Ethical Performance
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Human rights violations rise 70%, says Maplecroft survey

January 2014

A striking 70% rise in the number of countries where the risk of human rights violations is extreme is recorded in a survey by Maplecroft, a UK-based risk research consultancy.

The findings, tracking performance from a 2008 baseline, name Syria as the worst offender and the nation where standards have fallen most.

Key emerging economies that have fallen into the extreme risk category are Nigeria, tenth in the list, India (18th), the Philippines (27th) and Indonesia (30th). In these countries businesses run a serious risk of involvement.

China remains in the extreme risk category, at 15th, but is among nations showing big improvements in working conditions.

Human rights violations worldwide are said to have risen by 70%, and the number of extreme risk countries to have jumped from 20 to 34.

The report, which is Maplecroft’s seventh annual Human Rights Risk Atlas, covers 197 countries and analyses data by region and violation category.

The Middle East and North Africa, among the regions, account for most of the 70% increase. Many violations here consist of repression of social protests, notably those by young people.

In sub-Saharan Africa ethnic and sectarian conflicts are seen as creating human rights risks.

Three of the five nations named as the worst culprits are in Africa – Sudan, second in the list, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (third) and Somalia (fifth). DR Congo has one of the worst records for women’s rights violations, particularly sexual violence.

In Asia the highest risk countries listed include Pakistan, placed fourth, Afghanistan (sixth) and Burma (eighth). Prevalent labour rights violations, due largely to poor regulation, are reported in Bangladesh (17th) and India.

Lizabeth Campbell, Maplecroft’s head of societal risk and human rights, observed: “Since 2008 global economic growth and investment has shifted to new markets, prompting a demand for low-cost workers, water and land as well as other natural resources. In many of these markets, human rights violations continue to get worse.
“Companies cannot rely on robust governance and remedy structures in these markets … the onus is on them directly to implement appropriate levels of due diligence and mitigating action.”

Brutal crackdowns are reported as marring some growth economies, including Colombia, listed 26th, Peru (59th), Brazil (70th) and Turkey (78th). Arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings are given as examples of repression in these countries.

The recorded repression often removes freedom of expression and information. Despite recent reforms China is described as wielding almost total control over communications technologies, media and social networks.
Vietnam, in 46th place, bans bloggers and social networkers from discussing current affairs.

In Maplecroft’s separate freedom of opinion and expression index China has been pushed from tenth to sixth position since 2012 and Vietnam from 42nd to 23rd.

The risk atlas reports media suppression even in Western countries outside the extreme risk category, such as Greece, placed 107th, and Italy (133rd).

Worsening workers’ conditions in low-cost areas contributed to the poor scores of Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Maplecroft says: “Poor working conditions, including widespread lack of enforced health and safety standards, endanger the lives of millions of workers. A lack of awareness among unskilled workers, as well as weak governance and high levels of corruption, undermine the protection of human rights.”

Migrant workers were said to suffer discriminatory and abusive conditions particularly in Qatar, which stands at 98th.
Ten EU members were rated as high risk in a separate human trafficking index. They included Greece, Italy and Hungary, which was 135th in the overall list. Romania (117th) was considered as extreme risk for human trafficking. The US (139th) and Britain (165th) were classified as medium risk.

Finally, companies investing in resource-rich countries were warned they could be involved in land grabs that violate human rights.

Maplecroft gives the vivid example of Ethiopia, where authorities are relocating 1.5 million citizens and have already evicted indigenous peoples violently from land now sold to businesses.

Maplecroft | Global | Human rights

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