Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Brumadinho disaster.
On Thursday 25 January 2019, 272 people died due to a dam collapse in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil. This is considered Brazil’s worst environmental and industrial disaster. Despite the comptroller general, a branch of Brazil’s federal government, imposing a fine of 86.3 million reais ($16.8 million) on VALE, the company responsible for the disaster, no fine can bring back the lives lost or undo the damage caused. The responsibility for this tragedy extends internationally, with the German auditing company TÜV SÜD, which certified the dam operated by VALE as safe, currently being sued in Germany by the victims. Like many other human and environmental disasters, this one could have been prevented.
Until now, corporate social responsibility has been voluntary, lacking enforceable instruments. This creates loopholes that some companies use at the cost of human rights and the environment.
Brumadinho’s case is a reminder of the importance of advocating for binding legislative measures that enable states to force business enterprises to comply with the respect and protection of human rights and the environment. This is the case of the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) and the UN Legally Binding Instrument (LBI) from Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9. The former is expected to be approved in the first half of 2024, while the latter has been under negotiation for almost ten years. As highlighted by CIDSE, both instruments could complement each other and contribute to access to justice in cases of corporate abuses.
While the CSDDD is an EU competence, the EU can also play a crucial role in the LBI negotiations and be a game changer to end human rights violations and environmental disasters.
Last week, the European Parliament took a step forward by adopting the resolution (2023/2108(INI)) on “Shaping the EU’s position on the UN binding instrument on business and human rights, in particular on access to remedy and the protection of victims”. It is now up to the Commission to inform the Parliament whether it will submit a legislative proposal.
In memory of the victims of Brumadinho and all those whose lives have been lost or are threatened by corporate power, CIDSE calls on the European Commission to take legislative action to ensure that formal decision-making procedures are followed.
With regard to the final stages of the negotiations on the CSDDD, we call on the European Parliament and the Council to adopt the final text as soon as possible. Once adopted, the Directive will be transposed into national legislation. We urge Member States to go beyond the Directive in order to adopt the most protective provisions. CIDSE and its member organisations will closely monitor national implementation to ensure that a tragedy like Brumadinho never happens again.
- ‘Effondrement de Brumadinho: L’Heure de vérité pour les banques?’, CCFD Terre Solidaire
- ‘Brumadinho: 5 Jahre Dammbruch-Verbrechen‘, Misereor
Cover photo: Commemorating the victims of Brumadinho (2022.)
Credit: Guillerme Cavalli – IyM