PBI-Colombia notes due diligence is on the EU’s agenda in 2021; progress not yet seen in Canada

Published by Brent Patterson on

“Sin olvido (we will not forget you) Hernán Bedoya.” PBI-Colombia accompanies the Bedoya family through the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace. Hernan Bedoya was murdered in December 2017.

On January 15, the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project posted: “The European Commission has confirmed a 2021 legislative initiative on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence.”

Global Witness has previously noted: “In April 2020, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders announced to the European Parliament Responsible Business Conduct Working Group that he will introduce European Union rules on corporate accountability and corporate due diligence in early 2021.”

Global Witness has further highlighted: “Businesses must engage and consult with all relevant stakeholders, including human rights defenders and indigenous peoples, as part of their Responsible Business Conduct due diligence.”

In January of this year, Global Witness drew attention to the murder of Afro-Colombian land rights activist Hernán Bedoya on December 5, 2017, the expansion of the palm oil industry, and the need for due diligence protections.

The Guardian has reported: “A year before he died, Hernán warned the palm oil companies planned to plant another 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres), which would be impossible unless he and more than a dozen other campesinos were dispossessed.”

At present, this chart shows that the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Italy are among the largest European importers of Colombian palm oil.

In 2009, Inter Pares noted: “In 2007 Canada imported almost $30 million worth of palm oil from Colombia and four other nations—a dramatic 150 percent increase from two years earlier. Canada’s free trade agreement will only further promote the expansion of Colombia’s oil palm production, both directly and indirectly.”

In this interview with PBI-Colombia, Danilo Rueda of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission stated: “Palm oil means death because of the violence it brings with it and because of the environmental damage it causes. Because big business, hand in hand with Colombian and international policy, is destroying water sources and flora and fauna by depleting the forests. This is capitalist logic, which favours the accumulation of capital, and in the long term, the effects are highly negative.”

Last year, University College London law professor Barnali Choudhury argued that Canada should adopt due diligence legislation.

Choudhury noted: “A better approach [that the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, that has been branded by critics as toothless] would be for the government to develop due diligence legislation that creates specific standards of conduct expected of Canadian companies.”

 The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability has called on the Canadian government “to learn from these experiences abroad and enact comprehensive and mandatory human rights due diligence legislation [with] meaningful consequences for non-compliance, including liability for harm and effective enforcement mechanisms.”

In response to a CNCA questionnaire, the NDP and to some degree the Green Party appear supportive of mandatory due diligence legislation that would also prevent Canadian embassies and Export Development Canada from supporting Canadian corporations linked to human rights abuses in other countries.

Unfortunately, the governing Liberal Party did not respond to the questionnaire.

PBI-Canada will follow progress on due diligence legislation in the European Union and continue to support the call from the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability for the Canadian government to move forward in this respect too.

Categories: News Updates


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