The United Nations Human Rights Council announced on Tuesday in Geneva that a UN human rights expert warned in a new report that there has been a continuing increase in the labeling of protectors of human rights as “anti- government” and “enemies of the state” when they stand up for the rights of local communities and indigenous people against large-scale infrastructure development programs.
Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya stated that human rights workers are an integral part of development; instead, they are being “harassed, stigmatized and criminalized for doing their work.”
Sekaggya remarked, “It is essential that communities and those defending their rights are able to participate actively, freely and meaningfully in assessment and analysis, project design and planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development projects. Such participation can contribute significantly to defusing tensions.”
According to the press release from the UN Human Rights Council, Ms. Sekaggya “calls for a rights-based approach to large-scale development projects, which would include the principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation, protection, transparency and accountability, including access to appropriate remedy.”
She added that personnel reporting human rights violations should be able to do so without fear of reprisal, adding that in order to minimize the possibility of rights violations there is also a need for transparency and openness in any large scale development projects.
“States have an obligation to provide protection to those claiming their legitimate right to participate in decision-making processes and voicing their opposition to large-scale development projects,” she urged emphatically.
Margaret Sekaggya was named Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders by the Human Rights Council in 2008. A lawyer from Uganda, she has worked for decades within Uganda and Africa as well as around the world to promote human rights.