Webinar on Infrastructure, Energy and Extractives

On October 5th, ESCR-Net's Working Group on Economic Policy and Human Rights held a Webinar on Infrastructure, Energy and Extractives, with opening presentations by Aldo Caliari (Center of Concern), Fernanda Hopenhaym (Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)), Tessa Khan (Climate Litigation Network) and Mwambi Mwikamba (Natural Resources Alliance of Kenya (KeNRA)).

Webinar on Infrastructure, Energy and Extractives



The theme for this webinar discussion emerged from an analysis report built on interviews with diverse members across every region. A related briefing note and resources are available below, following a brief summary of the webinar.

Summary of the webinar

This discussion highlighted the risks to the enjoyment of human rights associated with current models of financing and implementing large-scale energy and infrastructure projects. It began with an overview of the current enthusiasm among governments and international institutions for scaling-up financing for energy production and other infrastructure, including in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and processes within the G20 and World Bank.

Discussants raised the many direct human rights impacts that have been associated with these projects, including forced labour; violence inflicted by private and State-sponsored security forces; the destruction of natural resources in violation of a range of economic, social and cultural rights, particularly the rights of indigenous people; and the targeting of human rights defenders.  Discussants also raised the overarching impact of corporate capture of all branches of government and decision-making, which undermined access to information, participation and ultimately access to justice, facilitating widespread impunity for violations of human rights.

The indirect human rights implications were also discussed, including illicit financial flows within the extractive sector as well as governments’ weakening social and environmental regulatory frameworks in order to attract foreign investment. Discussants also noted the considerable challenge posed by the paradigm of relying on the private sector for financing goods and services that are traditionally associated with public financing.

Aside from the fiscal risks associated with public-private partnerships (which were discussed during the webinar on privatization and public-private partnerships) the new trend toward financialisation of infrastructure assets poses a number of new challenges. While institutional investment in these assets is still a very new idea, it raises questions regarding how the returns expected by investors will be delivered, and whether those costs will ultimately be borne by communities. Given the international level on which many of these decisions are being taken, discussants highlighted the need for greater collaboration between organisations and movements to strengthen advocacy in different stakeholder spaces, as well as to effectively “follow the money” or put pressure on investors in particular cases.

Intergovernmental fora were identified as a particularly important space to influence standard-setting, e.g. advocating model legislation or regulatory frameworks for different sectors informed by the experience and analysis of affected communities. It was also noted that these projects also need to be challenged on a case-by-case basis by those communities that will be affected by them, so collective work might also support for community organizing and capacity, community-led human rights impact assessments, and alliance building to raise the profile of and connect individual cases.

Briefing Note on Infrastructure, Energy and Extractives

This briefing note discusses the human rights implications of current models of financing for extractive industry and large-scale infrastructure projects. It critiques the current conditions under which foreign direct investment and infrastructure financing take place, with a focus on the financing modalities promoted by key political and financial institutions, including multilateral development banks and the Group of 20.  


Below is an initial list of resources on a range of trade, investment and human rights issues that can also be found with descriptions in the above briefing note. We welcome members and partners to suggest other relevant resources to highlight. 

Selected Resources from ESCR-Net Members

Other Resources