Last week the European Parliament’s legal affairs (JURI) committee adopted its position on the proposed EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. Amid strong pressure, the text is a significant step towards ensuring mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence across the full value chain. It includes several important improvements and goes a long way towards aligning with the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
However, as organizations working closely with Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) across the globe, we are concerned that the text, compared to the European Parliament (EP) Rapporteur’s draft, the human rights, development and environment committees’ opinions and other positions, constitutes a missed opportunity to explicitly recognise and protect defenders as affected and legitimate stakeholders.
Defenders play a critical role in protecting human rights and the environment, but their work exposes them to enormous risks, too often resulting in reprisals and tragically the loss of life.
In 2022, Front Line Defenders and its HRD Memorial partners documented the death of 401 defenders worldwide – 48% of whom were HRDs defending land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights.
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) documented over 4,700 attacks on defenders related to business activities since 2015, which highlights this is a salient human rights issue in many business sectors. In a report released on Wednesday, BHRRC shows that 555 attacks took place in 2022 alone, revealing that on average more than 10 defenders were attacked every single week for raising legitimate concerns about irresponsible business activity. Indigenous defenders and communities continue to face disproportionate risks. Additionally, BHRRC data shows that approximately 1/3 of all attacks in 2020 stem from a lack of consultation or the failure to secure the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of affected indigenous peoples and affected local communities with customary tenure rights. In many cases, attacks can be traced directly back to business actors: for example, strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) are one well-documented tactic used by businesses to stop people raising concerns.
At the same time, while there is growing business acknowledgement of HRDs as affected stakeholders, the particular risks and impacts they face are still not sufficiently recognised by many EU companies. The 2021 UN Working Group on Business & Human Rights’ authoritative guidance clearly states that lead firms may cause, contribute to or be linked to such impacts across their value chains.
In light of the above, the final JURI text, despite promising elements regarding stakeholder engagement, reference to the Aarhus Convention and FPIC, as well as removal of some obstacles to access to justice, misses out on covering human rights defenders more comprehensively and explicitly beyond ‘other stakeholders’ to be consulted. There must be no ambiguity regarding the urgency of engaging with HRDs and ensuring their protection from retaliation and other adverse impacts as affected stakeholders.
A recent Front Line Defenders report documented three case studies – from Colombia, India and Uganda – demonstrating how HRDs and their communities would be better protected by a strong EU Directive that explicitly places defenders at its core.
For ILC, the protection of land and environmental defenders remains a top priority. The draft EU law is a huge step forward for communities across the globe. But to be effective it must be explicit in protecting Human Rights Defenders and how one can enforce those rights in case of violationsEva Maria Anyango Okoth, HRD from Kenya, and the Senior Program Officer for Africa at the International Land Coalition (ILC)
As the negotiations move to the next step, the plenary vote in the European Parliament and then the trilogue negotiations, we reaffirm that to fully protect and recognise HRDs, it is critical that the legislation avoids ambiguities in protections and retains strong language that had been included in earlier drafts, including the EP Rapporteur’s proposal and the opinions from the human rights, development and environment committees. At a minimum we recommend that the final text of the Directive as agreed by co-legislators:
- explicitly includes Human Rights Defenders as affected stakeholders in the corresponding stakeholder definition and covers them as such in provisions on mandatory stakeholder engagement, grievance mechanisms and non-retaliation;
- similarly recognises organizations protecting human rights and the environment in the same definition and provisions; and
- includes the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which breaks down key human rights for the specific context of defenders, in the Annex, along with important additional references e.g. to the Escazú Agreement.
We also point to concerns outlined by civil society organizations about the text’s remaining shortcomings regarding access to justice and other areas, both for defenders and all other rightsholders.
Almost 2,000 land and environmental defenders were killed between 2012 and 2022 for simply standing up to protect our planet and us all from the accelerating climate crisis.
For the past 11 years, Global Witness has documented and denounced waves of threats, violence and killings of land and environmental defenders across the world, and 2022 marks the beginning of our second decade documenting lethal attacks. The world has changed dramatically since we started documenting these in 2012. But one thing that has not changed is the relentlessness of the killings.
Last year, at least 177 defenders lost their lives for protecting our planet, bringing the total number of killings to 1,910 since 2012. At least 1,390 of these killings took place between the adoption of the Paris Agreement on 12 December 2015 and 31 December 2022.
On average, a defender was killed every other day in 2022, just as was the case in 2021. Although the overall figure is slightly lower last year than in 2021, when we recorded 200 killings, this does not mean that the situation has significantly improved. The worsening climate crisis and the ever-increasing demand for agricultural commodities, fuel and minerals will only intensify the pressure on the environment – and those who risk their lives to defend it. Increasingly, non-lethal strategies such as criminalisation, harassment and digital attacks are also being used to silence defenders.
