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30 January 2017 | | | | |

Environmental and Human Rights Defenders targeted by corporations, according to report; interview with one of its authors, Karen Hudlet

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A recent report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre disclosed between 2013 and 2016 the responses of companies after claims of violations against human rights defenders, revealing an alarming increase of the number of these cases in Latin America, especially in the case of extractive industries, energy, megaproject infrastructure and agroindustry companies.

Four out of ten claims are related to the energy-mining sector, said Karen Hudlet in an interview with Real World Radio . She is one of the authors of the study about the cases of violence and criminalization against defenders, community leaders, unions and organizations, in a context of escalating social conflicts.

The researcher member of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre also analyzed the behavior of these companies whether they are national, transnational or state projects.
Among the causes of these events she highlighted the competition over natural resource exploitation, the absence of spaces of participation for affected people and communities and the lack of access to environmental information.

Following the guidelines of the UN Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights (2010) and the standards established in the UN Declaration on human rights defenders (1998) that recognizes as defenders all people who defend their own rights or those of third people, based on human rights instruments, who do not resort to violence, the report shows that the highest number of violations occur in the energy sector (41%), mining (27%), construction (13%) and agriculture, food and drinks (12%), including deaths (36), evictions (34) and beatings or different forms of violence (27), being Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Brazil the most prevalent.

During the interview, Karen Hudlet highlighted that "in general there are not codes of conduct in most companies, whose first reaction when having to respond to the claims is to deny any involvement, and in the cases where their involvement is clear, they deny their participation in the offense, and say that they condemn what happened". That is why, according to Hudlet, "ensuring freedom of speech is key for the visibility of these events", making reference also to the threats against the journalists and communicators who cover the cases.

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