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The Rights Track Sound evidence on human rights

Advancing human rights the Amnesty way


In Episode 6 of Series 2 of The Rights Track, Todd talks to Meghna Abraham, Head of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Team at Amnesty International about how the organisation’s work helps to uphold and advance human rights around the world. They also discuss, The Great Palm Oil Scandal, a report by Amnesty taking some of the world’s most popular food and household companies to task over labour abuses in Indonesia.

0.00-7.50 mins

  • How and when Amnesty came to start working on economic and social rights, having been known initially for its work in the area of civil and political rights
  • Explanation of how Amnesty conceives economic and social rights compared with civil and political rights. Meghna cites example of ‘forced evictions’
  • Meghna explains where the approach to economic and social rights differs from other human rights.
  • Todd asks Meghna about the challenges around comparing the economic and social rights of different countries
  • Meghna points out how useful the guidance provided by the United Nations’ Committee on Economic and Social Rights is to Amnesty in providing certain benchmarks

7.50-11.55

  • How Amnesty goes about collecting evidence to assess how well or badly countries are doing at upholding the economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens
  • Meghna explains how different types of evidence are collected from individuals and Governments and how data and statistics are gathered on the way states go about the business of protecting its citizens and to create a big picture to help make a case
  • Further discussion of the use of new technology in evidence gathering but the challenges that remain of verifying evidence

11.55-

  • Discussion of Amnesty’s The Great Palm Oil Scandal report, co-authored by Meghna
  • Meghna explains the background to the report including how Amnesty consulted on the ground over how to approach their investigation
  • How Amnesty came to focus on the company Wilmar International
  • Meghna explains the preliminary research including gathering testimonies and information from people on the ground about a range of things to do with people’s working conditions
  • Explanation of Amnesty’s goals when publishing a report of this nature: i.e to effect change by influencing businesses and consumers who purchase products with palm oil to exert pressure on companies like Wilmar International to improve its workers’ conditions
  • How follow up work is done to monitor progress and whether businesses or organisations identified as failing to protect and uphold the economic rights of its workers have made changes
  • Todd mentions the case of Apple which was heavily criticised over the conditions of factory workers in China who were producing Apple products and how the company went on to work with a labur rights organisation in Washington D.C to look at labour rights and went about a period of reform
  • Meghna explains how companies often have strong policies and the implementation of conditions on the ground and how Amnesty presses them for concrete change

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