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That multinational companies should be liable for human rights abuses anywhere in their supply chain

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KushKush (PRO)
Hello, JackSprat. First of all, I would like to thank you for joining me on this debate. Without further ado, let’s get right to it.

Human Rights

Let’s start with a little introduction. Human rights are rights and values that belong to every human being born on this world till their demise. These rights CANNOT be denied by any company, corporation, institution, government, and most certainly not by any multi-national companies.

Multi-National Companies

Multi-national companies are companies that are situated in different countries. These companies set their factories in different countries where they are able to find cheap labor and make immense profit. But, more often than not they violate their workers’ human rights.

The first human right as stated in the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ is as follows:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

This article states that all humans are free and equal. They should not only consider themselves as equal and integral but also should treat their fellow beings with respect and integrity. This declaration was released by the United Nations. So, 193 countries accept this and realize that anyone who violates these rights is punishable in their own country and in the International Court of Law. But, the multi-national companies continue to violate these rights.

One such example we will be exploring today is from Israel. A multi-national company (MNC) called Caterpillar Inc. has been supplying the Israeli army with their specialized bulldozers even though they know what they are being used for, destroying Palestinian homes. Caterpillar Inc. continues to supply the government and thus engaging in an internal conflict just because they are making huge profit. Even though every single company has requested Caterpillar to stop helping this tyranny, they have responded but explicitly cutting of the sales of their most productive bulldozers, the D9’s and D10’s.

The UN has requested Caterpillar to end this brigade of corporate violence. The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights said: "allowing the delivery of your ... bulldozers to the Israeli army ... in the certain knowledge that they are being used for such action, might involve complicity or acceptance on the part of your company to actual and potential violations of human rights..." The UN commission was correct on their forethought. The company continues to supply the Israeli government to this day. But, the surprising fact is that not only they don’t follow the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but they also do not seem to follow their own Code of Conduct. The company’s Code of Worldwide Business Conduct states that “Caterpillar accepts the responsibilities of global citizenship.” The company’s commitment to financial success, the code says, “must also take into account social, economic, political and environmental priorities.” A past Human Rights Report that was released specifically said that the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) has demolished over 2,500 Palestinian homes. The surprising fact is that no Israeli homes have been attacked. In 2003, an American activist, Rachel Corrie, was killed by an armed D9. More than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed or severely injured due to the acts of Caterpillar Inc. The fight against this injustice continues.

Now, the question I ask to CON is how is Caterpillar Inc. and various other MNC’s not liable for this heinous act and the violation of human rights?


· https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights/what-are-human-rights

· https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

· https://laborrights.org/in-the-news/2005-list-14-worst-corporate-evildoers


Return To Top | Posted:
2020-05-11 04:27:03
| Speak Round
JackSpratJackSprat (CON)

I would like to start by defining what a supply chain is, via google.

"the sequence of processes involved in the production and distribution of a commodity."

Let's look at that as an example for the automotive industry, a good write up here about it.

A car manufacture has the following levels in their supply chain.  

Dealership. (endpoint in a country or jurisdiction to interface with a customer)
Manufacturing. (the place where the cars are assembled)
Tier 1. (supplier of semi-finished components like computers, tires, etc that go into the car)
Tier 2  (supplier of unfinished products, that could include stamped metal frames etc)
Tier 3.  (raw materials, aluminum, steel, copper, zinc, titanium)


The supply chain is massive.  It is evolved hundreds of thousands of companies all over the world.  The resolution makes it clear, that multinationals should be liable for human rights abuses ANYWHERE in their supply chain.  Under this argument, the following situation could occur.

If someone is discriminated again by a supplier to a tier 3 supplier, who provides those materials to a tier 2 supplier, who provides those components to a tier 1 supplier, who then sells them to the multinational,  who then installs them in their product could then sue the multinational.

The MNC has no control or nexus to the actions of a supplier to one of their distant suppliers in the supply chain.   It puts a burden of liability onto the MNC that is disproportionate to the services they provide.    In my above example, the MNC has no direct control or causal relationship to the alleged conduct.