The situation in Latin America remains particularly concerning. In 2022, the region accounted for 88% of killings – an ever-growing majority of the world’s cases. A total of 11 of the 18 countries where we documented cases in 2022 were in Latin America.
Colombia tops the global ranking with 60 murders in yet another dire year for the country. This is almost double the number of killings compared to 2021, when 33 defenders lost their lives. Once again, Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant communities, small-scale farmers and environmental activists have been viciously targeted. Yet there is hope; when Gustavo Petro, the first leftist president in contemporary Colombia, took office in August 2022, he promised social transformation and enhanced protection for defenders. No government had committed to that before.
In Brazil, 34 defenders lost their lives, compared to 26 in 2021. Defenders in Brazil faced relentless hostility from former president Jair Bolsonaro’s government, whose policies have opened up the Amazon to exploitation and destruction, have undermined environmental institutions and have fuelled illegal invasions of indigenous lands.
Mexico, the country with the highest number of killings in 2021, saw a significant drop from 54 murders in 2021 to 31 in 2022. At least 16 of those killed were Indigenous peoples, and four were lawyers. The overall situation in Mexico remained dire for land and environmental defenders, and non-lethal attacks – including intimidation, threats, forced displacement, harassment and criminalisation – continued to seriously hamper their work.
With 14 murders in 2022, Honduras has the world’s highest per-capita killings. The country’s first-ever female president, Xiomara Castro, has committed to protecting defenders. Yet early trends from 2023 point to ongoing rife violence, with reports of killings and non-lethal attacks across the country.
Read more: globalwitness
Africa Climate Summit 2023 Set to Surrender the Continent to Green Colonialism
—FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—
August 30, 2023; 12:00 AM PDT
- Officials from African governments, international institutions, and the private sector will converge at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, September 4 – 6, 2023, to shape the course of Africa’s climate action.
- With carbon offset schemes and tree plantations set to take center stage — despite their devastating impact along with the corruption and fraud that plague voluntary carbon markets — the Oakland Institute denounces the alarming direction taken by the event.
- An examination of the African Forestry Impact Platform (AFIP), bankrolled by European development finance institutions, Japanese oil interests, and an Australian investment firm, lays bare the green colonialism that President Ruto of Kenya is promoting on the continent.
Oakland, CA — With carbon offset schemes and tree plantations set to take center stage at the Africa Climate Summit (ACS) and Africa Climate Week (ACW) — despite their devastating social and environmental impacts and the prevailing corruption and fraud within the voluntary carbon markets — a new report from the Oakland Institute, Green Colonialism 2.0: Tree Plantations and Carbon Offsets in Africa, denounces the alarming direction taken by the Summit. Starting on September 4, 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya, the two events aim to establish a common position for Africa on the climate crisis for the upcoming COP 28 conference in Dubai, slated for December 2023.
The outcome will have significant implications, given the ACS and ACW — both organized by the government of Kenya — are expected to shape the trajectory of climate action for the continent. The focus and intentions of the events, centered on “leveraging” Africa’s abundant “assets” to drive “green growth and climate finance solutions,” raise serious concerns. “This approach only paves the way for further resource extraction while sidelining the rights and interests of local and Indigenous communities,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.
Bankrolled by European development finance institutions, Japanese oil interests, and an Australian investment firm, the African Forestry Impact Platform (AFIP), examined in the report, exemplifies the green colonialism that President Ruto of Kenya is promoting on the continent — opening the door for more extraction of Africa’s resources. Despite AFIP’s claim of promoting “nature-based solutions,” a troubling pattern of exploitation and greenwashing underscores its investments, stakeholders, and financial backers. AFIP’s first acquisition is Green Resources, a Norwegian plantation forestry and carbon credit company notorious for its history of land grabbing, human rights violations, and environmental destruction across Uganda, Mozambique, and Tanzania.
Kenya’s promotion of voluntary carbon markets overlooks their fundamental flaws. Over the span of more than two decades, they have miserably failed to reduce carbon emissions, and instead wreaked social havoc by causing forced evictions, loss of livelihoods, and violence. Conflicts of interest, fraud, and speculation plague these markets while the expansion of carbon offset schemes and tree plantations results in expropriation of community lands to generate profits for investors. Far from benefiting Africa, the expansion of carbon markets sustains the status quo of resource exploitation, greenhouse gas pollution, and North/South power imbalances.
