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Rio +20: Human rights must be at the heart of sustainable development, say Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch

World leaders must put human rights at the heart of sustainable development to stop increasing discrimination and marginalisation of some of the worlds most vulnerable communities, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

In a joint statement ahead of the +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (20-22 June) the two leading human rights organisations said world leaders have a once-in-a-generation chance to create a meaningful link between sustainable development and human rights.

Savio Carvalho, director of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign, said:

“Unless governments as well as businesses and international institutions stop sacrificing human rights at the altar of development, marginalisation, discrimination, and injustice will continue unabated.”

Human rights monitoring bodies and international, regional, and national courts are increasingly recognising the role of environmental damage in human rights violations and have firmly established state responsibility with respect to environmental protection.

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have documented human rights abuses in the context of infrastructure projects pursued in the name of development, the operation of extractive industries that have pushed indigenous peoples off their traditional lands, and development policies that have resulted in forced evictions of some of the poorest people.

Jan Egeland, deputy executive director at Human Rights Watch, said:

“World leaders in Rio should ensure that sustainable development is grounded in human rights.

“It is encouraging that the new draft for the outcome document explicitly refers to human rights, but it doesn’t go far enough to ensure that those rights are protected.”

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch added that in the wake of the Arab Spring, world leaders cannot deny the importance of free expression, association and assembly, equal access to information and to transparent processes, civic participation, and social accountability for sustainable development.

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