Posts Tagged ‘right to clean environment’

AFD: How to link human rights and development

July 13, 2022

The French Development Agency (AFD) organised an international conference to consider new ideas and approaches to linking human rights and development

Report by Marc Limon, Executive Director of the Universal Rights Group on July 8, 2022

Against a background of the retreat of human rights worldwide, growing doubts about the ability of the international community to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, growing inequalities, and the ecological and climate crises, on Human Rights Day 2021 (10 December) the French Development Agency (AFD) organised an international conference on ‘Human Rights and Development.’ It brought together 500 actors from the development community, covering both the global North and South, and considered how development actors can play a key role in securing improvements in the enjoyment of human rights while at the same time recharging progress towards the achievement of the SDGs ‘leaving no one behind.’

Key conclusions

Warning of the risk of failure of the 2030 Agenda if development actors do not promote a development model based on human rights, participants unanimously recommended moving away from both a solely economic vision of development and a purely normative approach to human rights. In that regard, they called for more concerted action to enhance development actors’ contribution to the realisation of human rights on the ground, and to develop more robust indicators for measuring the impact of the human rights based approaches (HRBA).

Notwithstanding, several recalled the challenges involved in convincing partners of the value-added of integrating human rights with the development agenda, and recommended undertaking research actions to provide evidence.

Panellists further emphasised that human rights constitute a universal framework that goes beyond the North/South divide and is applicable to all. They noted a strong demand for improvements in the enjoyment of human rights in the global South as evidenced by growing social movements often led by young people. The universal nature of human rights makes it possible to fight against arbitrariness by guaranteeing a minimum essential base for everyone without discrimination. The international corpus of human rights contributes, in this sense, to reducing inequalities, so that everyone can lead a decent and dignified life. This must be reflected in the fiscal resource mobilisation policies of States, but also in their budgetary policies for social investment in health, education and social protection. States and development actors must also address the structural causes of inequality, which include discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, economic status, and minority status, all of which are prohibited under international human rights law. For this reason, development actors are invited to contribute to the collection of reliable data on vulnerable population groups, in order to design projects with a non-discriminatory and inclusive approach.

Speakers also agreed on the need to support civil society and preserve its space. Its role in observing, documenting, and monitoring the implementation of States’ human rights obligations is essential. It is therefore crucial to establish a culture of dialogue between a State/government and civil society when elaborating public policies, and to strengthen the capacity of CSOs to participate effectively. ‘Power should be fluid, distributed throughout society, shared and exercised collectively,’ argued one speaker.

In terms of business and human rights, participants recalled companies’ duty of care to prevent and remedy human rights violations in the course of their activities. At the international level, this duty is based on a voluntary approach which, it was argued, showing signs of strain – few companies actually mobilise vigilance mechanisms in their value chains. Nevertheless, there is a progressive movement towards the adoption of national legislation in countries where multinational companies are headquartered to make it compulsory to draw up and implement vigilance plans that cover the impact of their activities, and those of the actors integrated into their supply or value chains, and covering both human rights and the environment. In this way, the objective is to spread human rights throughout the value chain, starting ‘from the top,’ and to contribute to guaranteeing the enjoyment of human rights of those affected by business activities. However, this raises the challenge of the cost and capacity to implement the principles of the duty of care by all actors in the value chain, in particular those in the Global South. Development actors have a role to play in supporting them. A need was also identified to strengthen the dialogue between legislators in the countries where companies are headquartered and those in which they operate in order to build coherent and complementary legislative frameworks.

Beyond companies’ duty of care, the private sector also plays a key role in contributing to development. Speakers called for multinational companies to be held accountable so that, in addition to respecting human rights, they contribute more directly to reducing inequalities and poverty.

Throughout the conference, the discussions have also highlighted the inseparable links between the realisation of human rights and the protection of the environment. These two goals are not mutually exclusive, as the rights of nature guarantee the enjoyment of human rights. It is thus crucial to promote an approach to development that is not based solely on human rights, but include the rights of all living things. This is especially important, it was noted, for young people and future generations.

