Robust OECD Roadmap requirements could bring key reforms in Brazil

Economic organization released a “roadmap” stating actions to be carried out by candidate countries in the environmental, human rights and defense of indigenous people

7 February 2018-  Neige a l'OCDE

Photo: HervŽ Cortinat/OECD 7 February 2018- Neige a l'OCDE Photo: HervŽ Cortinat/OECD

The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) published this Friday (10th of June) a roadmap with requirements and actions that must be fulfilled by Brazil and five other countries that are in the process of accession to the economic organization. The document referred to as a “roadmap”, itemized a series of points on environmental protection, human rights defenders and indigenous people. In the assessment of FIDH (International Federation of Human Rights), OECD Watch and Conectas, are the organizations responsible for closely monitoring the process. The document so far is satisfactory and, if implemented, could bring about positive changes in environmental and human rights policies all over Brazil.

With the definition of goals and objectives, Brazil and other countries must demonstrate not only their commitment to OECD standards on paper, but through effective compliance with laws and government policies – as well as responsible business conduct. While this is just the beginning of a long accession process, the roadmap is an ambitious step and encourages OECD committees, member states and Brazil to put environmental protection and respect for human rights at the center of the discussion. The document, which has a more OECD principles-based approach than previous ones, shows that accession processes can drive improvements in national policies and practices.

“The publication of this document is an important opportunity for sectors of Brazilian society concerned with the socio-environmental and human rights agenda to kick against the dismantling of governmental policies and instruments in the environmental and social areas, mainly because joining the OECD is tagged as a red flag by Bolsonaro´s government. If Brazil really wants to be part of the organization, it is essential that it respects the rights established in the various laws and treaties in force of the country,” says Júlia Neiva; coordinator of Conectas’ Social and Environmental Rights Defense program.

Although Brazil has shown interest in complying with OECD values ​​in defending the rule of law, protecting human rights and environmental sustainability, the country still has major governance gaps. As a recent survey by Conectas, FIDH and OECD Watch points out, the Brazilian government must make significant changes in its posture to, actually, guarantee the protection of the environment and human rights. Although Brazil has adhered to 103 of the 251 normative instruments of the OECD, the next step is to evaluate the country’s compliance with the standards and principles of the entity based in Paris, France.

Here are some points on the roadmap of the countries that are in the accession process and the barriers that Brazil presents to comply with them, according to civil society organizations:

  • “Ensure effective and ambitious environmental and climate strategies that demonstrate real implementation with no setbacks, as well as investing in climate resilience and adaptation as part of the national development agenda.” The Brazilian government has not shown commitment to the climate agenda. Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the country’s net emissions have increased by 12%. Even more alarming, is the fact that since the enactment of the climate law (Law nº 12.187/2009), the country has increased its emissions by more than a quarter.
  • “To adopt policies to stop and reverse the loss of biodiversity, deforestation and land degradation, respecting and implementing the rights of indigenous peoples and Quilombola communities”. In 2019 and 2020, deforestation rates in Brazil reached decade highs. When compared to 2018-2019, deforestation rates within protected areas have increased by more than 40% in 2019-2020. Furthermore, about 94% of deforestation in the last two years was illegal. Forest fires have also increased in the Amazon and has also become worrisome in other areas. In 2020 alone, there were fires in more than 30% of the Brazilian Pantanal, causing immense loss of biodiversity.
  • “Ensure the effective enforcement of environmental laws, strengthening the capacity of relevant agencies and ensuring the participation of civil society”. Enforcement of environmental legislation in Brazil has been deficient for a long time. Notable environmental protection agencies have suffered from resource scarcity, jurisdictional limitations and arbitrary changes in their boards of directors, inhibiting their independence and effectiveness.
  • Combat impunity for environmental crimes and ensure that violence and threats against environmental defenders are rigorously investigated and processed. Currently, Brazil is one of the most dangerous countries for land and environmental defenders in the world. In 2020, the UN Special reporter on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders reported that 174 defenders were killed in the country between 2015 and 2019.
  • Implement requirements for environmental assessments with transparency and meaningful measures, prior and ongoing participation of vulnerable, indigenous and local communities. In Brazil, the rights of indigenous people were threatened due to the discontinuity of hundreds of social councils and collegiate bodies that enable popular participation. At least three of these councils or directorates linked to indigenous peoples were closed by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. Likewise, indigenous representatives lost their seats on the National Council for the Environment.
  • “Demonstrate evidence of commitment and effective measures to promote responsible business conduct, specifically with regard to respecting the rights of indigenous people.” It is important to highlight that in addition to the responsibility of companies, the government needs to strengthen the protection of labor and social rights. Unfortunately, the Labor Reform has not fulfilled its promises of more jobs and better working conditions. In addition, there were a series of attacks on instruments and institutions that combat slave-like labor. There were also cuts in the budget of several public policies that promote social well-being.


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