Companies at risk of human rights abuse complicity

9 December 2011

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9 December 2011 | Angeline Albert

Businesses sourcing from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other countries could be at risk from complicity in human rights abuses by security forces.

According to risk analysis firm Maplecroft, which published its 2012 Human Rights Risk Index yesterday, some companies who rely on either public or private security firms to protect their assets and operations in resource-rich countries are continuing to fall foul of their own ethical policies and procedures.

Maplecroft’s Human Rights Risk Index scores 197 countries on human rights risks based on 23 different indices, which include womens rights and working conditions, and are based on a variety of sources including research by NGO Human Rights Watch and the US government. It found the worst performing countries in the index were Sudan in first place, DRC in second and Somalia in third.

Supply chain managers were urged to conduct risk analysis of prospective security providers to ensure they do not engage in human rights abuses, following the analyst’s findings that state-linked security forces in the DRC were involved in kidnappings, forced labour, sexual exploitation and forced military service.

Referring to the mineral-rich DRC, the global risk analyst said: “Given the significant presence of large multi-national companies in the country, the risk of complicity in human rights violations by security forces remains at extreme levels.”

Although many companies are making efforts to ensure minerals, such as tantalum used in the production of electronics, are “conflict-free”, according to Maplecroft: “Allegations of complicity of corporations sourcing minerals, known as conflict minerals, in areas controlled by armed entities in killings and other abuses by those entities continue to surface.”

Maplecroft said the DRC’s weak governance framework and extensive human rights violations by security forces means the country has been one of the five worst offenders for the past five years.

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