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v15_2004i - 142 Elizabeth C Black 8 LITIGATION AS A TOOL...

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142 Elizabeth C. Black 7 8 Elizabeth C. Black is a Master of International Relations candidate at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University ([email protected]). L ITIGATION AS A T OOL FOR D EVELOPMENT : T HE E NVIRONMENT , H UMAN R IGHTS , AND THE C ASE OF T EXACO IN E CUADOR Elizabeth C. Black As the process of globalization continues into the twenty-first century, ensuring that transnational corporations are held ac- countable for their work abroad will be one of the greatest challenges faced by development specialists. In the current context, litigation in U.S. courts is an increasingly important tool in assuring that the people of underdeveloped nations do not suffer from the exploitation, pollution, and cultural degra- dation that has marked such countries’ “progress” in the past. This paper examines the case of María Aguinda et al. v. Texaco Inc. , in which a group of indigenous Ecuadorans have sued the U.S.-based petroleum giant in response to environmental and human health damages resulting from its work in Ecuador in the 1970s and 1980s, in order to provide an example of one way in which litigation can foster development. In the context of the Aguinda case, this paper presents several specific recom- mendations for developing the legal means by which corpora- tions can be held accountable on an international level beyond the U.S. court system. Journal of Public and International Affairs, Volume 15/Spring 2004 Copyright © 2004, the Trustees of Princeton University http://www.princeton.edu/~jpia
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143 Litigation as a Tool for Development: The Environment, Human Rights, and the Case of Texaco in Ecuador I NTRODUCTION In the opening of his book, Development as Freedom , Amartya Sen states that “development can be seen . . . as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy” (Sen 1999, 3). Though his words can be taken to have many meanings, surely amongst these are the freedoms to live free of illness, to practice one’s cultural traditions, and to live in a clean environment. It has taken many years for the environmental and human rights movements to join forces and for the world to realize that the right to a clean environment is a basic human right. This right is based not only on health implications, but also on the idea that a clean environment is beneficial in and of itself, with lasting and important consequences for the cultural and social well-being of a community. This notion has gained more recognition in the past decade, triggering a shift that has meant, and will continue to mean, changes in the social, scientific, and judicial frameworks that govern human interaction. While the increasing recognition that a healthy environment is a human right can be observed across a variety of fields, it is most evident in the law. The 1990s in particular produced a marked increase in the concern for corporate accountability and the efforts of citizens worldwide to monitor the actions of multinational corporations and the governments that host them. Concerned citizens and non-governmental organizations
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