A major conference organised by the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia has examined the human rights impacts of the country’s booming mining sector and looked at international best practice in order to better protect the environment and the rights of affected communities.
The three-day conference, held in Ulaanbaatar from 10-12 October 2012, brought together representatives from the Mongolian Government, the mining industry, civil society groups and international human rights and development organisations.
The conference looked specifically at the impact of mining on vulnerable communities and the environment, including soil erosion, degradation of pastoral land, water shortages and pollution.
According to the Commission, many herders in mining areas have been forced to leave their traditional lands and find alternative means to support themselves. It expressed concern about the impact of these changes on the human rights of herders, in particular, their right to live in a healthy and safe environment, property rights and the right to preserve one’s culture and traditions.
In addition, it noted that conflict between mining companies and artisinal miners, civil society organisations and local people has been escalating in recent times, occasionally resulting in violence.
The conference discussed these and other matters – such as the rights of workers in the mining industry and public participation in decision-making around mining activities – and heard how similar issues have been addressed in other countries.
It drew on the experiences and perspectives of a broad range of stakeholder groups, including mining operators, the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the Philippines Commission on Human Rights and the APF secretariat, as well as research and analysis by independent experts.
A key focus for the Commission is to use the information shared at the conference to develop recommendations to strengthen the national legal framework, including identiftying international treaties which Mongolia should ratify.
In addition, the Commission hopes to build a partnership between government, the private sector and civil society aimed at respecting and protecting human rights in connection with mining activities.
A number of conference presentations are available on the Commission’s website.
In addition to attending the conference, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights spent 12 days in Mongolia as part of its first official country visit.
Ms. Margaret Jungk, a member of the Working Group, issued the following statement at the conclusion of the country visit on 17 October 2012.