Wednesday 19 june 2019
Early June, representatives of nature and human rights organisations from Africa and Asia toured Europe to call on decision-makers for an international binding treaty for business and human rights. Florence Sitwaminya of CREDDHO, an NGO from the Democratic Republic of Congo, shares her experience.
Header photo: Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room of the Palace of Nations, Geneva © Ludovic Courtès, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Florence Sitwaminya works for CREDDHO, a partner organisation of IUCN NL and research centre on environment, democracy and human rights. She defends the rights of communities affected by human-rights violations related to oil exploration and exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
‘Oftentimes, communities have to leave their homes behind to make way for oil exploitation,’ Sitwaminya states. ‘These communities receive insufficient compensation for the damage to their environment.’ People who speak out against this, receive threats. ‘People are being imprisoned and tortured, only because they want to discuss the destruction of their environment,’ Sitwaminya says.
International binding treaty for business and human rights
The companies linked to these human rights violations are oftentimes registered in another country, which makes it difficult to hold them accountable. An international binding treaty for business and human rights would change that. ‘If not just companies, but also the countries where they are registered and the countries where they operate sign the treaty, they commit to taking joint responsibility over abidance,’ Sitwaminya explains. ‘The treaty offers the opportunity to hold companies accountable when they cause abuses.’
To accelerate the creation of this binding treaty, Sitwaminya and other representatives of nature and human rights organisations from Africa and Asia visited Paris, Madrid, The Hague and Brussels. The group also attended a public event in Amsterdam.
‘We spoke to Parliamentarians, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and several media,’ Sitwaminya says. ‘We also had an interesting exchange with a group of lawyers, discussing the legal steps to achieve a binding UN treaty for businesses.’
Advocates for the cause
The visit was widely covered by French media and resulted in several advocates for the cause. ‘In Madrid, we spoke to an upcoming Member of Parliament who is very committed to ensuring the creation of the international binding treaty,’ Sitwaminya says. ‘He promised to engage fellow parliamentarians and to get in touch with other countries to form a coalition to push for the treaty.’