Business and human rights are two inherently intertwined facets of society, and there have been many instances of human rights violations committed by corporations in the United States and worldwide. Oftentimes, companies are not held accountable for their actions, and it can be argued that the lack of enforcement is due to the limited number of laws that exist surrounding this problem.
Jena Martin, a professor at West Virginia University College of Law, and Rachel Chambers, a post-doctoral research associate in business and human rights at UConn, co-authored the paper titled “A Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for Human Rights.” The paper is still in the draft stage and has yet to be published, but the authors were invited to present their work during the Business & Human Rights Workshop Series and share their take on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The main focus of their paper is about the global movement toward the adoption of human rights laws, which is a trend that is gaining momentum in certain parts of the world, most notably in Europe. Martin and Chambers argue that “lawmakers are accepting the need to create a system that requires companies to conduct human rights due diligence throughout their global operations.”
“lawmakers are accepting the need to create a system that requires companies to conduct human rights due diligence throughout their global operations.”Jena Martin and Rachel Chambers, “A Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for Human Rights”
Despite the fact that a lot of progress is taking place in this field around the world, the United States has fallen far behind in creating efforts to ensure that human rights violations are not committed by businesses.
“The landscape in the U.S. unfortunately isn’t very good when it comes to advancing business and human rights issues from a governmental perspective,” Martin said.
In the United States, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, a coalition of human rights groups focused on corporate accountability, is spearheading efforts to build upon the FCPA. Their hope is that they can prohibit corporations from engaging in human rights violations and empower the Securities Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice to investigate all violations. The law that has been drafted is being referred to as the ‘FCPA-HR’ and it also includes stipulations that require companies to engage in conduct that prevents human rights violations from occurring in the first place.
According to Martin and Chambers, “the adoption of such a law would represent a sea change in U.S. policymaking in the field of business and human rights.”
“the adoption of such a law would represent a sea change in U.S. policymaking in the field of business and human rights.”Lena Martin and Rachel Chambers, “A Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for Human Rights”
Donald Trump tried to strike down the FCPA during his time in the White House. This information was revealed in the book “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America,” which was written by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. The authors shared how Trump reportedly said that it was unfair to American companies that they are not allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas. Despite his efforts, the law was not repealed, and it still stands as a driving force against corruption and human rights violations in corporate America.
There is still a lot of work to be done to finalize and get the FCPA-HR law enacted and, even then, Martin and Chambers say it could take decades for it to be “vigorously enforced,” but it is an important step on the path to reducing the number of human rights violations and abuses committed by corporations in the United States.