Protecting the Amazon

A Report on Mechanisms of Redress for Potential Human Rights and Environmental Breaches in Brazil

Clinic: Graduate Institute, Fall 2019

Beneficiary: Society for Threatened Peoples

Executive Summary

(Full report can be read here)**​

This report appraises a variety of global mechanisms of redress – with the aim of identifying promising options – for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and the environment in the Brazilian Amazon. The key products of the report are: (i) providing an overview of the events and facts leading to the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights and the deforestation of the Amazon; (ii) identifying and assessing the potential violations of international rules and standards in light of the facts; (iii) identifying and appraising the avenues of action to seek redress for the likely violations; (iv) providing a practical guide for using the most promising avenues and identifying detailed arguments to be deployed when using them.

The overview of the events and facts demonstrates that there are mainly four different – but partly interrelated – sets of events leading to the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights and the deforestation of the Amazon. These events relate to a) agribusiness and forestry; b) infrastructure projects; c) mining and illegal goldmining; d) administrative and legislative developments. The report finds that there are three broad groups of actors related to these events who can be found to be in violation of international rules and standards: states (Brazil and other states), businesses and financiers. The report identifies 14 international instruments that could be argued to have been violated by the actors named. It then assesses the strength of possible arguments alleging their breach and concludes that many of them are likely to be violated. This is the first level of analysis to identify promising options to seek redress.

Such arguments alleging a violation will likely be most useful when coupled with a mechanism that allows complaints. Therefore, the report further considers the viability of the different avenues and mechanisms available to seek redress for the violations of the instruments. In this second level of analysis, the report identifies 22 mechanisms of redress and avenues of action to address the violations of the instruments. Three of these avenues are purely informal and of political character but could nevertheless draw on legal standards and related arguments. The remaining 19 avenues are of more formalized or legal character and are closely tied to international rules and standards. These mechanisms are assessed on the basis of two criteria: a) their accessibility – based on the ease of access for victims, the costs (financial and otherwise) and the duration of the procedure; b) expected outcome – based on the likelihood of a positive outcome, the potential for the results to induce practical change, and direct relevance of the results for the rights of the indigenous peoples and the environment of the Amazon rainforest.

This report combines the results of the two levels of analysis to identify the most promising avenues of action. Four avenues were selected in consultation with the beneficiary of this report for detailed analysis. These are: a) Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination; b) Human Rights Committee; c) International Labour Organisation Complaint Procedure; d) Complaint to the IFC Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman. The report offers a practical guide for utilizing these avenues, explores the arguments to be made in depth and briefly outlines the steps to be expected after the submission of a complaint.

The full report can be read here.

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