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Impact Assessment PDF Print E-mail

What is an Impact Assessment - IA
Developing Countries, Impact Assessments and Trade
Human Rights Impact Assessment - HRIA
When to perform a Human Rights Impact Assessment
Environmental Impact Assessments - EIA
Observations on Impact Assessments
Human Rights IAs and Environmental Sustainability IAs
Developing Countries, Impact Assessments and Trade
Anticipation of Impacts (Workshop at the 2006 WTO Public NGO Forum)
Importance of Human Rights Education in Assessing Human Right Impacts
Examples of Projects with significant footprints, IAs and Accountability
Who is Accountable?
Deforestation and the Logging Industry
Extractive Industries, related Private Companies, State-owned Enterprises and the World Bank
Transnational Corporations, Genetically Modified Organisms and Human Rights Impact Assessments
Example of a new model: The Corporation of the City of London
Recapitulation on Impact Assessments
Human Rights Impact Assessment never in a Vacuum
Conclusion

 

What is an Impact Assessment - IA

“Impact Assessment” simply defined, is the process of identifying the future consequences of a current or proposed action, (IAIA)

An impact assessment (IA) is done to examine, identify and understand the possible adverse or positive impact a proposed project may have. Impact assessments are carried out by governments, business corporations or NGOs and can be social (SIA),  environmental (EIA), health (HIA), regulatory (RIA) and related to sustainability (SIA), environmental sustainability (ESIA), human rights (HRIA), equality & diversity (EQIA), disability (DIA) and privacy (PIA). It is a tool that allows decision makers to estimate the effect of a project or negotiation on any of these areas.

IAs and change in regulatory law requires changes that can often be costly. Such an example is the Conversion to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) that, in the wake of the ENRON debacle, has put pressure on many companies and the comments of a manager from one leading oil and gas company in relationship to the Sarbanes-Oxley compliance “When we first got started we were thinking of spending less than US$1million on the core project. Now it is in excess of US$10million” (8)

(8) PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP being one of the sponsors who with their Total Tax Contribution Framework www.pwc.com/uk/ttc which has been created to help companies develop the challenging economic dimension of their corporate responsibility or sustainability reporting.



Developing Countries, Impact Assessments and Trade

Many developing countries at the WTO negotiating table do not know how to prepare IAs, how to go about it or where to get impartial information, nor do they always have the necessary financial, linguistic or IT means to do the necessary research or to commission such reports. Poor IAs will result in poor protection and the resulting loopholes could then be easily exploited by TNCs or financing institutions. Better information leads to a more equitable outcome.

A single globally credible source would mainly benefit developing countries and would probably save TNCs money.

As Aaron Cosbey (31) said during the WTO Public NGO Forum (Geneva, Sept. 2006) ”GATT was founded to deliver better trade, there was a social agenda, with WTO we have moved away from this concept to mainly trade liberalisation” HRIAs would probably reinstate social parameters that are still lacking.



Human Rights Impact Assessment - HRIA

Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) measures the impact of policies, programmes, projects and interventions on human rights...

In recent years, there has been a growing demand for governments to carry out An human rights impact assessments prior to adopting and implementing policies, programs and projects. To date, however, little work has been done to develop methodologies and tools to aid governments in undertaking human rights impact assessments. UNESCO provided… more


When to perform a Human Rights Impact Assessment

Considering that a HRIA include environmental, social, health and sustainability considerations as viewed from the HRs perspective, a HRIA might well be the most important and comprehensive IA and therefore the first one to be performed or used in scoping. Human rights impact policies and practices would also rate high when it comes to inclusion of corporate securities in investment portofoglios.


Environmental Impact Assessments - EIA

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the bio-physical, social and other effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made.

Of interest is the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo EIA Convention) (with admendments) Governments have realized that to avert this danger they must notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that might have adverse environmental impact across borders. The Espoo Convention is a key step to bringing together all stakeholders to prevent environmental damage before it occurs. The Convention entered into force in 1997. More » The Espoo (EIA) Convention sets out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries Environmental threats do not respect national borders.


Observations on Impact Assessments

Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIAs) are pertinent to all human activities and HRIAs cannot be separated from the environment, trade, labour, health, sustainability, social, cultural, indigenous and gender issues. This makes HRIAs tricky in that they overlap so many areas and thus might touch upon areas that are indeed highly politicised.

This overlapping aspect concerns many agencies, e.g. UN and its many separate agencies like the WTO, UNEP, UNCTAD, WHO, OHCHR, UNHCR, Basel Convention, Geneva Centre for Security Policy, IUCN. While in the past many agencies, governments, TNCs and organisations have created specific Impact Assessments (IAs) specific to their sector, all are aware that a new approach is needed.

