United Nations report highlights risks faced by those protecting the right to water
On October 18, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Léo Heller, presented to the UN General Assembly his thematic report on the impact of mega-projects on the human rights to water and sanitation.
The 17-page The Impact of Mega-Projects on The Human Rights to Water and Sanitation references the role played by human rights defenders:
“The impacts arising from the human rights gaps in the existing regulatory framework, as well as the power imbalance between proponents and those impacted by projects, have spurred the emergence of social conflicts, particularly in the field of the human rights to water and sanitation. Communities affected by such negative impacts protest against mega-projects in various ways ranging from peaceful protest to occupation of the project premises.”
“These situations often generate reactions from the related actors, involving private military and security contractors or public security forces, as well as confrontations with employees working on the project which may lead to physical conflicts. At times, conflicts are also provoked by the inexistent or improper consultation, where the concerns of affected communities are not taken into account. Human rights defenders advocating the rights of those affected by mega-projects have faced harassment, physical assault, bodily injuries, and even death.”
“In addition, several allegations have been made that the implementation of mega-projects have been associated with persecution, judicialization and other forms of attacks against human rights defenders which violate a number of their rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”
Human rights defenders under attack
Global Witness has highlighted, “More than three [land and environmental defenders] were murdered on average every week in 2018, with attacks driven by destructive industries like mining, logging and agribusiness.”
It adds, “This year, our annual report on the killings of land and environmental defenders also reveals how countless more people were threatened, arrested or thrown in jail for daring to oppose the governments or companies seeking to profit from their land.”
Their report notes, “Mining was the worst sector, causing 43 deaths, though deaths related to conflicts over water sources also surged.”
It also highlights the deaths of 17 defenders related to “Water & Dams” in 2018.
Peace Brigades International
Peace Brigades International accompanies human rights defenders in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico who in many instances are threatened for protecting water. Recent PBI-Canada articles related to this include:
To read the longer version of Heller’s report, please see The impact of mega-projects on the human rights to water and sanitation.