I joined the Coalition for Human Rights in Development as its Director because I want to ensure that this incredible international collective continues to support community-led coordination of local, regional, and international campaigns, which centre human rights in development.
Before I joined the Coalition, I worked with grassroots communities in Asia and North America, including as a lawyer for communities affected by development activities. Through my work, I had the privilege of learning from Indigenous Governments resisting oil and gas projects in Canada, and rural communities in Nepal demanding that hydropower sector projects respect their rights.
Communities have taught me that they know best how development decisions and policies will impact them and their ecosystems, and how things can be done better. Contrary to some perspectives, communities have the skill and the desire to determine their own development paths and priorities. And development focused civil society organizations at the national, regional and international level, need communities’ expertise to meaningfully fulfill their missions. I believe this symbiotic relationship of a shared common good is what keeps the Coalition together.
Communities around the world have repeatedly shown us the different ways in which they have been sidelined by development financiers, governments, and other actors. For example, Indigenous communities in Nepal raising concerns about hydro-power sector development on their traditional lands, and Indigenous governments in Canada resisting bitumen and natural gas pipelines have highlighted the different ways in which projects are being built to efficiently siphon off local resources to international energy markets, rather than to support local development.
“When communities raise their voices, they are often subject to smear campaigns labeling them as anti-development,” adds Advocate Shankar Limbu, Secretary of the Kathmandu-based Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples, which entered into a Community Engagement Partnership with the Coalition. “Efforts are made to isolate the affected communities from the larger population, often laying the foundation for more insidious forms of reprisals, including the use of force.”
Financiers, national governments and companies often collaborate and communicate with each other in ways that exclude communities. For example, Access to Information practices and policies at several development finance institutions prioritize the confidentiality of closed-door consultations and agreements with governments and businesses, rather than providing communities access to information and supporting their participation.
“We are increasingly seeing communities raise concerns about how different forms of coordination among financiers, national governments, and companies – such as co-financing among different financiers, the use of financial intermediaries, and public-private partnerships – are having the effect of eroding accountability and transparency,” adds Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director of the NGO Forum on ADB, and a Coalition Steering Committee Member based in Manila, Philippines.
The Coalition provides an important counterweight to the collaboration of financiers, governments and companies, by offering a platform for communities and civil society organizations to develop a coordinated response.
“The strength of the Coalition is in bringing together grassroots groups, social movements, national organisations, and international organisations to learn from each other, empower each other and work in solidarity to push forward advocacy in a coordinated manner,” says Delphine Djiraibe, Principal Advocate of Public Interest Law Center, and a Coalition Steering Committee Member based in N’Djamena, Chad.
Our members and partners use a variety of strategies, individually and collectively, at a variety of levels, and in a range of geographies, to hold diverse key actors accountable, both on a case-by-case basis and in systemic ways. The Coalition offers us all a platform to work together to ensure we are greater than the sum of our parts.
This is why I joined the Coalition. We would love to learn from our members and partners why you joined and work with the Coalition! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog is the first of our Coalition Conversations blog series. In the coming months, we hope to feature additional blogs from the Coalition’s secretariat, members and close partners. Please email us at email@example.com if you are interested in being a contributor.