Posts Tagged ‘environmental issues’

EU Council approves conclusions on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024

November 20, 2020

The Council has approved conclusions on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024. The Action Plan sets out the EU’s level of ambition and priorities in this field in its relations with all third countries.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/27/new-eu-action-plan-for-human-rights-and-democracy-2020-2024/

The conclusions acknowledge that while there have been leaps forward, there has also been a pushback against the universality and indivisibility of human rights. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences have had an increasingly negative impact on all human rights, democracy and rule of law, deepening pre-existing inequalities and increasing pressure on persons in vulnerable situations.

In 2012, the EU adopted the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy which set out the principles, objectives and priorities designed to improve the effectiveness and consistency of EU policy in these areas. To implement the EU Strategic Framework of 2012, the EU has adopted two EU Action Plans (2012-2014 and 2015-2019).

The new Action Plan for 2020-2024 builds on the previous action plans and continues to focus on long-standing priorities such as supporting human rights defenders and the fight against the death penalty.

By identifying five overarching priorities: (1) protecting and empowering individuals; (2) building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies; (3) promoting a global system for human rights and democracy; (4) new technologies: harnessing opportunities and addressing challenges; and (5) delivering by working together, the Action Plan also reflects the changing context with attention to new technologies and to the link between global environmental challenges and human rights.

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/11/19/council-approves-conclusions-on-the-eu-action-plan-on-human-rights-and-democracy-2020-2024/

Environmental defenders at the Young Activists Summit speak their mind

November 20, 2020

Kyra Dupont for Geneva Solutions News of 20 November 2020 interviewed two environmental defenders: Vanessa Nakate, a 24-year-old Ugandan and and Solar Impulse founder Piccard to see how their actions resonated.

The Young Activists Summit (YAS) taking place online today aims to shine a spotlight on young activists who are advancing climate action – but also foster greater dialogue between generations. Young activists have become the face of today’s climate crisis. But the fight did not start with Generation Z – nor are they the only ones affected by the realities of global warming. The Young Activists Summit, hosted in Geneva, will give young people a platform to speak up on climate issues, while at the same time encouraging dialogue with an older generation of climate influencers, including Solar Impulse founder Bertrand Piccard.

Roots of a fight. Vanessa Nakate grew up in Kampala in a middle-class family inspired by a father trader in solar batteries and involved in community work as a member of the Rotary Club. “Like my father, I wanted to help out those in my community, find a way to change their lives.” As she was looking for a meaningful cause to dedicate herself, the student in business administration discovered climate change.

I had already seen floods, landslides, droughts but I had never connected them to climate change because in schools in Uganda this is something we do not worry about: it either belongs to the past, or to the future. When I started reading about it, I grew to understand that this is the current threat humanity faces right now. I decided that I had to take action and be part of the climate movement.

Vanessa Davos.jpg

Like Nakate, Piccard – the son of oceanographer Jacques Piccard – was also inspired by family members. While studying at medical school (he became psychiatrist) he started fighting for cleaner aviation and ultralight airplanes.

I was horrified by how human beings could pollute and all the disrespectful way of treating the environment.”

The power of youth. Worried by the unusually high temperatures hitting Uganda, Nakate began protesting against climate inaction in front of Ugandan parliament in 2019. She also staged hunger strikes every Friday for three months. It did not have much impact nor did it attract much attention being the sole protester outside the government gates. But an activist was born. Eventually, other young Ugandans started responding to her calls on social media.

For Piccard too, beginnings were hard. To his great surprise, his fiercest opponents were the ecologists who did not want cleaner aviation, only fewer planes. It took a good 35 years to win his case. Today, he is respected for realising the impossible: he is the visionary initiator of Solar Impulse, the first zero-fuel aircraft with perpetual autonomy. Thanks to his round-the-world flight, the “explorer for sustainability” was able to launch the Solar Impulse Foundation and its 1,000 solutions to protect the environment in a profitable way. He is now listened to by chiefs of state and respected institutions like the European Commission or the United Nations.

