"Voices from the Ground: The Human Face of Human Rights and Business": HRC 8th Session Side-Event

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Start Date: 
Wednesday, June 4, 2008 (All day)
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Organizer: 
Location: 
Room XXV, Palais des Nations, Geneva
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Co-Hosts

Action Aid International, CAFOD, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), CIDSE, Cordaid, Development & Peace, Fastenopfer, Franciscans International, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), Misereor, Pax Romana, SCIAF, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), Trócaire and Volontari Nel Mundo-FOCSIV.

 

Event Description

 

Victims of human rights abuses by, or involving, companies and the local organizations representing them are often voiceless in the context of international debates on business and human rights. The actual impact business conduct has on the human rights of individuals, communities and indigenous peoples risks being underappreciated as a result, limiting the effectiveness and credibility of policy responses.

 

The issue of business and human rights will take center stage during the 8th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), at which the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on business and human rights, Professor John Ruggie, will present a new report, and the Council will determine its next steps.

To help ensure that the Council's discussions and decisions on business and human rights are grounded in the views and experiences of those affected by business-related human rights abuses and to deepen understanding of the drivers of these abuses, several have joined together to co-host a special parallel event entitled, "Voices from the Ground: The Human Face of Human Rights and Business." This event will bring southern NGOs, experts, and community members directly affected by business human rights abuses together to present their views and perspectives to Special Representative on Business and Human Rights Mr. John Ruggie, government delegates, staff from international organizations, and other interested parties to contribute to the deliberations within the Human Rights Council and deepen the focus on actual situations of human rights violations involving companies. The event seeks to offer recommendations on ways to address the existing gaps in protection and prevention of business-related abuses.

 

 

Panelist Bios

 

Under-Mining the Right to Food in Orissa, India

Mr. Bhuja Wadaka - Member of the Dongria Kondh tribe

 

Mr. Bhuja Wadaka is a member of the Dongria Kondh tribe, who live around the holy mountain of Niyamgiri, in western Orissa. The Niyamgiri hills are a forest reserve area, and the Dongria have enjoyed customary rights to land and collection of forest produce there for generations. These customary rights are due to be formalised by the 2006 Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, under which tribal peoples are guaranteed rights of occupation in forest lands and to collection of forest produce.

 

But his tribe is under imminent threat from a proposed bauxite mining operation on Niyamgiri mountain, and an associated nearby aluminum processing plant located nearby. The project has been hatched jointly between the state government of Orissa and an Indian subsidiary of Vedanta Resources Plc, a FTSE-100 British mining corporation. Stripping bauxite from the top of Niyamgiri threatens to choke off and pollute springs, streams and rivers arising from the mountain, devastate the forest and rich biodiversity therein on which local communities depend, and destroy a sacred place worshipped by the Dongria and named after their god, Niyamraja.

 

Access to Justice and Remedies for Victims of the Trafigura toxic spill in Côte d'Ivoire

Mr. Souleyman Konaté, - President, Abobo car mechanics cooperative

Mr. Drissa Traor – Lawyer and President, MIDH (Mouvement ivoirien des droits de l'Homme)

In August 2006 the Probo Koala, a Trafigura ship, dumped 581 tons of toxic waste chemicals at several points in Abidjan in the Côte d'Ivoire, killing 16 people and intoxicating more than 100,000 others, according to official sources. Souleymane Konaté is the president of the Abobo car mechanics' cooperative, which he created in response to the toxic waste dumping. His garage is located next to one of the dumping sites.  Because of exposure to the waste, he developed health problems that made him unable to work for a month.  Drissa Traoré is a lawyer and the president of MIDH (Mouvement Ivoirien des Droits de l'Homme).  He has been advocating for the victims of the Trafigura incident.  In June 2007, he participated in the filing of a complaint before the French courts against French directors of the company.

 

 

Fighting for Fair Food: Modern-day slavery, migrant and worker rights abuses in the USA

Mr. Lucas Benitez, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, USA

 

Mr. Lucas Benitez is the Co-Founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a community-based worker organization consisting of largely Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida, USA. Mr. Benitez will discuss the dynamics of modern-day slavery, migrant and worker rights abuses in Florida, and CIW’s work to challenge them. Combining community-wide work stoppages with intense public pressure and alliance-building –CIW’s organizing has ended decades of declining wages in the tomato industry, launching the first-ever farmworker boycott of a major fast-food company calling on several fast-food giants in the US to take responsibility for human rights abuses in the fields where its produce is grown and picked. CIW’s Anti-Slavery Campaign has earned national and international recognition, based on its innovative program of worker-led investigation and human rights education, and a track record of helping to liberate well over 1,000 workers.


Mining in the Philippines
Ms Maria Lourdes Cipriano, Philippines Misereor Partnership


Ms Maria Lourdes Cipriano is the National Coordinator of Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc, a network of more than 300 non-governmental organizations, both church-based and non-church-based, and people's organizations all over the Philippines.  Since 2005, PMPI has worked on a mining advocacy program that sought to protect the rights of the indigenous people in the Philippines.  The main part of the mining advocacy program of PMPI is the strengthening of the capacity of the 16 communities directly affected by large mining companies, through consciousness raising, basic advocacy training, human rights education, and community organizing and institutional building with networking and communications.  The second part of the mining advocacy program is the reframing of the national policies and the Mining Act of 1995.  PMPI worked with its partner organizations of lawyers in consulting the communities directly affected by mining for the reframing of the Mining Act.  The third part of the mining advocacy program is aimed at generating solidarity in the regional and national levels and bringing the cause to international attention and action.

 

Electronics Industry and Supply Chains in Mexico
Fr. Sergio Cobo, Fomento Cultural y Educativo, Mexico

 

Fr. Sergio Cobo is Director of Fomento Cultural y Educativo, a Jesuit organisation working with local communities throughout Mexico and looking at a range of issues including health, equality, community organisation and human rights.  The Centre for Reflection and Action on Labour Issues, CEREAL, is the part of Fomento that provides education on labour rights to workers in Mexico and helps them to press for improvements in working conditions.  CEREAL provides legal advice for workers and pursues legal claims; supports workers who want to organise their own representative groups; monitors working conditions across the electronics sector and shares findings with companies to speed resolution of cases; recently CEREAL has engaged in a dialogue with electronics companies to highlight structural changes needed where labor rights abuses are occurring. In October 2007, CEREAL produced a new report into labour rights abuses as part of its ongoing work to ensure electronics companies in Mexico improve conditions for workers across their supply chains.

 

Private Military Contractors in Iraq: An Account from Nisoor Square

Mr. Hassan Salman, Lawyer and Plaintiff in Estate of Himoud Saed Abtan, et al. v. Blackwater USA, et al., Iraq

Mr. Hassan Salman, a lawyer from Baghdad, is one of 15 plaintiffs in a civil action against Blackwater, pending in a federal court in the United States. The case was filed in October 2007, following the notorious incident in Nisoor Square, Baghdad on September 16, 2007, during which heavily armed Blackwater "shooters" are alleged to have opened fire, without provocation, on unarmed Iraqi civilians transiting through the square at mid-day. Seventeen Iraqis were killed and many more were injured. Mr. Salman was seriously injured that day, when he was shot in the back and in the neck.