Our rapidly evolving system of international investment, trade, and development has produced many economic gains and benefits while at the same time, contributed to significant human rights violations and environmental damage. Increasingly powerful economic actors – including transnational corporations and development finance institutions – are not subject to robust mechanisms holding them accountable for harms they may cause or for abuses linked to their operations, such as:
- Forced evictions, displacement, and loss of lands and livelihoods due to large infrastructure, energy and agriculture projects
- Adverse health impacts and environmental contamination caused by exploitation of natural resources, factory operations, or industrial accidents
- Poor and unsafe working conditions in factories and fields that are part of global supply chains, endangering the lives, health and livelihoods of workers
- Loss of life, arbitrary arrest and torture of community members and human rights defenders by security forces employed by a company
Economic globalization has exposed gaps in accountability, where the protection provided by the international human rights system has not kept pace with the scope of the global economy and the harms caused by economic actors within it.
Affected communities and civil society activists from different fields – environment, development, indigenous peoples, labor and human rights – have responded with a variety of strategies aimed at curbing abuses, instituting safeguards in the system, and seeking remedy. There have been successes. However, cases of violations and harms continue to be documented while economic globalization – and the powerful actors operating within it – continue to present new challenges for accountability.