Natural Resources and Human Rights

The world’s growing population and economies—and soaring demands for energy—are driving the search for natural resources, mainly oil, gas and minerals to new frontiers, where a country’s poorest and most vulnerable people live. For many governments, the development of these natural resources is seen as the most promising path for economic growth. For local communities, expectations of a better life are too often replaced by an overwhelming sense of injustice. They lose their lands and livelihoods, witness pollution affecting their environment and health, see women disproportionately affected, and have little or no say in the processes that determine if and how their rich lands will be exploited. Their compounding frustrations are increasingly expressed through violence, contributing to increased insecurity.

How we work
We leverage our global expertise by partnering with local civil society organizations to strengthen their ability to prevent, monitor and document human rights violations and abuses, and to design and implement engagement and advocacy strategies with governments, companies, regional and international bodies. We also act as a convener across national boundaries, fostering South-South learning and joint advocacy.

Our vision
Our vision is for resource-rich communities: 

  1. To have the ability and means to assert, protect and monitor their rights with knowledge and skills; 
  2. To meaningfully participate in the decision-making processes that determine their future;
  3. To equitably share in the benefits that natural resource development can bring.

Snapshots of our work so far
In late 2013, Global Rights launched the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA), the first coalition of its kind in Africa bringing together civil society organizations from 19 countries on the continent to support each other’s work. We are working with ACCA’s 49 member organizations to develop a coalition action plan and governance structure. This will enable ACCA to support exchange among members, to enhance national-level advocacy on identified priorities, and to leverage a collective African voice to shape the global agenda to also reflect the region's lived realities.

With funding from the U.S. Department of State, Global Rights is building momentum for the governments of Ghana and Nigeria to implement the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPs) at the national level by equipping civil society with necessary tools, skills and knowledge. Together with the respective national human rights institutions, we convened a series of meetings to build consensus among federal government ministries, police and armed forces, oil and gas companies, civil society groups and affected stakeholders on whether and how the VPs can protect human rights and meet the needs of all stakeholders. Our work led to Ghana becoming the first African country to declare its support for the VPs.

In Nigeria, with funding from the Ford Foundation, we work with communities to get government remediation funds for lead poisoning from unsafe artisanal gold mining that lead to the deaths of 400 children. In response to this disaster in Zamfara State, we worked with local partner organizations to build communities’ understanding of their rights and the government’s duties, enabling them to successfully lobby government to provide care for infected children, and remove the lead-contaminated soil. We used national media to amplify the community’s lobbying efforts and played a critical role as mediator to help competing community factions find common ground.  Today, we are expanding this work to other States, and working with stakeholders to improve solid minerals governance in Nigeria.

Global Rights is working with funding from the Ford Foundation in the remote and oil-rich Albertine Graben of Uganda. We developed a training manual on how to monitor human rights violations and engage in dialogue and advocacy, which enables our two community-based partner organizations to implement community awareness and advocacy activities, and to effectively engage their government and extractive companies to bring about greater transparency and accountability in natural resource management. In a second project in Uganda, as a partner on a USAID-funded project to improve land rights administration and enhance peace and reconciliation, we are assessing and implementing activities for locally-led collaborative problem-solving to prevent violent conflict around oil exploration and soon production.

In Afghanistan—where the government hopes that the estimated $1 trillion in untapped mineral wealth will replace the aid running the country—Global Rights trained a network of local partner organizations on the social and human rights impacts of large-scale mining. With support from Afghanistan Watch, we next developed a learning guide on resource extraction for civil society in Afghanistan. This guide will enable the network to better share and leverage this knowledge, and use a range of tools to empower local communities, document and monitor the impacts of large-scale mining, and engage the companies and government.


Regional meeting on corporate accountability: Sept. 18-20 in Addis Ababa
Agenda (English) | Programme (Français) 

Two-page Overview of Global Rights Natural Resources and Human Rights program

African Coalition for Corporate Accountablity (launched January 2014):
Press Release | Declaration (English) | Déclaration (Français) 

Learning Module for African NGOs on Access to Remedy and Recourse Mechanisms for Business-Related Human Rights Abuses (September 2013) | English | French

A bird's eye view of the complex system of recourse mechanisms for victims of business-related human rights abuses (October 2013) | English

Africa Regional Training Workshop: Business & Human Rights, London, 8-10 October 2012

  • Agenda  English | French
  • Presentation by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: "How Can Civil Society Use the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights?"  English
  • Presentation by A. Shemberg & K. Meyers, "Introduction to Extractive Industry Contracts, Governance and Human Rights: UN Principles for Responsible Contracts"  English
  • Presentation by Leigh Day, "Corporate Accountability Litigation"  English
  • Report: Civil Society Organizations in Resource-Rich Communities: Helping Ensure Beneficial Outcomes for All  English

Artisanal Mining in Zamfara State, Nigeria: Actualizing Human Rights through Good Governance in Natural Resources Management (2012)  English

My Right to Demand Change: A Practical Guide to Public Participation, Community Empowerment and Advocacy Concerning Natural Resources Exploitation and Human Rights Violations (2011)  | English | French


*Photo by Maria Koulouris