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Swiss psychiatrist and pilot Bertrand Piccard receives the Knight of the Legion d’Honneur insignia from French President François Hollande. (Credit: Keystone / Etienne Laurent)

Injustice as a driving force. Nakate’s energy comes from her desire to end the injustice afflicting her country and the African continent in general. In Uganda, 90 per cent of the population depends on agriculture for their survival, “a matter of life and death”.

This is why she is not afraid to tell the truth and speak up in front of decision-makers. Convinced young people can make a difference, she founded Youth for Future Africa and the Rise Up Movement Africa before joining the ranks of a handful of activists at the UN climate summit, COP25, in Madrid in December 2019 where she met Greta Thunberg. She was also invited by Arctic Basecamp in Davos where she co-wrote a letter to the participants of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

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Climate activists Isabelle Axelsson, Loukina Tille, Vanessa Nakate, Greta Thunberg, and Luisa Neubaue, from left, arrive for a news conference in Davos on 24 January 2020. (Credit: Keystone / Markus Schreiber)

Thousands of young people mobilised for climate change, a powerful grassroots movement that did not exist in the same way when Piccard started to voice his concerns.

“They are very fortunate to be such a big group with such a loud voice. When I was their age, I was very lonely and not a lot of people were speaking about these climate issues. It gives us strength. It gives power. People listen to them. But it also gives them responsibility.”

The keys to sucess. In order for youth aspirations to bear fruit, their message must be practical and concrete with very targeted requests, says Piccard. Development aid should help incentivise developing countries to be cleaner, more efficient and sustainable so donors and investors know that they are not losing their money.

“To say they want to fight climate change is too vague (…) By being practical and voicing specific and understandable claims, they will have a much more positive outcome than if they just protest and say “we are paying the cost of rich countries”.”

Refusing economic growth is purely idealistic, according to Piccard. Its reduction would lead to social chaos, the bankruptcy of thousands of companies and the unemployment of millions of people. The decision-makers must find an advantage in investing in developing countries. Solidarity, yes, but with good leverage.

“To fight poverty in developing countries, you need to localize the production of energy and give energy access to everybody. And you can only do that with renewable energies. If you put solar energy in a village in Uganda, it will create a local economy. People who have solar energy will sell the electricity to people charging their phones, doing business, pumps for irrigation. They will store it in batteries and sell the electricity further…”

Nakate says she is fighting for the fact that the impacts of climate change are not borne equally or fairly between rich and poor, women and men, and older and younger generations. Many victims of climate change have disproportionately low responsibility for causing the emissions responsible for global warming. Meanwhile the $1bn promised by the Green Climate Fund is still underfunded. A balance still needs to be found between the young activist’s call for climate justice and proper use of funds seniors like Piccard insist on.

The power of education. Well aware of the interactions between climate and social justice, Nakate started to work on the Green Schools Project, a renewable energy initiative which aims to transition schools to solar energy and install eco-friendly stoves. This way, she hopes to bring transition to renewable energy in rural schools and give them access to electricity and a better education.

“I never had the opportunity to learn about it, to understand the danger that our planet is facing. If you know that you are in a burning house, you will do everything you can to stop the fire. So, I believe in creating awareness, and this awareness only comes through education.”

Nakate especially believes in educating girls, the number six tool to fight the climate crisis on the list of the DrawDown project.

“There are a lot of different technologies to move towards sustainability but most of them need so much funding. Educating girls is something we can do right now. When you educate these girls from the most affected communities, it also benefits their families and cascades into their communities. They will make better decisions in their lives, have fewer children, survive the risk of hunger, resist school drop-outs, know how to build resilience. They are tomorrow’s leaders, tomorrow’s campaigners, tomorrow’s scientists who will make the best decisions for their countries.”

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“Women leaders make the best decisions for their countries. We need more girls in decision-making positions,” says Nakate (Credit: Ronald Meyna)

Africa’s contribution to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions is less than four per cent of the total. But despite being one of the lowest emitters, it is the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Yes, those who are the least responsible are suffering the most and yes, it comes as an injustice, says Nakate. But like Piccard in his own time, she resorted to take control of her own destiny.