In my opponent's case, a reference to Caterpillar and Israel /Palestine was brought up.   This gets into a very dangerous area, where Israel claims to have sovereignty over the Palestinian territory.  This is not the MNC's decision.  Nor is the MNC being asked to perform activities that may be deemed a human rights abuse.  The international communities have mechanisms to embargo or ban certain transactions that may be used for human rights abuses.  We see this in North Korea and Iran.    In addition, the global civilian markets also respond, as we see when Caterpiller was delisted from socially responsible lists.  (HERE)

I am not condoning behavior that causes human rights violations.  And certainly, corporation are not, nor should they be immune from egregious acts.  However, this resolution is not about cases where liability may attach.   Or about how end-users use products. The resolution here is about liability for ANYWHERE in the supply chain.  

And that is where the problem is.  It would be virtually impossible for an MNC to control all aspects of its supply chain to ensure there are no human rights issues, no matter how big or small.  

Therefore the resolution cannot stand because of its virtual impossibility and impracticality to equitably apply and enforce.

Return To Top | Posted:
2020-05-13 14:09:09
| Speak Round
Kush Sharma: After reading your argument I understand that you believe that MNC's aren't responsible for the human righrs abuses that occur outside their supply chain, but according to you are they responsible for the human rights abuses that occur IN their supply chains?

Return To Top | Speak Round
KushKush (PRO)

My opponent started with a definition of what a supply chain is. But I believe that it isn’t the complete definition.

A supply chain is

...... a network between a company and its suppliers to produce and distribute a specific product to the final buyer. This network includes different activities, people, entities, information, and resources.”

So, supply chain also involves the marketing or distribution of the product to the final customer. But my opponent completely disregarded this part when considering the case of Caterpillar. The human rights abuse wasn’t committed during the production, assembling, or from the three tiers. It was committed by Caterpillar because they were the ones who marketed the product to the Israeli government even though they knew what it was being used for, destroying Palestinian homes. Therefore, Caterpillar are complicit. Complicit stands for, that someone is legally accountable, or liable for a criminal offense, based upon the behavior of another, in this case, violation of the human rights. My opponent himself said in his argument that the Israeli claim sovereignty over the Palestinian people. This means that the Israeli consider and threaten the Palestinian as inferiors. But this goes against the very first article mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first article is “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” And since Caterpillar helped the Israeli government knowingly, they are also liable for the human rights violations. And my opponent argued that, “The international communities have mechanisms to embargo or ban certain transactions that may be used for human rights abuses.” Those were his exact words. Well an embargo or ban was imposed on Caterpillar. (Here) This embargo shows that the international communities weren’t going to sit hand in hand while Caterpillar got away with a committed crime.

My opponent also said that it is ‘impractical and virtually impossible’ to blame the MNC’s because they don’t have control over what happens in the different tiers. I beg to differ. On page 140 of the book, “The Legal Environment of Business” by Al H. Ringleb and Roger E. Meiners, it states, “Corporations …. liable for the crimes committed by their agents and employees …" This clearly proves that no matter where the human rights crime is committed, no matter which tier, the corporation IS responsible for it because it was committed under their watch and it is their legal duty to bring it out in the open, not hide it and make profit.

Now I would like to present another example of how MNC’s are sabotaging the human rights.


Chevron is an American-based oil company which is accused of some of the worst human rights abuses and environmental pollution ever committed. From 1964-1992 Chevron dumped a toxic "Rainforest Chernobyl" in Ecuador leaving 600 unlined oil pits in the northern Amazon Forest. They also dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic wastes into river water which was used for bathing. Local communities suffered skin cancer, skin lesion, birth defects, and spontaneous abortions.

Not only this, Chevron is also responsible for violent repression for the peaceful marches for opposition to oil extraction in Nigeria. Chevron hired private military personnel to open fire on protestors who were taking part in a peaceful demonstration.

Now the question I would like to ask CON is that why should we treat these MNC’s any different than we treat criminals?


