Shareholder Activism in the Churches and Human Rights Protection
The purpose of this work is to critically examine the involvement of churches in shareholder activism and its contribution to the protection of human rights. The historical path of the churches their involvement of shareholder activism and human rights campaign efforts as well as the motivational factor that compels their involvement will be examined. And as well the teachings and beliefs of the church Examined as well will be concept of shareholder activism, what it specifically is and the goal that shareholder activities is focused towards. Finally the concept of human rights and the links that exist between shareholder activism and human rights will be examined.
Shareholder resolutions in corporation board meeting have been influenced by the Church throughout history although this is only spoken of in hushed voices among those involved. The movement is termed 'shareholder activism which has grown and established itself as a factor in the mainstream business world. Instead of using this leverage hoped-for company changes this has been used towards the gain of publicity for the cause at hand "with hopes that the general public and other shareholders would become outraged" (Welsh, 1998) and thereby change the end result through leaning on legislators, management, governance and other such matters. Other stated goals were the creation of a business community with a larger conscience-base. During the decade of the 1970s the Churches anchored their shareholder philosophy in commitment on a religious scale to 'social justice'. (Welsh, 1998)
In an approach that has been labeled both tenacious and conciliatory." (Welsh, 1998) the churches avoided "sin." (Welsh, 1998) companies through "selective investment screens" The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines that were adopted in the early part of the 1980s decade in relation to U.S. pharmaceutical companies and infant formula sales was clearly a religious victory. (Welsh, 1998) It's not just U.S. companies but those in Canada as well that have been involved in shareholder activism. In fact Canada is stated to be a" ... leaders in the area of shareholder activism for "almost 30 years ... " (KAIROS Online)( The Canadian effort first tackled the issue of apartheid through the Taskforce on the Churches and Corporate Responsibility (TCCR)
I. Historical Overview of Shareholder Activism
And the Human Rights Contribution
Twenty-one churches "of different confessions and 12 countries in central and eastern Europe came together in Sibuiu/Hermannstadt in Transylvania" for the purpose of training in the area of human rights. The hosts were the Luther World Federation (LWF) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) with local hosts the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Romania and the Ecumenical Association of Churches in Romania were local hosts. The theme was "Justice for National, Ethnic and Religious Minorities" and the reflections were stated to be "based on the fundamental biblical understanding that all human beings are created in the image of God and that in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ they are promised a life in dignity and under God's protection. (Sibiu/Hermannstadt, 1999)
Due to the war in Yugoslavia and Kosovo being so close in proximity the need of implementation of human rights throughout Europe clearly became on of the priorities set. The violation of human rights is a critical issue in this region of the world. Stated as the 'most sensitive human rights issues in central and eastern Europe today are:
(1) A lack of education and awareness related to human rights
(2) Unresolved issues and a lack of effective dialogue in the relationships between the majority and ethnic, religious and cultural minorities, which lead to manifestations of nationalism, conflict and violation of human rights (i.e. discrimination and obstacles to the freedom of expression
(3) Racist behavior, coming both from the state authorities and from the wider community against those regarded as 'outsiders' (Roma/Sinti people are victimized by these behaviors in most countries)
(4) Violations of human rights in prisons
(5) Inadequate attention to the social and economic rights of all members of our communities including the rights to education health and social security. (Illustrated in the abuse of the poor and children as well as sexual abuse of children)
(6) Increasing violence against women in all forms inclusive of poverty, domestic violence, forced prostitution, trafficking and sexual abuse. (Sibiu/Hermannstadt, 1999)
Over the course of the past ten years the churches have been active, through the international ecumenical movement in promoting reconciliation between different Christian-based faiths but these issues have not reached resolution. "Churches have also played an important social role in offering humanitarian assistance to people in need in our societies. ((Sibiu/Hermannstadt, 1999) This is affirmed by Konrad Raiser in the work entitled "Humanitarian Intervention or Human Protection" published in the Ploughshares Monitor in the Spring of 2004 as he states "The responsibility to protect endangered populations has figured prominently on the agenda of the World Council of Churches (WCC) for the last 10 years." (Raiser, 1999) Although there has been much involvement of all faiths of the Christian-based church there has also been much division internally over the past decade. Issues concerning doctrine have caused splits among the churches and many times, different "ethical or political commitments have led to division." (Raiser, 1999)
II. Motivational Factor Compelling Involvement
Developments in the churches that are reformed are called both "exciting and disquieting..." (World Alliance of Reformed Churches Geneva, 2000) [and] in many countries the churches have more than doubled or tripled their membership roster. (World Alliance of Reformed Churches Geneva, 2000)
III. Teachings and Beliefs of the Church
It is stated that the understanding of the Church as God's gift is based on that which is divine. According to the View of Calvin the church is not the result of a human endeavor but is a gift from God in Jesus Christ. It was through action of the Spirit that the church came to be. Calvin believed that the "missionary mandate was addressed to the apostles and had been fulfilled in apostolic times. Many of the churches that reformed had a written mission mandate in their church doctrine.
It is stated that "the present mission in unity project (1995-2005) grew out of a series of international consultations organized over the ten years from 1988 to 1998 under the aegis of the John Knox International Reformed Centre in Geneva." (Mission in Unity Project: Geneva, 1998) Three objectives set out by the Mission in Unity Project are:
To make churches more aware of their present state of division and the need for a cooperative mutual response
Stimulate initiatives towards unity from within the churches in a number of selected countries and to promote models of unity in mission.
To contribute to developing a common theological understanding of both mission and unity in Reformed churches taking into account both the internal situation of the reformed churches and the wider ecumenical context. (Mission in Unity Project: Geneva, 1998.
Significant changes in the state of affairs in the world brought about adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights held in Teheran in the year of 9168 and further the recognition of the Fourth assembly of the World Council of Churches held in Uppsala during the same above stated year. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is stated to have "provided a fundamental point of reference for peoples all around the globe and laid the cornerstone of the modern human rights movement." Further reported is that "Considerable progress has been made in gaining acceptance of these as universally applicable principles, binding on that great majority of states who have now signed and ratified the 1966 International Covenants on Civil and Political and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights." (Clement, 1998) The Council's comprehension and task in relation to human rights was set out at the International Consultation on "Human Rights and Christian Responsibility" held at St. Polten, Austria, in 1974. Church representatives from across the globe came to meet to address the issue of human rights to the Fifth Assembly of the WCC (Nairobi, 1975 as cited by Clement, 1998) The next year the WCC Assembly gave confirmation on that which constitutes human rights as follows:
The right to basic guarantees of life;
The right to self-determination and cultural identity and the rights of minorities;
The right to participate in decision-making in the country;
The right to dissent;
The right to personal dignity; and The right to religious Freedom
IV. The Goal, Focus and Concept of Shareholder Activism
Viewed as elemental to human rights struggles were the structures lacking justice that were known to exploit the poor and perpetuated poverty in society, colonial rule, racist systems and military regimes." (Clement, 1998) At this time St. Polten admonished the Church that the responsibility of Christians in relation to human rights was something that "began at home." (Clement, 1998) Finally in 1979 the WCC Central Committee after having made a review of the responsibilities and roles of the Council in relation…