“We cannot lay back and feel comfortable because our emissions are limited. If we do not speak up for ourselves, we will continue experiencing direct impacts of climate change.”

In 3 months the Escazú Agreement should come into force

November 11, 2020

On 9 November 2020, a very large group of UN human rights experts welcomed the impending entry into force of the first environmental human rights treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Escazú Agreement, lauding it as a ground-breaking pact to fight pollution and secure a healthy environment. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/23/escazu-agreement-to-protect-environmental-human-rights-in-latin-america-stalling/]

In the face of proliferating environmental conflicts and persistent intimidation, harassment and detention of environmental human rights defenders, the Escazú Agreement offers hope to the countless individuals and communities in the region that suffer from pollution and the negative impacts of extractive industries,’ said the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Marcos Orellana.

The Escazú Agreement includes strong protections for indigenous peoples and environmental human rights defenders, at a time when they are subject to unprecedented levels of violence.

The experts expressed hope that the treaty could serve as a model for other regions to improve cooperation and mobilise efforts for better governance of natural resources and environmental protection through transparency, accountability and community engagement. By ensuring people’s rights to information, participation, and access to justice, the Agreement affirms a strong rights-based approach to environmental governance.

The experts also voiced concern over disinformation campaigns that have obfuscated public debate in certain countries of the region.

‘We urge those countries who have yet to ratify or adhere, to join regional efforts and demonstrate best practice for a more just and sustainable region,’ the experts said.

The Escazú Agreement will enter into force 90 days following the 11th ratification. The experts commended the 11 countries that ratified the agreement: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts & Nevis, and Uruguay.

‘The remaining nations in the Latin America and Caribbean region should move quickly towards ratifying the Escazú Agreement in order to maximise the treaty’s effectiveness in protecting human rights in the face of today’s interconnected climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises,’ the experts said.

https://www.marketscreener.com/news/latest/UN-Experts-Hail-Landmark-Environmental-Treaty-in-Latin-America-and-the-Caribbean–31739025

Human Rights for the Planet conference starts 5 October

October 1, 2020

Human Rights for the Planet conference

What is the future role of international human rights law in helping to tackle challenges posed by climate change and the degradation of the natural environment? On Monday 5 October 2020, the European Court of Human Rights will host a high-level conference entitled “Human Rights for the Planet”. Both in person and online, participants will look at the rapidly-developing case-law on environmental issues of the Strasbourg court and other international tribunals. Speakers will include the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Robert Spano, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

Contributors will include environmental lawyers, academics and NGO representatives as well as a number of current and former ECHR judges.

If you would like to take part, register via the conference website.


More information: Human rights and the environment

UNEP FI: Tool for associating UN and financial sector

August 29, 2020

The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) was established in 1992 as a platform associating the United Nations and the financial sector globally. The need for this unique partnership arose from the growing recognition of the links between finance and environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges, and the role financial institutions could play for a more sustainable world.

UNEP FI works closely with 230 members from the banking, investment and insurance sectors, who have signed the UNEP FI Statement of Commitment. The membership is made up of public and private financial institutions from around the world, and is balanced between developed and developing countries. They recognize sustainability as part of a collective responsibility and support approaches to anticipate and prevent potential negative impacts on the environment and society.

UNEP FI Social Issues

UNEP FI is committed to exploring the intricacies between social issues, human rights and financial sector practices. UNEP FI aims to de-mystify the language and jargon surrounding the social agenda, and clarify how social issues relate to the activities of finance institutions.

The main objectives of the work stream include:

  • To develop and maintain an understanding of human rights and social issues and how they apply to financial institutions worldwide, so that financial sector professionals are equipped to make responsible decisions.
  • To produce internationally applicable guidance for finance sector organizations on identifying and addressing social issues relevant to their businesses, highlighting relevant international laws, standards and initiatives, and examples of best practice.

The UNEP FI Human Rights Guidance Tool for the Financial Sector is designed as an online signposting tool providing information on human rights risks for financial institutions.

