In 2011, South Africa’s Constitutional Court in an unprecedented step classified the gold mining industry’s historical and ongoing systemic exposure of mineworkers to occupational lung disease as acts of public and private violence. In this first blog, I provide the historical and current context in which to understand this classification and how it “implicates the right to freedom and security of a person.”
Every once in a while, a major case or event will have a dramatic impact on the field of business and human rights, such that it deserves careful consideration and analysis. In the US, cases like Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Jesner v. Arab Bank changed the legal landscape for human rights litigation. In South Africa, the recent settlement agreement in the Nkala and Others v. Harmony Gold Mining Company and Others class action is one of the most complex multi-party class settlements in the world today.
One of the reasons I find Corporate Accountability Lab (CAL) so exciting is that it creates a space from which we can design and test interdisciplinary, praxis-driven experiments to stop corporate abuse. As we collectively struggle to properly diagnose the structural failures that have led to the current crisis of corporate impunity, I’m trying to work out whether or not it would be fair to understand corporate accountability in our justice system today as a club good, as opposed to a public good. If we can fairly characterize corporate accountability--holding corporations legally accountable for harms they’ve committed--as a club good, we can better expose the structural faults we collectively seek to repair.