New study examines patterns in the restriction of civil society's scope for action against resource exploitation

Resource and energy demand has increased over the last few decades, with more extraction and land use happening in more countries than ever before and citizens fighting for their rights and working to preserve their livelihoods. The authors of this study traveled to India, South Africa, Mexico, and the Philippines to study projects and talk to civil society activists and organizations on the ground. The resulting analysis provides insights on how to better address and monitor resource and environmental policy projects.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre previously featured the following cases mentioned in the report:

- Posco re steel project in India

- Lapanday Foods Corp. re community struggle against banana plantation in the Philippines

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Article
8 December 2017

Tricky Business: Space for Civil Society in Natural Resource Struggles

Author: Carolijn Terwindt & Christian Schliemann, Heinrich Böll Foundation, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights

Many governments in the Global South have opted to advocate for natural resource exploitation as a pathway to greater socio-economic development. However, this route needs to be challenged by looking at the actual benefits and costs imposed on people and the environment by current practices... [M]any affected communities [...] are calling for greater participation in decision-making and protection of their rights...

...[P]ressures on civil society in the natural resource arena are not an isolated development, but part of a larger, seemingly global trend to cut back civic space...

The study at hand was designed to uncover common patterns and dynamics of restrictions on – and coping strategies adopted by – civil society actors in the specific context of natural resource exploitation. It draws on case studies in India, the Philippines, Mexico, and South Africa...

...[C]ivil society, in coordination with governments and international institutions, has developed a wide range of measures and coping strategies to [...] reclaim space for organizing and speaking out. Lessons learned have been collected in a number of manuals and toolkits, which can serve as guidance to other organizations and communities...

...[P]roactive strategies can push for changing those structures that shape natural resource development. This report addresses three such structuring elements: consultations, business, and law.

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Article
8 December 2017

Tricky business: the race for resources threatens democracy & human rights worldwide

Author: Heinrich Böll Foundation & European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights

The world is currently experiencing an unprecedented, global run on water, land, fossil and mineral deposits, as well as genetic resources. In this race, governments and companies are [...] asserting their interests, citizens’ rights of participation and basic human rights are falling by the wayside and civil society’s scope for action is being massively curtailed. This is documented in “Tricky Business: Space for Civil Society in Natural Resource Struggles”, a study published today by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). According to the study, procedures based on the rule of law and statutory environmental and social standards are suspended if they run contrary to the interests of investors...

...The paper focuses on patterns and dynamics in the curtailment of civil society organizations and activists who speak out against land grabbing and environmental degradation, advocate environmental protection and the fair use of resources, and insist on participation. The study also formulates a series of strategy recommendations for defending and recapturing civil society’s space for action. 

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