Shifting the balance of power in the global economy
Papua New Guinea / Freedom for Equality / 3 may 2018
Natural resources have the potential to create vast wealth for the country in which they are found, but this does not always translate into prosperity for the majority. In many cases, local elites capture natural resource wealth before it translates into broader societal benefits. In other cases, the wealth does not stay in the country at all, continuing the cycle of inequality in the global economy. The process of extracting natural resources can have further devastating consequences for the host communities living near the project site and for the surrounding environment: forced displacement and pollution-related health hazards are common in natural resource projects. While some corporations prioritise having strong relationships with local communities, this is not always the case. All too often, corporations get involved in projects that lead to human rights abuses in hidden parts of the world because they think no one is watching, and that these victims have no recourse.
EarthRights International (ERI) uses the law to shift the balance of power in the global economy. They defend people and the environment, taking on large corporations that violate rights around the world. ERI conducts investigations and creates advocacy campaigns to expose the links between natural resource exploitation and human rights abuses. They train emerging civil society leaders with information and tools to more effectively demand their rights, in addition to training advocates, lawyers and judges in human rights and environmental law, and legal strategies to enforce these laws. Finally, when all else fails, they take perpetrators of rights abuses to court. They have challenged some of the world’s most powerful corporations and won.
Barrick Gold Corporation, the largest gold mining company in the world, operates the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea. For decades, security guards at the mine have systematically committed acts of violence against the local population. Numerous human rights investigations alleged that hundreds of women and girls living near the mine have been brutally raped by the mine’s security guards and local men and boys have been beaten, shot, and killed. These investigations also concluded that the mine has devastated the local environment and destroyed traditional lands. ERI represented a number of survivors of rape and family members whose relatives were killed by Barrick security guards, leading to a negotiated settlement with the company that resolved the survivors’ claims.
Unfortunately, the abuses at Porgera are not unique. Numerous communities around the world face enormous challenges when seeking recourse for human rights abuses committed by large, politically-connected corporations. EarthRights International works to shift this balance of power and ultimately disincentivise the violation of human rights by large corporations. They provide hope to human rights defenders around the world, providing a path to recourse and exposing injustices to the rest of the world.