The current COVID 19 context is presenting new challenges and threats for land and environmental rights defenders. From killings of defenders, the abuse of emergency measures to government restrictions on their movements. Communities impacted by negative corporate human rights practices are seeing an increase in the number of licenses being granted to companies as well as companies lobbying for loosened regulations.
How can human rights defenders at risk access the vast range of international instruments available to them? The Human Rights Defenders’ Toolbox provides defenders at risk and vulnerable communities with essential tools for them to advocate, report and tackle the root causes of conflicts originated in the context of business and human rights.
We were joined by international law firm Simmons & Simmons for a live webinar and Q&A session on the 15th June 2020. Chris Owen, a Partner specialising in Business and Human Rights and Victoria Channing, Pro Bono Manager at Simmons & Simmons, along with PBI UK Director Susi Bascon, shared information about the Human Rights Defenders’ Toolbox. Human Rights Defenders Donald Hernandez and Alirio Uribe gave insights into the practical application of the toolbox in the field.
The Human Rights Defenders’ Toolbox comprises a range of legal fact sheets designed to inform and assist human rights defenders working on land rights or business and human rights.
The Toolbox is comprised of 16 fact sheets on different legal topics to be used by HRDs in their daily work. This is the first centralised online resource for rural communities and lawyers.
The aim of the Toolbox is to assist HRDs in identifying which international human rights instruments from across the international human rights spectrum (UN Guiding Principles and beyond) might apply to their cases, how these instruments interlink and, crucially, what practical steps can be taken. Following the launch, dissemination and updating of the toolboox the next stage of the project is training of trainers who can be toolbox organisers and train on the ground defenders on the toolbox.
The fact sheets are organised in three groups and focus on the following topics:
- The obligations of companies to respect human rights, as set out in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (human rights policy statements, human rights due diligence, grievance mechanisms and remediation, use of leverage).
- The obligations of states to develop policy strategies to protect against adverse human rights impacts by business enterprises in conformity with the UNGPs (National Action Plans and their evaluation).
- Advice for HRDs when confronted with trends in repression (Free Prior and Informed Consent, Private military and security companies, Mass tort claims and parent company liability, Environmental hazards and degradation, Operating in conflict affected areas, International displacement and resettlement of communities).
The project seeks to address the fact that, despite the existence of these international principles, gaps in their implementation mean that HRDs confronting corporate interests still face escalating violence. The Toolbox helps to provide them with the resources that might help defenders document, report and expose corporate abuses.