MPs hear of harm UK businesses are causing to communities and the environment around the world

10 March 2022

Members of Parliament have heard from human rights defenders about the impact of abuses committed by companies in Latin America and why a new law is needed to tackle the problem.

CAFOD brought together MPs, peers and human rights defenders at the event, which was chaired by Fabian Hamilton MP, to discuss the experience of communities impacted by the activities of some UK businesses and their supply chains.

Politicians also heard why we need a 'Business, Human Rights and Environment Act' to prevent abuse to human rights and harm to the environment.

Ask your MP to back a new law

Communities uprooted, water polluted 

Mariluz Uriana from the Wayuu indigenous community shared with MPs how members of the community have suffered serious health problems due to pollution coming from a mine in the area. 

Mariluz said:

"Our children already suffer from skin problems like scratching, bronchitis, pneumonia and diarrhoea because of our pollution problem. And not only that, other communities also suffer from being uprooted from their communities and we have to leave."

Karem Luque, an environmental and human health specialist at CAFOD partner DHSF (Human Rights Without Borders) explained how more than 1,600 people have been found to have toxic substances in their bodies due to extractivist activities in Peru's Cusco region as a result of mining.

Samuel Arregocés, a human rights defender and leader of the Afro-descendant community of Tabaco, spoke of the continued harm the community have suffered following being uprooted and violently displaced in 2002 by the Cerrejón coal company.

Samuel said:

"More than 17 of our overground water sources have dried up. So now children are dying because of hunger and of thirst.

"Hunting and fishing are how we live, so this has caused enormous social impact because we can’t continue our traditional way of life. The impacts have been so great that it’s transformed our territory. We used to be able to produce things in our territory, but now we have to consume – we can’t provide for ourselves."

What's in the report?
A woman sitting on the branch of a tree next to a stream

Indigenous women in La Guajira, Colombia, play a vital role in defending their land, livelihoods and water sources from large-scale mining.

The report, Protecting Our Common Home: Land and Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, is based on research from 2019 to 2021. It covers the current trends of human rights abuses faced by land and environmental human rights defenders across six countries in Latin America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru.

The research found that states as well as businesses act with disregard for human rights and the environment. This includes evidence of British businesses and other multinational companies driving attacks on human rights defenders through their supply chains, subsidiaries and investments. CAFOD are particularly concerned about agribusiness and the extractive industries, and we know this is linked to global demand for crops, timber, minerals and energy. 

The report recommends that the UK government, EU and member states, Latin American states, all governments, and businesses and investors can protect HRDs from the attacks they face and tackle the drivers of the abuse.

Read the full report

New 'Business, Human Rights and Environment Act' needed

Current measures do not go far enough to protect the environment and communities against corporate abuse.

CAFOD is campaigning for a new Business, Human Rights and Environment Act alongside the Corporate Justice Coalition to hold responsible UK businesses which fail to prevent human rights and environmental abuses committed in their supply chains or by their subsidiaries.

The law would also give communities affected by abuses the ability to seek justice. 

It's crucial that MPs hear from their constituents that the Catholic community supports the call for the new law. So far, over 500 MPs have been contacted by CAFOD supporters across England and Wales - but to ensure the law gets the backing it needs from across Parliament, we need as many people as possible to contact MPs.

Add your support by emailing your MP

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