Globalisation & Human Rights

The world’s inequalities are constantly growing : millions of people continue to suffer from forced evictions, inadequate access to education and basic health treatment and appalling working conditions. Economic actors, especially multinational corporations, have acquired increased power in the past decades. Liberalisation of trade and investment flows, protection granted to foreign investors, the high degree of dependency between the world’s economies but also foreign debt and policies of international financial institutions have restrained the ability of States to uphold their human rights obligations. Human rights defenders and those participating in protests denouncing corporate abuse are being increasingly targeted. Communities struggle to obtain justice for violations of economic, social and cultural rights , even more so when involving multinational companies that operate across national borders.

FIDH advocates for the full recognition and justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights, and campaigns for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Together with its member organisations, FIDH works with communities throughout the world to ensure corporate accountability and improve victims’ access to justice through documentation, advocacy and litigation. FIDH calls on States to take their human rights obligations into account when they negotiate trade and investment agreements with third countries and promotes respect for human rights and the environment in investment.

There are several gaps in the international human rights framework to prevent, sanction and remedy abuses caused by the activities of business enterprises. Access to justice remains particularly difficult for the majority of victims. That’s why FIDH is engaged in the United Nation process for the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of corporations in relation to human rights (see Treaty process)

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  • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

    FIDH advocates for the full recognition, effective realisation and justiciability of economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights. Together with its member organisations, FIDH documents violations of ESC rights, from forced evictions to labour rights violations in global supply chains or shipbreaking yards.

    FIDH supports victims by using international and regional complaint and adjudication mechanisms such as the European Committee of Social
    Rights. With the OP-ICESCR coalition, FIDH campaigns for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which enables victims to access a remedy mechanism at the UN level.

  • Business and Human Rights

    Private actors, in particular transnational corporations, have widely benefited from globalisation and have accumulated tremendous power. However, this power has not been matched with corresponding obligations. Businesses continue to cause or contribute to human rights and environmental abuses through their activities, both at home and across borders. Communities affected by corporate activities struggle to obtain justice and reparation.

    FIDH calls on States and economic actors to ensure the export of goods or services, investments and development projects – such as large-scale mining, infrastructure projects or the sale of surveillance technologies – do not lead to human rights abuses and truly benefit local populations. FIDH documents cases of corporate-related human rights violations, including through the use of a community-based human rights impact assessment methodology.

    FIDH turns to judicial and non-judicial remedy mechanisms to ensure accountability and access to justice for affected communities. FIDH advocates for stronger legal frameworks to prevent, sanction and remedy abuses caused by the activities of business enterprises. At the UN level, FIDH is engaged in the United Nation process for the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of corporations in relation to human rights (see Treaty process).

    Since 2000, FIDH has a cooperation agreement with global retail group Carrefour (hyperlink to page about partnership, under construction) with a view to improving working conditions and respect for human rights in its global supply chain. FIDH sits on the Advisory Board of the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP).

    FIDH is a member of ESCR-Net, OECD Watch, CAUSE, the ETO Consortium and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. At the European level, FIDH is a steering group member of ECCJ.

  • Human rights and environmental rights

    Human rights and environmental protection are interdependent.

    As affirmed by the former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, professor John Knox, « while a safe, clean and healthy environment is essential for the enjoyment of human rights, the exercise of human rights including the right to freedom of expression, education, participation and remedy is vital to the protection of the environment ». The report presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2018 requested the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution formally recognizing the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as part of international human rights law. As the current UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. David R. Boyd recalls, while the right to a healthy environment has been recognized by a majority of States in their constitutions, legislation, and various regional treaties to which they are parties, this right has not yet been recognized as such by the UN. FIDH believes that the time has come for the UN to formally recognize the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

    Over the past 10 years, FIDH has worked to reaffirm the relevance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the current debate about climate change. Environmental damages directly threaten, among others, the right to life, health, water, development, housing, work, culture and the rights of indigenous people (see for example FIDH’s position on the COP21 negotiations). Affected populations have the right to be protected from environmental degradation resulting from pollution , deforestation, desertification, fires and floods caused by climate change.

