One of the greatest threats posed by Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) is the militarised prevention of popular debate about whether the privatised project serves the common good. Thus PPP is also an acronym for ‘Political Participation Prevention’. With effective political participation we can assert our rights under human rights laws. How can we best address human rights violations, especially the key human right to politically participate in decision-making? How can organisations outside the United Nations (UN) system, including Indigenous Peoples’ (IPs) governing institutions and CSOs, reduce barriers to political participation in general?
For IPs, we need more safety from brutal and environmental violence when we pose questions about the impacts of proposed or ongoing PPP projects. IPs need support from CSOs and multilateral dialogue with UN Member states to implement human rights laws so our decisions are enforced without harm to us from colonizers. Private security protecting project developers are often state-sanctioned. These state-sanctioned security forces are supported in violating human rights laws by UN documents promoting a ‘Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA)’.
HRBA as currently explained by developers is equivalent to criminality. OHCHR materials [link http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FAQen.pdf] make way for developers’ claims that logistical, cultural, or other concerns are justifiable mitigations of one’s obligation to fulfill human rights. Indigenous Peoples, though free from obligations to enforce UN instruments, do not exempt state-sanctioned developers from respecting our laws, including our human rights laws, irrespective of developers’ feasibility claims or their cultural beliefs that Indigenous Peoples are inferior. From the developer’s profit-centered interpretations of OHCHR equivocations come unlawful approaches to projects without explicit commitments to fulfill human rights laws. This ‘approach’ put into practice facilitates private or state security resulting to death anyone standing in the path of a project.
The difference between human rights laws and HRBA is more than semantics: it is legal wording that explicitly enables developers to claim loopholes that results in developers acting as though compliance with human rights laws is optional. HRBA undermines the objectives of the UN, endangers human life, and impedes the work of IPs and our governing institutions as well as that of CSOs and UN members.
HRBA emerged in the wake of global engagement following the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and the beginning of coordinated grassroots action on climate change compounded by pollution. Another component of developer push-back on human rights is the current trend of what is gently called ‘shrinking civil space’ to discuss human rights violations including pollution, climate change, and the potential extermination of humanity.
Often, when members of the UN mention 'shrinking civic spaces', they address only the logistics of speaking in public hearings, including sesssions at the UN. Could CPDE members, in GPEDC Monitoring Framework or where appropriate, better illustrate to UN Members that this misleading euphemism, 'shrinking civic spaces', is state-sanctioned violence preventing political participation?
The continued promotion of the benign image of 'shrinking civic space' invites logistical excuses in a world increasingly populated. We need to depict the results of militarized responses to civil discussion of projects, especially projects involving the private sector. These militarized responses to attempts at political participation are characterized by dislocation, dispossession, disenfranchisement, starvation, dehydration, deprivation, poisoning, criminalization, incarceration, torture—including sexual abuse, and murder.
This violence does cause fewer opportunities to speak at local, regional, and international meetings, including at the UN, where colonial developers controlling private security forces are granted private meetings with some UN Member delegations, including those on the Security Council, while representatives of IPs, CSOs, and even some UN Member states cannot get comparable quality access to UN member delegations.
The ‘shrinking civic space’ to participate in decision-making is not diminished because colonial powers logistically ran out of chairs, but rather because colonial developers with environmental and/or brutal violence destroy those who speak out. Can we respect those who die for dialogue and talk about the loss of access, movement, health, and safety for those debating the merits of development projects?
These sweet euphemisms for appropriation of the Peoples’ decision-making powers: 'shrinking civic space' for Political Participation Prevention and 'Human Rights Based Approach' for Human Rights grounded in laws, obviate accountability as the problematic euphemisms distract from the centrality of human rights to the UN's raisons d'être. The UN Charter (1945) identified protection of the Peoples’ human rights as its fundamental purpose and guiding principle, later codified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) detailing rights to political participation.
Instead of 'implementation of a human rights-based approach', we promote implementation of human rights laws and instruments to promote political participation. It is tempting to support the status quo in the short term with the expectation of gaining our oppressor’s trust and reforming within colonial structures for long term gain. Many IPs tried this when we first encountered colonists—with disastrous results. Going along to get along endangers us all when the prevailing trends prevent both political participation and enforcement of human rights laws.
For more information, contact Southeast Indigenous Peoples' Center PO Box 4003 Eatonton Georgia 31024, 706.461.6244, www.SoutheastPeoples.org, twitter: @1stsoutherners