Advancing Together With Barrick Gold

Blog BLOG: A passion for respecting human rights

We operate in diverse socioeconomic and political regions, and the reality is that in many locations human rights aren’t adequately recognized or respected.

At Barrick, we believe that responsible economic development can — and indeed should — contribute to the demand for and elevation of human rights.

We operate in diverse socioeconomic and political regions, and the reality is that in many locations human rights aren’t adequately recognized or respected. Our priority is to ensure that Barrick, and any entity that works on our behalf, respects the human rights of stakeholders impacted by our operations.

I understand all too well what can happen when gross violations of human rights occur and when corruption prevails over the rule of law. Before joining Barrick, I was a partner at the law firm Steptoe & Johnson, where I advised clients on anti-corruption and human rights-related matters. Before that, I was Deputy Director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, focusing on investigating and prosecuting war crimes cases. These experiences have shown me firsthand that the protection and respect of human rights and upholding the rule of law should be at the forefront of the global agenda, with companies, governments, civil society, and citizens working together toward that goal.

Our priority is to ensure that Barrick, and any entity that works on our behalf, respects the human rights of stakeholders impacted by our operations.

Everyone gains when human rights are respected. For communities, the more members experience the rule of law and other human rights, the more they will demand such rights from governments, businesses and other key institutions. This can lead to improved living standards, greater freedoms, and personal security, and many other benefits. For companies, it reduces the risk of disruptions to business, as well as the risk of reputational damage and lawsuits, and it upholds what should be core values for every multi-national.

While common today, this kind of thinking by businesses was not prevalent in the early years of my legal career. Then, corporate behavior tended to be much more reactive, as liability for human rights abuses started becoming more common. In the 2000s, companies increasingly started to recognize their role in accountability for human rights, but it was really the groundbreaking work of Professor John Ruggie that solidified, clarified and entrenched business’s role in this regard. The culmination of his work – the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights – has been transformative for multi-national companies, providing the clearest articulation of the roles and obligations of business and states in respecting and protecting human rights.

At Barrick, when we respect human rights, we operate in a way that is consistent with our values. It helps build relationships with our host communities and governments – defining them with mutual trust and respect. At the same time, we are deeply aware that even companies like ours that strive to act responsibly can create and contribute to negative human rights impacts. Much of our work in human rights over the past three years is a reflection of this reality, including the implementation and growth of our Human Rights Compliance Program.

Together with my colleagues, I plan to continue developing Barrick’s human rights program to ensure the company fulfills its commitment to respect and elevate human rights wherever it operates. These are ideals that I am passionate about and that continue to be the focus of my career.