ETO Consortium Global Conference
ETO Consortium, the collective of scholars and civil organizations promoting states’ extraterritorial human rights obligations (ETOs), organized its global conference in June 2022 at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. Over four days, the global conference covered a wide spectrum of issues through ten thematic workshops that consisted of mutual learning and sharing of knowledge, and identifying future activities and cases that can trigger diverse collaborations and synergies.
The diverse expertise of the ETO Consortium members and other conference participants addressed the human rights dimensions of multiple crises beyond borders, including the global pandemic, climate impacts and eco-destruction, ongoing and new armed conflicts. Against this backdrop, the conference deliberated the essential role of human rights defenders (HRDs) in our increasingly interconnected, interdependent and globalized world. Participants held a special tribute to Indigenous activist Bruno Pereira and the British journalist Dom Phillips recently murdered in Brazil.
HIC-HLRN coordinator Joseph Schechla opened the conference with a presentation on the evolution of ETOs over the life of the Consortium. The global conference included updates from five regional groups who gave reflections about their respective regions and organizations (CSOs, social movements, academic centers, etc.), Each reviewed the relevant regional ETO-related processes, policies, cases and actors that could involve the Consortium activities, and agreed upon regional priorities.
One of the main purposes of the global conference was to bring academia and CSOs together in complementary fashion to work on litigation and accountability related to extraterritorial human rights violations.
Under the thematic workshop on climate and eco-destruction, participants presented the most-dramatic case studies to analyze the obstacles that victims face amid human rights violations associated with environmental damage. Examples included the deadly dam spill of an iron ore mine in Brumadinho, Brazil; the catastrophic fire at the Ali Enterprise textile factory in Pakistan; and many other cases of human rights violations in global supply chains.
Many cases involved human rights violations, including those arising from environmental damage, perpetrated by transnational corporations. Prominent among those was the case of the Brussels-based Société Belge d’Investissement pour l’Agriculture Tropicale (SIAT), involving land grabs in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
The Consortium members working in the MENA region presented analysis updating cases ongoing since the Consortium was founded in 2007, and identified new cases in pursuit of accountability, including litigation, related to extraterritorial human rights violations, HLRN, HIC-MENA and Al-Haq Foundation (Palestine) presented three main case studies. HLRN and HIC-MENA presented a session on the case of the French Lafarge cement company allegedly supporting terrorism and crimes against humanity in Syria, and presented the case of gold extractivism in Sudan and related illicit financial flows, Al-Haq dedicated one session to the NSO Group spyware and the Israelis industries, including weapons manufacturers, exploiting occupied Palestinians as research-and-development subjects for technology export and, more generally, on “economic-incentive structures perpetuating conflict, occupation and colonialism in the 21st century.”
The four-day conference culminated with ETO Consortium members debating inputs to the Maastricht IV process, which is an effort to develop a set of principles based on the Maastricht ETO principles [AR] focusing on the human rights of future generations.
At the end, the global conference come out with an initiative for exchange and collaboration between CSOs and academia to identify and create strategic avenues for pursue accountability and even litigation.
ETO Consortium also issued a statement urging states to actively negotiate and promptly adopt a Legally binding instrument on TNCs and Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights, including clear regulations on corporate accountability beyond borders and respect for democratically adopted UN Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9.