Extraction of natural resources, such as oil, gas, metals and minerals, can lead to economic growth and social development. However, it has too often led to corruption and even conflict. Indeed, many non-governmental organisations have run campaigns on the impact of extractive industries in developing countries, which have been important in highlighting the need for transparency and regulation of the sector.
The previous Labour Government was instrumental in founding the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which maintains a global standard to promote open and accountable management of natural resources. Its conference in February was focused on how the organisation can do more to recommend necessary reform and ensure that reforms are implemented.
There is no room for complacency. In 2014 a Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee inquiry into extractive industries recommended that more must be done to improve the social and environmental performance, transparency and reputation of UK-registered mining companies.
High standards of reporting on human rights issues are an inherent part of the UN guiding principles on business and human rights, which were adopted in 2011. In 2013 the UK published the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, which was the national implementation plan for the UN Guiding Principles. This included pledges to raise awareness and tackle the negative impacts of business on the human rights of women. The Government committed to issuing an updated Action Plan by the end of last year. The Government now aims to produce a revised version later this year.
I fought the last General Election on a manifesto that included a pledge to place human rights at the heart of development. I believe that Britain’s voice in the world is a reflection of the moral leadership we demonstrate on human rights. The Government should make human rights a priority because anything else would diminish our standing in the world.