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Economic development should not be at the expense of human rights – UN expert group reminds Brazil

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BRASILIA (16 December 2015) The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights today encouraged Brazil to make greater efforts to pursue economic development in a way that respects human rights, at the end of a ten-day official visit* to the country.

“Brazil needs to find a better balance between economic interest and the protection of human rights in its pursuit of economic growth,” said human rights expert Pavel Sulyandziga, one of the members of the Group’s delegation who travelled to Brazil.

“The country must move away from a top-down approach, where large-scale development projects are planned and implemented without meaningful consultation with affected communities including indigenous peoples,” Mr. Sulyandziga added.

Six weeks after the Fundão tailing dam ruptured, causing one of Brazil’s worst ever environmental disasters with serious social impacts, the Working Group learned that a number of other dams are vulnerable to collapse, that proposed revisions to the country’s Mining Code threaten further ecological and social harm, and that human rights defenders and indigenous peoples face ongoing threats to their lives and land.

The experts met with State and business representatives from large-scale development and construction projects, and they spoke with affected communities who reported significant corporate-related abuse and a lack of consultation. They also talked with State authorities and noted the role of public prosecutors in defending the rights of affected communities.

“Political commitments on business and human rights have been made at the government and business level which is encouraging but there is a gap in embedding and implementing them at the operational level and throughout supply chains,” warned Dante Pesce, the other Working Group’s member taking part in the visit.

“We need to see the Government, State Owned Enterprises, businesses, and industry associations stepping up implementation of the Guiding Principles,” Mr. Pesce said referring to the set of principles endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, which re-affirm States’ existing obligations to protect against human rights abuse by businesses, and clarify the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the need to ensure that victims have access to effective remedy.

The experts noted that the Government’s pledge to develop a national action plan on business and human rights is an ideal opportunity to achieve improved multi-stakeholder coordination and dialogue on business and human rights issues.

During its visit, the Working Group’s delegation had meetings in Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Mariana in the State of Minas Gerais, and Altamira and Belem in Para State.

The experts will present their final observations and recommendations to the the Human Rights Council in June 2016.

(*) Read the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16891&LangID=E

The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. Its current members are Mr. Michael Addo (Ghana), Ms. Margaret Jungk (USA), Mr. Dante Pesce (Chile) and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga (Russian Federation).

The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. The Working Groups report to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly.  Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.  Learn more, visit:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx   

Check the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Brazil: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/BRIndex.aspx

For additional information and media requests please contact Mr. Ulrik Halsteen (+41 22 917 9323 / uhalsteen@ohchr.org), Natasha Andrews (+41 22 917 9269 / nandrews@ohchr.org) or write to  wg-business@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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