Special Rapporteur calls on businesses to adopt zero-tolerance policy towards attacks on environmental defenders

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Special rapporteur expressed he was extremely worried and appalled by growing number of attacks and murders of environmental defenders and continuous resistance of States to act. The rapporteur called on states and business enterprises to adopt zero-tolerance approach to killing and violence against defenders. The rapporteur also pointed out that the range of actors that stand to gain from hindering the work of defenders exacerbated the  risks  they were facing, and stated that businesses  had  been  involved  in  restricting legitimate  activities  of environmental defenders and in attacks on them, carried out by private security firms on behalf of companies. The report stressed that business  must  respect  the rights of the defenders to express dissent and oppose their activities and ensure their subsidiaries and private security firms and contractors acting on their behalf refrain from harming defenders and restricting their rights.

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Article
25 October 2016

If govts., companies and investors don’t change the way they do business, more environmental activists will die & planet will be exposed to irreversible destruction, says Special Rapporteur

Author: Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

"As the global death toll rises, it’s time for business to protect environmental activists by letting them have a voice", 25 Oct 2016

If governments, companies and investors don’t change the way they do business, then more environmental activists will die and the planet will be exposed to irreversible destruction. This is the urgent message I delivered to the UN General Assembly last week... According to Global Witness, 185 people were murdered in 2015 for denouncing abuses linked to mining, hydroelectric, agribusiness and other extractive industries. These people are known as land and environmental defenders. In many cases the projects these activists objected to were already underway, with authorities and businesses anxious to see a return on investment. Activists and communities were excluded from decisions...and - when they spoke truth to power - they paid with their lives.My new report...advocates a preventative approach. Currently, a mix of public officials, businesses, investors and foreign governments decide how large-scale development projects are designed and implemented. If...environmental defenders were active partners in the design of projects from the very beginning, it would make them less vulnerable to attacks later. It is an approach which lowers risks for investors too, with a greater chance of long-term returns if local tensions and future abuses are avoided and mitigated with the guidance of local defenders.

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Article
25 October 2016

New Blog: Breaking silence: Getting companies, govts. and the UN to speak out to protect defenders

Author: Ella Skybenko & Ana Zbona, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Photo: Sergey Nikiforov is still serving a prison term in strict regime correctional colony

Environmental human rights defenders and other activists that are confronting corporations got a rare moment in the spotlight last week when the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders presented his report on environmental defenders to the UN General Assembly. With the number of attacks and murders of environmental defenders continuing to grow, this attention is welcome, but the silence around the attacks is still all too common....Sergey Nikiforov, an Evenk indigenous people’s leader and environmental rights defender, is serving a prison term in strict regime correctional colony...According to the...villagers...the true reason for his imprisonment was...that he had led...protests against Petropavlovsk’s operations. We invited DalTeploEnergo and Petropavlovsk to respond to the allegations raised... The companies did not respond. We need progressive businesses to stand up to restrictions on civic freedoms and attacks on defenders....We need states to adopt zero-tolerance approach to killing and violence against defenders...answer to Special Rapporteur’s inquiries, and hold perpetrators to account....and put enough resources...into international mechanisms for them to be able to reach wherever...those that stand up to corporate abuse come under threat. 

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Article
21 October 2016

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders presents new report on environmental defenders at UN General Assembly, advocates a 'preventative approach' by states and corporations

Author: Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

"Police and hired assassins are killing land rights defenders. Let's end this violence", 21 Oct 2016

At the UN general assembly on Friday, I will present a report setting out the vital steps that governments, companies and investors must take to tackle and end this hidden crisis. It is a cruel irony that the men and women who are brave enough to fight for the protection of our planet are being assailed, threatened or criminalised. Governments rarely investigate the murders…or punish those responsible...A new approach is needed, to tackle the root causes of the problem…Once a project is under way it can be hard to dampen disputes over land and the environment. Authorities and businesses are eager to see a return on their investment and wield more power than local communities, who are often marginalised…My report advocates a preventative approach, one that puts communities at the centre of decisions about the use of their land... Their input and expertise will shape projects, making them more sustainable, less destructive and ultimately more profitable for the communities, businesses and states involved, as tensions and violence are prevented...

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Article
20 October 2016

New report highlights root causes of violence against environmental defenders, including power imbalance between them, companies & states, and calls on companies to respect and protect defenders

Author: Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

"They spoke truth to power and were murdered in cold blood: Analysis on the situation of environmental human rights defenders and concrete recommendations to better protect them", 20 Oct 2016

In this report, I want to raise alarm about the increasing and intensifying violence against them. I am extremely appalled by the number of killings and attacks and the lack of response from States in front of such situation...This report is dedicated to the heroic activists, who have...defended the rights of their communities to a safe and healthy environment, to a future with dignity and respect, and to their traditional land and livelihood. They spoke truth to power, and were murdered in cold blood...I wish to convey to Member States that the killing of EHRDs is only the tip of the iceberg. I call on States to address the disturbing trend of increasing violence, intimidation, harassment and demonization of the brave individuals and groups who strive to defend and promote environmental and land rights...One of the systemic causes of conflicts around environmental rights is the imbalance of power between States, companies and EHRDs....[I]t is urgent that the international community, regional communities, States, IFIs, business enterprises and other actors urgently and publicly adopt a zero-tolerance approach to the killings and violent acts against EHRDs, and immediately launch policies and mechanisms to empower and protect them.

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