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)

Read more
  • 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

    FIDH believes that human rights and environmental protection are interdependent.

    As recently affirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, prof. 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 ». His report presented in March in front of the Human Right Council asks the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution formally recognising the right to a healthy environment as part of international human rights law.

    FIDH believes that this report is an important step in the understanding and implementation of human rights obligations relating to the environment. This relationship will clearly be essential for the protection of people and the planet in the years to come.

    Over the past 10 years, FIDH has worked to reaffirm the relevance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the current debate over climate change, toxic waste and energy. Environmental damages directly threaten the right to life, to health, to water, to development, to housing, to work, to 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 adverse environmental impacts, such as polluted water, soil and air, deforestation, and displacements that result from desertification or floods caused by climate change.

    As we have documented, major gaps remain in the implementation of international human rights law and State and non-state actors are often responsible for massive violations of environmental and human rights.
    Human rights defenders, and in particular environmental and land defenders, are increasingly the target of repressive measures; the pressure on land has become unbearable.
    Between 2011 and 2014, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders documented 43 assassination cases targeting land rights defenders and the judicial harassment of 123 defenders, sometimes together with their arbitrary detention.

    At the same time, in some countries like Honduras, the energy supply transformation process driven by the fight against climate change 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

    While in others, like 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.

    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.

    States have the legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfil human rights by ensuring a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Although States are accountable for the harmonisation of public policies and national laws with their obligations, they are often ineffective or complicit in human rights violations.

    Fundamental are also the role and responsibilities of business enterprises and other non-state actors in harming human rights and the environment. These actors include private security firms, armed rebellion and paramilitary groups, as well as transnational, national and state-owned corporations. They extract, pollute and destroy scarce environmental resources and operate with poor labour standards.

    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.