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Peru needs new thinking on business conflicts to improve human rights – UN experts

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GENEVA / LIMA (19 July 2017) – The Government of Peru and big businesses need to break with past methods of dealing with social conflict to improve the country’s human rights record, a team of United Nations human rights experts has concluded after a 10-day visit.

“Peru has become used to a situation of constantly simmering social conflicts, with more than 100 active situations in any given month,” said Michael K. Addo, one of the experts from the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

“The majority of these conflicts relate to large-scale business operations in mining, hydrocarbon and energy,” Mr. Addo noted.

In the past five years, social conflicts had caused 70 deaths, the experts noted in their preliminary end-of-mission findings. The conflicts stem from concerns about water contamination, pollution and other issues affecting people’s human rights, caused by large mining operations, repeated oil spills in the Amazon region, or deforestation for palm oil and cocoa plantations.

“When people speak up against negative effects of business operations they often face intimidation and criminalization,” said Dante Pesce, the second member of the Working Group delegation.

“We are encouraged to see signs of change, as the State and companies realize that listening to critical voices helps identify, mitigate and address grievances before they escalate into conflict.

“Companies are also coming to understand that respect for human rights is also good for business, and helps the State attract investments of good environmental and social quality,” Mr. Pesce added.

The experts called for a new mechanism to protect human rights defenders, including environmentalists and indigenous leaders. They also underlined the importance of meaningful, informed consultation at the earliest stages of large-scale business operations, and said existing methods to assess social and environmental impact should be strengthened.

The experts pointed out that identifying and tackling problems lay at the heart of the concept of “human rights due diligence” set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Peru’s wish to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) would help bring the country into line with standards like the Guiding Principles, they noted.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to the business and human rights agenda, and the announcement of the first steps towards a National Action Plan on business and human rights,” the experts said.

“We urge the Government to develop this plan through an inclusive and transparent process that includes all relevant parties.” 

The Working Group’s final report, including findings and key recommendations, will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018.

The Working Group on 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, Mr. Surya Deva (current Chairperson), Mr. Dante Pesce, Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga, and Ms. Anita Ramasastry (current vice-chair). 

The Working Group is 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 human rights monitoring mechanisms. The Working Group reports 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.

UN Human Rights, country page: Peru

For additional information and media requests, please contact:
Ulrik Halsteen or Alexia Ghyoot: +41 22 917 9323 (in Geneva) / + 41 79 444 4187 (cellphone number during the dates of the visit) / wg-business@ohchr.org.

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

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