It is in a highly tense context that the APRODEH-FIDH international seminar on business and human rights opened on Monday in Lima, Peru. Over the last weeks, conflicts around mining projects have been on the rise. In one year, those conflicts involving a disproportionate use of violence by the police against local communities, caused 15 deaths and left many injured. “The issues addressed in this seminar are closely linked to the current domestic situation in Peru. We are deeply worried by the evolution of some conflicts linked to transnational corporations’ activities”, stated the Chief of Cabinet of the Minister of Environment of Peru, in the opening session of the seminar, adding that the conclusions of the international seminar will feed the policies being discussed in Peru.
The international seminar brought together representatives from human rights groups from all continents, Peruvian civil society, government officials and members of Parliament from Peru, Embassies as well as representatives of transnational corporations.
Over the last ten years, the international framework on corporate responsibility has developed as a result of demands of society for greater accountability of non-state actors. In parallel, the growing economic influence of BRICS countries like China and Brazil raises new challenges, corporate abuses remain widespread and repression of those protesting against investment projects continues. While recent developments such as the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles have opened doors for dialogue an pushed the business and human rights agenda forward, there is currently no consensus on what such norms truly mean and how they should be implemented, leaving room for diverging interpretations. The need to pay attention to the right of victims to integral reparations was highlighted as one issue too often overlooked and misunderstood.
Among strategies to bridge those gaps, participants discussed the development of a more constraining legal framework, for example through the legislation of home states of multinational companies regulating their activities abroad. “We will have to adapt our practice to this new reality”, declared a representative of the extractive industry company AngloAmerican, referring to the Dodd-Franck Act in the United States. “We will spend the next two days in refining strategies to hold companies accountable for violations of human rights and the environment. More than ever, the Peruvian context shows us that tensions between development and human rights at all costs can no longer be ignored”, concluded Francisco Soberon, Director of Aprodeh, FIDH member organization in Peru.