New report offers framework to measure the effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions

By jforres

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Washington, DC – National Human Rights Institutions – created by national governments to protect human rights – now have a new tool to improve their effectiveness at promoting human rights in the oil, gas and mining industries, thanks to a new report released today by international relief and development organization Oxfam America.

The report, Human Rights and Social Conflict in the Oil, Gas, and Mining Industries, aims to help NHRI’s evaluate their effectiveness by providing a framework to analyze their successes and shortcomings in addressing human rights abuses around oil, gas and mining projects. NHRI’s have been internationally recognized human rights actors since 1993, when the United Nations adopted what are known as the Paris Principles to help establish human rights norms at the national level. To date, there are 99 of these institutions globally.

“The growing popularity of National Human Rights Institutions in the last decade is a positive sign that governments are beginning to think about human rights at the national level,” said Emily Greenspan, senior policy advisory with Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program. “It’s now time for governments to give these institutions teeth in order to play a more active role in preventing human rights abuses and to respond quickly and effectively when these abuses do occur.”

From Peru to Ghana, controversies surrounding oil, gas and mining projects have in many instances erupted into social conflict and violence. While some NHRI’s have been successful at mitigating violence around oil, gas and mining projects, there is significant room for improvement, according to the report.

The research finds that these institutions tend to face many obstacles, such as inadequate funding or lack of independence from a political party. Oxfam highly recommends that governments and civil society take advantage of the evaluation criteria presented in the report to measure the weaknesses and strengths of their country’s human rights institution.

“In the context of the extractive industries, NHRIs have the potential to play a critical role in preventing human rights abuses,” said Greenspan. “Governments should invest adequate resources to enable these institutions to perform effectively. At the same time, NHRIs should ensure that they coordinate closely with civil society and oil and mining companies, and most importantly with project-affected communities.”

For example, the case study on Ghana highlighted in the report finds that its human rights institution -- Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) -- should improve communications with communities affected by oil, gas and mining operations. Furthermore, CHRAJ needs to educate community members of their rights, how extractive projects may violate their rights and how they can seek remedy if these rights are violated.

“As the report highlights, CHRAJ should develop a strategy for creating a dialogue with local communities in order to take a more proactive approach to preventing human rights abuses in the mining and emerging oil sectors,” said Augustine Niber, executive director of the Ghana-based Center for Public Interest Law.

“If CHRAJ and other NHRIs begin to effectively and proactively engage with project-affected communities in preventing human rights abuses and conflict, local communities, oil and mining companies, and host governments will all benefit.”

Notes to Editor:

- Webcast of the report launch can be viewed here.