Return To Top | Posted:
2020-05-16 19:29:35
| Speak Round
JackSpratJackSprat (CON)
""My opponent has spent energy to highlight two cases for which they object,  Caterpillar and Chevron.

I revert to my argument in round 1, also premised on the definition of "should be liable for human rights abuses anywhere in their supply chain"

My opponent admonished me for apparent neglect in the definition of the supply chain and provide an unreferenced definition " a network between a company and its suppliers to produce and distribute a specific product to the final buyer. This network includes different activities, people, entities, information, and resources.”

Whilst said supplemental is unsourced, it supports my position.  It is impractical to try to leverage liability for any violation at any part of a supply chain to a single com-any, just because they are the largest private entity involved.

Why hold Catperiler responsible when it is that the State of Israel that allegedly performed the human rights abuses. Do you hold Chevron responsible if they supplied the diesel for the vehicles to work?  Do you sue the companies that trained the drivers of said vehicles, or the suppliers of uniforms, food, and other services?

My opponent has supported a resolution with no practical way to show that 

a) it will provide restitution or value at a scale commensurate with their involvement
b) One supplier is in fact the direct cause, and therefore possesses prime liability for any act performed by a government, for which they have no influence or control.

Let us agree that Caterpillar could have decided not to sell.  There are four other companies.  Komatsu, Liebherr, Case, and John Deer that could supply the equipment.  Are all of them then liable because their end-user might use their products improperly?

Arm AMD, Intel, and Samsung liable if their chips, or Apple ad Samsung for devices liable if their governments use said devices for activities that are later deemed human right violations?  

There is a fundamental flaw in the logic of holding companies liable for ALL violations, anywhere in the supply chain, when they, in fact, are not the decision-makers.   As the saying goes, guns don't kill people,   People kill people.  

The resolution fails for impossibility, impractical and inequity reasons.

Return To Top | Posted:
2020-05-17 05:18:25
| Speak Round
Kush: I mentioned complicity in my 2nd round. But, let me mention it again, legally accountable, or liable for a criminal offense, based upon the behavior of another. Complicity has been passed byt the International Court of Law. Caterpillar may not have been responsible if they had not known what the result of them marketing their product to the Israeli government could have been, but they KNOWINGLY marketed their product to the Israeli government. So, how I ask, how is Caterpillar Inc. not responsible for the destruction of countless Palestinian homes and the life of Rachel Corrie?
JackSprat: The debate is not about the culpability of Caterpillar. The debate is about "That multinational companies should be liable for human rights abuses anywhere in their supply chain". I have made it very clear that the resolution is way to broad and cannot be supported
JackSprat: Are the gas companies liable when they supply the deisel to the machines? Where do you draw the line? What about where a company is actually licensing their technology to someone else? Is Intel liable for any of the computer chips in the machines, or goodyear for the tires?
JackSprat: If the answer is "No because they did not know," then you lost the debate because the title of the debate does not give, nor did you qualify any sort of limit on accountability in your opening argument
Kush: Thr answer isn't "No because they did not know." And as a matter of fact, there is a line. The gas companies AREN'T liable because they were just supplying the their gas to Caterpillar, to complete the production of a bulldozer. That is their job. But, Caterpillar is liable as they are the ones that decide which client they should give their products to, and it is Caterpillar's job to make sure that they don't sell their products to clients who will misuse it in a barbaric way.
Kush: And, if by some chance their products do fall in the wrong hands, it is their responsibility to STOP supplying the client, not make their products cheaper.
Kush: And as far as the resolution is concerned, I have already mentioned in my 2nd argument. On page 140 of the book, “The Legal Environment of Business” by Al H. Ringleb and Roger E. Meiners, it states, “Corporations …. liable for the crimes committed by their agents and employees …"

Return To Top | Speak Round
KushKush (PRO)

My opponent has repeated his argument from his 1st speech, he argues that it is impractical to hold the MNC’s liable for violation in any part of their supply chain. But I disagree. As I have already said in my 2nd speech:

“Corporations …. liable for the crimes committed by their agents and employees …”

This proves that corporations have to be held responsible for crimes committed by them as well as crimes committed by the institutions that work with them. And as for the crimes being committed during the production process,it is illegal to use a produced article if it has been made by breaking a law or has been made by the institutions and/or workers who broke a law.

