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January 02, 2013

Stakeholders in Papua New Guinea Discuss Human Rights and Extractive Industries

January 2013

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative and the Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights organized three workshops in Papua New Guinea in July and August, and a visit by a representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in September to highlight human rights in the context of extractive industries.

Participants discussed how to document human rights abuses and examined existing international mechanisms for holding businesses accountable for negative human rights impacts. 

A total of 21 environmental lawyers and activists attended the first two workshops, which focused on developing a methodology for assessing human rights violations associated with the extractive industries in Papua New Guinea. The workshops covered basic human rights concepts and principles, with participants discussing how to document human rights abuses and examining existing international mechanisms for holding businesses accountable for negative human rights impacts. The Sustainable Development Strategies Group, a Colorado-based organization specializing in sustainable development and mining, facilitated the second workshop. The group also facilitated another workshop for 17 government legal officers.

The third workshop brought together representatives from the Mineral Resource Authority, the Department of Mineral Policy and Geo-Hazard Management, the Department of Petroleum and Energy, the Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG) and the Department of Environment and Conservation to discuss international human rights standards relevant to the extractive industries, including the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business.

The workshop focused on two DJAG-identified issues of concern within the extractive industries: mineral, petroleum and gas benefit-sharing agreements and involuntary resettlement and relocation. Workshop participants discussed the human rights impact of displacement, resettlement and relocation as a result of extractive-industry projects and how to better ensure that benefit-sharing agreements promote human rights.

Further, ABA ROLI and OHCHR organized a visit to Port Mores by Lene Wendland, the OHCHR adviser on business and human rights, to introduce the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to representatives of relevant governmental and non-governmental organizations. Wendland was a member of the team that developed the principles—also known as the Respect, Protect and Remedy Framework. The principles clarify the different but complementary obligations of businesses and states in relation to human rights abuses. While states are ultimately responsible for human-rights violations, businesses have an obligation to respect human rights and must take steps to avoid human rights abuses and to remedy any harm caused by their business operations.

To learn more about our work in Papua New Guinea, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].