Corporate Human Rights Abuses Are Fine, United States Tells the UN

Good news: The United Nations has recently approved the implementation of a legally binding body that can punish corporations that commit human rights abuses.

Bad news: The United States is furious and says it will refuse to abide by any repercussions this Human Rights Council-approved body should assign.

Up until now, the UN’s standards for corporate accountability have been strictly voluntarily. Resolving that waving a metaphorical finger at companies that commit human rights abuses was insufficient, in 2013, Ecuador initiated a proposal to hold international offenders responsible for their immoral actions. More than 80 other countries signed on, agreeing that actual accountability was necessary to diminish human rights abuse. With help from South Africa, Ecuador finally convinced the HRC to vote on the issue last week; the resolution passed by a 20-14 vote.

Alas, it’s the nations who voted no that are being the most vocal at this point, with the United States and nations in the European Union leading the charge. Before the vote, they lobbied hard to have nations reject Ecuador’s proposal; since losing, they have thrown what amounts to a hissy fit. “The United States will not participate in this IGWG [intergovernmental working group] and we encourage others to do the same,” said Stephen Townley, America’s HRC rep.

Why are the United States and Europe so opposed to holding corporations responsible for the human rights abuses they perpetuate? Presumably, it’s because they are the nations that most benefit from systematic injustice throughout the world. Arguably, a lot of the human rights exploitations occur in other countries, but the U.S. and E.U. are the main nations that profit from these businesses. Additionally, most of the goods produced in these substandard conditions are then sold in the U.S. and Europe.

As such, a U.S. representative declared, “This legally binding instrument will not be binding for those who vote against it.” That’s a bold proclamation given that the whole point of the decision was to ensure that all international corporations would be held responsible for their actions, not just the ones who agree to the terms. It’ll be interesting to see in the months ahead how the United States intends to wriggle out of its responsibility to abide by these rules since, technically, it shouldn’t have grounds to do that.

Then again, the United States has managed to maintain a love/hate relationship with the United Nations for years now, willfully ignoring certain decrees, so perhaps it will be able to use its clout to get what it wants after all. It’s just a shame that the kind of thing the United States is willing to put its reputation on the line for is something like refusing to hold human rights abusers criminally accountable. Go figure that the same country that refuses to jail a single fraudulent banking executive preemptively has the backs of its corporate cronies for even more despicable acts.

Overall, this is not an attractive look for the United States. It’s pitiful, unjustifiable stances like this one that may cause history to categorize this powerful country as one of the “bad guys.”


Linda McKellar
Past Member 3 years ago

Nikolas - I believe that was Eisenhower, not Roosevelt.

Nikolas K.
Nikolas K3 years ago

Well Americans cant complain when the rest of the world come down hard on them.President Roosevelt warned you all in his farewell speech to the nation to beware of an organisation called the Military/Industrial Alliance who has become the real government of America. next time a president tells you the truth of whats going on you may listen instead of thinking who won the baseball. its up to you now this very moment to do something before your in a Fema camp.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn

Thank for the article.

Donnie H.
Donnie H3 years ago

The migrant farm workers in the US can attest to human rights abuses, especially the ones who are here illegally. They are probably no better off, then they were in their own countries that they left. Human trafficking and slavery is a world-wide problem, too.

Dan Nickerson
Dan Nickerson3 years ago

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power." Franklin D. Roosevelt
I guess some things never change.

Olivia Lim
Olivia Lim3 years ago

US: When other countries abuse human rights we come out strong against it; When it is our own country that is performing the human rights violations we sweep it under the rug and get furious when the UN takes a firmer stand against corporate human rights abuses.

Enrico H.
Enrico H3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Mark H.
Mark H3 years ago

Let's keep pressure on this. Monsanto et al is poisoning us and the environment with impunity with their arm around Obama's shoulder.

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K3 years ago

The US and the EU don't profit from human rights abuses in third world nations. A small number of plutocrats who own multinational corporations and live in the US and the EU profit from human rights abuses in third world countries, use those profits to buy politicians and Supreme Court Justices and then use their purchased power to drive down wages and benefits for the citizens of the US and the EU.

The US now says that corporations are people with free speech rights and religious consciences - though that last one is going to bite those who own corporations in the ass, soon. I wonder if Paul Clement told the Green family of Hobby Lobby that if they won that case, they no longer had the personal protection from liability afforded corporations? I'll bet he didn't! Somewhere, some bright bunch of lawyers are strategizing a class action lawsuit in which the personal assets of the Greens will be on the chopping block. It couldn't happen to more deserving people.

Kathleen R.
Kathleen R3 years ago

Thanks for the article. Truly wished I found the USA's actions & words shocking, sadly that is not so. One only has to look at how it is treating the citizens living in the USA. My use of the word "citizen" includes all who live within the territorial boundaries of the USA. American is a location identification. I have never read a death certificate stating death caused by cancer of their American.