What You Need to Know about Corporate Accountability

business and human rightsIf businesses and multinational corporations are considered people under the Citizen United ruling, then they ought to be considered people under a variety of other characteristics besides free speech. Businesses and multinational corporations should also be considered people when it comes to human rights, both in acknowledging them and in holding them accountable for human rights violations. If individuals are held to this standard, then they ought to be held by the same standard if they are going to be “people” under the law. Here’s what you need to know about corporate accountability and what governments need to do to ensure these organizations uphold human rights in their operations.

Of the World’s 100 Largest Economies, 42 are Global Corporations, Not Countries

As of 2010, a little less than half of the world’s largest economies are global corporations. That percentage increases to 58% when you look at the top 150 economies. Wal-Mart is the largest global corporation, with its 2010 revenues exceeding the GDPs of 171 countries (note that there are 195 internationally recognized independent states). The five largest energy companies in the world – ExxonMobil, BP, Sinopec, Royal Dutch Petroleum, and China National Petroleum Corporation – actually comprise 2.5% of the world’s global GDP. Those five companies combined have the same size GDP as Canada, which is the 10th largest country in the world.

Overall point: these multinational corporations are powerful, more powerful than much of the world’s independent nations.

Corporate Accountability is More than Getting Justice for Human Rights Abuses

The story of St. Louis and the Veolia water contract is a perfect example of holding corporations accountable for previous actions and preventing them from continuing their behavior. Safe drinking water is a basic human need as well as a basic human right, and shouldn’t be left to transnational companies to do what they want with it while profiting at the expense of the locals and the poor. St. Louisans made it clear that they didn’t like Veolia and that they weren’t going to accept handing over their water or what the company was doing in other parts of the country and the world.

One in four people in the world don’t have safe drinking water. Unchecked corporate power is one of the biggest human rights issues of our time, and although St. Louisans were successful in checking Veolia’s power, there’s still more to do be done with many other organizations and how they’re using their unchecked power to inflict harm.

Let’s Not Forget Their Influence in Politics

Everyone understands that Citizens United gave corporations immense power to influence public policy and to subvert the will of the people. Bank of America is bankrolling Big Coal, while Big Oil has a huge hand in trying to get the Keystone XL pipeline going. Monsanto spent millions in California to defeat a GMO labeling bill in the most recent election. There’s also the role the financial institutions played in preventing regulations of the financial industry, especially in the few years after the crisis. A big part of corporate accountability is holding these companies accountable to their stances and what they want as public policy as well as any human rights abuses and violations they may commit.

We need to challenge corporate election spending, as well as uncover what issues they are spending money on for lobbying and public policy. If corporations are going to spend millions upon millions of dollars to support or to defeat certain issues, then the public (and especially their customers) should know about these activities.

Related Links:

How to Track Relevant Human Rights Legislation

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Lobbying for Human Rights

How to Use Twitter to Promote Human Rights 

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March Letter Writing Meeting Tomorrow

letter writing meetingI’ve just finished my own spring break with a trip to Las Vegas, and many others have wrapped up their own spring breaks sometime this month as well. With just one full week left in March, there’s no better time than now to get back into the groove and to join us for tomorrow’s letter writing meeting.

Spring is a time for renewal, and lets renew our efforts to stop human rights abuses around the world and to build awareness for these issues. Below are the meeting details, which haven’t changed (the details for our business meetings have changed).

Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to write letters to the US and foreign governments regarding specific human rights abuses.

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company, on the corner of Roger and Hartford, located in the Tower Grove area. We meet in the main sitting area.

Why: Because every person and every letter can make a difference! If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. Naysayers think these letters can’t make a difference, but criticizing the way others make a difference doesn’t enact change either.

Be part of the solution and join us tomorrow!

Reminder: March Business Meeting Tomorrow

amnesty monthly meetingTomorrow is our third business meeting of 2014, and there is much to discuss! The primary thing we will be planning is our upcoming trip to the Annual General Meeting in Chicago. The human rights conference takes place from Apr 4-6 at the JW Marriott Hotel. This year’s theme is, “Bringing Human Rights Home.”

Important Note Regarding the Annual Conference

We will be conducting a final headcount and organizing our travel plans, so if you want to come with us, then you NEED to attend this meeting. You are welcome to make your own travel arrangements and meet us there, but if you want to utilize the chapter’s transportation options, then you need to attend tomorrow so that we can include you and arrange accordingly. The conference is less than a month away, so we have to make our plans now so that we can ensure that we can accommodate everyone and not have to scramble at the last minute to put everything together.

Also keep in mind that this is the last time our business meetings will take place on the second Tuesday of the month. Starting in April, our business meetings are scheduled for the second Wednesday of the month. This is subject to change. Please pay attention to our blog posts, our Facebook group, and our email reminders for any changes and any other upcoming events.

Other than that, the meeting details are below. We hope to see you at the meeting tomorrow, or perhaps even at the conference as well. Please contact us at amnestystl (at) gmail (dot) com if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

March Business Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to discuss upcoming events and current affairs.

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company, on the corner of Roger and Hartford, located in the Tower Grove area. We meet in the front dining area.

Why: Because there’s much to talk about and much to be done!

How to Use Pinterest to Promote Human Rights

pinterest human rightsPinterest is the fourth largest traffic source and the third largest social network in the world, meaning that it’s a great to post content and to promote human rights in an effective, visual way. Pinning your favorite human rights pictures and infographics on the topics you’re most passionate about is a great way to start your board (or several). However, with a little more strategy, you can use Pinterest as an excellent way to promote your causes. Here’s how to use Pinterest to promote human rights.

