UN attempts to address human rights abuses caused by the environmental degradations of mining and toxic waste came under the spotlight at a joint United Nations Side Event by Franciscans International, the UN Rapporteur on Toxics and Leigh Day.

Panellists discussed which legal gaps prevent communities from obtaining justice for human rights abuses caused by extractive activities.

Agreeing that there can be no doubt that human rights abuses and violations due to extractive activities go hand in hand with environmental degradation, panellists examined two cases involving pollution and waste from mining activities, which exemplify the legal gaps that prevent communities to access and obtain justice.

They analysed to what degree the UN current draft treaty – an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises - already covers some of these gaps and what still needs to be done to have an effective international framework for human rights and environmental protection in place.

  • Leigh Day international partner Richard Meeran talked about lead pollution in Kabwe, Zambia.
  • Liliana Jauregui, of the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, talked about exposure to toxic waste in Arica, Chile.
  • Comments and analyses were made by Marcos Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on toxic wastes.
  • The moderator was Marya Farah, of Franciscans International, 'a voice at the United Nations'.

Reflecting on the success of the event, Richard Meeran said:

"Whilst there have been significant advances in access to justice in multinational human rights cases in certain states, most notably in the UK, there are very significant gaps and justice is entirely elusive in the vast majority of developing countries.

"Voluntary human rights compliance by corporations cannot be relied upon. A legally binding treaty is therefore required."

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