Included in the tool finance practitioners will find:

  • background information on human rights and how they relate to finance
  • relevant international laws, standards and initiatives
  • key questions to assist in assessing human rights risks and impacts
  • issues relating to different industry sectors
  • key human rights topics
  • links to other relevant resources

The tool focuses specifically on human rights issues relevant to the assessment of business relationships and transactions. Links are also provided within each of the sector briefings to the broader environmental and social risk guidance provided by UNEP FI. Together these form part of the growing array of tools and guidance available to financial institutions to enhance their understanding of human rights risks.

This tool provides a framework for finance sector professionals to:

  • identify potential human rights risk in lending operations
  • assess the materiality of the human right risk
  • identify possible risk mitigants.

Financial institutions will want to use the tool to assess the human rights issues in their own business and its supply chain. They will also find it useful in reviewing other aspects of financial services provision, in addition to lending policies and practices. Whilst the tool is mainly addressed to lending managers, human rights are important in relation to all financial sector activity, so others will also find much of interest and relevance in it.

The Human Rights Guidance Tool has been fully revised in 2014. The tool was originally launched in 2007 and updated in 2011.


Table of Contents

Introduction

Key Issues and Questions

Human Rights Issues by Sector

Human Rights Issues by Topic

Resources

About this tool

 

https://www.unepfi.org/humanrightstoolkit/credits.php

Steven Donziger: human rights defender now victim of judicial harassment

August 10, 2020

Steven Donziger, gestures during a press conference on March 19, 2014 in Quito, Ecuador.Rodrigo Buendia/Getty

Last September, I travelled from Western Canada to New York City to see the human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. Donziger cannot travel. He cannot even stroll the hallway of his Upper West Side apartment building on 104th Street without special court permission. He remains under house arrest, wearing an ankle bracelet. Eight years ago, Donziger and a team of Ecuadorian lawyers, on behalf of Indigenous and farmer plaintiffs, won the largest human rights and environmental court judgment in history, a $9.5-billion US verdict against the Chevron Corporation for massive oil pollution in Ecuador’s Amazon basin.

Following the trial, Chevron removed its assets from Ecuador, left the country, and has refused to pay. The company now claims the Ecuador verdict was achieved fraudulently, and produced a witness, who told a US court that he possessed knowledge of a bribe. Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in Chevron’s favour, halting collection of the pollution fine in the US and placing Donziger in electronic chains in his home.

The details in this case really matter, so here the story in full:

Crime and punishment

Donziger, born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1961, graduated from Harvard Law in 1991, and founded Project Due Process, offering legal services to Cuban refugees. In 1993, Ecuador’s Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía (FDA), representing 30,000 victims of Chevron’s pollution, heard about Donziger and asked him to help win compensation for their lost land, polluted water, and epidemics of cancer and birth defects in a region now known as the “Amazon Chernobyl.”

Donziger originally filed the claim in New York, but Chevron insisted the case be heard in Ecuador, where the trial began in 1993.

Evidence showed that between 1964 and 1992, Texaco (now Chevron) dumped 16 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and pits. Fifty-four judicial site inspections confirmed that the average Chevron waste pit in Ecuador contained 200 times the contamination allowed by US and world standards, including illegal levels of barium, cadmium, copper, mercury, lead, and other metals that can damage the immune and reproductive systems and cause cancer. According to Amazon Watch, by ignoring regulations, the company saved about $3 per barrel of oil, earning an extra $5 billion over 20 years.

In 2007, during the trial, Chevron stated that if the victims pursued the case, they faced a “lifetime of … litigation.” The plaintiffs persevered. Since the victims were dirt poor, Donziger and his team, with FDA support, devised an innovative solution to fund the case, offering investors a tiny portion of any eventual settlement.

In 2011, after an eight-year trial, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Two appeals courts and the nation’s Supreme Court, the Court of Cassation, confirmed the decision. Seventeen appellate judges ruled unanimously that Chevron was responsible for the contamination and owed Donziger’s clients $9.5 billion.

