In countries around the world, multinational corporations are rushing to secure access to land and natural resources they can extract and export for profit. Too often, the communities that live in the area and depend on these resources for their livelihoods are forcibly evicted to make way for mines, hydroelectric dams, and other corporate-led development projects. Many resource-rich countries have weak or corrupt governments that are unwilling or unable to hold corporations accountable for respecting the rights of affected people and giving back a fair share of the profits. Therefore it falls to the communities themselves to ensure their rights are respected.
“The Fund’s grant made it possible to successfully demand the resettlement of local communities displaced due to mega-development projects and defend our partners against illegal forced eviction.”Rehana Wagha, MAUJ Development Foundation, Pakistan
With our support, communities are mounting a strong defense of their land and resources, but they face entrenched, powerful, well-financed and well-armed opponents: multi-national corporations and their subsidiaries, local and national government officials with personal financial interests at play, and private security companies hired to get communities out of the way. To counter those adversaries, the Fund is:
- Providing financial and strategic resources to challenge environmentally and socially destructive mining practices that pollute water, harm health, and destroy livelihoods
- Helping communities to demand their right to provide free, prior, and informed consent to development and resource extraction activities that would affect them
- Supporting incredibly courageous groups who are demanding greater transparency by governments and companies as well as the right of ordinary people to share in the benefits of resources taken from their lands
- Bringing communities together across countries to share information, develop joint strategies, and coordinate actions to hold companies accountable for abuses
Our work is making a difference. For example, after a ten-year legal battle Fund grantee ENLAW won a major victory when Thai courts ordered the Thai government to clean up polluted Klity Creek, compensate villagers for their loss of food and resources, and create environmental protection plans before permitting private companies to open factories.
In another example, between 2007 and 2009, private security guards for the Guatemalan subsidiary of Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals are alleged to have raped and murdered members of the community of El Estor. We funded grantees El Estor and Rights Action to bring a case before a Canadian court, which ruled that Hudbay can be held legally responsible for these abuses. The ability to sue these parent companies in Canadian courts could have a huge impact on corporate behavior in the mining sector in Guatemala and beyond, and is a critical step toward accountability for human rights abuses.