In this context, the panellists made several recommendations, including the need to develop and disseminate knowledge about human mobility due to climate change. They recommended supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, and called for investment in social protection and parametric insurance mechanisms to mitigate shocks from loss and damage that are already unavoidable. Development actors were also called upon to finance restoration and rehabilitation mechanisms to remedy non-economic damages such as the loss of cultural heritage or biodiversity.

Finally, participants unanimously agreed that indigenous peoples are key actors in sustainable development. They represent 5% of the world’s population but are the custodians of 80% of the world’s biodiversity. They play a vital role on all continents – in the Amazon alone, they directly influence 48% of the land surface. The protection of the environment cannot and must not be done without them. They should be treated as true co-decision-makers in the management of these spaces and resources, in order to fully respect their free, prior and informed consent, as required under international law. Development actors should therefore seek to empower indigenous peoples by supporting the full enjoyment of their rights.


Synthesis: Conference: “Human Rights and Development” | AFD – Agence Française de Développement

The conference proceedings from the meeting were recently released in both French and English

Green economy and human rights defenders: Provide data, denounce attacks

April 21, 2022

On 21 April 2022 Christen Dobson, Ana Zbona and Andrea Pelliconi of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre wrote a piece entitled: “Safe, legitimate engagement between firms, human rights defenders key to a just transition

..Human rights defenders are vital leaders of a just transition to green economies. They are on the front lines of the climate crisis – and they hold essential information on the risks and harms associated with business actions, which can be used by companies and investors to conduct effective environmental and human rights due diligence to create long-term value.

Yet, these defenders are under sustained attack. In 2021, there were at least 615 attacks against people raising concerns about business-related harms, with nearly 70 per cent of attacks against climate, land and environmental rights defenders. Since January 2015, we have documented more than 3,870 attacks globally, including killings, death threats, arbitrary detention and strategic lawsuits against public participation.

Indigenous peoples, who are at the forefront of protecting biodiversity and our shared planet, experience a disproportionately high level of attacks. Although they comprise approximately 5 per cent of the world’s population, they faced 18 per cent of attacks globally in 2021. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

One of the main drivers of this violence is the failure of companies and investors to engage in safe and legitimate consultation with rights-holders and defenders. This failure stands to derail the fast transition to a zero-carbon economy that we urgently need.

If companies and investors do not listen to people highlighting risks related to their operations, investments, supply chains, and business relationships, or if it is not safe to raise these concerns, they will lose out on critical information needed to mitigate harm and achieving a fast and fair energy transition, essential for averting the climate crisis. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/07/un-experts-urge-eu-to-take-the-lead-on-protecting-human-rights-defenders-in-context-of-business/]

Renewable energy firms guilty too

While companies and investors are increasingly making welcome and necessary commitments to climate action, including promises to achieve net zero by mid-century, many do not have policies expressing zero-tolerance against reprisals, nor do they assess risks to defenders or engage in consultation with them. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/07/clean-energy-will-not-automatically-be-good-for-indigenous-land-defenders/

That’s the case even in the sector most crucial to the transition: our 2021 Renewable Energy Benchmark, we found that of the 15 of the largest global renewable energy companies evaluated, all scored zero on their commitment to respect the rights of human rights and environmental defenders.

The urgently needed global transition to green economies will only be successful if it is sustainable and just. This means respecting the rights of the people at the forefront of protecting our earth and raising the alarm about harmful business practices.

We have seen this failure to secure consent from affected communities prior to starting development projects lead to horrific outcomes. On 30 December 2021, police officers in the Philippines raided an Indigenous village, killing nine leaders. Local groups said that those killed were targeted and red-tagged because of their opposition to the Jalaur Mega Dam construction. Indigenous groups had challenged the project for years saying it would destroy their ancestral domain.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, an Indigenous Zapotec community has been raising concerns about wind farm construction not respecting their rights to self-determination and free, prior, and informed consent. Leaders have faced stigmatisation and harassment. In October 2018, a federal court in Mexico delivered a historic ruling in favour of the community, ordering the Mexican authorities to carry out a consultation at a wind farm operated by a state-owned company based in Europe. In October 2020, the community filed a civil lawsuit in Paris against the company.

