Corporate US

US double standards on human rights smacks of global hypocrisy

Published: Sunday 15 September 2002

does corporate responsibility for us companies, one wonders, stop at that country's shores? It appears so, going by the latest directive by the us State Department to a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the oil giant Exxon Mobil Corporation, which is facing complicity in human rights violations in Indonesia.

In the wake of business scandals involving Enron and WorldCom, among others, us President George Bush had called for "a new ethic of personal responsibility in the business world". Yet, when it comes to human rights abuse in another country, business interests take precedence. It is the height of hypocrisy that the us publicly promotes human rights principles and then says scrutiny of its company's human rights record runs counter to its foreign policy. Apparently, principles only matter when they don't matter.

Coming at a time when human rights and governance are issues being raised at the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg, this stand by the us smacks of its arrogance in thinking it can ride rough-shod over the rest of the world. But whether or not businesses small and large will allow global leaders to dictate when and where they contribute to sustainable development is another question. As Friends of the Earth, a global ngo, said "The summit is asking the right questions, the danger is we get the wrong answers".

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