A group of U.N. human rights delegates found say that the Honduran government must include population in 'meaningful decision-making' for projects.
The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights on Wednesday urged the Honduran authorities to "act now" to address the causes of "extreme distrust" on part of the population toward the nation’s institutions and ability to promote a "fair and inclusive" economy.
People affected by development projects must "have their rights fully respected and protected by the government and companies to avoid conflicts," the U.N. group said in its preliminary report regarding its two-week visit to Honduras that ended Wednesday.
Delegation member, Dante Pesce, made an "urgent" appeal to the Honduran government to "act and show political will and make concrete gestures regarding our findings and recommendations in order to generate enabling conditions, better conditions that allow us to think about a future constructive dialogue."
Concretely, the U.N. members said that indicated that the protests that emerge against the country’s large-scale investments, such as dams and extractive projects, "have a fairly common origin: the lack of significant public involvement and dialogue, the insufficient and weak practice of consultation and seeking consent" from the population.
Pesce noted that "some steps" have been taken by the government by separating functions of the Ministry of Environment and Energy in such a way that the institution that grants the licenses is not the same that promotes the investments.
However, the report highlights that the right of affected individuals and communities to participate in meaningful decision-making from the early stages of mega-projects is lacking, but is a basic requirement for responsible business and political practices within the country.
Anita Ramasastry, also a member of the group, said that the state and companies must "realize that listening to all voices helps identify, mitigate and address complaints before they become conflicts."
He stressed the urgency for the Honduran Congress to elaborate "a law on free, prior and informed consent and consultation of Indigenous peoples and other communities", because the practice of project socialization, or simply telling communities what will happen, “does not amount to a meaningful consultation."
The members of the group pointed out that the "identification and treatment of potential and actual damages to persons arising from commercial operations is the core of the concept of due diligence in the field of human rights, established in the Guiding Principles of United Nations Business and Human Rights," stated the team in their report to be presented in Geneva next year.
By 2017 Honduras had become the deadliest country for environmental and land rights activists being that between 2010 and two years ago over 120 people had been murdered - most of them poor, Campesinos or Indigenous, for demonstrating against these major business projects, according to Global Witness.
After meeting with government authorities and representatives of companies and civil society, the group emphasized that "companies and investors benefit from corruption and neglect their responsibility to respect human rights."
In addition, it is essential to ensure the independence of the judicial system to "strengthen accountability and access to resources for victims of human rights abuses by companies," they said.
The experts also expect the Honduran government to strengthen the functions of the Mission of Support against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), the agency to fight corruption that began in 2016.