sharing in governance of extractive industries

Biodiversity and Human Rights

In March 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment presented the first-ever report on biodiversity and human rights to the Human Rights Council. The report concludes that biodiversity[1] ‘is necessary for ecosystem services that support the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and culture. In order to protect human rights, States have a general obligation to protect ecosystems and biodiversity’  

Recent decades have brought increasing threats to biodiversity and ecosystems. Extractive industries, in particular mining for minerals, precious metals, and oil and gas, have increased all around the world, over land and sea, with serious risks for biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services preservation and affecting indigenous and rural populations’ livelihood. Extractive activities are being carried out in all types of ecosystems, including threatened and delicate tropical rainforests, such as those found in the Amazon region of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. For example, in this region, mining for precious metals has had a long history over the course of a century, and up until recently the toll it has taken on the ecosystem services had not even been considered.

In response, the global community has implemented a number of steps; for example, in 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force and is now one of the most widely ratified treaties in the world. In addition, SDG 15 is devoted to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.

The loss of biodiversity may interfere with the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, livelihood, water, housing, and culture. Threats to biodiversity may particularly affect indigenous peoples that rely on healthy ecosystems for their livelihoods and ways of life.

In addition, Environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) are facing increased risk and challenges to their environmental activism, in every region of the world. These include human rights defenders working on biodiversity issues. They have been killed, detained, threatened, intimidated, stigmatized and criminalized from both State and non-State actors.  Defenders working on land and environmental issues are amongst the most at risk, with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples saying that ‘the pattern of killings in many countries is becoming an epidemic’.[2]

The report by the UN Special Rapporteur encourages a human rights perspective in order to safeguard biodiversity around the world. Moreover, it assigns States a substantive responsibility to develop legal and institutional frameworks for the protection of biodiversity. Specifically, the report recommends that states assess the social and environmental impacts of all proposed projects and policies that may affect biodiversity; provide public information about biodiversity, including environmental and social assessments of proposals, and ensure that the relevant information is provided to those affected; facilitate public participation in biodiversity-related decisions and offer access to effective remedies for the loss and degradation of biodiversity.

Biodiversity is a key element in the International agendas. However, despite commitments substantial gaps in implementation remain.


Discussion questions:

  • What are the different ways extractives impact biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES)? And what are the main strategies to mitigate the impact of extractives on biodiversity?

  • Do you have any examples of biodiversity-related legislation, policies and programs that incorporate human rights obligations? For example, in your country, are biodiversity and human rights integrated in your constitution, laws on environmental protection or National Biodiversity Action Plans etc.?

  • How can all relevant stakeholders (e.g., National and local governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, private sector, etc.) address the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems?

  • In your countries, what steps have been taken to protect environmental human rights defenders working on biodiversity issues? Does your country provide effective mechanisms for defenders of biodiversity and ecosystems, such as to indigenous peoples or local communities living in areas under exploitation by others, to exercise their civil and political rights without fear of persecution?  Examples of these cases include the right to access biodiversity-related information as the basis for the rights of women, men, girls and boys to be able to participate in public consultations concerning the environment.

  •  Which groups are particularly vulnerable to the loss of biodiversity, in addition to indigenous people? 





[1] The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD))defines biodiversity as: The variability among living organisms from all sources including inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species.

[2] The father and grandfather of Filipino activist Michelle Campos were publicly executed for defending their ancestral land against mining in an attack which drove 3,000 indigenous Lumad people from their homes. Rich in natural resources, their region of Mindanao is one of the most dangerous in the world for land and environmental defenders, with 25 deaths in 2015 alone.


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Replies to This Discussion

3 Ways extractives impact biodiversity; names of locations my observations are based on are withheld)

  • Increased population migration (attracted by various opportunities, better infrastructure...) which has a direct impact on the environment. More people leads to more pressure on environment. Around ASM settlements mushrooms and bees for example tend to decrease very quickly.
  • New settlements (particularly ASM) that spring along animal migration routes disrupt natural processes
  • Use of toxic products eg mercury that affects ecosystems and biodiversity

Strategies to mitigate these impacts

  • Law enforcement i.e. monitoring supply chains are a step in the right direction
  • Promoting livelihoods outside mining
  • Sensitising consumers of products derived from extractives on their responsibility
  • Reducing poverty that often combines with mining to devastating effect on the environment

Hi Mulya,

Thanks very much for sharing three ways how extractives can impact biodiversity as well as outlining some strategies on how to mitigate these impacts.

In this context, I am sharing a resource that might be of interest. The Mining and Biodiversity Guideline was just uploaded to the Goxi Library. It provides a tool to facilitate the sustainable development of South Africa’s mineral resources in a way that enables industry and practitioners to minimise the impact of mining on the country’s biodiversity and ecosystem services.  It provides the mining sector with a practical manual for integrating biodiversity considerations into the planning processes and managing biodiversity during the operational phases of a mine, from exploration through to closure.

Any additional comments to the above questions are welcome!


Goxi Facilitator 



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