From 24 to 28 October, UN negotiations that could provide a historic opportunity for justice and an end to corporate impunity will resume in Geneva .
The talks are taking place in a critical context of global climate, biodiversity, financial, food and humanitarian crises, for which transnational corporations are largely responsible, but which impact the vulnerable most, mainly people in the Global South. Companies’ operations systematically result in environmental crimes, and the intimidation of activists defending their rights and the environment .
Last week, a community leader of Honduras’ COPINH movement, which has been at the forefront of the grassroots opposition to the controversial Agua Zarca and other hydro projects for many years, suffered yet another assassination attempt . As recently as 3 days ago on 18th October, José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionisio George were murdered in Honduras . José was the president of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguán (MUCA) and Silmer was the leader of La Confianza cooperative in Colón. The murders have been potentially attributed to hired assassins. The structural causes of such violence in Honduras are related to the extreme militarization of all State institutions, the expansion of monoculture as part of international trade agreements and World Bank policies, favouring large corporations, that violate life. People suffer terror and persecution on a daily basis in a context that could be described as a state of emergency. Even though the death penalty is not legal in Honduras, peasants, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders are murdered with impunity.
¨A legally binding instrument to control transnational corporations with respect to human rights and provide victims of corporate abuse with justice is long overdue. What is currently happening in Honduras is just one of the many examples of the systemic rights violations suffered by activists and communities on a daily basis around the world. Transnational companies and their international financiers are responsible for these violations. We call on governments to stand with social movements and affected people worldwide to demand a binding Treaty and engage constructively in this new round of negotiations,¨ said Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth International.
Many transnational corporations are richer and more powerful than the states trying to regulate them. For decades, they have successfully managed to block the emergence of binding regulation through heavy lobbying and corporate capture of key decision-making processes. As a result businesses are rarely held to account and communities and the environment continue to pay the price.
“National laws and court systems are hardly independent and also not respected by transnational oil companies, like Shell, who commit environmental crimes with impunity. Some cases take a life-time to prosecute, and justice delayed is justice denied. Hence the need for a world environmental court that can dispense cases in a timely fashion and with enforcement mechanisms established by a UN binding Treaty.” Godwin Uyi Ojo, executive director of Earth Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
Friends of the Earth International will be joining affected communities from around the world in Geneva from 22-29 October 2016, during the second session of the UN Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. Together, we are calling for an international legally binding treaty to hold transnational corporations to account and end their impunity for human rights abuses and environmental crimes, and to give people access to justice.
Further information and contacts:
Spokespersons available all week in Geneva:
Godwin Ojo, executive director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria / Environmental Rights Action (and member of the executive committee of Friends of the Earth International): +234 8145980171 or gloryline2000[@]yahoo.co.uk
Lucia Ortiz, Economic Justice International Program Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International: + 55 48 99150071 or lucia[@]foei.org
Alberto Villarreal, Trade and Investment Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Latin America & Caribbean: +598 98556360 or comerc[@]redes.org.uy
For general media enquiries:
Ronnie Hall, media contact, press[@]foei.org +44 7967 017281
Friends of the Earth International is the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 75 national member groups and some 2 million members and supporters around the world. We challenge the current model of economic and corporate globalisation, and promote solutions that will help to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.
Notes to the editor
2) Human rights abuses by the biggest companies are rife: Communities losing their homes to palm oil plantations in Indonesia, nine men imprisoned for resisting a Spanish hydro project in Guatemala, a river in Colombia so heavily polluted by a coal mine that local residents can no longer fish there, gas flaring continuing to devastate communities in Nigeria, despite being illegal since 1984. Find out more in Friends of the Earth International’ s official submission to the IGWG second session: https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/UN-Treaty-TNCs-submission-English.pdf
4) Friends of the Earth Latin America and Caribbean’s (ATALC) public statement in protest against the murder of peasant leaders in Honduras, 19th October 2016.