Exits and human rights in focus at report launch in Sierra Leone

ARTICLE | 20 November 2017

On November 17, Swedwatch launched the report “No Business, No Rights” in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The launch was attended by members of civil society, representatives from affected communities, the Sierra Leonean Human Rights Commission, Environmental Protection Agency among others. Commitments were made on increased collaboration between civil society organisations working in the field of human rights and government agencies in the address of challenges.

The launch was preceded by a two-day training on business and human rights by Swedwatch and local NGO Human Rights Defenders Network (HRDN) which also participated in the launch event.

The launch and adjoined panel discussion gathered experts on human rights, mining and agriculture from both Sierra Leone and Liberia. Representatives from the Ministry of agriculture, forestry and food security attended as did Sierra Leone’s National Mining Agency, local CSO Women on Mining and Sierra Leone Network on the Rights to Food.

The guests Paramount Chief of Malal Mara and Chairlady of Tonka Community were also participating in the discussions.

Swedwatch’s report ”No business, no rights” depicts how several local communities in Sierra Leone were negatively affected when the high-profile Addax Bioenergy project stalled, and the effect of development finance institutions (DFI’s) Swedfund and FMO’s exit from the project.

Despite concerns from local communities regarding food security, no steps were taken by the DFI’s to ensure that the rights of affected community residents were respected. The case of Addax Bioenergy illustrates problems connected to the stall or shut-down of large land-related projects, where local communities are often left with little to rely on and face severe human rights risks. Despite this, such risks are rarely addressed by investors.

During the launch it became evident that this is not an isolated problem, and that communities across Sierra Leone and Liberia are facing the same challenges. Representatives from Women on mining emphasized the vulnerability of women when problems regarding food security arise, as they are always the most affected when land and water is taken.

Several panelists asserted that the findings would be taken forward in their work. In addition, the need for strengthened monitoring was highlighted, as was the panelist’s commitment toward increased collaboration between civil society, government and environment agencies.