Round-table on natural resources at Stockholm +40

Today Swedish Cooperative Centre, Forum Syd and Church of Sweden organised a round-table discussion at the Stockholm +40 international conference on sustainable development. Please see below a brief description on some of the conclusions as well as some photographs.

Summary of round-table

In the struggle over natural resources, peasants and artisanal miners – some of the poorest peoples in the world act on the same arena as some of the world’s biggest companies. The peasants depend on natural resources for their survival – the companies depend on profitable exploration. Brown Motsau from  The Bench Marks Foundation in South Africa, Daniel Ribeiro from Friends of the Earth (Mozambique) and Maria Stridsman from Sida discussed how the challenges and conflicts can be overcome through national and international regulations. Many participants from the audience, for example from Egypt, Mongolia and Argentina, shared their experiences on the topic.

Concluding two main points from the round-table

The base for the two points, is the need for a rights-based perspective where the State is the duty bearer and the citizens are the right-holders. Private entities cannot be assigned the responsibility to guarantee human rights. Another point of departure for all three points is that we are convinced that economic growth must not be created at the expense of unsustainable extraction of natural resources and violation of human rights. We have had enough of green-washing!

We suggest that the positions of the Swedish Government during Rio+20 should be based on the following principles:

1. Ensure mechanisms to hold Governments and private sector to account

There is a need to enforce mechanisms that guarantee that local populations can hold governments and private investors in extractive industries and land-based investment into account and demand respect for human rights, transparency, economic and environmental justice as well as sustainable development. Three concrete examples:

  • The UN John Ruggie Principles – Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: UN’s ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework which implies a shared responsibility among corporations and governments for human rights.
  • Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) – addressing the issue of transparency in extractive industry contracts and tax paying – both from Government and private sector.
  • As proposed by the special UN rapporteurs, we support the idea of Rio+20 national accountability mechanism – “Sustainable Development Councils” – holding governments to account to follow what has been agreed during the Rio+20 conference. Local stakeholders, including CSOs and local communities, must be guaranteed a voice and participation.

2. Ensure the right to development for local populations, indigenous and tribal peoples

The round-table underlined the importance of Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) stated by the ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries 169/1989. The convention ensures that every effort is made by the States to fully consult with indigenous people in the context of development, land and resources including timber, soil or subsoil mining and on any public policy affecting them. This embraces the right of indigenous peoples, as land and resource owners, to say no to proposed projects at any point during negotiations with governments and/or extractive industries. The round-table gave examples from a large number of countries, including South Africa, Argentina, Mongolia and Mozambique, where this principle is not being followed.

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