Posts Tagged ‘Business and human rights’

International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders: Agents of change under pressure

December 1, 2016

On 29 November 2006, Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) from around the globe gathered in Colombo, Sri Lanka and declared this day as theirs. November 29th therefore became the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, and is now celebrated all over the world in recognition of the courageous work that they do to defend their own and other women’s rights.

There are too many activities that could be reported in the context of this anniversary [see earlier posts on WHRDs https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/] but here a few (seven) links that could have escaped your attention: Read the rest of this entry »

Ivette Gonzalez: profile of a Human Rights Defender from Mexico

July 11, 2016

Ivette Gonzalez: Human Rights Defender from Mexico

In the ISHR Monitor of 1 July 2016 there is an interview with Ivette Gonzalez who works as a strategic engagement associate for Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER) in Mexico. Ivette was in Geneva to participate in ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme.

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In Mexico, Ivette’s work at PODER is framed around the business and human rights agenda. PODER works to strengthen civil society to achieve corporate transparency and accountability with a human rights perspective. Ivette spoke to ISHR about her motivation to become involved in human rights work, in particular advocating for business and human rights:

‘Injustice and inequality as well as understanding the imbalance of wealth distribution and power triggered my motivation.’

Regarding the risks she and her organisation face on a daily basis, Ivette acknowledged that a focus on safety concerns is necessary in Mexico. PODER has implemented a very strict security protocol in the office to ensure they can work in safe conditions. All members, both those in the field and in the office, are required to follow the protocol.

‘By working in business and human rights, we are aware that powerful actors can consider our work as a threat.’

In the last few years, Ivette feels that human rights defenders and journalists are more at risk in Mexico. Discrediting campaigns point the finger at NGOs and defenders, questioning the legitimacy of their work and even accusing them of taking advantage of victims of human rights violations.

Implementation of laws for the protection of defenders

When talking about particular changes to legislation Ivette would like to see in Mexico, she mentions that the creation of laws is not the issue, but their implementation is. In Mexico, a law and protection mechanism for human rights defenders exists, but the mechanism needs to be improved with the inputs of the users of it and the people at risk. For that to happen, it is crucial that civil society are involved in the process and monitoring.

‘Even though Mexico already has the legislative tools in hand, using these tools, making them concrete and practical for defenders and activists on the ground is the missing step.’

Information is power

Regarding her goals at the international level, Ivette admits that the human rights agenda needs to have an impact at the international level, because some actors are large transnational corporations based in many different countries, and there is a lack of access to justice for the victims of corporate activities in the host and home countries.

Ivette interacts with UN mechanisms including the Special Procedures. PODER has interacted with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Business and Human Rights. In speaking of interacting with the Special Procedures, Ivette acknowledges civil society’s critical role in providing information to Special Procedures.

‘My recommendation for the international community would be to work together and form coalitions. Building new structures and making steps towards change, can be best achieved by working together.’

Learning and advocating in Geneva

Regarding her participation in HRDAP, Ivette is grateful to have been able to receive such a significant amount of information on how to effectively engage with the UN system, as well as how to efficiently use it in her existing work. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge with other civil society organisations and assisting affected communities to engage with the UN. She appreciated the opportunity to lobby various actors, as well as learn how to approach missions and engage with the system – including Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies.

‘During HRDAP, I met very brave defenders with whom I developed professional relationships. Sharing experience and expertise can strengthen our work in the pursue for the respect of human rights.’

Source: Ivette Gonzalez: Human Rights Defender from Mexico | ISHR

Consilium EU adopts conclusions on business and human rights

June 21, 2016

On 20 June 2016, the EU Council adopted its conclusions on business and human rights [its 3477th meeting – COHOM 78]. The full document is available through the link below. The main paragraph mentioning human rights defenders is no 19: “The Council recognises the importance of building capacity both within EU Delegations and Member States’ embassies to work effectively on business and human rights issues, including supporting human rights defenders working on corporate accountability and providing guidance to companies on the Guiding Principles. The Council invites the High Representative and the Commission to develop the necessary tools for EU Delegations to help meet these needs, including through building on the support and best practices of Member States.”

