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 

Upcoming Events on Drones and Guantanamo

armed drones and lethal force

Source: The Guardian

We haven’t had too many events this year, but to make up for it, we are having two in April! Both of these events have to do with security and human rights and are relevant to the United States as well as to human rights abroad. Unmanned drones and Guantanamo Bay are two human rights issues that a lot of people can get behind, and we hope that you can join us at one of these events and get behind us on these issues.

Drones Rally Tomorrow

Don’t forget that tomorrow is our rally against unmanned drones, “Protest: U.S. Drones Out of Africa and Everywhere!” The rally starts at 12 p.m. at Soldier’s Memorial Museum, and here’s what to expect:

  • 12 p.m. – Assemble for Rally
  • 12:30 p.m. – Program and Speakers Start
  • 1 p.m. – Begin March to Federal Building

All you need to bring to the rally is yourself. Posters and handbills will be provided to everyone. The stronger showing we have, the better we can make our point and to raise awareness about the drones.

Having killed thousands of people through U.S. drone strikes in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, the U.S. government is now putting all of Africa in the cross hairs! Under the guise of “fighting terrorism” or “saving civilians,” the United States is using drones to engage in military actions throughout the world, including countries that are considered “allies”. Over 3,000 people have been murdered by U.S. drone strikes in the last few years, including a large number of children by these robotic killing machines.

Amnesty Lobby Week

This year’s Spring Lobby Week is from April 29 – May 3, and it will be your opportunity to speak with your members of Congress. We’re going to take our message straight to our representatives and convince them support our stance and/or thank them for continuing the fight for human rights. Specifically, we will be lobbying to close Guantanamo, to pass the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), and to encourage them to join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

To prepare for Lobby Week, the Midwest Legislative Coordinators will like to discuss with you how to sign up, what the issues will be, and offer pointers on how to build your delegation to participate in this most needed event. They will be hosting a conference call to provide the information to those interested in participating. There is a conference called scheduled for:

        Date: Monday, April 15
        Time: 7:00 p.m. CST
        Call- in: 866-623-3290
        Passcode: 8414

Hopefully, you can make it to at least one event. Please let us know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. You can let us know by leaving a comment below or emailing us at amnestystl (at) gmail (dot) com.

Related Links:

Indefinite Detentions, Military Commissions, and Guantanamo

Drones and Lethal Force: The Issue and the Action

3 Recent Human Rights Issues in Africa

December Human Rights News Roundup

human rights newsLast roundup of the year! A lot has happened in human rights over the past 12 months, ranging from the legalization of gay marriage in three states to Reggie Clemons’ special hearing, from the imprisonment of Pussy Riot to Saudi Arabia allowing women to compete in the London Olympics. A lot is sure to happen in 2013, and we are ready and willing to take on the challenge. Although this isn’t a top human rights stories of 2012 post, here are some of the top human rights news articles from the past 30 days.

Vivienne Harr, age 8, Sells Lemonade in Times Square for Freedom – Notforsalecampaign.org – This story is really inspiring, perfect for the holiday season. For 173+ days, she has been selling lemonade and donating the funds she raises to the Not For Sale network. So far, she has raised over $50,000. Actually, not a bad idea to building awareness for human rights issues.

Native Women’s Rights Are in Danger: Tell Congress to Pass a Tribal-Inclusive VAWA that Provides Justice for All Women! – Amnesty International Blog – Yes, we still need action on VAWA. The latest is that last week, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Tom Cole (R-OK), introduced H.R. 6625, known as the Violence Against Indian Women Act. This bill addresses some of the concerns raised by those who oppose the inclusive VAWA, while still ensuring that Native American women receive protection. It’s designed to push VAWA forward while perhaps filling its holes if the incomplete version of VAWA ends up getting passed.

How Did Your State Rank in the Fight Against Child Sex Trafficking? – Foreign Policy Blogs – Wow! Can you believe Missouri actually got a B in the fight against human sex trafficking? Although it’s not an A, no states received an A so Missouri is one of seven states to receive a top grade. This grade is a reflection of state laws and their response to the crime of domestic minor sex trafficking.

