UPDATED: We invite members of the Franciscan family to apply by 31 March 2023.

On 31 December 2023, Br Markus Heinze OFM will end his term as FI’s Executive Director, after serving the maximum of nine years. According to the FI Charter, the Executive Director is appointed for a three-year term, renewable not more than twice.

As the sponsor of FI, the Conference of the Franciscan Family now invites qualified members of the Franciscan Family to submit an application for this important position by the end of February 2023, with a final selection set to take place in May.

This early opening is meant to ensure sufficient preparation and transition time between the current and future director. The new Executive Director shall assume the position on 1 January 2024.

All requirements for the position can be found here.

To apply, prospective candidates must be members of the Catholic or Anglican Franciscan Family and provide the following by 31 March 2023, in English:

  • Résumé or curriculum vitæ
  • Cover letter
  • Letter of support from their respective Major Superior (Provincial, Custos, National Minister, etc.).

Applications and any related questions are to be addressed to director@franciscansinternational.org

Franciscans International recently conducted a follow-up visit to Uganda, where sisters and brothers support local communities who continue to be exposed to a range of human rights violations, often rooted in the prevalence of extreme poverty. Young women and children are particularly at risk of harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, early marriages, and human trafficking. In 2020, Franciscans decided to raise these and other issues at the United Nations.  

“The Franciscan family in our country has carried out a lot of charitable work among the poor and the marginalized,” says Sister Leonie Kindiki of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis. “But however much we labored, the oppressive structures continue to exist. While we were busy helping the people, we neglected the root causes of poverty and related issues.” By combing local efforts with UN advocacy, the Franciscans aim to address the root causes of these problems.  

Following a training by FI in 2021, the Franciscan family and its allies organized a series of community visits in eastern Uganda. The findings formed the basis of two reports that were submitted to the UN ahead of Uganda’s examination under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).  

In November 2022, FI visited Kampala again to take stock of the outcomes of these efforts at the UN. In a workshop attended by members of the Franciscan family – including young Franciscans – and partners from other faith-based organizations, we explored different avenues to effectively follow-up on selected recommendations obtained at the UN. During Uganda’s UPR, 16 out of the 28 recommendations made in our submission were reflected in the final UN report, and participants also looked at different ways to integrate the monitoring of their implementation into their daily activities. 

This workshop was complemented by meetings with civil society leaders and government authorities, including the Uganda Police Force, the National Population Council, and the National Children Authority. At the end of the training, one of the participants remarked that “the content transmitted to us has really been done with an optic of sustainability. FI really cares about our work at the grassroots level, which is highly appreciated.” 

FI will continue to support its partners’ follow-up efforts at the national level and is also preparing a report with them that will be submitted ahead of Uganda’s upcoming examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.  

In the Solomon Islands, industrial logging has upset all aspects of life for communities near or downstream of the harvesting sites: rivers are polluted, new invasive species destroy livelihoods, and women and young girls have fallen victim to domestic trafficking. In October, Franciscans International and the Dominicans for Justice and Peace travelled to several of the affected communities together with local sisters and brothers. Here, we joined forces to thoroughly document the adverse impacts of logging and determine the next steps we can take in terms of advocacy and awareness-raising.

“Our mission has been defined in terms of people going into schools and parishes, prisons, visiting people in villages, helping them, praying with them, and running mission programs,” says Brother Christopher John SSF. As the Minister General of the Anglican Society of Saint Francis, he first approached Franciscans International with a request to raise the harm caused by logging in the Solomon Islands at the United Nations.

“I suggested to the brothers, as they celebrated their 50th anniversary in the Solomon Islands, that we needed to expand our idea of mission to take in all of creation – that our care for creation is also part of our mission work ,” says brother Christopher. Following his request, FI, the Dominicans for Justice and Peace and local brothers and sisters worked hard to bring together their information and alert the international community about these problems in a report ahead of the Solomon Island’s 2021 Universal Periodic Review.

A logging pond on Guadalcanal Island

The recent mission deepened our understanding of the issues at stake for affected communities and ensured that we have the necessary information to continue to build pressure both at the national level and at the United Nations.  

Fact-finding at the grassroots

The core of the mission consisted of a series of focus group discussions that were conducted by local Anglican and Catholic sisters and brothers in six villages across Guadalcanal Island. To ensure that people could freely discus how they were affected, the conversations took place in different groups, including traditional leaders, women, and youth. Everywhere, we encountered stories of lives and livelihoods that have been upset by logging, while promises of development and replanting the forests were not kept.

“Before, if you planted food, you would enjoy it growing: the wild pigs would not come down from the forest and eat it. The fish in the river, before you could dive and take them: now you can’t take anything from the rivers. Even the [vines] that we use to tie up our leaf houses: there are none in the bush because the machines destroyed them,” said one village elder and brother of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis. “So that’s the difference before and now – before we enjoyed everything in the bush. Now, no.”

Brothers of the Society of St. Francis interview community leaders.

These focus group discussions were complemented by sessions with local sisters and brothers on how to engage domestic and international human rights mechanisms. Afterwards, they also met with civil society representatives, lawyers, journalists, diplomats, and UN representatives. These conversations helped to further identify the legal and practical barriers to either prevent further logging or compel the logging companies to make good on the promises given to communities – such as the development of infrastructure, schools, sanitation facilities and medical clinics.

