Internal displacement, extractive transnational corporations and the protection of rights of affected communities

Internal displacement, extractive transnational corporations and the protection of rights of affected communities

 

The export of raw materials, hydrocarbons, and minerals occupy a prominent place in Latin America’s economic model. However, due to the extraction characteristics of some of these resources, environmental conflicts appear in several places around the continent (see details here). According to the UNDP, migration and displacement appear as a result of conflicts due to the activity of extractive industries. In the words of said organization:

"For many developing countries, mineral extraction continues to be an important economic engine with the potential to improve the results of human development, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When properly managed, mining can create jobs, foster innovation and bring investment and infrastructure to a scale that changes the game in the long term. However, if handled badly, mining can also lead to environmental degradation, displaced populations and an increase in inequality. " (Read more here)

In 1998, the United Nations established the guiding principles of internal displacement to address the protection needs of internally displaced persons. These principles include, among others, the prohibition of arbitrary displacement "in cases of large-scale development projects, which are not justified by a superior or primordial public interest". Although the IACHR has gathered information on the relationship between extractive interests and the displacement of persons, by 2016, in Latin America, only Mexico, Colombia and Peru had adopted laws on internal displacement, and only Guatemala had adopted policies on internal displacement. (see map).

In October 2018, however, a new tool relevant to the discussion appeared, with the release of the first draft of the legally binding international instrument on transnational corporations and other companies with respect to human rights, developed by a working group of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and described in resolution 26/9.

This tool is important because it refers specifically to internally displaced persons and migrants - without excluding their involvement in other parts of the text - as groups that must be given special attention in consultations (Article 9, point g.) and on the impact of the projects (article 15, point 5 of the implementation). This is significant given that one of the great consequences of the extractive transnationals is the displacement of people due to the repercussions on their economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Due to their political, social and environmental characteristics, Mexico and Central America have historically represented geostrategic value for the extraction of multiple natural resources. Mining for obtaining different materials, hydroelectric production and extensive agricultural crops (pineapple and palm, for example, the latter representing an important agrofuel) are some of the main industries related to environmental conflicts, causing potential displacement phenomena in the region. 

In this context, it’s important to ask what the displaced people of these territories can do to defend their rights. From the OHCHR draft, four relevant elements can be emphasized for the protection of people’s rights in displacement situations due to the involvement of transnational corporations in their environment:

· Address the legal process without economic cost, since there is a consensus on the need to address the lack of resources of affected communities that request the protection of their rights. Civil society campaigns recommend that once there are sufficient indications that a person is a victim of a human rights violation, the costs of the process to that person are exempted and he or she is not obliged to indemnify the corporate counterpart in case of acquittal. The economic support by the States towards the victims when carrying out legal proceedings of this nature is contemplated in the draft of the OHCHR (Article 8, point 6).

· Creating group processes is necessary, since the legal processes of protection of rights benefit from a collective approach when dealing with the issue of displacement, due to the characteristics of the impact of extractive industries in the communities. This way, it is possible to avoid opening several cases that can become discordant, reduce costs for the State and pool the victims’ resources. The draft accepts and includes the rights of victims both individually and in groups (article 6, point 1, article 8, points 1 and 2, article 12).

· Procure due diligence in the processes, allowing the displaced victims access to the necessary documentation with the cooperation of all parties. At the end of a process, if a displaced person victim of transnationals wins the case, it’s important that the reparation (economic, moral or otherwise) is given within a reasonable time. The impact of both the dispossession of land and the legal process affects several aspects of the victim’s daily life (food, family and community relations, economic activity, physical and mental health) so restoring their original conditions must be a priority for effective justice. OHCHR’s draft refers to cooperation as a function of the national implementation mechanisms of the binding instrument; for example, when responding to inquiries from victims, companies and the general public, or when sending recommendations to improve the implementation of the binding instrument itself (article 3, point 2, detail a. and b.)