My opponent mentioned a question in his 2nd speech. He asked, “Why hold Caterpillar responsible when it is that the State of Israel that allegedly performed the human rights abuses?” We SHOULD hold Caterpillar responsible because they KNOWINGLY helped the Israeli government perform the human rights abuse. Since that is punishable by the law, Caterpillar Inc., has to be held responsible for the demolishment of 2,500 Palestinian homes, the life of Rachel Corrie. My opponent also said that the corporation in this case, Caterpillar, has no control over what the customer does with their products, true, yet after they detected that the Israeli government uses the bulldozers for felonious purposes, it was their legal duty and their duty as a corporation to STOP supplying the Israeli government. And as far as the other companies, like that the CON mentioned are concerned, they would not have been liable if they supplied any institution UNKNOWINGLY that would use it ludicrously. On the contrary, if they had supplied the institution KNOWILNGLY they would have been liable because they would have become an accessory to the crime.

Also, no Apple, Samsung, Dell, or Microsoft cannot be held liable if their products are used destructively by their governments because they marketed the product to the government unknowingly. And as I said in the 2nd cross-examination, once the corporations catch on the fact that their clients use the products violently, they STOP marketing their products, unlike Caterpillar Inc.

I would also like the spectators and the judges to note, every example that I have used to present that MNC’s are responsible for the human rights violations anywhere in their supply chain, the violation has occurred because of their own actions, not their co-workers or their employees or their agents. Caterpillar Inc., knowingly marketed their product to the Israeli government. Chevron Corp., dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic wastes and hired private military personnel to open fire on PEACEFUL protestors. In addition, to these two MNC’s, I would like to present another example.


This company is probably the leading world company in cold drinks. This Fortune 100 company also leads in human rights abuses of their workers. Other than that, they have also been known for assassinations and worker discrimination. From 1989-2002 eight union leaders from the bottling plant in Colombia were brutally KILLED because they were protesting against the company’s labor practices. Not only this, numerous other Coca-Cola workers who have joined or considered joining SINALTRAINAL, a Colombian food industry trade union, have been kidnapped, tortured, and killed by paramilitary personnel. The military personnel are hired to stop the workers from unionizing. Apart from that, Coca-Cola is also one of the worst racial discriminating corporations. In the year 2000, about 2,000 African-American employees in the U.S. sued Coca-Cola for racial discrimination when considering raises and promotion.

The MNC’s have been violating the human rights for far too long, and it is high time someone exposed them for their injustices!


Return To Top | Posted:
2020-05-21 01:17:55
| Speak Round
JackSpratJackSprat (CON)
Multinationals cannot be held for abuses anywhere in their supply chain as this casts a net way to large to effectively manage or mitigate against.  Many examples have been provided, and none have been refuted.  My opponent claims a case with Caterpiller is proof that this resolution should pass against every company anywhere in the world.  

Here is the problem.  My opponent has now said the test on liability is when there is a knowing act.   The resolution does not say anything about a multinational having knowledge, conspiracy, or nexus to the human rights abuse.  The resolution is very clear.  There is no qualification or assessment test.   It does not matter if my opponent ha gave what they claim credible examples...  The resolution is way too broad, as demonstrated by my opponent's attempts to apply a restrictive interpretation in round 3.  I don't know if a reader would think that is a little suspect.

In addition, my opponent has a fundamental error in their legal analysis.

A supply chain participant (including customers) are NOT agents, nor are they employees.  An agent is a legal person who may act for another person.    (Black Law Dictionary)    That is NOT a customer.  Agents are rarely participants in a supply chain.

