Online Program

Corporate liability, state responsibility, and labor rights intervention as a strategy to address a public health crisis: Developing a framework for protection of sugarcane workers in Nicaragua

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 1:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.

Y-Vonne Hutchinson, JD, La Isla Foundation, Leon, Nicaragua
Purvi Patel, JD/MPH, La Isla Foundation, Leon, Nicaragua
ABSTRACT: In western Nicaragua, sugar cane workers are dying at an alarming rate from new form of kidney disease, known as chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu). In some communities nearly 70% of the men cutting sugarcane suffer from the disease, and of those nearly one-third have end stage renal failure. Legally, this occupational illness cuts across issues of effective governance, corporate liability, social protection, public health, and labor rights with wide-ranging societal implications. In the absence of functioning domestic regulatory and law enforcement mechanisms, labor rights activists and civil society organizations in western Nicaragua must look towards alternative legal and non-legal approaches to increase worker protections. This paper discusses the process through which a framework for protection is developed, elucidates its content, examines its utility, and explores the options for implementation across contexts.

METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH: Currently, La Isla Foundation is conducting a cross-disciplinary human rights study in western Nicaragua that utilizes the proposed framework as a baseline to establish the extent of legal compliance among the largest sugarcane producers and government enforcement legal protections. With consultation from local actors, researchers have designed a qualitative and quantitative investigation protocol that incorporates various research tools, including a survey questionnaire, focus groups, and semi-structured key informant interviews. Over the next few months, the study will be piloted in selected communities. After the pilot phase, researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of the legal framework in gauging the nature and extent of rights violations and its utility in developing appropriate strategies for redress.

Learning Areas:

Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the challenges encountered by civil society actors attempting to utilize a rights-based approach to reduce the prevalence and mitigate the effects of occupational illness in the sugar cane communities of western Nicaragua. Design a framework for protection of sugar cane workers and explores how such a framework could be implemented for the purposes strategic litigation, advocacy, and institutional reform. Analyze the lessons learned in the case of Nicaragua to broader legal trends and tensions encountered in debates concerning globalization and labor rights, particularly in the developing country context.

Keyword(s): Human Rights, International Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked in areas related to human rights protections across sectors for almost ten years, focusing on field work in the developing and post-conflict country contexts.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.