Source: Council conclusions on business and human rights – Consilium

What the next session of the Human Rights Council will do with Human Rights Defenders

June 9, 2016

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 32nd regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 13 June to 1 July 2016. The Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights published its preview called “Alert to the Human Rights Council’s 32nd session”. This special issue of the ISHR Monitor is worth reading in full, but for those with special interest in human rights defenders here are some of the highlights:  Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Defenders in National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights: Launch of Guide with public debate on 15 June

June 7, 2016

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) are planning a public discussion about how and why human rights defenders should be consulted in the development of National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights (NAPs) and protected by their provisions. This event will also launch ISHR and ICAR’s new guidance on this subject, situating NAPs in the broader contexts of extreme risks facing human rights defenders taking on business abuses. Wednesday 15 June 2016, 12h30 – 14h00, Palais des Nations, Geneva. (Room to be confirmed) Read the rest of this entry »

PBI marks 35th anniversary with conference on Human Rights Defenders at Risk: 17 Jun 2016

June 2, 2016

On its 35th Anniversary, Peace Brigades International is holding a conference to celebrate human rights defenders’ contributions to democracy and the rule of law, discuss their protection needs, and explore good practice and obstacles to enabling environments. Keynote speakers include the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, human rights defenders from Latin America, Nepal and Kenya, UK government officials, NGOs, legal experts & donors There will be four panels:

1: Rule of Law: Uses and Abuses of the Law in relation to Human Rights Defenders

2: Access to Justice: Human Rights Defenders’ Fight for Justice

3:  Business and Human Rights:  Challenges and Developments

4: Strategies for Confronting Repressive Environments for Land and Environmental Rights Defenders

On Friday 17 June 2016, from 09:00 to 18:00 (BST) – at Canada House ,Trafalgar Square, London

For more information, tickets follow the link below:

Source: Building Enabling Environments for Human Rights Defenders at Risk Tickets, Fri, 17 Jun 2016 at 09:00 | Eventbrite

Human Rights Defender Profile: Pedro Sica from Guatemala

April 21, 2016

Pedro Tzicá (or Sica) is a K’iche’ Guatemalan human rights defender working on human and environmental rights, as well access to justice and the right to development of indigenous peoples. Tzicá spoke to ISHR about his work, including organising community consultations to defend the indigenous peoples’ rights to land and natural resources in the face of mega-projects. The profile appeared in the ISHR Monitor of 7 March 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Controversial film ‘The Opposition’ to be shown in Geneva on19 April but Australian court to rule on 14 April

April 12, 2016

In the lead up to the Universal Periodic Review of Papua New Guinea, two NGOs – the International Service for Human Rights and Media Stockade -organise an exclusive screening of the documentary film ‘The Opposition’ and discussion with director Hollie Fifer and Dr Kristian Lasslet from International State Crimes Initiative. The Opposition asks how we can ethically build sustainable business in developing countries. In a David-and-Goliath battle over a slice of Papua New Guinea’s paradise, Joe Moses, leader of the Paga Hill Settlement, struggles to save his 3,000 people before they are evicted. Battling it out in the courts, Joe may find his community replaced with an international five-star hotel and marina. In a recent twist, production company Media Stockade and director Hollie Fifer have been hit with a legal suit over the upcoming release of the film. On Thursday 14 April, a judge in the New South Wales Supreme Court in Sydney, Australia will decide if the case will go to trial. At stake is whether the film will be able to be released or not. Media Stockade stands its director who has conducted a piece of legitimate investigative reporting in the public interest.

The screening takes place on 19 April 2016 at 15h30 in the Rue de Varembé 1, ground floor, Geneva. Please note this event is a private screening and is by invitation only (and places are strictly limited). If you want to be invited you have to contact the organizers before Friday 15 April.

Source: Film Screening: ‘The Opposition’, Tuesday 19 April, 3.30pm

Angela Mudukuti, human rights defender from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre

December 28, 2015

Though positive engagement with businesses should be considered a preferred option when it comes to promoting corporate respect for human rights, sometimes the open legal confrontation of human rights violators is the only way to make progress. This is when human rights defenders such as Angela Mudukuti, a lawyer running the International Criminal Justice Programme at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), are critically needed.  The International Service of Human Rights (ISHR) published an interview with her on 27 November 2015.ISHR-logo-colour-high

She defends a holistic approach to justice, where corporate accountability should be sought whenever businesses are involved in violations, regardless of the sectors or human rights affected.  And in cases of complicity in war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity, she says “corporate accountability is important to all the victims”.

Given the weighty consequences they face if their responsibility for such gross violations is revealed, Angela’s experience is that corporate entities are mostly reluctant to facilitate engagement with human rights defenders, making litigation procedures the only way to ensure transparent investigation and accountability. Yet, suing companies and especially major corporations for complicity in gross human rights violations can prove to be dangerous, even for the best-trained defenders. “We work regionally and so we often face regional and local threats. For example: infiltration into your information databases; other security threats which can be physical in nature… corporate entities … have the ‘muscle’ to intimidate you and they will seize any opportunity to do so…

Angela and other members of the SALC team have also experienced personal threats, but she remains positive, seeing these challenges as an “indication that you are doing the right thing” and a part of the burden carried by most human rights defenders in the world. She also highlights that threats do not come only from corporate or government entities, but also from “individuals who disagree” with the work she is doing.

