GENEVA (29 August 2019) – The Government of Honduras must act now to address the root causes of social conflict and profound distrust in the ability of State institutions to promote a fair and inclusive economy, a team of UN human rights experts has concluded after a 10-day visit.
All people affected by development projects must have their rights fully respected and protected by the Government and businesses to avoid conflict, said the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
“The Working Group stresses that consultation with communities is a central aspect of human rights due diligence as set forth in the UNGPs, so as to identify early on concerns and grievances and to better understand the potential impacts of a project on local peoples and the environment. We recommend that any kind of consultation and engagement should take place at the earliest stage of a project. The right to participate should be recognized as a continuum that requires open and honest interaction between public authorities, the private sector and all members of society, including those most at risk of being marginalized or discriminated against, particularly women, indigenous and afro Honduran peoples, and persons with disabilities.
As we discuss below, any consultation should provide an explanation of the negative and positive impacts of economic activity. This means presenting findings from environmental studies in a manner that is understandable to those that lack technical expertise. For businesses it means engaging in social (human rights) impact assessment, alongside analysis of potential environmental harms. In all cases, plans for mitigating impacts need to be developed and shared with all relevant stakeholders.
The pattern of lack of participation is aggravated in cases concerning indigenous communities, as seen in cases of Reitoca and Tornillito hydroelectric projects. The Working Group is concerned at the prospect of the passage of the new draft framework legislation on free, prior and informed consultation and consent with indigenous and Afro-Honduran peoples presented to the Congress in May 2018. According to information received, the draft suffers from great shortcomings both in methodology and substance. The draft law does not reflect international and regional standards on consultation and consent for indigenous peoples. It also presents problems in ensuring adequate consultation processes, indigenous representation in the consultations, and the capacity of state institutions to undertake and supervise consultation processes.
The Working Group urges the government to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples from her country visit in 2018. This includes ensuring an inclusive consultation process in order to adopt a regulatory framework on the right to free, prior and informed consultation of indigenous peoples in accordance with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
As the Special Rapporteur noted in the specific case of Agua Zarca and other projects where similar human rights violations have occurred, in the absence of such regulatory framework, “other alternatives that are respectful of the rights of indigenous peoples must be considered in future concessions.”
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