The Caribbean countries are being urged to respect and defend defenders of the environment and land. Businesses are also being asked to respect human rights in all activities as the global community observes International Mother Earth Day (Friday)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Latin American and Caribbean branches of the Office of the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner (OHCHR), and the IACHRs Special Reporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights, made a joint statement that defenders play an important role in protecting human rights and the environment.
They continue to face violations of their rights, particularly women, Afro-descendant and indigenous leaders, as well as their communities, the groups stated in a statement. They also noted that these risks are high when defenders express concern over the impact of certain business activity on land or territory.
According to OHCHR estimates on a global level, almost three of four murders of defenders human rights or the environment occur in Latin America or the Caribbean.
It stated that there have been instances of physical assaults, threats, intimidation and stigmatization against environmental defenders and communities. There have also been specific gender-based attacks against women who are environmental protectors.
These three organizations are also concerned about the inappropriate use judicial and administrative actions as a tool for criminalizing and silence environmental defenders. They say that they can target whole groups without ensuring individual accountability.
They claimed to have received information about the alleged involvement in murders, threats, or criminalization of people who were opposed to their business operations in defense the environment.
It is the state that is responsible for investigating, preventing and prosecuting all human rights violations against environmental activists, and for providing full reparations to anyone who is convicted.
In consultation with human rights defenders, states must immediately adopt and implement effective measures to stop these violations and promote and enforce corporate accountability for respecting human Rights.
They stated that businesses play a vital role in socio-economic development.
They pointed out that many business stakeholders in Latin America have launched initiatives to incorporate responsible corporate behavior in their activities.
The OHCHR, the IACHR, and the Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, and Environmental Rights stated that they are urging states to adopt policies to promote respect for and protect the rights and interests of environmental defenders. They also encourage culture change in the business sector to recognize the work of defenders.
All of this would be in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and also the report Business and Human Rights Inter-American Standards published at the IACHRs Special Reporteurship on Economic, Cultural, and Environmental Rights.
It is worth mentioning that the Escaz Agreement can be used to prevent conflict by increasing access to information and participation in environmental matters. The Escaz Agreement is a landmark because it emphasizes protection for defenders, and their role. Its spirit reminds us that to protect the environment we must first protect those who defend it.
All three organizations commended the states that ratified Escaz Agreement. They praised their leadership in the search of new tools at the national, regional and global levels.
They also urge countries to the agreement to work towards its timely and effective implementation. They also called on those states that have not yet signed or ratified the agreement to do so. (CMC)