Charity urges protection for world’s poorest from corporate ‘land grabs’

Trócaire report says area six times the size of Ireland sold off to companies since 2000

Maria Mercedes Gomez (65) is from the Rio Blanco community in Honduras who are resisting the construction of a hydro-electric dam. Photograph: Garry Walsh/Trócaire.

Maria Mercedes Gomez (65) is from the Rio Blanco community in Honduras who are resisting the construction of a hydro-electric dam. Photograph: Garry Walsh/Trócaire.

 

Almost 250 people around the world were murdered last year for defending land, indigenous people and environmental rights, according to a report by Trócaire.

The charity said more than 1,400 attacks had been carried out on activists working on human rights issues since 2015 as it called for a legally binding treaty to protect the rights of people in the developing world whose lives have been destroyed by transnational companies taking over large swathes of land.

The report, entitled ‘Making a Killing: Holding Corporations to Account for Land and Human Rights Violations’, was published in conjunction with the start of Trócaire’s annual Lenten appeal. The charity was established by the Irish Catholic church in 1973.

Trócaire says that the race for natural resources in the developing world has led to land six times the size of Ireland being sold to corporations since 2000.

Revenue

The report says investors from high-income European countries account for nearly a third of these land deals, which primarily take place in Africa, and that the world’s top 10 corporations have a combined revenue equivalent to more than the 180 poorest countries.

“The human rights framework governing businesses has not kept pace with the modern economy,” said Trócaire chief executive Caoimhe de Barra.

“We live in a globalised world, where business knows no border. Countries, particularly in the developing world, compete for investment from companies often richer and more powerful than they are.”

The report highlights that companies engaged in mining, agribusiness, energy and dam construction as posing the greatest risk to human rights defenders.

To mark the 2019 Lenten appeal, the charity is urging the Government to call for a legally binding treaty governing business and human rights to ensure that the rights of the world’s poorest people are not “discarded in the hunt for profits”.