© Università degli Studi di Padova - Credits: HCE Web agency
The Coalition for Human Rights in Development and the Defenders in Development Campaign have published “Uncalculated Risks. Threats and attacks against human rights defenders and the role of development financiers”, a report revealing the alarming impact ill-planned investments in infrastructure, energy, and other development activities are having on the safety and wellbeing of human rights defenders around the world.
“Uncalculated Risks” contains 25 case studies highlighting the grave dangers faced by those who advocate for their communities and the environment in the context of development activities and the role of public development banks in exacerbating or mitigating those risks.
Development banks have a wide range of tools, resources and leverage to ensure their investments respect human rights and involve meaningful participation of affected communities, finds the report. Yet, too often development financiers turn a blind eye to human rights risks – and end up fueling abuses by governments, companies, and other actors.
Inclusive and sustainable development requires an environment where all people are free to express their views, to exercise their rights, and to fully participate in the decisions impacting their lives and their communities. Every day, indigenous peoples, communities, social movements, journalists, and individuals are doing essential work protecting their lands and resources from destruction, fighting for equal access to housing and education, exposing corruption and abuse of power, and advocating for investments that reach the poor.
Yet today these human rights defenders are increasingly subjected to threats and attacks for their efforts, including harassment, physical violence, criminalization, arbitrary detention, and killing. What’s more, these threats and attacks are increasingly taking place in the context of activities undertaken in the name of development.
Effectively addressing the shrinking space for participation in development processes and the growing threats to defenders will require not only a change in policy and practice, but a fundamental shift that places human rights and local communities at the center of how development is conceived and implemented.