My opponent has not addressed the examples of companies getting caught up in this resolution unintentionally.  Nor has my opponent answered why Israel is not liable, rather than Caterpillar.  It was their purchase, it was their drivers, it was their orders.  Are gun manufacturers liable for every crime with a gun.  What about baseball bat manufacturers when their bat are used for abuse.  What about handcuff manufactures?  The list goes on and on.

If you have a beef of Caterpillar or other MNC conduct,  creating an unenforceable provision does not solve the problem. I have shown how way too many edge cases would occur.   It is a poorly drafted resolution, it is unenforceable, and my opponent has not even shown a net benefit versus the negatives.

Return To Top | Posted:
2020-05-21 12:41:55
| Speak Round
Kush: I understand that your main argument is that corporations cannot be held liable because they have no control over how the article is produced by the three tiers. But let me ask you this, do you consider the workers of any of the three tiers the employees of the particular corporation?
JackSprat: There are not three tiers in a supply chain. You could have 100 tiers
JackSprat: I am security guard for a sub contractor to a mining company, that mines aluminium, and discriminate against hiring muslims, then you argument is any company with an office in more the one country, who uses that aluminum (cans,cars, electronics, houses_ can be be liable) fr the actions of the security gaurd, from a subb contracted company
JackSprat: raw materials are part of the supply chain. Discrimination is a human rights violation.
JackSprat: therefor the person discriminated against could sue airbus or boeing, who, use the aluminum.
Kush: No, any company who uses that aluminium isn't liable, but the mining company is liable as one of their employees performs human rights violations.
Kush: And I still didn't get a clear answer for my question, do you consider the workers of any amount of ttiers working for manufacturing, the employees of the particular MNC?

Return To Top | Speak Round
KushKush (PRO)

First off, I'd like to make this clear, I have never directly said that the test of liability is on the knowing act. Supposedly a corporation doesn’t know that their customers are crooked and are going to use their products for immoral purposes, they ought to learn from their mistakes. They should stop their marketing to that particular customer and this is what Caterpillar Inc., failed to do. Caterpillar cut off the sales of their most productive bulldozers. As it is stated in “The Legal Environment of Business”,“A court may impose criminal liability on a corporation despite whether itparticipated, directed, or even knew about a given criminal violation.”

My opponent also mentioned that I've not given any example of how MNC’s get caught up between this resolution unintentionally. Well, there are no MNC’s who have got stuck in this resolution unintentionally and if they have, it is the CON’s responsibility to bring those examples out and portray them in this debate.

My opponent keeps demanding the same answer over the issue of Caterpillar and the Israeli government. Even though I have already given the answer once, I will give it again. Caterpillar aided the Israeli government intentionally, destroying Palestinian homes by giving them their most productive bulldozers. By doing so, Caterpillar became an accessory to the crime performed. Now if the Israeli government had deceived Caterpillar by telling them that we’re going to be using your bulldozers for the demolishment of uninhabited apartment buildings the situation might have been different. But, after realizing their mistake, Caterpillar should have stopped marketing their products to the Israeli government. So, in either case, whether Caterpillar knew before-hand what the products were going to be used for or they found our later, they should’ve stopped marketing their products to the Israeli government, which they failed to do. Hence, Caterpillar Inc., are just as responsible as the Israeli government for the demolishment of the Palestinian homes.

My opponent hasrepeatedlyargued that this resolution is way too broad and hence impractical. But, according to me, UN isn’t impractical, are they? No.

It is stated in Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that, “The responsibility to respect human rights requires that business enterprises to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities ... seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations ...even if they have not contributed to those impacts.”

It is also stated in the Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights that, “an MNC has a due diligence responsibility over its supply chain.”


Return To Top | Posted:
2020-05-25 01:10:23
| Speak Round
Kush: I did not recieve an answer for a question I asked in the previous cross-examination, I urge CON to answer my question do you consider the workers of any amount of tiers working for manufacturing, the employees of the particular MNC?

Return To Top | Speak Round
KushKush (PRO)

Now I would have allowed my opponent to have another chance and post his argument, to level the playing field, but since this is the concluding argument, I have no choice but to post. I would also like to mention that it has been very pleasant for me debating with JackSprat on this resolution.

