The new tactic, launched by Amnesty International USA this week, is a concerted effort from the charity to harness the voting power of millions of minor shareholders to influence the policy of multi-nationals.

Initially the Share Power campaign will focus its attention on Chevron Corporation and Dow Chemical.

Amnesty wants Chevron to take greater responsibility for its past operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon where contamination is still affecting local people and wants Dow to do more to help the tens of thousands of victims of the 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, India.

The campaign aims to connect AIUSA’s 350,000 members to shareholders that have considerable investments in multinationals with a questionable human rights record.

“No matter who you are, where you live or what you do, you can find your shareholder connection to a large multinational corporation and use that connection to pressure change from the inside,” said Mila Rosenthal, Amnesty’s business and human rights program director.

“Amnesty International and other human rights activists can use their influence with their state and city treasuries, or their university’s endowment, or their investment companies to increase support for human rights-related shareholder proposals.

“This shareholder support will deliver a clear and powerful message to the companies’ management.”

In Bhopal, India, a gas leak in 1984 killed more than 7,000 people during a three-day span and claimed an additional 15,000 lives in the years that followed.

Today more than 100,000 people continue to suffer the devastating effects of the disaster, including chronic, debilitating, largely untreatable illnesses.

The leak was from a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide Corporation, which is owned today by Dow Chemical Company.

Dow denies that UCC has any criminal liability for the leak, despite criminal charges still pending in Indian court.

UCC and Dow have stated that they have no further responsibility for the effects of the leak.

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, according to environmental studies, during Texaco’s two decades of operations, the company dumped more than 19 billion gallons of toxic wastewaters in the Amazonian ecosystem and was responsible for 16.8 million gallons of crude oil spilling from the main pipeline into the region.

Contaminated water and crops continue to devastate the health of indigenous people and other residents in the nearby communities.

Texaco is now owned by Chevron Corporation, which has refused to acknowledge any link between the public health hazards and the environmental problems caused by its drilling policies and has further denied direct compensation to the affected communities for threatening their health and their economic and cultural survival by polluting their environment.

By Sam Bond

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