The French oil giant Total is preparing a massive oil project in a natural park in Africa’s Great Lakes region, forcing thousands from their homes. The project has been plagued by human rights abuses, underlining the need for a UN treaty that would hold corporations responsible for environmental and human rights crimes.
The colossal Tilenga project will have more than 400 wells and a 1,400 km pipeline stretching across Uganda and Tanzania. It will force over 100,000 people from their homes, including 30 percent of the population of one district. The majority of local farmers, already forced from their land in Uganda, have yet to receive compensation. Community activists have been attacked. Farmers who have testified in a French court case have received death threats.
“The French national duty of vigilance law from 2017 is being tested in this case. It is the first law in the world to impose a duty on companies domiciled or headquartered within a state’s territory to prevent HRs violations and environmental harm anywhere in the world they operate,” said Gabriela Quijano, a Business and HR expert.
In a new report, published by FIAN International and Friends of the Earth France, we demonstrate how this case highlights the urgency for states to agree on a UN binding treaty on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights, under discussion in Geneva this week.
The report is the third in a series examining how a UN Treaty could make transnational corporations accountable. As in the Brumadinho Dam Disaster in Brazil and the massive displacement of people after a land grab by Korea’s POSCO in India, the Total case shows that a robust set of binding rules are needed to ensure peoples human rights are prioritized over economic interests.
Juliette Renaud, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, said “the French duty of vigilance law is not perfect, and there are still major gaps in protection for people affected by unscrupulous corporations.”
“Learning lessons from this case through the adoption of an ambitious UN binding treaty is a unique opportunity to fill these gaps and finally put an end to corporate impunity,” added Renaud.