Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely

It’s Friday iStock_000011057325XSmalland time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.

This week’s post includes: a jury verdict in the Quinteros v. DynCorp litigation; the latest GAO report on corporate conflict mineral disclosures; and a statement from the Scottish Parliament that investments agreements should only be signed after appropriate human rights due diligence.

  • On March 29, the Scottish Parliament approved a motion stating that “the Scottish Government must always consider the human rights implications of its engagement with countries and business” and stating that it “believes that investment agreements should only be signed where appropriate due diligence, including on the human rights record of companies involved, has been undertaken.” The text of the approved motion, which came after questions were raised with regard to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Scottish Government and the China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group (“CR3”), was welcomed by civil society advocates. Amnesty International had recently raised concerns with regard to CR3’s alleged involvement in human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • On April 19, Know the Chain published a report, Forced Labor Action Compared: Findings from Three Sectors, comparing the findings from three previous reports which benchmarked companies on their efforts to address forced labor in their supply chains. The three industries covered by the previous reports included: apparel and footwear; information and communications technology; and food and beverage. In reviewing findings across all three sectors, Know the Chain observed that “many company efforts begin and end with their first-tier suppliers, overlooking lower tiers where labor abuses are pervasive.” The authors of the report also noted that “[t]here is a growing global momentum in both soft and hard law requiring companies to disclose their efforts addressing forced labor risks in their supply chains.”
  • On April 20, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre released its corporate legal accountability annual briefing. he annual briefing presents a global overview of the ways in which governments and litigants have sought to hold companies accountable for the human rights impact of their operations during the previous year. This year’s briefing focuses on threats to advocates that have sought to hold companies accountable for alleged human rights abuses.
  • On April 20, a jury in the D.C. District Court returned a verdict in Quinteros v. DynCorp, a case involving claims by Ecuadoran plaintiffs who allege that they suffered severe harm as the result of fumigation activities conducted by DynCorp in the Ecuadorian/Colombian border region. The initial trial involved the claims of six test plaintiffs in the case, which involved over 2,000 Ecuadoran farmers. The jury found that DynCorp was responsible for the actions of a subcontractor’s pilots between 2000 and 2007, but determined that the specific plaintiffs in the trial could not recover as they could not identify whether the subcontractor or the Colombian National Police controlled the specific planes that allegedly caused their injuries. The subcontractor took control of all of the flights in April 2003, so it is expected that future plaintiffs may be able to recover if their injuries post-date April 2003.
  • On April 26, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report reviewing corporate disclosures pursuant to Securities and Exchange Commission’s conflict minerals rule, as filed in 2016. Comparing disclosures in 2016 to those made in 2015 and 2014, the GAO that the number of companies filing has remained generally the same. For both the 2015 and 2016 filings, approximately 49% of companies were able to make determinations as to the countries of origin of the conflict minerals in their products. For the 2016 filings, approximately 25% of companies stated that they knew, or had reason to believe, that conflict minerals in their products came from the Democratic Republic of Congo or an adjoining country.

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