Maybe a valid example that elaborates on the above is the chemical industry. The World Health Organisation estimates that 47,000 people die and millions fall ill each year due to poisoning from toxic chemicals like pesticides. These pesticides get into the air, the water and into the food-chain; they have social and Human Rights consequences (HRIAs) because they affect the environment (EIAs), sustainability (SIAs), health (HIAs). Many of the agencies mentioned would be involved.

It is also of interest to read the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of health as being a state of social, physical and psychological well-being and no just the absence of disease and that this is being used to guide with health impact assessments and that the WHO definition of environment, in the medical sense, is as follows: the environment includes the surroundings, conditions or influences that affect an organism (Davis. 1989). Along these lines, Last (2001) defined the environment for the International Epidemiological Association as All that which is external to the human host. This can be divided into physical, biological, social, cultural, etc, any or all of which can influence the health status of populations

Interpreting the WHO interpretation of environment (5) would intrinsically link HIAs to all other IAs and HRIAs, as does UNEP’s definition of Environment: All of the external factors, conditions, and influences which affect an organism or a community, everything that surrounds an organism or organisms, including both natural and human-built elements.

With all these interlinked definitions (though definitions need to be revised as well) how can comprehensive IAs serve the international global community, especially when our civilization is (hopefully) moving into one where human rights for all need to prevail?

It would be onerous to expect e.g. UNEP (6) to become expert in trade issues and possess a knowledgebase that approaches the one the WTO has accumulated in 10 years of dealing with specialists’ trade areas or to know everything about Human Rights. Not only, but then need to be up-to-date which each development at the WTO or what is happening at the HR Council. Prof Gary Sampson (7), senior analyst at the WTO, recently remarked that “Human Rights issues are best dealt with ‘next door’ at the HRC and other agencies to deal with environmental assessments and for these then to be translated into domestic regulations of countries. That the WTO should not have to deal with all these layers but look at interfacing”.

(5) http://www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s/tuc-12043-f0.cfm

(6) UNEP Interesting to note that while the Principles for Responsible Investment - PRI 2005 -2006 - implemented by the UNEP Finance Initiative does incorporate environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues that sustainability and human rights have not been included in this.

(7) Prof Gary Sampson - International Economic Governance, United Nations University, Institute of Advanced Studies-  http://www.ias.unu.edu/about/gsampson.cfm

 

Human Rights IAs and Environmental Sustainability IAs

Is it realistic to try and make a distinction when Environment and Sustainability IAs are so intrinsically related to human rights? The cargo ship dumping its waste on the Ivory Coast is an example as toxic chemicals constituted a serious threat to human rights, the most serious being the right to life.  The WHO estimates that 47,000 persons die every year as a result of poisoning from chemicals. Pesticides enter the water, air, the food-chain and affect the natural environment and HR. ESIAs, EIAs, HIAS et all also to be revisited from a HRIA perspective?

Emission of air pollutants has been reduced in Europe by about a third over the past decade but evidence indicates that as many as 370,000 people die prematurely each year due to air pollution while about a quarter of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from transport and are thus responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer (26) Regulations are now imposed on air travellers to pay an air-tax, but it’s not in the public domain what requests governments have made to the air, train and car industries…

The 2001 Stockholm Convention entered into force in May 2004, marking the start of an international effort to rid the world of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and furans, and nine other highly dangerous pesticides. Of all the pollutants released into the environment every year by human activity, POPs are amongst the most dangerous. For decades these highly toxic chemicals have killed and sickened people and animals by causing cancer and damaging the nervous, reproductive and immune systems. They have also caused countless birth defects. ESIAs, EIAs, HIAs and HRIAs are all involved, foremost HRIAs.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, Mr O Ibeanu, overlaps in many ways with that of the SRSG for HR and Business.  The 2004 Report

relating to TNCs, HRs and MEAs is of interest in this context (28) Further to Mr O Ibeanu:

…A large number of chemicals in use have not been adequately assessed for risks to human health, wildlife or the environment, particularly with regard to the long-term and/or accumulative risks, leaving individuals and communities unable to make informed choices about products and ignorant about the risks such products may pose. In many countries - including developed countries - the unsound management of chemicals continues to affect negatively human health and the natural resources upon which people depend for their livelihoods, in some cases further aggravating conditions of poverty.

