of livelihoods have plagued the lives of those affected. It's not just a problem for Laos; Thai banks heavily financing these projects make it a shared responsibility for Thailand. These dams are far from contributing to a just energy transition. These dams are not a genuine climate solution; instead, they represent a false promise, failing both people and the planet. By investing in unsustainable dams, Thai banks are actually contributing to endangering people and the planet!

The devastating impact of these large-scale hydropower projects demands immediate action and a shift towards more sustainable solutions that prioritize the well-being of communities and the environment. It's time to break away from destructive practices and embrace clean responsible alternatives that truly safeguard our planet and its inhabitants.

What would be the benefits of implementing mHREDD?

Healthier People & Planet: Implementing mandatory Human Rights & Environmental Due Diligence (mHREDD) in the context of unsustainable dam projects in Laos and gold mining in Thailand would bring about significant benefits for all stakeholders involved. For local communities and citizens, mHREDD would ensure better protection of human rights, including labor rights, safeguarding the well-being of affected communities and workers. It would also lead to a healthier environment for present and future generations, mitigating the negative impacts of dam and mining projects on ecosystems and natural resources.

Assessing and mitigating harms: mHREDD legislation would obligate companies to conduct Environmental and Human Rights Impact Assessments (EHRIA) prior to the construction of any infrastructure and during the running of its activities once the project is operating. Through this process, companies would have to meaningfully engage with and involve affected communities, in order to identify, understand, assess, and address the adverse effects that their own projects or activities could or would have on the human rights of impacted rights-holders, such as workers and community members, and on the environment.

Accountability & Access to effective remedy: an effective mHREDD legislation would also include the criminal and civil liability of corporations to end corporate abuses and guarantee justice. With greater transparency and access to justice for victims, affected communities would be empowered to seek redress for any harm caused by these projects.

Moreover, mHREDD would create a harmonized legal framework for companies and enterprises, providing legal certainty and leveling the playing field for businesses. It would enhance trust, as companies demonstrate a genuine commitment to human rights and environmental protection, leading to better risk management and adaptability.

Implementing mHREDD would also benefit developing countries by strengthening the protection of human rights and the environment, promoting sustainable investments, and encouraging the adoption of improved sustainability-related practices.

Overall, mHREDD would pave the way for a more sustainable and just approach to development, ensuring that major enterprises and investors prioritize People and the Planet over Profit in their business practices, while promoting positive change and equitable development for all.

Advocating for a Binding Treaty on Business & Human Rights

With the development of mHREDD laws at national, regional, and global levels, we have a unique opportunity to advance corporate accountability. Legislative proposals, like the European Commission's Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD), show promising progress in holding businesses to higher standards. In 2022, the 8th session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Business and Human Rights (IGWG) took place, building upon the Third Revised Draft and concrete textual proposals submitted during the 7th session.

Corporate capture: corporations are intending to weaken the Binding Treaty's negotiations by utilizing disloyal tactics

The progress of the United Nations Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights (IGWG) has been hampered by the insidious practice of corporate capture. Large corporations, seeking to protect their interests and evade accountability for their human rights abuses and environmental damage, are actively utilizing disloyal tactics to obstruct, weaken, and delay the negotiation and implementation of the treaty. The International Organization of Employers (IOE), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) have been granted significant influence in the IGWG process, even speaking before affected communities and human rights defenders. These corporations have a vested interest in blocking strong liability provisions that could provide meaningful remedies for affected communities. They have also threatened individual States with divestment if the treaty takes effect. The extent of corporate capture in this space is evident, as governments must take action to safeguard the integrity of the process and implement robust protections against such interference.

Manushya Foundation firmly denounces corporate capture and advocates for the implementation of mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence, ensuring that large businesses and Thai banks investing in projects prioritize the rights of local communities and the protection of the environment over profit-seeking endeavors in their projects. During the 11th UN Forum on Business & Human Rights in Geneva in 2022, Emilie Palamy Pradichit successfully exposed the issue of corporate capture and its alarming manifestations in Thailand and within the UN. Her impactful denunciation shed light on the undue influence exerted by corporations to manipulate decision-makers and public institutions, undermining human rights and environmental protections.

In sum, by implementing mHREDD, we can protect human rights, create a healthier environment, and promote sustainable investments, ultimately paving the way for a just and equitable future. Let us unite in supporting mHREDD legislation, advocating for a world where businesses are held responsible for their human rights and environmental impacts. Together, we can create a fairer and sustainable future for all.

#WeAreManushyan - Equal Human Beings

Summary: Manushya’s call for mHREDD

  • We call for the urgent implementation of Mandatory Human Rights & Environmental Due Diligence (mHREDD) legislation to ensure accountability and prevent rampant human rights and environmental abuses by corporations!

  • We insist on broad and inclusive participation of human rights defenders and rights-holders in the drafting process of mHREDD legislation, ensuring their voices are heard and their rights are protected!

  • We demand concrete steps to protect vulnerable groups, including Indigenous Peoples, sex workers, and local communities, from corporate abuses, enabling them to live free from harm and discrimination!

  • We advocate for the establishment of a legally binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights, providing international human rights comprehensive guidelines and standards for corporate conduct, leaving no room for exploitation and negligence!.

  • We seek an end to corporate impunity, urging for justice to be served for affected communities and holding businesses accountable for the consequences of their actions!

Join us in championing mHREDD, and together, we can bring about lasting change for People and the Planet.


While you’re here…

➡️ Learn more about how we advocate for mHREDD:


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