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UN rights expert calls for improved transparency in development projects

Independent UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya [official profile] on Tuesday emphasized the need for transparency and equality [press release] in large-scale construction projects that alter the environment of citizens in developing nations. Human rights defenders working on behalf of native communities have reportedly faced harsh criticism and threats of violence for their work to defend citizens' interests before and during the construction of large-scale industrial projects. The human rights defenders have been called "anti-government," "against development" or even "enemies of the state" in countries where they seek to aid communities in transition. According to Sekaggya, the negative branding inhibits the ability of human rights defenders to engage freely and meaningfully in development projects, which includes reporting human rights concerns and violations. Moreover, Sekaggya said the work of human rights defenders can drastically reduce tensions among private corporations, national governments and affected citizens.

Earlier this month several UN rights experts called for a halt to the construction of a steel production facility in India [Guardian report] that would mark the largest foreign investment in the country. Rights experts identified forced evictions and a lack of consultation with affected peoples near the site, which would displace over 22,000 people in the Indian state of Odisha. Also this month Sekaggya encouraged the government of Togo [JURIST report] to provide a more suitable working environment for human rights defenders in the country. Sekaggya presented a report in June on infrastructure projects in South Korea [South Korea Human Rights Monitor report], including an electrical tower and a naval base, which described violent arrests during peaceful protests and the denial of access for human rights defenders.

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