Populations of developing countries are at particular risk from the estimated 30 per cent of pesticides marketed in developing countries that do not meet internationally accepted quality standards, and that frequently contain hazardous substances which have already been banned or severely restricted in some countries. One example is the use of the organochlorine pesticide Endosulfan, which has been aerially sprayed in some developing countries over the past decades, although it is known to cause endocrine disruptions, reproduction system disorders, central nervous system disorders, liver and kidney dysfunctions in animals and human beings. The chemical which has toxicological properties comparable with DDT has been banned or severely restricted in 32 countries. (29)

(26) http://epaedia.eea.europa.eu/page.php?pid=555

(28) http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G03/172/11/PDF/G0317211.pdf?OpenElement

also Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Wastes, Mr O Ibeanu Report E/CN.4/2006/42

and replies from Governments to this Report: as it contains valuable information and specific data on the environmental and health impacts of materials used and/or produced by TNCs and the private sectors. In some cases there are Corporate Responsibilities in International Crimes.

(29) also Greenpeace Reports

 

Developing Countries, Impact Assessments and Trade

Many developing countries at the WTO negotiating table do not know how to prepare IAs, how to go about it or where to get impartial information, nor do they always have the necessary financial, linguistic or IT means to do the necessary research or to commission such reports. Poor IAs will result in poor protection and the resulting loopholes could then be easily exploited by TNCs or financing institutions. Better information leads to a more equitable outcome.

A single globally credible source would mainly benefit developing countries and would probably save TNCs money.

As Aaron Cosbey (31) said during the WTO Public Forum (Geneva, Sept. 2006) ”GATT was founded to deliver better trade, there was a social agenda, with WTO we have moved away from this concept to mainly trade liberalisation” HRIAs would probably reinstate social parameters that are still lacking.

(31) Aaron Cosbey – ISD -


Anticipation of Impacts (Workshop at the 2006 WTO Public NGO Forum)

Comments made at the WTO Public NGO Forum, 24-25 September, 2006

Michelle Cooper, 1st Secretary to the Permanent Mission of Canada, mentioned during the 2006 WTO Public Forum that her government does an EIA after having negotiated a deal. Canada, part of the G8, does not do a SIA nor a HRIA. The challenge linked to an environmental approach is that it is not only environmental.

Rupert Schlegelmilch (10) “Trade SIAs: • Difficulties linked to scope of SIAs and assessment of trade rules. • Political issue: integration of SIA into policy-making process. • important to improve the timing of SIAs in order that the results are delivered with trade negotiations • often SIAs go to the negotiators, not to those who define strategic objectives. • WTO: there is an environmental pillar and a sustainability pillar, the social and HR pillars are nowhere, if we do not address this there will be a backlash”

Prof Clive George (11) echoed this with regards to the SIAs, “that sustainable development is not only trade related but overlaps with a variety of other areas” His concluding remarks “In order to achieve potential benefits and avoid significant adverse impacts, changes in decision-making mechanisms are needed. (enormous socio-economic system change, Washington Consensus not positive) With regards to potential future trends of IAs in making trade more supportive of sustainable development a) single country to do their own IAs with details of what matters to them b) integrated assessment of impacts in all countries, sponsored by the international community c) strengthen partnerships and multi-lateral cooperation with international organisations”

(10) R Schlegelmilch - Head of Unit, EU Commission, DG Trade F3 (Sustainable Development)

(11) Prof. Clive George Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester


Importance of Human Rights Education in Assessing Human Right Impacts

Many communties who are the most affected by poverty are also the ones that are the least informed about their human rights. Any educational options need to include human rights education for adults and young alike. This is especially important for minorites and all those living in remote areas, eg nomadic pastoralists, so that they learn to place themselves in a bigger national context, to understand their needs, articulate these and claim their rights and at the same time learn about the rights of others.

If there are human rights breaches then people need to learn to recognise these and know how to deal with this.  Human Rights Education enhances knowledge about HR and the mechanisms for their protection. But people should also learn about human rights by seeing human rights standards implemented in practice, whether at home, in school, within the community or the workplace. Human rights education should be a comprehensive, life-long process and start with the reflection of human rights values in the daily life and experience of children and part of the aim of education. (32)

All Governments have a duty to teach about human rights and to provide a learning environment where human rights are known, recognised, respected and acknowledged.

(32) The Human Rights Manual for Judges and Lawyers is one of the training tools being currently developed by the HC/CHR Technical Cooperation Programme in support of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004). In this framework, other materials are being prepared for the training of human rights monitors, prison officers, primary and secondary school teachers, journalists and NGOs. The HR Manual is intended to constitute a comprehensive curriculum for the training of judges and lawyers on international human rights standards, to be adapted case by case to the particular national needs and legal systems. It will enhance the substantive capacity of the HC/CHR Technical Cooperation Programme to carry out more effectively training activities in this area. HR Manual

also HRE - OHCHR

also Amnesty


Examples of Projects with significant footprints, IAs and Accountability

The Extractive Industry, related private companies, state-owned enterprises, IAs and Responsibilities

Who is Accountable?

