CIVICUS statement at the 77th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights
Agenda Item 3 (Human rights situation in Africa)
Statement on the situation of environmental human rights defenders in Africa
Delivered by Paul Mulindwa
Global civil society alliance CIVICUS and partners under Environmental Rights Legal Framework Coalition congratulate the Chair, on your re-election for the 2nd mandate as the chair of the Commission, and we commit to a continued collaboration. We welcome this opportunity to address the African Commission on the situation of environmental human rights defenders in Africa.
Honourable Chairperson, the situation of environmental human rights defenders across Africa in 2023 continues to be dire, in the face of ever-increasing environmental degradation, natural disasters caused by the effects of climate change, and abuses against vulnerable communities for profit or so-called progress. Increased armed conflicts and insecurity have left communities in extractive areas particularly vulnerable to abuses without safe access to courts or remedy.
Between January 2015 – March 2023, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre tracked more than 4,700 global attacks against human rights defenders raising concerns about harmful business practices, with 75% of these attacks being against environmental human rights defenders. 431 of the attacks documented were against defenders in Africa, including 68 attacks in 2022 and 2023.
Despite the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and subsequent instruments recognising most of the rights affected by climate change, many vulnerable communities including Indigenous Peoples are adversely affected. Yet, in 2023, many African governments still face significant challenges in the implementation and enforcement of such frameworks.
The closing of civic space through restrictive legislation, judicial harassment, intimidation and attacks against indigenous peoples, civil society organisations, media actors, and environmental and land defenders create real barriers for progress. Increases in attacks against human rights defenders and communities has been exacerbated by harmful business practices across the continent.
The lack of regulation and accountability for violations of environmental rights and environmental degradation, and against environmental defenders, particularly by the business sector, jeopardises Africa’s vision 2063 for prosperous sustainable development in a continent-wide free trade area.
CIVICUS also commends the Commission for passing its Resolution on Business and Human Rights in Africa (ACHPR/Res.550 (LXXIV) 2023) as a critical first step in regional implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and advancing the business and human rights agenda and notes the urgent need for the establishment of a regional instrument for accountability for corporate entities for environmental abuses.
Honourable Chairperson, we therefore urge the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to:
- Adopt a resolution for the drafting of a regional instrument for the protection of Environmental Rights in Africa.
- Expedite the process of the drafting of an African Regional Instrument to Regulate the Activities of Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, towards ensuring accountability and access to remedy for business-related human rights violations in Africa, with particular focus on marginalized and vulnerable populations, in accordance with Resolution on Business and Human Rights in Africa (ACHPR/Res.550 (LXXIV) 2023).
- Adopt a resolution for a moratorium on resource extraction activities in conflict and fragile state in Africa.