Brazil must improve its environmental and human rights record as a condition of OECD membership

The research carried out by OECD Watch, Conectas Human Rights (Conectas) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH – notably within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, in partnership with the OMCT), show that the country still has a long way to go to improve its record in terms of climate change and deforestation, environmental degradation, the rights of indigenous peoples, the protection of defenders of environment and human rights and labor rights.

By analyzing these five critical themes in dedicated papers released today, civil society organizations demonstrate how diverse and widespread governance failures jeopardize the rule of law, human rights and the environment in Brazil. The problems relate to inadequate and ineffective laws and regulations, underfunding of key ministries and policies, failure of enforcement and accountability, lack of transparency and public engagement, and repression of dissent. A summary with an overview of the findings of the reports is available.

The research, launched today in a webinar, not only highlights the main causes of these governance gaps with illustrative case examples, but also proposes national reforms that Brazil should undertake to address them. The documents urge the OECD to require Brazil to implement the necessary reforms during the accession process.

The research is being published ahead of meetings in late March and early June of the OECD Ministerial Council to discuss the principles and “roadmaps” that will guide the accession process for Brazil and other candidate countries. The release of the research also comes ahead of the March 29-31 meeting of the OECD’s Environment Policy Committee at ministerial level, which will focus on climate change, among other issues.

“The OECD exerts a powerful influence on Brazil during the upcoming accession process,” said Marian G. Ingrams, coordinator of OECD Watch. “He should use this leverage to help achieve these reforms by demanding that Brazil adopt them as a firm precondition for membership. The OECD should also ensure that the accession process for Brazil and other countries is transparent and allows for the participation of civil society, particularly in candidate countries.

“The current Brazilian administration’s poor record in addressing some of the world’s most pressing crises – from climate change to global pandemics – has shown its lack of commitment to protecting the environment, human rights and the rule of law,” said Julia Mello Neiva. by Connectas. “In Brazil, the most affected populations are the most vulnerable: indigenous peoples, rural communities, communities of African descent such as the quilombola communities, human rights defenders, poor and migrant workers, women and children. We believe that the government has often shown complacency, even complicity, in allowing social and environmental governance to deteriorate in Brazil.

“This is the last decade left to significantly change the course of climate change – and Brazil will be instrumental in this. The OECD cannot treat Brazil’s membership as it did in the past, which focused too narrowly on removing barriers to foreign trade and investment,” said Maddalena Neglia, Director of FIDH’s Globalization and Human Rights Office. “We urge OECD member governments to take Brazil’s accession process – and the OECD’s own values ​​- seriously and only grant membership if Brazil deserves it.”

Brazil has been trying for more than a decade to align itself with the OECD instruments. Membership would bring enormous economic and political benefits to Brazil, including a better position among donors and increased access to trade and foreign direct investment. Brazil should not enjoy these benefits while its human rights and environmental record remains so dismal.

Seminar and official launch

OECD Watch and its partners launched the research in a webinar on March 22, 2022. After a keynote speech by Fernanda Hopenhaym, member of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Conectas moderated a panel discussion with Vice-Chief Sucupira Pataxó, representative of an Indigenous Group affected by the recent collapse of a dam; Jandyra Uehara, National Secretary for Social Policy and Human Rights of CUT, Brazil’s largest trade union; Suely Araújo, senior public policy specialist with the Brazilian NGO consortium Climate Observatory; Eric Pedersen, Head of Responsible Investments at investor Nordea; and Daniela da Costa-Bulthuis, portfolio manager, emerging markets at investor Robeco.


About OECD Watch, Conectas, FIDH and the Observatory

OECD Observatory is a global network with over 130 member organizations in over 50 countries, representing the voice of civil society on the OECD Investment Committee.

Conectas Human Rights is a Brazilian organization that has worked for 20 years to promote, implement and extend human rights from the perspective of countries in the South. Conectas offers solutions, prevents failures and denounces violations to produce transformations.

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) is an international human rights NGO that brings together 192 organizations from 117 countries to collaborate on strategies to promote universal human rights standards.

the Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this program is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union mechanism for human rights defenders set up by international civil society.

Background information

Research shows that:

Deforestation in the Amazon and other protected biomes has skyrocketed under the current administration, reaching ten-year highs in 2019 and 2020. Greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change are also on the rise as wildfires rage across megadiverse natural territories. The main causes of deforestation are well known: the expansion of commercial agriculture and cattle ranching, logging, mining, land speculation and the expansion of infrastructure. But as research shows, the government is pushing economic expansion into protected lands while dramatically cutting the budgets and enforcement capacity of environmental agencies. The authors of the research call on the OECD to require Brazil, among other measures, to provide the necessary capacity and authority to environmental regulators and to stop supporting legislation that reduces protections for indigenous lands. .

Environmental destruction is a growing threat in Brazil. Toxic wastes from mining activities and dam collapses pollute natural resources; mercury poisons indigenous populations subject to illegal gold mining in their territories; and pesticides – many of which are banned in other OECD states or sprayed from the air in ways prohibited by other OECD states – poison people, soil and water sources. Instead of taking action to address this damage, the Brazilian government, research shows, is promoting legislation to expand mining on indigenous lands and facilitate the authorization of pesticide use. Our organizations urge the OECD to use its influence during the accession process to demand that Brazil put in place an effective regime to protect its people and environment from pollution damage, sanction perpetrators of environmental crimes and provide remedies to affected communities.

Rights of indigenous peoples, such as self-determination and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) over the use of their territories, are systematically attacked in Brazil. The Brazilian constitution required that all indigenous lands be assessed and labeled for protection by 1993, but successive governments have failed in this task. Meanwhile, under the current government’s pro-industry policies, land grabbing has skyrocketed, for example from 109 cases in 2018 to 256 in 2019, affecting at least 151 indigenous lands from 143 peoples in 23 States. Meanwhile, 277 reported cases of violence against indigenous people were recorded in 2019, almost half of which were murders and homicides. The authors of the article urge the OECD to demand that Brazil adequately fund ministries that oversee the protection of indigenous lands, ensure accountability for offenders and limit its own racist rhetoric against indigenous communities and other traditional communities.

Environmental and human rights defenders in Brazil are seriously threatened. According to data collected by Global Witness, Brazil remained the deadliest or one of the four deadliest countries in the world for land and environmental defenders from 2002 to 2020. Unfortunately, the government is a driving force key to this situation, facilitating extraction, infrastructure and agricultural activities – often on legally protected territory – without ensuring consultation, consent and human rights protection for affected communities. When activists speak out to demand accountability for harm, they face threats and violence. Meanwhile, law enforcement failures confer impunity on the perpetrators. Our organizations call on the OECD to demand that Brazil adopt all necessary measures to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of programs for the protection of human rights defenders, guarantee access to justice in the event of harm and address the root causes of violence.

Ultimately, workers’ rights have come under severe attack over the past five years in Brazil, first by a major labor reform passed in 2017 by the previous administration, and continuing under President Bolsonaro’s philosophy that “fewer rights are better than no jobs”. A recent increase in labor informality, leading to more precarious working conditions, coupled with the gutting of unions and poor occupational health protection, has led to a series of abuses of workers’ rights without growth corresponding economic growth or fall in unemployment. Our organizations call on the OECD to demand that Brazil repeal the harmful labor reform and ensure adequate labor inspection capacity, among other reforms, to close the gaps in its protection of workers’ rights.

Brazil OECD_Summary by FIDH FIDH on Scribd

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