Impact Assessments are often required by International Financial Institutions or by national law for significant projects. Many governments in developing countries do not have sufficient laws to protect the environment, labour and human rights. Thus, is the IFI accountable or a government?

Darling Fonseca Marti

: “Can IFIs be approached for funds or they have their own vested interests or impose their own experts to do IAs based on their methodologies and ideologies?

How do you give an objective assessment that addresses both sides and are country specific? (eg bigger profits for one member might result in job-losses for another)

Availability of data is also important. Studies are costly and cumbersome. Most experts do not come from developing countries. Are these studies accessible to developing countries?

TNCs and rich countries have the information related to iAs at hand, but not the poorer countries. Not only are IAs important, but can we generalise these studies and make negotiating results more equitable, eg by taking viables into account like poverty reduction.” (16)


Deforestation and the Logging Industry

With regards to the Logging Industry: at the time concessions were given, eg 1950s,

IAs nor laws protecting the environment were in place and labour and human rights were in their infancy. How far back can remediation go and by whom?

Deforestation Facts: National Geographic and Trees4Life and

Earth at Risk and Rainforest Facts

Logging companies are also implicated in climate change, though this is not desisting them from login the great Congo Basin forest at 26ha a minute (37 football pitches) with as a consequence greater heat and erratic rain affecting the Sahel region by increasing desertification and bringing untold misery to millions of people.  While most of the money gained from such exploitation leaves the country, what is left is environmental desolation and less trading power in the future. It is also severely impacting carbon-trading potential for Africa leaving the country poorer in the long term and should any industrial capacity develop it might well need to import carbon units.


Extractive Industries, related Private Companies, State-owned Enterprises and the World Bank

WBG / EITI 2005: Niger agreed to further exploitation by private enterprises of its uranium, gold and of its 300 million barrels in oil reserves (19)

The list of the companies involved will show how incestuous the relationships are and how tricky the question of accountability is:

Uranium: COMINAK (owned by COGEMA) France 34%, SOMAIR (owed 57.86% by COGEMA, France and 36.6% by Niger), OURDC Japan (25%), ENUSA  Spain (10%), Urangesellschaft GmbH Germany (6.54%) and Antenna Netherlands.

Gold: Etruscan Resources and Semafo of Canada operated by Soc des Mines du Liptako [owned 80% by AGMDC (owed in turn 50-50 by Etruscan and Semafo) and 20% Niger]

Oil: PETRONAS Niger, a subsidiary of PETRONAS Malaysia and EXXON Mobil Corp. Each company holds 50% of the permit. (as per 2006)



Transnational Corporations, Genetically Modified Organisms and Human Rights Impact Assessments

Another Industry with multiple ramifications: Genetically Modified Organisms.

Many European countries have banned it, with a national law, but these governments are now being taken to the WTO ‘Court” and have to open up their market against the will of the majority of citizen who feel that the environment, their health, sustainability, and their HR to determine for themselves has been infringed. Not enough research has been carried out before marketing certain seeds and over 1820 sheep have died who fed on Bt cotton (21). Another Story involving GMO, PMSCs, 2 murders and grave HR breaches (22)  And in the case of GMO contaminating another non-GMO field, the owner of the non-GMO field is taken to court by the GMO TNC instead of the other way round.(23)

The UN blamed food companies and accused them of violating human rights, calling on governments to regulate these profit-driven firms. It is true that the acceptance of biotechnology and genetically modified foods will also benefit rich research companies and could possibly benefit them more than consumers in underdeveloped nations. [46]

Here we have a case when there are national laws based on IAs a country has done that are being overturned by WTO trading rules. These WTO Rules and the WTO ‘Court’ are invoked by a TNCs that overrides these national laws, infringes HRs (the right to health, healthy food and a sustainable environment), where peoples opinions are ignored, where GMO has gotten into the natural habitat, is affecting animal- and plant-life as well as biodiversity, and when a bee or bird pollinates a normal plant with a GMO gene, then the farmer to whom this happens is taken to court while the natural habitat continuous to be polluted. Health concerns are also an issue.  Your approach of holding governments accountable would, in this case, require a complete review of a governments approach to trade and related agreements and WTO rules, are needed … wide-ranging changes in decision-making mechanisms… as mentioned by Prof Clive George (11)

(11) Prof. Clive George Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester

(21) http://www.i-sis.org.uk/MDSGBTC.php

(22) http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5424

(23) http://www.resurgence.org/resurgence/issues/schmeiser223.htm

also http://www.percyschmeiser.com/conflict.htm

also http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/genetics_modification/

also http://www.mindfully.org/GE/2003/Schmeiser-Canola-Patent2dec03.htm

(46) GM technology to counter world starvation? [9] [10]". Asia Pacific Biotech News 7 (25): 1614-1620. Dec 2003.