Let’s start with my opponent’s main argument, the supply chain is massive and there is no way an MNC can be responsible for every single aspect of the supply chain. Now I have disproved this time and time again but my opponent has been not entirely candid to how an MNC is responsible for every aspect of THEIR supply chain. I'm not arguing that a supply chain isn’t massive, it is, but that doesn’t mean that an MNC doesn’t have responsibility over it. If the CON is using this sort of approach then according to them Prime Minister Modi isn’t responsible for India, or President Donald Trump isn’t responsible for the U.S.A., or Prime Minister Boris Johnson isn’t responsible for England. See, this mindset has a flaw, and it needs to be rectified. I have provided ample evidence that MNC ARE responsible for their supply chain. Various books, experts, researchers, and even the U.N. agrees to this, but the CON doesn’t for they have been incomprehensive when considering this resolution. 

My opponent has also repeatedly argued that MNC’s are also not responsible as to how their customers use their products. I completely agree, but that doesn’t give an MNC the right to obtain profit at the expense of violations of human rights. If someone or some organization uses your products for immoralpurposes it is YOUR duty to stop marketing your products to them. Caterpillar Inc., sold their bulldozers to the Israeli government knowing what it was going to be used for. Chevron dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic wastes. Coca-Cola, killed its own employees. All these instances have been used to portray the fact that nowadays MNC’s obtain profit as they deem necessary, and this resolution could well become a savior. There is abundant information, evidence, and facts to demonstrate why this resolution is needed.

My opponent also asked for a net benefit of this resolution. Could this get any more absurd than this? CON is asking me for the benefit of abiding by human rights. The benefit of abiding by human rights assures the dignity of this world and its integrity. When MNC’s abide by human rights and become responsible for the abuses occurring in different subsets of their supply chains, it assures the dignity and integrity workers of the different subsets of a supply chain. And to me, if every MNC does become responsible, respects human rights, and accounts for the abuses that occur, then the world will be a better place to live in.

It is stated in the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that, “an MNC has a due diligence responsibility over its supply chain.” As we can see, even the U.N. has decided that this resolution is imperative for our world. The CON doesn’t understand that they are fighting a battle that has already been fought and won by my faction.

As it is rightly said by Lao Tzu, ‘The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step.’ Let us begin our journey to equality by implementing this resolution and assuring the dignity and integrity of our world.


Return To Top | Posted:
2020-05-31 01:41:26
| Speak Round

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How and when exactly are we going to have a cross-examination?
Posted 2020-05-11 04:27:52
The judging period on this debate is over

Previous Judgments

2020-06-03 04:23:46
Bugsy460Judge: Bugsy460    TOP JUDGE
Win awarded to: Kush
2020-06-13 07:39:17
dpowell3543Judge: dpowell3543    TOP JUDGE
Win awarded to: Kush
When I started reading the debate, I was convinced to vote Con. They did an excellent job at showing how irrational and impractical Pro's arguments and plans were. However, sadly, Con ended up forfeiting the last two rounds, therefore my vote must go to Pro.

Both: Very good job, both of you. I had a lot of fun reading this debate. Great job, both of you.
Pro: I would recommend not using the Israel/Palestine conflict. That's very dirty territory to get into, especially since the data and facts are almost always extremely misrepresented in favor or Palestine, who is actually the aggressor in the situation. But I digress. There's a whole mess going on over there and should be left out of off topic debates such as this, due to the sensitivity. I'm sure that's it's not too hard to find suitable alternatives. Take China's sweatshops for example. They'd be fantastic examples to use to help support your position, especially since China has some big name businesses out there, such as Nike.
JackSprat: Try not to forfeit. That really hurts your chances, at least in my eyes. I can't speak for all the other judges, but I view a forfeit as an indirect admission of defeat. But if you got busy, we'd all understand. At least try to take some time to let everyone know so we can't hold it against you. We all know life can get in the way sometimes and we all want a nice, fair debate.
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