The lone witness

According to court documents, Chevron “refus(ed) to comply” with the judgment and began to make good on its threat for a “lifetime of litigation.” According to internal company memos, Chevron launched a retaliatory campaign to attack the victims, discredit Ecuador’s courts, and “demonize” Donziger.

Chevron hired one of the world’s most notorious law firms, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher—previously censured by England’s High Court of Justice for fabricating evidence. Judges in California, Montana, and New York have censured and fined Gibson Dunn for such misbehavior as witness tampering, obstruction, intimidation, and what one judge called “legal thuggery.”

Using US RICO statutes designed to prosecute organized crime syndicates, the firm filed a “racketeering” case against Donziger. Judge Kaplan at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York—a former tobacco company lawyer widely viewed as being friendly to large corporations—agreed to hear the peculiar case. Kaplan claimed the Ecuador trial “was not a bona fide litigation” and insulted the victims, calling them “so-called plaintiffs.” Gibson Dunn lawyer Randy Mastro called the Ecuador courts “a sham.”

Prominent trial lawyer John Keker, representing Donziger, claimed the Kaplan trial was pure intimidation and called the proceedings a “Dickensian farce” driven by Kaplan’s “implacable hostility” toward Donziger.

On the eve of the trial, Chevron dropped its financial claims, allowing Kaplan to dismiss the jury and decide the outcome himself. Then Chevron unveiled their star witness—Alberto Guerra, a disgraced former Ecuadorian judge removed from the bench for accepting bribes. In a Chicago hotel room, Chevron and Gibson Dunn lawyers rehearsed Guerra for 53 days.

In Kaplan’s court, Guerra claimed that Donziger had approved a “bribe” to an Ecuadorian judge and had written the final court ruling for the judge, allegedly transferred on a computer thumb drive. No corroborating evidence was ever offered. Guerra later admitted lying about these facts, and a forensic investigation of the Ecuadorian judge’s computer proved that Guerra had lied.

The entire story now appears fabricated. Donziger’s lawyers have attempted to locate Guerra and depose him, but the star witness has not yet been found.

“Chevron’s case,” said Donziger’s lawyer Andrew Frisch, “rested on the testimony of a witness who was paid over $1 million.” Frisch stated that Kaplan’s rulings “have been contradicted in whole or in part by 17 appellate judges in Ecuador and 10 in Canada, including unanimous decisions of the highest courts in both countries.”

Nevertheless, without a jury, Kaplan accepted Guerra’s testimony and found that Donziger had committed fraud. Finally, Kaplan ordered Donziger to turn over his computer and cellphone to Chevron. Since this order violated attorney-client confidentiality, Donziger refused until the court of appeals could decide the issue.

Kaplan charged Donziger with “criminal contempt” for refusing his order. However, the order and the contempt charge were so outrageous that the N.Y. prosecutor’s office refused to accept the case. Kaplan defied the state authorities and appointed a private law firm, Seward & Kissel—with commercial ties to Chevron—to act as prosecutor, which, in turn, ordered Donziger be placed under “pretrial home detention.”

Legal thuggery

An unnamed New York Second Circuit judge—presumed by Donziger and his lawyers to be Kaplan—filed a complaint against Donziger with the bar grievance committee in New York, which then suspended Donziger’s law license without a hearing. However, bar referee and former federal prosecutor John Horan called for a hearing and recommended the return of Donziger’s law license. “The extent of his pursuit by Chevron is so extravagant, and at this point so unnecessary and punitive,” Horan wrote, “he should be allowed to resume the practice of law.” Donziger responded that, “Any neutral judicial officer who looks objectively at the record almost always finds against Chevron and Kaplan. The tide is turning and the hard evidence about the extreme injustice in Kaplan’s court will be exposed.”

This case appears to be about bullying. Chevron is one of the wealthiest corporations in the world. The plaintiffs are poor, Indigenous, and campesino people with scarce access to money or lawyers. “Donziger came to our rescue,” says FDA president Luis Yanza. How big can high-stakes corporate bullying get? Donziger’s lawyers estimate the oil giant has spent over $2 billion on 2,000 lawyers, public relations teams, and private investigators.

