Blog / 20 Feb 2019

Five ways to defend social justice now

On World Social Justice Day, it’s not only important to celebrate successes, but also address the concerning oppression of social justice still happening across the planet.

At Global Witness, we want a better world - where corruption is challenged and accountability prevails, all can thrive within the planet’s boundaries, and governments act in the public interest. This blog outlines just five of many ways we can defend social justice together.

1. Protect land and environmental defenders

Land and environmental defenders are often indigenous leaders, community activists and environmentalists murdered trying to protect their homes and communities from mining, agribusiness and other destructive industries. Our report At What Cost? showed 201 of these brave men and women were killed in 2017, with a growing number of attacks driven by the agribusiness industry. 

But despite the odds they face, the global community of land and environmental defenders is not going away – it’s only getting stronger.

On World Social Justice Day and beyond, we invite everyone to join us in campaigning alongside defenders, taking their fight to the corridors of power and the boardrooms of corporations. We will keep working to ensure that defenders, their land, and the environment we all depend on are properly protected. Get involved here.

2. Protect journalists

Holding power to account is one of the best ways to achieve social justice – and that’s exactly what the best journalists do. And investigative journalism – particularly the kind we do at Global Witness – is how corruption at the highest level gets uncovered. So when journalists are attacked the entire anti-corruption community needs to come together and stand in solidarity with journalists around the world. We’re on the same team.

It has been a really bad year for attacks of these kind. Khashoggi’s killing has rightly had the world’s attention. But more quietly, we’ve lost Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, Ján Kuciak, and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia, and Viktoria Marinova in Bulgaria. No one has been convicted for these murders. All three of the journalists were working on corruption investigations involving their own governments when they were killed.

Journalists should never be attacked for doing their job. And yet they are. But we are watching. For as long as we see violence eroding our free press, we will call it out – and loudly. Read Senior Campaigner Ava Lee’s piece on this here.

3. Hold our financial systems to account

Revelations that European’s money – and EU-based investors – play a key role in funding projects linked to human rights abuses, land grabs and large-scale environmental destruction, are far too common place.

In a World of Social Justice, EU investors and their subsidiaries should not be helping to bankroll human rights abuses or environmental destruction.

But now, with the political momentum building to make the financial sector more accountable for today’s vast sustainability challenges - be it climate change or threats to local communities - the EU, investors and companies have a historic opportunity to act to close these loopholes. Find out exactly how the European Commission can take action here.  

4. Ask companies you buy from to prove they are sourcing materials responsibly

Time and time again, we have seen how everyday consumers, via companies, banks, commodity traders and manufacturers, can be unwittingly part of fuelling violence, human rights abuse and the devastation of communities and ecosystems.

Examples unfortunately abound: from US and EU consumers buying talc that comes from mines in Afghanistan helping to finance the Taliban and Islamic State, to minerals mined in Democratic Republic of Congo being linked to the worst forms of child labour, grand-scale corruption and conflict.

As consumers, our buying power and perceptions matter to many businesses’ bottom lines and, if wielded effectively and collectively, can help to influence their policies and practices.

On World Social Justice Day and beyond, demand that the companies you are buying from prove that they are properly assessing the risks all along their supply chain, taking the action needed to mitigate them, and reporting on this publicly. This process, known as due diligence, is essential to ensure that businesses and their customers are not contributing to corruption, human rights abuses and environmental destruction around the world.

5. Hold huge companies to account

Too often, we find companies benefiting from controversial deals that boost their bottom lines whilst poor countries and their citizens lose out.

Last year we uncovered the involvement of the world’s largest commodity traders with middlemen notorious for their role in Brazil’s Car Wash scandal, a scheme that robbed the Brazilian state and people of billions of dollars.

We also discovered that a deal involving oil giants Shell and Eni and a former Nigerian oil minister for one of Africa’s most promising oil blocks is set to deprive Nigeria of an estimated $6 billion in future revenues; equivalent to twice the country’s annual health and education budget, or enough to train six million teachers.

We continue to work on these cases and others to bring an end to the culture of impunity around huge companies profiting at the expense of the citizens of resource rich but otherwise poor countries, and undermining the social justice all deserve. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to join us in this campaign.

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