Corporate Human Rights Abuses: State or Business Responsibility?

Time: Monday, 4 December, 4:00PM – 5:30PM
Place: Bergen Resource Centre for International Development, Jekteviksbakken 31

Panel: Nnimmo Bassey (Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation/Rafto Prize Laureate), Salil Tripathi (Senior Adviser, Institute for Human Rights and Business), and Namita Wahi (Fellow, Centre for Policy Research/ LawTransform).

ModeratorTina Søreide (Professor of Law and Economics, NHH/Leader of Corruption & Criminal Law Unit, LawTransform)


Corporate Human Rights Abuses: State or Business Responsibility?
– Extractive Industries and Land Rights Issues: The Cases of Nigeria and India

Violations of human rights have become a grave side effect to the activity of some transnational and domestic corporations, particularly in poor communities in the Global South. Many corporations are criticized because they or their subsidiaries or partners use child labour, condone slavery, profit from illegitimate expropriation of land, and operate in ways that harm human health and the environment.

Governments bear the primary obligation to protect and respect human rights, yet they often fail in this objective due to lack of will or capacity. In several cases they do not enforce regulation and fail to secure compensation for victims of corporate misconduct. What can be done to hold corporations responsible for their adverse human rights impacts?

In 2011 the UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which created a three pillar framework – the state duty to protect human rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the need for a remedy, where gaps exist. The UN GPs were not meant to create a regulatory mechanism, and the absence of an international enforcement mechanism remains a major challenge to improve realities on the ground. In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council established a working group to prepare the ground for a legally binding treaty on business and human rights. Thus far there is no political consensus internationally for a binding treaty, and the difficulty of making corporations accountable for their human rights abuses remains.

This seminar takes a closer look at corporate human rights abuses in Nigeria and India in relation to extractive industries and land rights issues.
The panel will explore: 

  • What human rights abuses are the most common in extractive industries? Who are the victims?
  • What is the link between environmental pollution and human rights? To what extent are corporate human rights violations a matter of corruption?
  • What structural challenges hinder governments in holding corporations accountable? How applicable is criminal law for controlling such problems?
  • What impact have the UN Guiding Principles had on corporations operating in India and Nigeria?
This event is a collaboration between the Rafto Foundation and the Corruption & Criminal Law Research Unit at the Centre on Law and Social Transformation.
See event on Facebook here.
Free and open to all!
Refreshments will be served 🙂


About the panel:

Nnimmo Bassey is director of the ecological think-tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), an environmental justice advocate, and a steering committee member of Oilwatch International. He was chair of Friends of the Earth International (2008-2012) and Executive Director of Nigeria’s Environmental Rights Action (1993-2013). He was a co-recipient of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award also known as the “Alternative Noble Prize.” In 2012 he received the Rafto Human Rights Award. In 2014 he received Nigeria’s national honour as Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) in recognition of his environmental activism. Bassey is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Architects and has authored books on the environment, architecture and poetry. His books include ‘We Thought it Was Oil, But It was Blood –Poetry’ (Kraft Books, 2002), ‘I will Not Dance to Your Beat – Poetry’ (Kraft Books, 2011), ‘To Cook a Continent – Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa’ (Pambazuka Press, 2012) and ‘Oil Politics – Echoes of Ecological War’ (Daraja Press, 2016).

Salil Tripathi
is a writer and senior policy adviser on global issues for the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) with experience in researching corporate activities in diverse environments, applying international human rights standards to identify human rights abuses, and working with all sectors and stakeholders to build accountability and advocate positive change. Salil works on human rights themes such as discrimination, protection of human rights defenders, and emerging issues for business and human rights. He has also worked on issues related to land, conflict, and the information and communication technologies. Salil was at Amnesty International (1999-2005) where he conducted research missions to Nigeria and Bosnia, and developed policies and thinking on complicity, privatisation, and corruption. He represented AI in the forming of the Global Compact, the Kimberley Process, and the Voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights. At International Alert (2006-2008) he worked on projects in Colombia and was part of the team that developed the Red Flags Initiative. He also chairs PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, and is an author of three works of non-fiction, and an award-winning journalist.

Namita Wahi is a Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), where she leads the Land Rights Initiative.  She is also a Global Fellow at the Centre on Law and Social Transformation (LawTransform), where she is the Indian coordinator for the project ”Land Rights, Enviroment Protection and Inclusive Development within India’s Federal System”. Namita’s research interests are broadly in the areas of property rights, social and economic rights, rights of vulnerable communities, and eminent domain or expropriation law. She has written extensively on these issues in various academic journals and edited volumes, as well as newspapers and magazines, and spoken about these issues on prime time television. Namita has taught courses in these areas at Harvard University, both at the Law School and the Department of Government, and at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. Namita is also a member of the Technical Committee reviewing the Pilot Study led by a consortium of research organisations on the Digital Land Records Modernisation Programme of the Department of Land Resources. Before entering academia, Namita was a litigator with Davis Polk and Wardwell in New York, where she practised primarily in the areas of bankruptcy, securities, criminal defence and asylum law. Namita also holds a Master’s in Law (LL.M.) from Harvard Law School, where she was was a Barack-Inlaks scholar and was awarded the Laylin Prize for the “Best Paper in International Law”. She also holds B.A. and LL.B.(Hons.) degrees from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, where she received several gold medals for her academic achievements and was recognised as the “Best outgoing student”.

Tina Søreide is Professor of Law and Economics (Dr. Econ) at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH). Her research is focused on corruption, governance, markets and development, currently with an emphasis on law enforcement. She has published extensively on corruption and governance, including several books – the latest being Corruption and Criminal Justice: Bridging Legal and Economic Perspectives (Edw. Elgar, 2016). Søreide was previously employed by the Faculty of Law, University of Bergen (UiB), the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) and the World Bank, Washington DC. She has been engaged in policy work for the Norwegian Government and internationally, including for the OECD, the EU, and development agencies and governments. She is a member of the High Level Advisory Group on Anticorruption and Integrity (HLAG) to the Secretary General of the OECD.