At the dinner party at Donziger’s, I met supporters from around the world, from Amazon Watch and Global Witness, journalists, lawyers, and human rights advocates. “This case is not just about Steven’s fate,” said Simon Taylor, director of Global Witness in London. “I believe the injustice to him is intended to intimidate the rest of us, to chill the work of other environmental and corporate accountability advocates.”

American human rights attorneys Martin Garbus and Charles Nesson formed a support committee for Donziger with dozens of civil society leaders, including: Clive Stafford-Smith, founder of the prisoner-rights group Reprieve in London; Atossa Soltani and Leila Salazar, the founder and executive director of Amazon Watch; Lynne Twist, co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance working in the Amazon; renowned author John Perkins; and famed musician Roger Waters.

The tide may be turning for Donziger and the victims in Ecuador. In June 2019, Amnesty International asked the US Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation into Chevron’s and Gibson Dunn’s conduct, witness bribery, and fraud in the Ecuador pollution litigation

This past February, Prof. Ellen Yaroshefsky, director of the Monroe H. Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics at Hofstra University in New York, wrote that the Kaplan and Seward & Kissel prosecution of Donziger is flawed with conflicts of interest, financial ties to Chevron Corporation, and judicial bias.

In April, 29 Nobel laureates signed a letter stating, “(We) support Steven Donziger and the Indigenous peoples and local communities in Ecuador in their decades-long work to achieve environmental justice over pollution caused by Chevron…. Chevron and a pro-corporate judicial ally, US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, manufactured ‘contempt’ charges against Donziger. (Chevron’s) goal is to intimidate and disempower the victims of its pollution and a lawyer who has worked for decades on their behalf.”

A month later, more than 475 international lawyers, bar associations, and human rights advocates criticized Kaplan’s ruling for persecuting Donziger “based on false witness testimony provided by Chevron, personal animus, and… to protect Chevron from a valid foreign court judgment.” The letter, from the US National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, urges an end to the pretrial house arrest of Donziger, noting “such arbitrary detention sets a dangerous precedent for human rights attorneys in the United States and around the world.”

On May 27, 2020, the Newground investment firm in Seattle, Wash., placed two proposals on Chevron’s 2020 proxy call, asking for governance reforms to bring its Ecuador issues to resolution, and prevent future human rights and pollution liabilities. The proposals were supported by actor Alec Baldwin, musician Roger Waters, and Nobel laureate Jody Williams.

On July 16, the European Parliament wrote to the US Congress asking the Congressional Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties to investigate Chevron’s treatment of Donziger, which the EU Parliament found “not consistent with what has traditionally been the strong support in the United States for the rule of law generally and for protection for human rights defenders in particular.”

Late at night, in the Donziger home, after the supporters had left, Donziger and his wife Laura sipped wine. “We’re not giving up,” Donziger said. “The only fraud in this case has been conducted by Chevron. Modern nations have comity relationships, formally respecting each other’s court decisions. We’re reviewing enforcement actions in Canada, Australia, and other jurisdictions. Chevron owes the money, and they can’t just run, hide, and fabricate stories to avoid paying. They’re persecuting me to try to change the public narrative, but they’re guilty. They committed the crime, they hurt people, they were proven responsible in a court of law that they chose, and they owe the money.”

…..As I write this, in mid-July, Donziger has been in home detention for 345 days, almost a year, longer than any lawyer in US history has ever served for a contempt charge.

How Did a Lawyer Who Took on Big Oil and Won End up Under House Arrest?

EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2019

June 16, 2020

Courtesy of Reliefweb of 15 Jun 2020, here the introduction to the EU’s annual report on human rights

1. INTRODUCTION

The 2019 EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world marks the final phase of implementation of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019) 1 . It presents the progress achieved to date, by means of a comprehensive set of actions taken by the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission and EU delegations and offices around the world. In 2019, the EU demonstrated once again that it is a reliable, cooperative and principled global player, working for a better world where all human rights are fully protected and respected.

