EarthRights International was founded in 1995 by Ka Hsaw Wa, and Katie Redford to stop the human rights abuses perpetrated on local residents during the construction of the Yadana gas pipeline. The Sigrid Rausing Trust began supporting EarthRights in 2001, the year that the organisation won the Doe v. Unocal settlement.
“This changed legal history by becoming the first case in which a corporation had to pay for human rights abuses occurring outside its home country,” says Redford, who now serves as legal advisor to EarthRights. “We had set out to close the legal loophole that allowed corporations to evade legal responsibilities, even for rape, torture and forced labour, simply by going to another country.”
She adds that Doe v. Unocal, and the cases that came after it – Wiwa v. Shell, Maynas v. Occidental, Doe v. Chiquita and others – also gave hope to communities all over the world who were experiencing these kinds of humam rights abuses. “The threat of punishment, legal liability, reputational risk, and the implications of all of these for the bottom line, led corporations to change their practices in new ways that still continue today.”
This kind of work, however, takes time. “Most of our cases take around 10 years from beginning to end, and it’s hard to commit to clients and communities if you’re not sure of your ability to sustain the work over its duration,” says Ka Hsaw Wa, executive director of EarthRights. “The Trust’s long-term support made those commitments possible, and the world is a different place because of it.”