Watch: The limitations of voluntarism in human rights due diligence frameworks

Join the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and the Mail & Guardian at the Alternative Mining Indaba 2022, for a panel discussion on the opportunities & challenges of institutionalised voluntarism in the era of United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

On the 28 of December 2021, the High Court in Makanda Municipality delivered an interdict against fossil energy giant Royal Dutch Shell from carrying out a three-dimensional seismic survey for oil and gas, in about 6011-sq-km of the ecologically diverse marine Eastern Cape coast. Environmental activists hail the case as a victory for communities that have been fighting for their customary land rights and fishing rights for decades. The High Court Judge, Gerald Bloem, described Shell’s exploration right as awarded “on the basis of a substantially flawed consultation processes”.

As a departure for analysis, the Shell case brings forward two main issues: The extent of possible environmental damage and the extent in which the human rights of surrounding communities will be affected.

Corporate regulation occurs in the context of voluntary business and human rights frameworks, mainly derived from the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), endorsed by states and companies including South Africa and, ironically, Shell itself. The UNGPs are a compromise between greater procedural commitments to control human rights in business operations, with the possibility of reinforcement by national legal obligations and full international legal liability for human rights violations. This provides for both opportunities and challenges for compliance from corporates.

Moderator: Athandiwe Saba, deputy editor, Mail & Guardian


Dr Melanie Mueller, German Institute for International and Security Affairs

Sikho Luthano, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung

Johan Lorenzen, Richard Spoor Inc. Attorneys

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