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Antigua & Barbuda: UN experts place the health of the environment and wetland at risk by a luxury resort

Antigua & Barbuda: UN experts place the health of the environment and wetland at risk by a luxury resort

GENEVA (2 February 2022) – Barbudas fragile and biodiverse natural site of Palmetto Point, recognised as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention, remains at risk, with serious human rights implications, due to the construction of the Barbuda Ocean Club resort, UN experts* said today. 

In the last few years, more than 85 percent of the world’s wetlands were destroyed. It is important to remember that development on fragile sites is prohibited by human rights and environmental standards as we celebrate World Wetlands Day. They said this includes private tourist infrastructures, such as the Ocean Club Resort. The resort is being built in part of the designated wetland.

The destruction of natural environments, including wetlands and coastal ecosystems, can lead to construction in fragile areas. It can also impact the rights of the local population. This includes the right to a healthy environment, food and sanitation, and the cultural rights of the people who depend on the area’s rich biodiversity for their livelihoods. It is essential to prepare environmental and human rights impact analyses before you begin activities near sensitive ecosystems.

The natural environment at Palmetto Point was altered by the removal in some areas of mangroves. This also damaged habitats of protected fauna and flora, increasing the vulnerability of the islands ecosystems for storms and natural disasters. Experts say that Palmetto Point is the highest point in the region and essential for providing fresh water for Codrington Lagoon. This lagoon hosts a variety of young fish, lobsters, conch, and other species.

Concerns have been raised about the quality of Barbudas’ groundwater. This could be further affected due to sand mining, waste pollution, climate change, and other factors.

Experts stated that in the midst a global climate crisis, and a pandemic it is shocking to see a yacht marina built in an area that is known for its fragile ecosystem. They also have a golf course located on an island that depends on limited groundwater resources. These types of projects are difficult to reconcile with the urgent need to develop sustainable communities.

We urge the Government and project proponents, to use rights-based and natural-based solutions to address the current challenges, including conserving and restoring wetlands.

In 2017, an environment impact assessment was performed in the initial phase. However, it has not been made available for public scrutiny. It is not clear if Barbuda’s population was consulted meaningfully, if they gave their free, prior, and informed consent at every stage of the project, or if recent additions to it such as a yacht marina and a golf course were discussed.

The Escaz Agreement, which Antigua and Barbuda ratified along with 11 other countries from the region in 2020, is at the core of the rights to information as well as public participation. Experts said they are crucial to environmental and human rights impact assessments, and must guide all development processes.

Peace Love and Happiness, which is the company responsible for the project, recently stated that it would hire an independent firm to conduct a human right due diligence assessment and to develop and implement policies to prevent and remedy any human rights impacts from the Barbuda Ocean Club.

Even though it is a delayed step, experts agree that this is a significant first step. They added that human rights standards must be followed in the approval and development related projects in Barbuda.

These issues were raised with Antigua and Barbuda and other stakeholders

ENDS

Mr. David BoydSpecial Rapporteur on the environment and human rights; Ms.
Alexandra Xanthaki, 
Special Rapporteur in relation to cultural rights; Mr. Michael, Fakhri,
Special Rapporteur for the right to food

Mr. Pedro Arrojo Agudo
Special Rapporteur for the human rights to safe drinking waters and sanitation; Mr. Saad AlfarargiSpecial Rapporteur on right to development;

The Special Rapporteurs make up part of what is called the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The largest body of UN Human Rights experts, Special Procedures, is the general name for the Council’s independent fact finding and monitoring mechanisms. They address specific country situations and thematic issues in every part of the globe. Special Procedures’ experts work as volunteers. They are not UN staff and don’t receive a salary. They are independent from any government and can serve in their own capacity.

Contact Ms Frederique Burgque (for more information and media inquiries)frederique.bourque@un.org) or Ms Viktoria Aberg (viktoria.aberg@un.org).

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Media inquiries regarding UN independent experts can be directed to Jeremy Laurence (+41 79 444 7578). jeremy.laurence@un.org)

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