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HRC41 – MRG statement on extractivism and racial discrimination

8 July 2019

Human Rights Council – 41stSession
Geneva, Monday 8thJuly 2019

ID with Special Rapporteur on racism – item 9

Thank you Mr. President, Madame Special Rapporteur,

Minority Rights Group welcomes your report on extractivism, economic exploitation and their relation with racial discrimination.

Your report highlights how poverty, discrimination and marginalization increases the vulnerability of entire communities that are routinely dispossessed of their lands and of their livelihoods, exploited economically and exposed to polluted environments.

We have recently documented the situation of Roma in the Bulgarian town of Pernik, where companies undertake illegal coal mining in hazardous circumstances. The Roma community living in Pernik is trapped in a vicious cycle of contamination, exploitation and ill health. In that case, like in cases you have mentioned in your report, racial discrimination and its consequences in terms of poverty and economic, social and political marginalization, leaves these communities with little recourse but to accept unhealthy, hazardous jobs that are making their environment more difficult to live in.

We also want to stress that this vulnerability, coupled with the extremely important amount of money at stake in these extractive activities, puts human rights defenders working to protect the environment or who oppose land grabbing, at particular risk. According to Front Line Defenders, more than three-quarters of defenders killed for their work last year were defending land, environmental or indigenous peoples’ rights, often in the context of extractive industries and state-aligned mega-projects. The issue of impunity and state complicity in that context is particularly worrisome.

Just two months ago, our colleague Francia Marquez survived an armed attack, together with fellow human rights activists. She is an Afro-Colombian human rights defender and winner of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Award for her work to stop illegal gold mining affecting her Afro-descendent community of La Toma in Colombia. This attack was followed by further death threats to Afro-descendent activists, and perpetrators were able to pass several security checkpoints to reach the victims without being apprehended. This illustrates an unacceptable reality: when discriminated communities stand up against their exploitation and challenge financial interests, they risk paying for their human rights activism with their lives.

I thank you.