The world's growing population and economies—and soaring demands for energy—are driving increased demand for natural resources, especially oil, gas and minerals. For many countries, the development of these and other natural resources is seen as the most promising path to a better future. Communities often have great expectations that the discovery of natural resources and arrival of foreign companies will bring jobs, economic development, and better access to health care, education and water. However, this expectation is too often replaced by an overwhelming sense of injustice. Communities ultimately have little or no say in the processes that determine if and how their rich lands will be exploited. They don't see their lives improve but instead witness environmental degradation and sinking standards of living accompanied by dangerous work conditions, health issues and disease. Their lands are expropriated and violence, conflict and insecurity increase.

As a result, grave human rights abuses can proliferate in these resource-rich communities, who are often among their countries’ poorest, vulnerable and marginalized, and who are without the means or knowledge to assert and defend their rights. It is in support of these resource-rich communities that Global Rights partners with local civil society organizations to address economic and social rights violations, especially those involving women, who are disproportionately affected. We work with our partners to monitor and document violations, and design and implement legal and advocacy strategies to protect and empower communities. Our rights-based approach is pragmatic, as we support dialogue among communities, companies, and governments to find common ground that supports the realization of communities’ rights.

Global Rights’ Natural Resources and Human Rights program was launched in 2008 with field visits to five countries: Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea. Our findings enabled us to isolate social injustices that local civil society organizations wished to tackle or had begun to tackle with limited success. Subsequently, we partnered with local civil society organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Guinea and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) to monitor violations in natural resource exploitation and train them on the content of economic, social and cultural rights. By 2011 and with Global Rights' support, our partners released reports on human rights abuses in their countries.

Currently, our natural resources and human rights projects operate from our country offices in Uganda and Nigeria, as well as out of our main office in Washington. In Uganda and Nigeria, Global Rights is working to increase the knowledge of civil society, host communities, industry leaders, and government officials about the human rights implications of the extractive industries that are, in part, fueling Africa’s current economic growth. These industries require security arrangements that run the risk of compromising human rights among populations living in the midst of this development. We are working to promote the incorporation of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPs) as a fundamental element in government agendas and business strategies.

In Zamfara State, Nigeria, in 2011, Global Rights launched a project that seeks remedies for the tragic consequences of unregulated gold mining. More than 400 children and young adults have died from acute lead poisoning. We are developing a guide for solid mineral mining in Nigeria that will help communities understand roles and responsibilities with regard to artisanal gold mining. Global Rights has submitted a petition to the National Human Rights Commission on behalf of communities in Zamfara State to demand accountability from government for human rights violations arising from the lead poisoning disaster.

Resources

Learning Module for African NGOs on Access to Remedy and Recourse Mechanisms for Business-Related Human Rights Abuses (September 2013) | English | French

Africa Regional Training Workshop: Business & Human Rights, London, 8-10 October 2012

Artisanal Mining in Zamfara State, Nigeria: Actualizing Human Rights through Good Governance in Natural Resources Management (2012)  English

My Right to Demand Change: A Practical Guide to Public Participation, Community Empowerment and Advocacy Concerning Natural Resources Exploitation and Human Rights Violations (2011)  | English | French

 

*Photo by Maria Koulouris