Example of a new model: The Corporation of the City of London

This project refers to the square mile (2.6 km2) which is now Europe’s largest central business district (CBD) The London Sustainable Development Commission (24) was established by the Mayor of London in May 2002 and comprises key representatives from the economic, social, environmental and London governance sectors. The Commission launched its 'Sustainable Development Framework for London'

It has launched a 'Sustainable Development Framework for London' (25) in June, 2003, which sets out a sustainable vision for the capital and includes a set of objectives to guide decision making. HR are not yet part of its objectives, though obviously are touched upon.

Article 10 reads as follows:

We will make consistent economic progress – not necessarily always growth – to enable wider economic, social and environmental objectives to be pursued both in London and beyond. Business transactions in London will be conducted to high ethical standards.

The above framework (of business transactions) would fall under self-regulatory measures and are a set of rules which are not imposed by the government but by the Corporation of the City of London that has not ratified any HR instruments. However, governance sectors are involved.

It is therefore crucial that governments take back the power to regulate themselves, have the power to hold accountable and impose fines, and that consultation is undertaken by inviting a variety of stakeholders, in equal measure, and that the process be transparent and not secretive as is currently the case.

NGOs have watched the HR and IAs situation for some time and are therefore well placed to act in a consultative and monitoring manner.

(24http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/0144E43D-84CB-4034-B0A8-9C6F0122FC22/0/SUS_sustainability.pdf



Recapitulation on Impact Assessments

Contradictory notions: A Human Right is a common good and thus can not nor should be considered a trade-able service. WTO: food, water, education, health are traded as services. There are calls to take food and water out of the WTO.

HRIAs are pertinent to all human activities. HRIAs cannot be separated from the environment, trade, labour, development, health, sustainability, social, cultural, indigenous and gender issues. This fact makes HRIAs tricky in that they overlap with so many areas and thus might touch upon areas that are indeed highly politicised. HRIAs therefore promiment.

HRIAs to be done at start

ESIAs, EIAs, HIAS et all also to be revisited from a HRIA perspective

HRIAs to address both/all sides with impartiality

Impartiality of HRIAs when performed by IFI

HRIAs can be country specific, with detail of what matters to a countries

HRIAs of e..g LDCs by taking viables into account like poverty reduction, illiteracy etc

Availability of data on HRIA important, especially for developing countries.

Potential future HRIAs with regards to developing sectors that are in their infancy,

eg  carbon-trading and deforestation, GMOs and agriculture, HRIAs and new Debt,

HRIAs related to IFI’s Structural Adjustment Programmes

Links between HR, HRIAS and HR Education

Consultation between various Rapporteurs, ,e.g. Mr O. Ibeanu  (Toxic Waste), Mrs Shaista Shameem (PMSCs) and Prof J. Ruggie (TNCs) on specific issues related to HRIAs.


Human Rights Impact Assessment never in a Vacuum

A question that has been asked on various occasions: who should deal with HRs related to the WTO, WHO, WIPO, UNEP etc? Each single entitiy or a new agency?

The late James T. Shotwell, president emeritus of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pointed out long ago, that the ILO might more accurately have been termed an International Organization for Social Justice. With TNCs and work so prominent today, the ILO might be an option. However, with the Human Rights Council still needing legitimacy and as HRIAs can not be seen in a vacuum but contain all the others, then an International Organization for Social Justice might well spring forth from and related to the HRC and the work of the Special Rapporteurs and the OHCHR will find their rightful place, in full cooperation with all the other agencies and in a transparent and participative manner.  While far from perfect, the UN is still the only voice representative of all nations and interests of all people.

As mentioned at the start, NGOs are concerned about the eroding power of national governments and state sovereignty in key areas of decision-making. If states do not have the political will to legislate and regulate their national and trans-national corporations, is the state to be held accountable? How would an International Court of Human Rights rule?

Conclusion

It can well be that we have created more questions instead of providing the answers. However, through recent comments at the WTO Public Forum and some of the examples we hope to have demonstrated the need of anchorage of HR into all IAs. This does not imply that HRIAs as stand-alones are not necessary, as they are crucial, but the wider context needs to be acknowledged and a possible inter-agency approach considered.

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