The CDM Must Protect Human Rights

15 November 2013

During the CDM workshop held this past June, Parties heard firsthand testimony from Weni Bagama, who spoke out passionately about the impacts of the Barro Blanco CDM project — a 29 MW hydroelectric dam currently under construction on the Ngäbe indigenous territories in Panama.

Weni described how the company failed to adequately consult the affected communities, a clear violation of CDM rules and international human rights standards. Despite concerns raised regarding consultation and other human rights abuses during the validation process, the CDM executive board approved the project in January 2011.

Since then, James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, visited the affected communities to investigate the human rights abuses associated with the hydro project. In his concluding statement, the Special Rapporteur highlighted the Barro Blanco case, and clearly articulated the international human rights obligations that should apply. He further stated that this case is emblematic of the many development projects that are threatening the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples in Panama.  

Barro Blanco does not stand alone.  It is one of many projects that illustrate how the CDM has failed to ensure that projects are designed, implemented and monitored in a manner that protects human rights. In Cancun, parties agreed to ‘fully respect human rights in all climate change-related actions’. This has not yet been realized.

Now is the time to translate words into action. As part of the CDM review process to be concluded this week, ECO calls on Parties to establish safeguards that would help to prevent social and environmental harm, promote greater accountability, and ensure the effective participation of all stakeholders.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that the negotiations on the the CDM appeals procedure – now punted to the next session – can adequately protect the rights of affected communities. Now is the time for real reform to protect human rights in the CDM.

A side event on human rights in the CDM will take place today at 11:30 am in Room Cracow (Level 2, Zone B2), to discuss how the experiences and lessons learned from the CDM can inform the design of new market-based mechanisms.


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