Engaging with rights-holders and defenders early on is one of the most effective ways of identifying actual and potential human rights and environmental impacts, while also reducing business risks. It is also their responsibility under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

For human rights due diligence processes to be effective, companies and investors can start by making clear they will not tolerate any attacks to defenders related to their operations, value chains or investments, communicating this publicly and to their suppliers and business partners. Companies should also conduct due diligence across their entire value chains, as the biggest risks and harms to people and planet occur in the lower tiers…

Throughout the entire due diligence process, companies should engage in ongoing consultation with rights-holders and defenders, including prior to and at every stage of business activity, and integrate their input into decision-making.

Effective due diligence also involves conducting human rights and environmental impact assessments. The assessments should map potentially affected rights-holders and land and resource conflicts and by informed by rights-holders and defenders’ expertise

This is not just nice to do. Conducting safe and legitimate human rights and environmental due diligence benefits everyone and will ensure companies are more effectively achieving their climate commitments. As the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights says, defenders need to be seen as key partners who can help businesses identify their human rights impacts, rather than being seen as obstacles to be disposed of.

The urgently needed global transition to green economies will only be successful if it is sustainable and just. This means respecting the rights of the people at the forefront of protecting our earth and raising the alarm about harmful business practices.

https://www.eco-business.com/opinion/safe-legitimate-engagement-between-firms-human-rights-defenders-key-to-a-just-transition/

Clean energy will not automatically be good for indigenous land defenders

April 7, 2022

Emily Pontecorvo a reporter for GRIST published on 6 April 2022 a piece about a new report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre which states that the renewable energy sector is unprepared for the protection of land rights defenders.

In April of last year, José de Jesús Robledo Cruz and his wife Maria de Jesús Gomez Vega were found dead in the desert in Sonora, Mexico. In July, Fernando Vela, a doctor in Coqueta, Columbia, was shot to death by two men on a motorcycle while he was in his truck. In September, Juan Macababbad, an attorney in the Philippines was shot dead outside his home.

In each case, the victims were prominent human rights defenders, known in particular for defending their communities’ natural resources from mining, deforestation, water contamination, and other threats. These were just three of at least 76 such murders that occured in 2021. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/02/human-rights-high-commissioner-bachelet-urges-support-for-environmental-defenders/]

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre tracks attacks on people who protest or otherwise raise concerns about business-related human rights abuses. It has documented more than 3,800 attacks, including killings, death threats, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention, and lawsuits, since January 2015, with 615 occurring in 2021 alone.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/ as well as: https://news.mongabay.com/2022/04/more-than-half-of-activists-killed-in-2021-were-land-environment-defenders/]

Our data shows almost the tip of the iceberg,” Christen Dobson, senior program manager for the BHRRC and an author of the new report. “Many attacks are not publicly reported. And so we know the problem is much more severe than these figures indicate.”

According to the report, human rights defenders who spoke out against mining projects consistently experienced the greatest number of attacks over the past seven years. The authors say this is especially concerning considering the expansion of mineral production required by a transition to clean energy. All those batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines are going to require a lot of cobalt, nickel, zinc, lithium, and other minerals.

We’re already seeing this level of attack, and we’re not seeing major producers of transition minerals have strong policies or practices in place about protecting defenders,” said Dobson. “There’s a real risk there and I think it’s an area that we’re very concerned about.

The report urges investors to publish a human rights policy and require that companies begin disclosing human rights and environmental-related risks. But Dobson said that voluntary actions from companies and investors was not enough. She said there was some momentum building behind mandating that companies report on measures they are taking to respect human rights, including legislation proposed in the European Union and Canada.

“It is concerning to see a vast majority of companies and investors, including major renewable energy companies, do not have policies expressing zero-tolerance against reprisals in their operations, supply chains and business relationships,” said Dobson in a statement. “It’s time for companies and investors to recognise the energy transition cannot be effective if it is not also rights-respecting.”

https://grist.org/international/land-defenders-face-violence-and-repression-clean-energy-could-make-it-worse

World Environment Day cannot do without Human Rights Defenders

June 6, 2013

In the Huffington Post of 6 June 2013 there is an excellent post by Jane Cohen, researcher at Human Rights Watch about the link between the protection of the environment and that of human rights defenders. The whole piece is worth reading but here is the essential message: Read the rest of this entry »