Have More than Just the Big Issue Stuff

Yes, it’s important to pin powerful photos of the issues, whether you’re pinning the photos of victims, of war zones, or of those on the ground working to make a difference. But, pin something other than the big issues once in a while because the big stuff can be overwhelming. Part of building awareness for human rights violations is to make people feel they can do something about the issue, instead of just know about it. By pinning photos of your events, pictures that lead to petitions, and pictures relevant to success stories and to organizations that are making a difference, your Pinterest content accomplishes much more than making others feel sad or guilty about the issue.

Pin Vertically When Possible

Because of Pinterest’s layout, portrait pictures attract more eyes than landscape pictures. Another trick to attract more attention is to use dark borders or to add text to what you pin (and I mean text on the photo, not just text in the description). The latter characteristics are features of a meme photo, and I’m not suggesting that you turn human rights into a series of memes, but that style of presentation can attract attention even if your photos aren’t a meme or are covering a serious topic.

Consider the Interests of Your Audience

Many who are interested in human rights are also interested in other things, and people interested in other things or specific political issues are also interested in human rights. Pinterest just added a new “interests” feature to make it easier for users to find pins relevant to your interests. When promoting human rights, you can take advantage of this feature by creating boards and pinning pins on “interests” other than human rights. For example, if you know eating organic or eating healthy is an interest among those you know that like human rights (that’s at least the case with our chapter), then creating a board with organic recipes or pictures of healthy foods isn’t a bad idea. It engages those who may like human rights but haven’t heard you or your issue yet.

Pin as Well as Repin

Most pins on Pinterest are actually repins. Although repinning is important to this network because it showcases the great work of others and encourages them to follow you on Pinterest, creating original pins is critical to positioning yourself as the go-to person on human rights or your specific human rights issue. Granted, repinning helps to do that also, but you don’t want everything you pin to be repins.

Related Links:

How to Use Twitter to Promote Human Rights

4 Things That Need to Be On Your Amnesty Chapter Website

How to Use Blogging to Promote Human Rights

Updates and Upcoming Events for 2014

Amnesty International events 2014The next two months have a lot going on, so pay attention! We have several events coming up in the next eight weeks, including two movie screenings and our annual conference in Chicago. If you haven’t been to a chapter meeting recently, or even if you have, then below is everything you need to know about what’s happening in March and April regarding human rights activism. We hope that you join us for at least one event or meeting.

Dirty Wars Screening

In partnership with the Peace Economy Project, the Instead of War Coalition, and Webster University, we are hosting a screening the Oscar-nominated documentary Dirty Wars. The documentary is based on a book by the same name, discussing the US’s covert war on terrorism and its use of unmanned drones in countries where the US has not declared war. Below is the information regarding the movie screening:

  • When: Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Webster University Library Conference Room
  • Address: 101 Edgar Rd, St. Louis MO, 63119
  • Cost: Free

Besides the screening, Rafia Zakaria of DAWN, a Pakistani newspaper, will be attending the event for a post-screening discussion. The discussion will involve the content from the documentary as well as Pakistan’s involvement and coverage of the issue.

No Fire Zone Screening

Exactly one week from our Dirty Wars screening is another moving screening at the exact same location and at the exact same time. This movie screening is hosted by the Webster University chapter of Amnesty International and will feature the documentary No Fire Zone. This human rights documentary talks about abuses in Sri Lanka.

  • When: Thursday, March 27, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Webster University Library Conference Room
  • Address: 101 Edgar Rd, St. Louis MO, 63119
  • Cost: Free

Annual General Meeting

April 4-6 is the annual general meeting, or the yearly national human rights conference for Amnesty International. This year’s theme is “Bring Human Rights Home” and the conference is in Chicago at the JW Marriott Hotel. Our chapter is attending, so we really hope that you’d like to come with us, or at least see us there at some of the great seminars.

On the agenda for this year’s conference:

  • Redefining Justice: The State of Criminal Justice & Human Rights in the US & Around the World
  • How Social Media Helped Abolish the Death Penalty
  • Activism Through Arts
  • Defend Human Rights by Learning About Fundraising
  • The Time is Now! Making Women’s Rights a Global Reality. Focus: North Africa – Egypt and Morocco
  • LGBT Rights are Human Rights: Getting to Know the Movement

We will be discussing transportation at our upcoming March business meeting (details below), so if you are interested in attending you don’t have to go by yourself. Please stop by so we know that you’re interested and can include you in our plans.

New Tentative Meeting Schedule

To allow more members to come to more meetings, we are making a slight change to our meeting schedule so that we can accommodate those who have Tuesday night commitments and could never make it to a meeting. Our new tentative meeting schedule, which will take effect in April, is as follows:

  • The business meeting will be moved to the second Wednesday of the month. So, our April business meeting is Wednesday, April 9.
  • The letting writing meeting will remain scheduled for the fourth Tuesday of the month. The April letter writing meeting is scheduled for April 22.

Hopefully, this change will allow you to attend at least one of our meetings per month. This change also allows more members to facilitate meetings. Please let us know if you have any thoughts on the proposed schedule or if you are willing to help facilitate either a business meeting or a letter writing meeting.

Next Amnesty International Meeting

To clarify, the March meeting is still scheduled for March 11, which is the second Tuesday of the month. April is when we make the change to the second Wednesday of the month. The March business meeting is especially important to attend if you want to come with our chapter to the conference in Chicago, but it’s always great to attend our meetings if you’re interested in human rights activism at all. Below are the meeting details:

Who: Amnesty International members and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to discuss upcoming events and current affairs.

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company on the corner of Roger and Hartford. We meet in the very back past the patio.

Why: Because there’s much to talk about and much to be done!