· Find an integral solution to the problem, because even when processes are carried out collaboratively (previous point), these are usually long, which may cause the victim to consider agreements that are not integral solutions to their problem in order to resolve it in less time. This type of outcome can also be seen by the company as a simpler way to access land while improving their public reputation, which constitutes a serious antecedent when evaluating the impact of extractive companies, which is minimized. According to OHCHR’s draft, the victims have the right to "a) Restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition for victims; b) Environmental remediation and ecological restoration when appropriate, including coverage of expenses for relocation of victims, and replacement of community facilities."

 


Responding to hate speech against migrants in social media: What can you do?

Responding to hate speech against migrants in social media: What can you do?
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

"We all have to remember that hate crimes are preceded by hate speech." This is how Adama Dieng, UN's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, starts the Stopping Hate Speech video. "We have to bear in mind that words kill. Words kill as bullets", he continued.

To speak about hate speech it is necessary to refer to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The article stresses the importance of freedom of expression, but it also calls attention to the responsibilities that come with it. 

The United Nations has recently launched the "UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech", to strengthen UN actions that address the causes of hate speech, and the impact this discourse has within societies. Among other measures, the strategy includes monitoring and analyzing data, using technology, and engaging with new and traditional media. It also encourages more research on the relationship between the misuse of the Internet and social media for spreading hate speech, and the factors that drive individuals towards violence.

Just like the UN must assume responsibility, traditional media oulets also face challenges in guaranteeing that the information they offer on migrants is conscientious and data-based (here are some recommendations on how to do this).

But beyond these institutional responsibilities, the reality is that thousands of people publish hate filled content on their social media every day, sometime explicitly calling for violent actions against migrant populations and other vulnerable groups. What can each of us do to fight back against this content?

  • Speak up against hate: Silence and apathy can be taken as acceptance. Comments on social networks are more than just words, and should not be seen as harmless, especially when social networks are a source of information for migrants and contribute to their experiences. According to the Department of Justice of the United States, "insults can escalate to harassment, harassment can escalate to threats, and threats to physical violence." Intervening assertively is important both in the digital world and in face-to-face situations. However, it is necessary to assess the risk in each context to avoid dangerous situations.
  • Create positive content: To counteract the weight of hate speech, it is necessary to create and share empathetic information. According to Cristina Gallach, High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, to combat this problem, we must present images that appeal to the best of us, and focus on powerful and universal messages that unite us through our shared values.
  • Avoid sharing sensational videos and photos: Even when it is to criticize this type of content, sharing it will increase traffic to the channels and users that broadcast negative media.
  • Report on the platform: Each social network has its own guidelines on which content is acceptable or not not. While there are teams dedicated to verify this information, in many cases it is necessary to report it for it to be seen. Facebook continually checks if there are new vulnerable populations that should be included in their protected categories, and on previous occasions, migrants have fit within this group. According to the Facebook hard questions blog:

"When the influx of migrants arriving in Germany increased in recent years, we received feedback that some posts on Facebook were directly threatening refugees or migrants. We investigated how this material appeared globally and decided to develop new guidelines to remove calls for violence against migrants or dehumanizing references to them — such as comparisons to animals, to filth or to trash. But we have left in place the ability for people to express their views on immigration itself."

There is a whole discussion about whether social media companies are the ones who should define, in their own platforms, what constitutes freedom of expression and what constitutes hate speech, but that is material for another blog. Here you can see what kind of content to report in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

  • Report to the authorities: When there are personal threats to the physical integrity or the lives of others, it is time to report the situation to the competent authorities to intervene. Since the digital world moves faster than changes in laws, there may be "holes" in the regulations that will hinder intervention. Documenting hazardous materials through screenshots and collecting as much information as possible about the aggressor before they close their account will be useful for the reporting process. Platforms and companies can also be reported if they spread violent content. For example, a few months after the massacres in two mosques in Christchurch (New Zealand), the Australian government approved new legislation against spaces that do not quickly eliminate "violent and abominable material".

“We need to use the verb to become a tool for peace, a tool for love, a tool for increase social cohesion”, said Adama, later in the video. Let’s speak up against hate speech.