How The Disabilities Treaty Senate Debacle Caught the Media’s Attention – UN Dispatch – This was a huge debacle by the Senate, indeed, especially since this treaty was modeled after U.S laws and would do nothing to change them. However, UN treaties have always been something that Congress has trouble coming around on, including treaties such as CEDAW, Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Covenant on EconomicSocial and Cultural Rights.

What Compassionate Release? – The New York Times – Even after learning about the criminal justice system in the New Jim Crow, there are even more problems with it than we realized. Who knew about this compassionate release cause, that prisoners could be released because of terminal illness, mental illness, impairment due to old age, or the death or incapacitation of a family member who has been solely responsible for the care of the prisoner’s minor children?


Are You Going to Chicago for the Midwest Regional?

amnesty st. louisEvery year, Amnesty International has both a national conference (known as the Annual General Meeting) and a regional conference. This year’s Midwest Regional Conference is at Northern Illinois University in Chicago on Nov. 9 and 10. Our chapter is going, and we’d love for you to join us and hundreds of other activists from the region to learn more about what Amnesty International is doing, and what more we can do for human rights. This year’s conference theme is, “Same Mission, New Technology.”

If you want to attend the conference, make sure to register online. Of course, you can just show up and register there, but it’s always better to register online. It costs $25 to attend, $15 for students and seniors.

Below is the schedule of events for the Midwest Regional Conference, as well as additional information regarding travel and accommodations. We hope to see you there!


4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Registration and Member Services

5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Ideas Fair


Midwest Regional Conference Welcome & Opening Reception
o NEIU President (Invited)
o Ed LeMaster, Former Prisoner of Conscience

6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Amplify Your Activism – Training & Skill Building Session
Program and Campaign Roundtable – Michelle Ringuette

8:00 p.m. – 9:15 p.m.

Resolutions and Dessert
o Tom Benner, Midwest Resolutions Representative, AIUSA

8:00 p.m. – 9:15 p.m.

Human Rights Festival – An evening of fellowship with musicians, poets, a film screening, a photo booth and ice cream social


8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Registration and Member Services

8:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Ideas Fair

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Townhall & Breakfast with Regional Planning Group (RPG) –Nick Kissel

9:00 a.m. – 10:50 a.m.

Opening Plenary – Same Mission, New Technology
o Kyra Stoddart, Online marketing Manager, AIUSA
o Emma Ruby-Sachs, Campaign Director at AVAAZ.org
o Joe Baker, vice President of Causes and Advocacy at Care2
o Jackie Zammuto, Program Assistant for WITNESS

11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Workshop Session I

Social Media (runs until 1:30 p.m.)
• Kyra Stoddart, Online Marketing Manager for AIUSA
• Chris Eaton,

Writing for Rights Write-a-thon and Event Planning
• NEIU Student Group

Fundraising: Inviting People to Join the Largest Human Rights Organization in the World – US!
• Nick Kissel, Chair RPG
• David Stamps, North African Coordination Group Chair

Womens’ Rights in South Asia, special focus on Pakistan, Afghanistan & Sri Lanka
• Alice Dahle, AIUSA Women’sHuman Rights Co-Group
• Jim McDonald, AIUSA South Asia Co-Group, Sri Lanka Country Specialist
• Ellen Bennett, AIUSA South Asia Co-Group, Pakistan Country Specialist

Abolition of the Death Penalty: Learning from the Illinois Victory and Beyond
• Jeremy Schroeder, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Networking Luncheon

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

National Board of Directors Strategic Plan Session – Rafia Zakaria

2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Workshop Session II
Now or Never!: Effective Rapid Response
• Michelle Ringuette, Chief of Campaigns AIUSA

MENA Update and Strategic Action
• Beth Ann Toupin, Iraq & BahrainCountry Specialist
• Elise Auerbach, IranCountry Specialist

Human Rights and the LGBT Community
• Nancy Matthews, NEIU Professor
• Erin Hamilton, Student Group Coordinator AIUSA
• Dr. Shelly Bannister, Moderator
Building Bridges- Outreach and Publicity Techniques
• Mohamad Badreddine, Student Group Leader AI U of M Dearborn

Effective Public Speaking: Speaking for Activists
• Hamzah Latif – former SG Coordinator U of M Dearborn

4:10 p.m. – 7:10 p.m.

