Human rights defenders and their organizations are at the heart of the protection of natural resources

June 19, 2015

The link between human rights defenders and the exploitation of natural resources was the focus of this year’s report (18 June 20150 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai. He called for a new treaty binding businesses to respect fundamental human rights, and for States and corporations to fully engage with civil society organizations in the context of natural resource exploitation.

Corporations play an outsized role in the decision-making processes about exploitation of natural resources. But they are not subject to legally binding human rights obligations,” Mr. Kiai told the UN Human Rights Council during the presentation of his latest report. “It is time to address this issue more robustly; corporations must not escape responsibility to safeguard human rights.

I am aware that some would rather strengthen compliance with the Guiding Principles than have a binding treaty. But this should not be an either/or matter: Both should be pursued to protect human rights.”

The Special Rapporteur also highlighted States’ responsibility to recognize civil society organizations, including affected communities, as key actors in the context of natural resource exploitation.  “Authorities endeavour to silence individuals and associations that express opposition to natural resource exploitation processes,” the independent expert said.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur argues that States’ and corporations pervasive disregard of communities and associations’ input in the natural resources sector is counterproductive and divisive, and is likely contributing to an erosion of confidence in the world’s prevailing economic system.

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are instrumental in achieving sustainable and mutually beneficial exploitation of natural resources,” he said. “These rights help foster increased transparency and accountability in the exploitation of resources and inclusive engagement throughout the decision-making chain.”

During his presentation, Mr. Kiai also warned that authorities have increasingly sought to stifle expressions of criticism and opposition by cracking down, often with unnecessary force, on peaceful protests; arresting, harassing, prosecuting and imprisoning human rights defenders; enacting restrictive legislation on associations; and interfering with the operations of civil society organizations.

Peaceful protests are banned from sites where natural resource exploitation takes place and the situation is not any better in relation to the right to freedom of association,” he noted. “Individuals and associations who express opposition to natural resource exploitation processes are vilified as ‘anti-development’, ‘unpatriotic’, and even as ‘enemies of the State’”.

“This intolerance is reflected in countries in the global North, and the global South,” the Special Rapporteur said. “Nevertheless, I remain optimistic because of the incredible courage and determination of activists and ordinary people who refuse to be cowed or defeated, even if it means paying with their lives.”

The Special Rapporteur’s full report (A/HRC/29/25/Add.3) is at: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=189

For the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx

 

Natural resources sector: UN expert calls for binding human rights treaty for corporations.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: