By Anna Phelan, Amnesty International USA’s Business & Economic Relations Group
My mom called me to tell me that a settlement was reached in the Wiwa v. Shell case. She saw a report on the nightly television news earlier this week. That’s how I knew this story was really big news. In Tuesday’s Guardian (UK), Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr. talks about the families’ decision to accept the settlement with Shell. He says, the choice “enabled [the plaintiffs] to advertise the settlement as a living, breathing example of how and why the commitment to peace, non-violence and dialogue is the best way to resolve the challenges in the Niger Delta.” What better advertisement than international news coverage?
When I explain the work Amnesty International members undertake, I point out that there are different levels of success. Our letter writing can result in the release of a prisoner of conscience. Meetings with diplomats and elected officials can lead to the passage of critical legislation in support of human rights. Many of us wrote countless letters to Nigerian government officials when Ken Saro-Wiwa was adopted as a prisoner of conscience in the 1990s. After his execution, we continued to work closely with the Nigerian diaspora in the U.S., vowing to “Never Forget” Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 9. We held ceremonies – outside the United Nations, in front of the Nigerian Consulate in D.C., and in our communities – to rename streets Ken Saro-Wiwa Place or Ogoni 9 Square in their honor.
Sometimes we don’t immediately see the success we hoped for. And while Amnesty International has not participated in the lawsuits brought against Shell, our continued work on corporate accountability issues will benefit from Wiwa v. Shell’s successes. Michael D. Goldhaber’s A Win for Wiwa, A Win for Shell, A Win for Corporate Human Rights at The AmLaw Daily offers a comprehensive summary of the benchmarks achieved through the settlement. Stay tuned for the next big news story, we’re well on our way towards more success.