However, in many parts of the world, challenges remain. Human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists and media workers are under threat and attack because of their daily work, civic and democratic space continues to be restricted, women’s and girls’ human rights are being violated, and vulnerable groups are often left behind and exposed to further discrimination and inequality.

Against this background, the international community celebrated in 2019 the 10th anniversary of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organisation. These anniversaries gave great impetus to the EU’s continuous efforts to translate its legal and policy frameworks on human rights into reality. The EU worked with all partners to turn challenges into opportunities for all human beings, at any time, in any place.

The 21st EU-NGO Forum on Human Rights, held in Brussels on 3-4 December, put the human rights and environment nexus in the spotlight as an emerging challenge and gained unprecedented traction. On 9 December 2019, the Foreign Affairs Council agreed on the political appropriateness of establishing an EU global human rights sanctions regime to tackle serious human rights violations worldwide committed by state and non-state actors.

In 2019, the first ever EU guidelines focusing on economic, social and cultural rights were adopted: the EU Human Rights Guidelines on safe drinking water and sanitation. These guidelines opened new horizons in promoting the indivisibility of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Council also adopted Guidelines on non-discrimination in external action and revised Guidelines on EU policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Moreover, the Council conclusions on Democracy adopted in October provided a comprehensive framework to advance democratic governance.

This report focuses on thematic issues, using a number of country-specific examples, and aims to be a practical tool for all stakeholders. Reporting on human rights and democracy at country level can be found on the EEAS2 and EU delegations’ webpages.

Download report (PDF | 1.13 MB)

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/eu-annual-report-human-rights-and-democracy-world-2019

Daily Maverick in South Africa keeps a weekly calendar of civil society events

February 3, 2020

South Africa‘s Daily Maverick has a weekly feature to inform readers of a cross-section of events organised by civil society organisations, including those by human rights defenders. Here some excerpts as illustration: .

2020 is in full swing. Last week the Maverick Citizen team met in Cape Town to discuss civil society plans and priorities for 2020 in South Africa and internationally and how best to report them. As our popular Civil Society Outlook showed, it’s going to be a pivotal year, and the reports we provided of activists’ plans were only the tip of the iceberg:

starting on Monday 3 February, civil society and human rights defenders from 30 countries will be meeting a few kilometres down the road at the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI). The AMI is in its eleventh year and is hosted by the Economic Justice Network of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (EJN of FOCCISA). Its theme is “environmental and economically sustainable mineral economies in an era of climate change catastrophe”.
Monday 3 February, watch out for the judgment of the Constitutional Court in Malawi on the fairness and legality of last year’s presidential elections in that country. Since the elections, Malawian civil society organisations have been at the forefront of protests. NGOs such as the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition and Freedom House are calling on the Malawian government to respect the rule of law and the decision of the court.
Wednesday February 5th is the 38th anniversary of the murder of Neil Aggett by the brutal apartheid security police. Next week will mark the third week of the inquest into his death. (FAWU) to South Gauteng High Court to demand the prosecution of his murderers.
Important public hearings are underway on the controversial and highly contested Traditional Courts Bill. However, Parliament, through omission or commission, seems to want to keep them as unpublic as possible. Last week, hearings took place in the Northern Cape. However, the Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC), one of the bill’s most informed and vocal critics, only received a notification on Tuesday 28 January. The Gauteng hearings are scheduled to take place in February but dates are not yet confirmed.
Finally, an issue that should occupy us all every day. The Climate Justice Coalition is asking for your input on the draft Climate Justice Charter which it intends to present to Parliament later this year.
February: SONA, the budget and the civil society campaigns that attempt to arc society towards social justice. 

…… On Friday we will continue with our weekly profile of women activists who lead civil society.  

(If you have events or meetings which you think other activists ought to know about, write to us at: maverickcitizen@dailymaverick.co.za)

 

Civil Society Watch, 3-10 February 2020

New agreement UNEP & OHCHR aims to better protect environmental human rights defenders

August 19, 2019

UN Colombia – A wide range of human rights activists have been targeted in Colombia, especially those living in rural areas. Human and environmental rights campaigners are one focus of a new UNEP/OHCHR agreement.

