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Group urges accountability on corporate rights violations

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International Law Association

The International Law Association (ILA) has urged multinational and business organisations to uphold and protect human rights in their various spheres of operations.

The body also said such organisations or corporations should be held accountable for violations of rights.

ILA made the call at a conference in Lagos last week, themed: “Business, Human Rights and Corporate Obligations in International Law”.

According to the group, the theme was driven by recently released UN guiding principles on business and human rights which emphasises the need for business enterprises and transnational corporations to respect, protect and uphold human rights in their spheres of operations.

Chairman of the ILA conference, Prof. Damilola Olawuyi, emphasised that businesses are key in every society so the need to understand their obligation when it comes to human rights and to ensure they operate best practices in their sphere is crucial.

“Businesses and corporate bodies are described in international law as non-state actors, because even though they do not have the moral compass or regulatory stem of state actors, they control the destiny of many countries because they are the chief employers of labour and are responsible for key sectors such as oil and gas, healthcare, banking and mining among others.

International law is increasingly recognising that there is the need to hold non-state actors accountable for violations that may occur in the sphere of their operations,” he said.

Prof. Olawuyi, who is also ILA vice president said that, the National Human Right Commission of Nigeria is doing a lot to ensure those organisations are mainstreamed and integrated at the local level but he urged them to release a comprehensive set of guidelines that would protect the right of the public.

In his remark, ILA president, Prof. Fidelis Oditah (SAN) said the conference was organised to draw attention to the impact of local and international businesses on human rights and to exchange ideas on how to use international law to regulate corporate behaviour.

“This year we thought to examine the impact of international law and how to use it to regulate corporate behaviour. We have examples of companies engaging in environmental degradation and violation, and the use of child labour among others. It is necessary to see how domestic and international law can be used to provide protection to the victims of these violations,” he said.

Associate Professor, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan, Canada, Ibironke Odumosu-Ayanu explained that the attention of the international community has been drawn to corporate organisations because of recent occurrences like climate change and issues regarding insolvency and the protection of employees.

“We have seen how corporations may contribute positively to the lives of people in the countries where they work and we have also seen how the activities of corporations could sometimes lead to serious negative consequences. There is a lot of activism on such issues and the attention of International law is on it,” she said.


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