Environmental Focus

I noticed that although I have covered many human rights and business issues over the course of my blog, one topic I have shyed away from is the enviroment as a human rights issue. I decided to do a bit of research and focus on this topic as a whole.

Through my research I found this webpage from the UN. In the legal overview section they state the following:

‘The environment as a pre-requisite for the enjoyment of human rights (implying that human rights obligations of States should include the duty to ensure the level of environmental protection necessary to allow the full exercise of protected rights)’

In other words, if states allow the environment to deplete, then this is a direct infringement of everyone’s human rights. As the state of our environment worsens, so does the health and lives of everybody on this planet. Even things such as food production could become difficult as temperatures rise, and with a growing population something needs to be done to combat this. I totally understand this perspective, although I would never have thought of the environment as a human rights issue before I started this module, but now it makes complete sense.

In terms of relating this issue back to business, many big businesses can be the worst offenders for environmental impact on the planet. I found this list of the worst offending companies in the world. Unsuprisingly, majority of the worst offenders are energy companies. Extractative industries can wreak havoc on the planet, especially as our access to fossil fuels gets less and less.

It’s down to states to find ways to decrease our consumption of fossil fuels and agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement are very encouraging and promising. However, it was incredibly worrying when one of the largest states in the world, the U.S failed to agree to the climate accord. 

What makes this even more worrying is that the U.S is supposedly one of the worst offending countries on the planet for their impact on the environment.


Cambridge Analytica

I am so excited to be writing this post, as a recent news story has come about that develops upon my blog post from November, ‘The Right to Privacy.’

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed from the title of this post, I will be talking about the recent Facebook data breach by company Cambridge Analytica. A really great round-up of what we know so far has been written by the New York Times and can be found here. To sum up briefly what has happened, however, the data breach occurred when users of a Facebook app had their profile information, and the profile information of their friends collected by a company known as Cambridge Analytica. This company were hired by Trump’s PR team and the information collected on users was then used to identify the personalities of U.S voters and subsequently influence them.

My dad always warned me to be careful and wary of the things I do on the internet and he (like he usually is) is so right. What does this mean for our right to privacy? Yes, we may have given our profile information to Facebook, but users of that app did not sign up for their information to be sold on to a company that could subsequently influence them.

In my right to privacy blog post I asked the question: ‘If states could use algorithms to determine what kind of voter someone was, surely they could then target ads to that person to maybe sway their view?’ Now I know the state hasn’t directly used an algorithm to influence voters, but this may be part of the reason why Trump was elected president seeing as Cambridge Analytica had involvement with Trump’s presidential race to office.

This kind of news story leads me to wonder if we really do have freedom of choice, or if all of our choices are always influenced in some way by the media. I’ve always thought at the back of my mind that we are all probably influenced more than we realise, but kind of put that attitude down to the conspiracy theorist side of my personality and decided to ignore it somewhat. This story is surely a wake-up call, for general internet users, in terms of how much of our personal data we give away. But more importantly, this is a wake up call for states to impose tighter online data protection laws.

Can we trust any of the websites we use to protect our personal information?

The Glass Ceiling

Following International Women’s day on the 8th of March, this week I wanted to discuss an ongoing battle between women and businesses.  An article entitled ‘Top-paid men outstrip women by 4 to 1, shock figures reveal’ which was published in The Guardian caught my eye. You can find the full article here.

This article notes how new data released by HMRC shows that there is still a huge disparity between the pay of male and female workers here in the UK. I find it amazing that this is still an issue. I would imagine if the original suffagettes could see us today, they would wonder what is taking us so long.

This data has been released just before large companies within the UK are required to publish their payrolls by gender. I’m not sure how much of a difference this will make to break the glass ceiling but it’s a step in the right direction.

As I discovered through research for my dissertation, and as previously mentioned in my first ever post for this site, ‘The Modern Slavery Act’ was put into UK law in 2015. This law states that companies must show transparency of their supply chains within their annual report. It was created as a way to highlight and hopefully put in motion an attempt to end modern day slavery. Despite this law being active, many companies have failed to adhear to it with no reprecussions. With this knowledge, I can’t say I have much faith in all companies complying to this new gendered payroll requitement. If the modern slavery act is anything to go by, there won’t be any consequences for not complying by the UK government.

I attended a talk at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative arts on the 28th of February entitled ‘Representing the People?’ The panel was made up of a number of women who have found success in their chosen career path. From director of the Tate; Maria Balshaw, to Catherine Mayer, author and co-founder of the Women’s equality party. The panel spoke a bit about their journeys to where they are now, along with their thoughts on the current state of equality.

The general consensus was that we are in ‘a period of extreme turbulance.’ And although the women discussed how they fear there may be backlash, they were hopeful that we may be in the middle of a feminist revolution.

An idea that was discussed during the talk was that gender inequality isn’t going to be solved solely by legislation that enforces ‘quotas.’ Or in other words, the idea that companies should be made to employ a certain amount of women. This is simply a fast track way to implement change, rather than really dealing with the issue. This idea is summed up well in the Guardian article on the pay gap:

“There are a number of factors – including better management of women, appropriate senior role models, and breaking down the gender bias – which need to be implemented,” – Brenda Trenowden, chair of the 30% Club, a group which campaigns for more women on company boards.

The Dark Secrets Behind the 2022 World Cup Stadium

This week, a story on the BBC website entitled ‘Worker died in fall at ‘lethal’ Qatar World Cup Stadium’ caught my attention. The story originally caught my eye as I noticed it in the Sussex local news section of the site. Unfortunately the vicitim of the incident was local to nearby Hove.

The story was about how Zachary Cox, a migrant working on the new world cup stadium in Qatar, fell to his death. The accident occured after Mr Cox was given a faulty hoist, which broke while he was working. The coronor announced that his management would have or should have known that the equiptment he was given would be risking his life. This means that this is a blatant human rights violation, obviously violating article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

The part of this story which makes me curious is who would be decided at fault here by law. Obviously, despite this being a failure of a business, only states can commit human rights violations. So would this be the fault of the Qatarian state, the state in which this terrible event happened? Or would it be the fault of the South African government, as he was working for a South African subcontractor? Or would it be the fault of the German government, seeing as the subcontractor was working for a German firm? This is such an internationally interlaced issue, I am intrigued to discover what the outcome of this tragic accident is. Who will be prosecuted?

I realised through reading about this story that I have been somewhat aware of this sort of tragic accident being fairly common place in states such as Qatar. I vaguely remember hearing in the past of horrendous working conditions and workers dying while building being fairly common place. I’ve always wondered why anyone would travel to Qatar to work there, if working conditions are known to be so dangerous. I ended up finding this article from 2015.

Something I am shocked to learn is the need for an exit visa to leave Qatar. I can’t comprehend how it’s legal to be forced to stay in a country, one that you are not a resident of, until the Qatarian governement deem it time for you to leave. Secondly, the amount of deaths, although I’m sure have grown massively in the three years since this article was published, is outrageous. The more I delve into human rights issues, the more I am shocked that these things aren’t reported on more often. There is so much injustice in the world today, and until we come together to work on issues concerning governance gaps, the problems are just going to grow and continue.