SUPPORTING RIGHTS HOLDERS AND EXPANDED CIVIC SPACE
Snapshots of our work on civic space
In national and international forums, Swedwatch works to ensure that the voices of defenders are heard. The report Defenders at Risk, provides an overview of the situation for defenders working on business-related rights violations in high-risk sectors. The report’s interviewees highlight common ways in which companies may increase risks and put defenders in danger.
The report is part of Swedwatch´s ongoing project to ensure that the discussion around binding legislation on human rights due diligence is based on the voices of defenders, many times threatened by a rapidly shrinking civic space. It also provides a platform for our calls on European companies to introduce policies safeguarding the rights of defenders throughout their supply chains.
Engaging with investors
To curb the trend of restrictions on civic freedoms, financial actors including institutional investors and development finance institutions should use their clout and address the escalating violence and intimidation. In various advocacy initiatives, Swedwatch works to increase awareness on the responsibilities of investors, including through identifying and addressing risks to human rights and environmental defenders.
"Investors should adopt and implement a zero-tolerance policy and approach against attacks on defenders in business relationships, agreements, and investment decision-making." /Swedwatch report
Call on business to intervene
Agribusiness is one of the most dangerous sectors for defenders, and Latin America the worst continent in terms of number of threats and attacks. For more than a decade, rights defender and coordinator of the Ecuadorian banana workers’ union Jorge Acosta has reported labour rights, health issues and environmental impacts in the banana industry. For this he has been accused of »creating economic panic« and threatened with prison, illustrating the risks defenders face when exposing adverse impacts of business operations.
Swedwatch has called on Swedish and European food importers to intervene, leading to several companies engaging with Ecuadorian authorities and importers to joined Swedwatch and others in monitoring court proceedings against Acosta.
Speaking up for migrants
Swedwatch has for years highlighted the exploitation of migrant workers in global supply chains, one example being through an investigation on the situation for migrant workers in the Thai poultry industry, in which Swedwatch engaged with workers’ rights defenders and called on public procurers to act on risks facing migrant workers in food production.
The report Trapped in the kitchen of the world revealed a range of violations including the confiscation of passports and work permits, illegal fees and debt bondage.
As a result of the report, ten Nordic food companies developed a joint initiative seeking to prevent abusive conditions at supplier factories, including by providing training sessions for migrant workers, staff and managers. Moreover, a coalition of food companies provided financial support to cover court costs for migrant workers charged in a criminal defamation court case by their employer.