“The ACS and ACW represent a pivotal moment. African leaders have a historic opportunity to reject the false solutions that perpetuate the same exploitative model of colonialism that has fueled this environmental catastrophe. Instead, they must listen to the calls of over 400 African civil society organizations(link is external) and prioritize real solutions that account for historical responsibility, uphold the rights of Indigenous and local communities, and pave the way for an equitable and just transition. African people deserve climate justice, not more extractivism,” concluded Mittal.
African Development Bank’s Push for large scale Agriculture in Africa will spark more concerns over Food Sovereignty and Environmental Impacts.
Panel at the second international summit on food production in Dakar, 10 February 2023, from left to right: Allan Kasujja, BBC (moderator); Admassu Tadesse, Trade and Development Bank; Danladi Verheijen, Verod Capital; M. Malick Ndiaye, Banque Agricole; Dr. Olagunju Ashimolowo, ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development; M. Wagner Albuquerque de Almeida, International Finance Corporation. Source: African Development Bank Group.
“Agriculture must become Africa’s new oil,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), at the inauguration of the “Feed Africa: Food Sovereignty and Resilience” (Dakar 2) summit, held in late January 2023 in Senegal. He spoke to 34 African heads of state and 70 ministers, representatives of the European Commission, the United States and several European countries, as well as multilateral institutions such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
While one of the main objectives of the Bank at the summit was to attract private financing for its projects, the intervention of the director of the Nigerian private equity fund Verod Capital explains the challenge: “I know that we talk about the future of Africa as being that of smallholder farmers, but (…), it is really difficult to experience governance at this level. Smallholder farmers are not the most efficient enterprises. Their bargaining power is limited, they have less money to invest in the infrastructure needed for more efficient agriculture and to get their products to market (…). So, we need bigger businesses where we can deploy capital. I think it will attract more private capital. » Verod is one of the 70 private equity funds in which the AfDB is a shareholder.
In financial terms, the Bank has a certain weight in the continent. It currently has USD 240 billion to invest and a portfolio of USD 56.6 billion already invested. The main sectors covered by this portfolio are: transport (27%), electricity (20%), finance (18%) and agriculture (13%).
Often these investments lead to conflicts with affected local communities. According to the Environmental Justice Atlas, the Bank is involved in at least 14 ongoing social and environmental conflicts. It is in this context that social movements and women’s groups are preparing an African civil society campaign against the AfDB.
So how does the Bank work? Which actors benefit the most? What agricultural model is it promoting? And what role does it play in relation to the struggles for food sovereignty in Africa?
Dakar 2 and the Era of Pacts
Among the “successes” of Dakar 2 claimed by the AfDB is the agreement to implement the “Food and Agricultural Supply Pacts” for 40 countries for the next 5 years. The African Union has declared its strong support for this initiative.
A first reading of the pacts surprises by the lack of care taken in their drafting. For example, the pacts of Burundi and Cape Verde are incomplete, and that of Togo does not make it possible to know whether it concerns this country, Niger or Madagascar. In others, like that of Cameroon, certain parts of the text are copied several times. Despite the supposed importance of these initiatives in attracting funding from the private sector and development banks and agencies, the total cost of the projects is unclear. Our conservative estimate of the total cost is around USD 65 billion.
Far from promoting agro-biodiversity, which is Africa’s wealth, the pacts aim to promote mainly corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and palm oil. The aim is to increase their yields through the industrialisation of “value chains”, which will extend to livestock, dairy and fisheries. To do this, the pacts will promote mechanisation, certified seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, often via tax exemption on imports and other types of subsidies.
Throughout the summit it was repeated that 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa. This is why the expansion of cultivated area is strongly on the agenda in the pacts and covers tens, hundreds of thousands or even millions of hectares, depending on the country. For example, under the Tanzania pact, only 23% of the land available for agriculture would be cultivated. The document proposes prioritising the production of wheat, avocado, market garden produce and sunflower. For this, it refers to the need to expand the agricultural area by more than two million hectares by 2025, in particular through a “transfer” of land currently owned by the village councils. The government is reportedly already identifying and acquiring land for industrial agriculture, installing irrigation infrastructure, an agreement with the “Building Better Tomorrow” initiative.
The provision of open trade policies aimed at attracting investment, especially from the private sector, is also mentioned in the pacts, often in the form of very problematic public-private partnerships. Among other policies aimed at attracting investment, the Kenya pact refers to the absence of restrictions on the repatriation of earnings and capital. It is also worrying that the pacts are based on failed agro-industrial programs. This is the case, for example, of that of Gabon, which specifies that the implementation will be based “on the institutional mechanism already existing and set up by the support project for the GRAINE program”. This program was entrusted to a public-private partnership between the Gabonese government and the multinational Olam in 2015. It has been denounced by the affected communities for having led to the grabbing of thousands of hectares by oil palm plantations.
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