Community-based Human Rights Impact Assessments

14/07/2011
Press release
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Community-based Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIAs)

Business activities such as large-scale private investment and development projects can generate adverse consequences for local communities.

Along with its member organisations, FIDH documents the human rights impacts of business activities such as investment projects. To do so, FIDH advocates for community-based Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIAs), a methodology which gives ownership to affected communities to assess and document the potential human rights impacts that investment projects may generate.

Together with other organisations, FIDH supports the use of Getting it Right, a tool designed by Rights & Democracy. Visit the Getting it Right tool’s webpage here. This step-by-step methodology guides communities and NGOs to measure the actual or potential human rights impact of an investment project, and enables the drafting of a final report and recommendations which can serve as a basis for engagement with public and private actors involved in the investment project.

In March 2010, Rights & Democracy, Oxfam America and FIDH co-sponsored an event bringing together civil society organisations to gather best practice on conducting Human Rights Impact Assessments using the Getting it Right methodology. (Read the report here)

Community-based HRIAs as a tool for empowerment

Impact assessments are usually conducted by governments or companies. FIDH believes in the importance of community-based HRIA assessments using a bottom-up approach, which contributes to empowering affected communities in claiming their rights and ensuring accountability. Such assessments helps to voice the concerns of affected individuals and local communities, putting them on a more equal footing with the public and private actors involved. This is particularly important in a global context of shrinking space for civil society and criminalization of defenders, particularly land and environmental rights defenders. (See the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders’ annual reports here)

FIDH and community-based HRIAs

In 2009, FIDH conducted two pilot case studies to test, together with its member organisations, the Getting it Right tool.

In 2010, together with its member organisation CEDHU and in collaboration Rights & Democracy, FIDH conducted an HRIA on the first large-scale mining project to take place in the Ecuadorian Amazon (Read the report here)

Impact: The HRIA process made it possible for affected communities to meet and hold a dialogue with all stakeholders. Following the publication of the report in 2011, in November 2012 the UN Comittee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) reiterated its concerns regarding the failure to undertake of adequate consultation of indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior and inform consent vis à vis natural resources development projects affecting them. (Read the CESCR’s Concluding Observations here). In July 2013, FIDH, CEDHU and Mining Watch submitted a complaint at the Canadian OECD National Contact Point (read more here). In July 2014, the NCP announced his decision to dismiss the case (read more here).

In 2011, FIDH, its member organisation Justiça Global and partner organisation Justiça Nos Trilhos conducted an HRIA on the activities of pig-iron industries in Açailândia, Maranhão, Brazil. (Read the report here)

Impact: The HRIA counted with the active involvement of affected communities, and bolstered one of the communities’ mobilisation for resettlement (see their webpage here, in Portuguese). In January 2014, the ex UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing supported the Piquiá de Baixo’s resettlement proposal, and various UN Special Procedures sent a letter of inquiry to the Brazilian State regarding the alleged ongoing contamination and poisoning in Piquiá de Baixo (read the letter here).

FIDH also uses the tool in the framework of its advocacy with regard to right-holders’ participation and meaningful consultations including Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). At the OECD level, FIDH is advocating for communities to be duly consulted when it comes to projects in the extractive industries, trying to give flesh to the concept of "meaningful stakeholder engagement", ensuring it is grounded in the right to participation. This advocacy work has to be put in the broader context of FIDH’s advocacy work related to the increased pressure on human rights defenders, particularly ESC rights defenders and those denouncing corporate abuse.

Trainings on community-based HRIA: using Getting it Right
With a view to promote community-based HRIAs, FIDH and Oxfam are conducting a series of trainings on the Getting it Right tool, directed at CSOs and backbone organisations to generate community support in using the tool. Practical exercises and discussions among participants allow to exchange on the risks, challenges and best practices for conducting a community-based HRIA, and provide tips based on past experiences of HRIAs. The trainings are highly participatory, and are suited for organisations who are planning to conduct community-based HRIAs, as well as those who are in the process of conducting or have already conducted one.

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A training was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the Africa Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights from 16th to 18th of September 2014. Another training was delivered on 29th September in Bogotá, Columbia, ahead of ESCR-Net’s Peoples’ Forum 2014. The latest training was conducted during the 3d UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, on December 4th 2014.

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