Human rights organisations address Earth Summit leaders
Global Witness claims that killings of campaigners and journalists, committed to protection of the world's natural resources, has risen dramatically over the past three years.
The UK-based organisation called on leaders gathered at the Rio Earth Summit to " set up systems to monitor and counter the rising violence, which in many cases involves governments and foreign corporations, and to reduce the consumption pressures that are driving development into remote areas."
In a joint statement, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also pointed out that few delegates who attended the first Earth Summit in 1992 "have followed the Rio Principles, and progress on environmental issues has been limited."
The two groups specifically condemn "human rights abuses in the context of infrastructure projects pursued in the name of development, the operation of extractive industries that have pushed indigenous peoples off their traditional lands, and development policies that have resulted in forced evictions of some of the poorest people."
Environmental activists 'being killed at rate of one a week'
Death toll of campaigners involved in protection of forests, rivers and land has almost doubled in three years
By Jonathan Watts
19 June 2012
Rio de Janeiro - The struggle for the world's remaining natural resources is becoming more murderous, according to a new report that reveals that environmental activists were killed at the rate of one a week in 2011.
The death toll of campaigners, community leaders and journalists involved in the protection of forests, rivers and land has risen dramatically in the past three years, said Global Witness.
Brazil - the host of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development - has the worst record for danger in a decade that has seen the deaths of more than 365 defenders, said the briefing, which was released on the eve of the high-level segment of the Earth Summit.
The group called on the leaders at Rio to set up systems to monitor and counter the rising violence, which in many cases involves governments and foreign corporations, and to reduce the consumption pressures that are driving development into remote areas.
"This trend points to the increasingly fierce global battle for resources, and represents the sharpest of wake-up calls for delegates in Rio," said Billy Kyte, campaigner at Global Witness.
The group acknowledges that their results are incomplete and skewed towards certain countries because information is fragmented and often missing. This means the toll is likely to be higher than their findings, which did not include deaths related to cross-border conflicts prompted by competition for natural resources, and fighting over gas and oil.
Brazil recorded almost half of the killings worldwide, the majority of which were connected to illegal forest clearance by loggers and farmers in the Amazon and other remote areas, often described as the "wild west".
Among the recent high-profile cases were the murders last year of two high-profile Amazon activists, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo. Such are the risks that dozens of other activists and informers are now under state protection.
Unlike most countries on the list, however, the number of killings in Brazil declined slightly last year, perhaps because the government is making a greater effort to intervene in deforestation cases.
The reverse trend is apparent in the Philippines, where four activists were killed last month, prompting the Kalikasan People's Network for Environment to talk of "bloody May".
Though Brazil, Peru and Colombia have reported high rates of killing in the past 10 years, this is partly because they are relatively transparent about the problem thanks to strong civil society groups, media organisations and church groups - notably the Catholic Land Commission in Brazil - which can monitor such crimes. Under-reporting is thought likely in China and Central Asia, which have more closed systems, said the report. The full picture has still to emerge.
Last December, the UN special rapporteur on human right defenders noted: "Defenders working on land and environmental issues in connection with extractive industries and construction and development projects in the Americas ... face the highest risk of death as result of their human rights activities."
Rio +20: Anchor sustainable development in human rights
Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch statement
12 June 2012
"Unless governments as well as businesses and international institutions stop sacrificing human rights at the altar of development, marginalization, discrimination, and injustice will continue unabated." - Savio Carvalho, Director of Amnesty International's Demand Dignity Campaign
World leaders at conference to address need for ‘green economy'
World leaders have a once in a generation chance to create a meaningful link between sustainable development and human rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today in a joint statement targeting Environment and Foreign Affairs ministers gathering in Rio.
Heads of state, government officials, and nongovernmental actors will meet on June 20 to 22, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
They are there to take stock of progress towards commitments made at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development which resulted in the Rio Principles and ‘Agenda 21', a blueprint for global, national, and local action on a wide range of environmental and development issues.
Few countries have followed the Rio Principles, and progress on environmental issues has been limited.
"World leaders in Rio should ensure that sustainable development is grounded in human rights," said Jan Egeland, deputy executive director at Human Rights Watch. "It is encouraging that the new draft for the outcome document explicitly refers to human rights, but it doesn't go far enough to ensure that those rights are protected."
Economic development initiatives that do not incorporate human rights obligations and principles can deepen marginalization, discrimination, and injustice.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented human rights abuses in the context of infrastructure projects pursued in the name of development, the operation of extractive industries that have pushed indigenous peoples off their traditional lands, and development policies that have resulted in forced evictions of some of the poorest people.
In the wake of the Arab Spring, we cannot deny the importance of free expression, association, and assembly, equal access to information and to transparent processes, civic participation, and social accountability for sustainable development, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch added.
Sustainable development must also recognize the relationship between environmental sustainability and human rights.
Human rights monitoring bodies and international, regional, and national courts are increasingly recognizing environmental damage as a cause in human rights violations and have firmly established state responsibility with respect to environmental protection.
Human Rights Watch has documented violations of the health rights of vulnerable groups including children when they have been exposed to toxic chemicals in the context of mining, industrial production, and agriculture.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on countries around the world to:
- Re-affirm all states' legal obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights, which are essential for sustainable development.
- Re-affirm that development policies, projects, and practices must reflect states' human rights obligations and that technical and financial assistance must be consistent with human rights obligations.
- Ensure that international financial institutions, like the World Bank, only approve projects that have been subject to effective assessment of potential impacts on human rights and are designed to mitigate any human rights risks that might have been identified by such assessments.
- Re-affirm the right of access to information. Commit to enabling effective participation through transparent processes and by protecting the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.
- Re-affirm the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth disability, or other status and commit to work with renewed vigor to ensure that sustainable development aid reaches the most marginalized members of society.
- Actively promote women's rights and gender equality through sustainable development policies, which include policies that ensure access to reproductive health services and information.
- Re-affirm the human rights of indigenous peoples.
- Re-affirm that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, wherever they operate, to exercise due diligence to assess, prevent, and mitigate their impact on human rights and the environment, and to provide an accessible remedy if abuses occur.
Amnesty International's Director of Demand Dignity Campaign Savio Carvalho said, "Unless governments as well as businesses and international institutions stop sacrificing human rights at the altar of development, marginalization, discrimination, and injustice will continue unabated."