On 16 August 2019 the UN environment agency (UNEP) and the UN human rights office (OHCHR) signed a landmark new agreement aimed at better protecting vulnerable human and environmental rights defenders and their families, while increasing protection for people and the places where they live, across the world.  The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will strengthen cooperation with OHCHR, as threats to individuals and communities defending their environmental and land rights intensify. Reports suggest that an average of more than three rights defenders were killed every week last year.

“A healthy environment is vital to fulfilling our aspiration to ensure people everywhere live a life of dignity”, said UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen. “We must curb the emerging trend of intimidation and criminalisation of land and environmental defenders, and the use of anti-protest and anti-terrorism laws to criminalise the exercise of rights that should be constitutionally protected.”  “UNEP and the UN Human Rights Office are committed to bringing environmental protection closer to the people by assisting state and non-state actors to promote, protect and respect environmental and human rights. In doing so, we will move towards a more sustainable and just planet,” she added.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said: “Our planet is being recklessly destroyed, and we urgently need stronger global partnerships to take action to save it…We call on leaders and governments to recognise that climate change and environmental degradation severely undermine the human rights of their people, particularly those in vulnerable situations – including the generations of tomorrow.” 

A key part of the new protection agreement is to monitor threats to environmental human rights defenders more closely, develop better defenders’ networks, urge more effective accountability for perpetrators of violence and intimidation, and promote “meaningful and informed participation by defenders and civil society, in environmental decision-making.

Ms. Bachelet said every State needed to be encouraged “to develop and enforce national legal frameworks which uphold the clear linkages between a healthy environment and the ability to enjoy all other human rights, including the rights to health, water, food – and even the right to life…We also strongly encourage greater recognition that the actions and advocacy of environmental human rights defenders are deeply beneficial to all societies.”

[see also the 2014 post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/11/binding-un-treaty-needed-for-protection-of-environmental-human-rights-defenders/%5D

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/08/1044361

Environmental defenders in Alberta, Canada, be warned….oil will get you

July 9, 2019

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Press Progress blog of 3 July 2019 analyses the agressive tone of Alberta‘s Premier Jason Kenney, who talks of “war” on environmental defenders. Civil liberties groups and human rights organizations are warning that his new “war room” is an attempt to intimidate critics and put a chill on free expression rights in the province. Described as a “fully staffed, rapid response” unit mandated to respond to “all the lies” about the oil industry, the $30 million “war room” is part of Kenney’s so-called “fight back strategy” that aims to wage war against environmental groups. Kenney has also indicated he will launch a public inquiry into the activities of environmental groups like the David Suzuki Foundation, while Kenney’s energy minister has promised the government will assemble a team of lawyers to launch lawsuits against environmentalists.

“Talk of a war room, focused on targeting ‘offending’ environmentalists, seems determined to send a clear message,” Amnesty International Canada Executive Director Alex Neve told PressProgress. Cara Zwibel, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Fundamental Freedoms program, agrees the campaign’s stated mission could be “very problematic from a free expression perspective.”

Standing behind Kenney at the press conference was Vivian Krause, a self-described “researcher” who focuses on “the money behind environmental campaigns.” Krause’s research, which is often panned by her critics as a “conspiracy theory,” claims environmental groups funded by the Rockefeller Brothers are secretly working to cap oil production in Alberta.

Also sharing the stage with Krause and Kenney was Tim McMillan, President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Oil Producers (CAPP) as well as Sandip Lalli, President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. Kenney was introduced at the press conference by Robbie Picard, an oil activist who has been involved with groups like Canada Action and Rally for Resources, but better known for creating the “I Love Oilsands” t-shirts. As Maclean’s notes, Picard is known to be “a bit too enthusiastic in his cheerleading” for the oil industry, as well — in a 2018 appearance on Rebel Media, Picard described environmentalists as “terrorists” who should face “six months in jail” for protesting the oil industry.

Jason Kenney’s ‘War Room’ is a Threat to Free Speech, Say Civil Liberties and Human Rights Groups