Human rights and land-grabbing issues

On the 20th of April our WYAE team participated in a hearing of the subcommittee on Human Rights about ‘Human rights defenders and land-grabbing issues in the context of European investments in third countries’ in the European Parliament. Speakers from Oxfam, Colombia, Honduras and Liberia showed considerable concern about the current Human Rights situation in their countries where crime, corruption and impunity for human rights abuses were described as a norm. Due to the weaklegal system of human rights and the poor regulatory system consisting of a largely ineffective judiciary and police, among other groups the human rights activists remain most vulnerable to violence, as the speakers told from personal experience. Particularly touching was the speech of Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, whose mother Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, a famous Honduran human rights activist, was shot in March 2016.

20160414PHT23391_width_600Hanna Saarinen, representing 
Oxfam, noticed that 2.5 billion people (1/3 of world population) depend on land and natural resources for their livelihoods, which make up over 50 percent of the land on the planet, but they legally own just one-fifth. The other remaining five billion hectares remain unprotected and vulnerable to land grabs from more powerful entities like governments or corporations. But land issues, as she highlighted, should matter for everyone since it’s evident for development, climate change and human dignity.
The aim of the speakers was, firstly, to inform the MEPs about the latest human rights and land grabbing issues in their countries, but, secondly, to emphasize that all EU-projects should be conform with human dignity and that these projects should reach really those persons suffering.

The WYA considers the Human Rights situation in those countries described as problematic because crime, human rights abuses and corruption are an assault on the inherent dignity of the human person and a betrayal of one’s responsibility to others. These fragile economical, legal and political structures undermine commitment and solidarity by corroding trust and hope. It robs all, particularly the poor and marginalized, of their rightful share in the common good and thus blocks integral development. It is necessary for individuals, society, governments, and institutions to work in solidarity to foster the adequate conditions such as freedom, peace, and security that lead to development; or in words of Padre Alberto Franco from Colombia: ‘If we keep using violence as a tool and if we don’t go the dignity path, then there will be no united world’.

Written by Alexander Kozac, WYA European Regional intern.