    In Honduras, the acceleration of energy supply transformation which is carried out in an erratic and irresponsible manner risks causing irreversible harm to protected areas in the Pico Bonito National Park and to the Cuyamel River micro basin, the main source of water for nearly 7000 people in the San Francisco municipality, Atlántida. See our report here.

    In South Africa, the decline of the mining industry entails huge environmental and human rights impacts due to the lack of appropriate accountability of both companies and public institutions. The sudden closure of the Blyvoorzicht mine has left a community of 6000 people to fend for themselves.

    Despite the climate crisis, oil projects are still moving forward around the world. Among the most ambitious is a proposal led by Total to extract some of Africa’s biggest reserves under Lake Albert and within the Murchison Falls National Park and ship it to international markets through the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). As documented by FIDH and FHRI, in addition to loss of land and livelihoods, communities are concerned that oil development will further contaminate their water, contribute to noise and air pollution, negatively impact their health, and degrade ecosystems in protected areas.

    Europe itself is not immune from negative impacts on human health and the environment generated by economic activities, as demonstrated by the report presented today on the human rights violations caused by the environmental disaster of the ILVA steel plant in Italy.

    In all these cases, local communities are on the frontline, fighting for the defense of their right and the rights of nature to exist, thrive and evolve as opposed to merely being property for humans to exploit.
    Their struggles affect everyone, because a safe, clean, and healthy environment is of the utmost importance for the respect and exercise of human rights for all.

    However, State and corporate actors that contribute to climate change, environmental degradation and human rights abuses continue to benefit from impunity.

    FIDH is mobilized to fight impunity to hold States and business accountable for environmental degradation

    To hold corporate actors to account for their contribution to the climate crisis FIDH and its member organisations have developped a coordinated cross-regional strategic line of action.

    Following the adoption of a resolution in 2019 recognizing the interdependence between human rights and the protection of the environment initiated by 8 organizations from 3 continents, FIDH committed to work with key stakeholders on a range of actions to defend the rights of affected communities and empower its members engaged on this issue, with the aim of strengthening the legal framework and ensuring accountability and redress.

    In September 2020, FIDH joined forces with over 1,100 civil society and indigenous peoples organisations to endorse a Joint Civil Society Statement calling on States for the immediate recognition of the right to a healthy environment. The Statement was delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council during its 45th session and encouraged the Core Group on Human Rights and the Environment (including Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia, and Switzerland) to deliver a joint statement committing to paving the way for recognition of the right to a healthy environment.

    In August 2021, the Core Group announced it would bring forward a resolution to universally recognize the right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment during the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council. In September 2021, FIDH called with other 15 organizations upon all Members of the Council to proactively support this initiative. A resolution to universally recognize the right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment was proposed during the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council (13 September - 8 October). Governments have the historical opportunity to recognize this right, that they should not miss.

    Another core group of states, composed of Bahamas, the European Union, Fidji, Panama, Paraguay, Sudan and the Republic of the Marshall Islands also announced that they will be proposing a resolution to create a Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of Human Rights in the context of Climate Change during the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council.

    FIDH believes that a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is essential to the fulfilment of the right to life, food, health, water, housing. Similarly, the introduction of human rights considerations into environmental policies is essential to the protection of the populations affected by global warming and to the well-being of future generations

  • Trade and Investment Agreements

    FIDH advocates for the respect of human rights obligations in trade and investment agreements. It strives for human-rights impact assessments (HRIAs) to be conducted before and after such agreements are signed. FIDH advocates for balancing investors’ rights with investors’ obligations and stands firmly against Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). FIDH calls for complaint mechanisms which can guarantee the protection, respect and promotion of human rights. FIDH insists on the need to integrate a human rights-based approach in development policies and within international financial institutions, and promotes respect for human rights and the environment in investment. including through its ethical investment fund Liberté et Solidarité.

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