Other practical obstacles can impede SALC’s human rights work such as a lack of access to information to build proper advocacy, and resistance from legal administrative bodies. Yet, this does not prevent SALC from extending their litigation work into advocacy, which is jointly conducted with local organisations throughout Southern Africa: “The first thing is to decide if litigation is viable or if the same results can be achieved by other means. Secondly, should we decide to litigate we need to determine how we can structure the advocacy around it because raising awareness is very important.”

 

Many corporate entities involved in gross human rights violations have transnational activities for which the “ramifications transcend boarders”. This makes the work of corporate responsibility defenders even more challenging, and is one of the reasons why SALC has a regional focus. Angela says the regional nature of violations also demands that the international community “be united and prioritise business and human rights (…) in Southern Africa and in other parts of the developing world”.

The SALC is also looking to address  the devastating environmental implications of various corporate projects.

Follow Angela on Twitter at @AngelaMudukuti.

Defender profile: Angela Mudukuti from Southern Africa Litigation Centre | ISHR

Human Rights Defenders – among the top 10 issues for Business and Human Rights in 2016

December 20, 2015

The Institute for Human Rights and Business has published: Human Rights Defenders and Business – Searching for Common Ground. This is the fourth in a series of Occasional Papers by IHRB to provide independent analysis and policy recommendations about timely subjects on the business and human rights agenda. In this instance, this paper is co-published with Civil Rights Defendersand Front Line Defenders, both organisations with practical research, campaigning, and advocacy experience of the issues raised in the paper.

As cases in this Paper show, journalists exposing corruption, Internet activists demanding accountability, and community activists campaigning for land rights have all faced pressure.

More than sixty governments have passed laws in the last three years to place restraints on the ability of human rights defenders to hold their governments to account. Among those targeted are individuals and organisations who challenge economic policies or business conduct. Human rights defenders’ activities are being criminalised and they face surveillance, intimidation, lawsuits, arrests, and torture – in some cases, even death.

Companies are engaging with civil society, but mutual suspicions remain. Companies share common goals with human rights defenders – accountability, transparency, the rule of law, and due process. Companies should build on these common interests and engage human rights defenders, and where possible, speak out in their defense. To download:

The same institution – to mark International Human Rights Day 2015 – published the seventh annual list of the Top 10 Business & Human Rights Issues for the 2016 (these issues are not ranked in order of importance). The one specific on human rights defenders reads:
Defending Defenders: A Role for Business in Championing Civil Society

More than sixty governments have passed laws in the past three years to place restraints on the ability of human rights defenders to hold their governments to account for actions that undermine respect for international standards. Among those targeted are individuals and organisations who champion alternate economic paradigms or challenge government policies or business conduct. Some have faced intimidation, surveillance, lawsuits, arrests, and torture.

Twenty years ago, after a trial that failed to meet international standards, the Nigerian Government executed Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders who opposed the activities of Shell in the Niger Delta. The case sparked global awareness of business’ human rights responsibilities beyond the factory walls, leading to the development of standardsadvocacyinitiativescodes of conducts, and eventually a comprehensive UN framework and principles for business and human rights.

Despite some progress over the past two decades, suppression of activists too often continues. The UN has passed a resolution recognising the legitimate role of peaceful activists who call out abusive behaviours, including business actions that undermine respect for human rights. Yet a growing number of governments are also passing new laws to restrain civil society activities.

Human rights defenders are like canaries in a mine. When they campaign against abuses, they highlight society’s fundamental problems, such as lack of accountability, transparency, or the rule of law. Courts have jailed journalists exposing corruption, governments have tried Internet activists, authorities have prevented activists from travelling abroad, and states have cracked down on funding sources of non-governmental organisations. International financial institutionsare also under focus. The international community is increasingly paying attention to their cause. At the 2015 UN Forum on Business & Human Rights, there was special focus on human rights defenders and the role of business.  

In the year ahead, some governments, businesses, and NGOs will likely sharpen criticism of states that unjustifiably attack human rights defenders, as well as the companies that benefit from such crackdowns and choose to say nothing. With rising concerns over terrorism and the resulting tendency in many countries to emphasise security threats over protecting human freedoms, the road ahead for those who dissent will not be easy. The combined voice of global business will be critical in effectively promoting the legitimate role of individuals and organisations that champion human rights principles and standards in societies around the world. 

Sources:

Top 10 Business and Human Rights Issues for 2016 – Top 10 Emerging Issues

http://www.ihrb.org/publications/reports/human-rights-defenders.html?utm_source=IHRB+Subscribers&utm_campaign=0e75f77298-eNews_Update_Quarterly_Update_2&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_94694639e6-0e75f77298-120645865

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/business-and-human-rights/