Resolution Plenary – Tom Benner, Regional Representative National Resolution Committee

7:15 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Closing Ceremony
Charge to the Members – Michelle Ringuette,
Chief of Campaigns AIUSA
Final Awards Presentation


If you’ll need some help with travel and accommodations, below is some information about that. We understand the list of hotels originally secured has sold out for the weekend; therefore we have secured a limited number of rooms at another hotel with the rate of $99.00 + tax.  If you are still in need of a room see the information below.  The deadline to reserve a room is November 2, 2012. 


Holiday Inn

5300 W. Touhy Ave

Skokie, IL 60077


Group Code: AMN


There will be parking available on campus at NO CHARGE.  We are awaiting the University to notify us of the specific parking lot, once we receive notice we will provide the information to the members (and on our blog).


There will be shuttle service provided from the hotel to the University each morning and evening during the conference.

October Human Rights News Roundup

human rights newsIt’s been a few months since we’ve done a human rights news roundup, and we can’t forget that there are tons of issues that we need to at least be aware of. Our chapter is also in the middle of a waiting game, as we won’t have any updates from the Reggie Clemons case until January, so we do need some other issues to learn about and to focus on. To help with that, here’s a human rights news roundup, covering some really good human rights issues from the past week or so.

Her ‘Crime’ was Loving Schools – New York Times – This is one of the biggest human rights stories of the past week, so it would be a surprise if you haven’t heard about it yet. Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, was shot in the head while riding the bus to school. She was shot for being an outspoken advocate for girls’ education, and was threatened more than once by the Taliban for her work. Yousafzai has since been transferred to a hospital in the UK, where she is predicted to recover from her wounds. The Taliban have said that if she survives, they would try and kill her again. Amnesty International has an urgent action on this case.

Pussy Riot Member Uses Freedom to Resume Protests Against Vladimir Putin – The Guardian – The girls of Pussy Riot have become a priority case for Amnesty International. Pussy Riot was sentenced to several years in prison for singing a protest song in Red Square. Their exact charge is “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” One of the members, Yekaterina Samutsevich, has been released. While Amnesty is continuing action on getting the other two released, Samutsevich has said that she will continue the struggle of the group.

Speaking of the Guardian, they did some great work covering the Reggie Clemons hearings at the end of September. We’ve linked to their articles.

National Coming Out Day: A Straight Perspective – Huffington Post – Friday, Oct. 12 was National Coming Out Day (something that wasn’t mentioned in the VP debate, and one that I hope will be discussed in the next presidential debate). Thought this was a great essay on the topic of gay marriage.

What’s Going On At Guantanamo This Week? Shhh…It’s A Secret – Amnesty International Blog – Did you know that this week, the pre-trial motion hearings are taking place for the military commission case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other alleged co-conspirators in the 9/11 attacks? Probably not, as everything the defendants know, say, or write is “preemptively classified”, whatever that means. A big reason why this is wrong, according to Amnesty, is that if the defendants know of or have experienced any sort of human rights violations, then all that is classified and cannot be discussed. Amnesty also believes that “the blanket policy of presumptive classification is inconsistent with the defendants’ right to a fair trial and seriously undermines the defendants’ ability to challenge the evidence against them.”

Egyptian Rights Group: No End to Police Abuses – Voice of America – Egypt may have been the birthplace of the Arab Spring, but it isn’t in the clear and perfect yet (like any country is perfect). There’s been documentation of rape, wrongful deaths, and torture ever since President Mohammed Morsi came to power. According to the reports, many of the victims were protesters and that President Morsi hasn’t made any institutional changes since becoming president. Part of the rise in crime and abuses is also due to the fact that much of police force fled at the beginning of the Arab Spring.