Human Rights Defenders Essential for Development

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July 14, 2016
Lobby Letter

(Amsterdam, July 14, 2016) – Development banks should respect human rights in their investments around the world and ensure their activities are not putting human rights and environmental defenders at risk, said SOMO in a joint petition signed by over 150 development, human rights, and environment groups.

Global Call to Ensure Local Communities’ Safe Participation in Bank-financed Projects

Major development banks have long touted the importance of public participation for effective development, the organizations said. But the space for safe and effective participation in development processes has been rapidly shrinking as governments criminalize activities by environmental and human rights activists, adopt restrictions on civil society groups, and allow intimidation and attacks by private businesses or security forces to go unpunished.

Lydia de Leeuw, Researcher at SOMO: “It’s important that IFI’s recognize the impact their developments projects have on human rights. Without human rights and safety there can be no sustainable development. Attacks against human rights defenders are on the rise. We urge IFIs to do everything in their power to promote an enabling environment for public participation, where people can safely express their views on development initiatives that affect them.”

The petition is directed to international financial institutions (IFIs), including the World Bank, African, Asian, European, and Inter-American Development Bank, as well as the newest institutions, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and BRICS New Development Bank.

In March 2016, Berta Cáceres, a renowned indigenous land rights and environmental defender in Honduras, was killed in the middle of the night as she slept in her bed. Two of those facing charges for Cáceres’ murder were employees of a company involved in the construction of the Agua Zarca dam, a project that Cáceres and her organization, Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), have long opposed and campaigned against. The murder sparked a high-profile movement to demand accountability of the Dutch, Finnish, and Central American banks financing Agua Zarca for failure to ensure their investments weren’t fueling human rights abuses.

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