A deep-rooted and long-term engagement

While FI will use the findings it gathered for a subsequent submission to the UN, the sisters and brothers in the Solomon Islands are also incorporating the lessons from the workshop into their own ministry, including through plans for further awareness raising and community engagement, such as theater and performances.

Sisters and brothers practice a focus-group discussion.

“In the villages we visited, the brothers are from up and down the road and they’re well known. We are not people who have just dropped in to do something and fly away,” says brother Christopher. “For us working on these issues is not just a one-off thing – where you come in, there’s a solution, and you can go away and tick a box. It’s a long-term relationship.”

The International Board of Directors of Franciscans International met in New York City from 15 to 20 November 2022. On 16 November, we had the extraordinary opportunity to meet at the United Nations with Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, in which she highlighted the important role played by faith-based organizations in promoting the rights and dignity of all people and respect for our common home.

The Deputy Secretary-General offered us an invitation: to help top UN level personnel connect with the local communities. Our response to her was the assurance of our help and support with those connections. Ms Mohammed conveyed to us her deep faith in God as she navigates the difficulties of work and life.

FI works with Franciscans and other local partners around the world to bring the local community voices to the UN, where we provide a platform to advocate for concrete and positive change.

We are challenged and motivated by this faith-filled conversation we had at this level at the UN and look forward to providing further opportunities for all Franciscans and their local communities to link back to UN resources.

The International Board of Directors:

  • Michael Perry OFM
    Order of Friars Minor
  • Joseph Blay OFMConv
    Order of Friars Minor Conventual
  • James Donegan OFMCap
    Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
  • José Eduardo Jazo Tarín TOR
    Third Order Regular
  • Charity Lydia Katongo Nkandu SFMA
    International Franciscan Conference of the Third Order Regular
  • Carolyn D. Townes OFS
    Secular Franciscan Order
  • Blair Matheson TSSF
    Society of Saint Francis
  • Markus Heinze OFM
    Executive Director / Ex Officio member 

Will we eventually have a legally binding instrument at the international level to enhance business accountability for human rights impacts? Franciscans International (FI) and its civil society partners have long demanded that such an instrument be adopted to improve the protection of communities and the environment and obtain justice for those affected by harmful business conduct.

In this lengthy process, intergovernmental discussions resumed and slowly progressed in Geneva between 24 and 28 October 2022, with active participation from both States and civil society. FI thus seized the opportunity of the 8th session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on that matter to defend the process itself and to provide textual suggestions to negotiating States, so as to improve the current draft text.1 An updated draft Treaty is expected in July 2023, hopefully reflecting some important elements that were discussed in that week.  

Evidence-based inputs

One of the most important articles that continued to be supported by some States and the overwhelming majority of civil society is Article 9.3, calling for States to “avoid imposing any legal obstacles … to initiate proceedings.” This should facilitate victims’ access to justice, including when their home State or that of the company is unable or unwilling to provide an appropriate remedy.

In addition to this article, FI presented oral statements2 with proposals for other amendments on the draft, including with partner organizations and networks such as the Treaty Alliance, ESCR-Net, and Feminists4BindingTreaty. Many of the proposals were grounded by experiences relayed to FI from communities and individuals that have sought access to justice in cases of violations of human rights and environmental degradation brought by business operations. For example, FI’s intervention on Article 7 related to access to information, including in regard to reparations agreements in cases of environmental disasters, reflected concerns brought to FI by Franciscan and other partners in Brazil in light of the Brumadinho and Mariana disasters.

During the week, FI also organized the side event, “Towards Environmental Justice: The role of the Legally Binding Instrument for business accountability in combatting the triple planetary crisis.”3 The panel included powerful testimonies from women human rights defenders, including: Erika Mendes on gas projects in Mozambique; Viviana Tacha on La Colosa mine in Colombia; Layla Hughes on the impacts of oil and gas industries in the US; and, Debbie Stothard on the nexus between conflict and the environment in Asia. The Special Rapporteur on the environment and human rights, David Boyd, also joined the panel and underscored that voluntary, soft-law principles were insufficient, and that a binding instrument was needed to ensure accountability.

What’s next?

FI will continue to coordinate and work with its partners in the coming year, in hopes of strengthening the language of the draft Treaty to better protect victims of corporate abuses and tackle impunity. As part of this work, and included in the recommendations and conclusions for the 8th session, the Chair of the IGWG along with the “Friends of the Chair” (Uruguay, Indonesia, France, Portugal, Azerbaijan, and Cameroon) will hold consultations with States and civil society, towards advancing the process and obtaining an updated draft in July 2023. FI expects that it will participate in these talks and provide submissions based both on concrete cases at the grassroots and internal legal expertise.

• • •

For background information on FI’s work on corporate accountability, including the treaty process, see also: Working toward business accountability at the United Nations

1) Draft Treaty currently being negotiated (3rd draft): https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/LBI3rdDRAFT.pdf

2) List of FI’s oral statements at the 8th session of the IGWG:

3) Supporting organizations for the event included: ALTSEAN; CIDSE; CIEL; DKA Austria; ESCR-NET; FIAN; FIDH; Friends of the Earth International; Justiça Ambiental; SIEMBRA; and the Latin American Network Initiative (LANI) of the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

From 24 to 28 October, States and civil society will meet for the 8th time at the United Nations in Geneva to continue negotiations on new international binding rules to address the negative impact of business activities on human rights and the environment, and to improve access to justice for victims of such impacts. The meeting will take place in the format of an intergovernmental working group.

Do you want to follow our work during the session?

Franciscans International has been actively involved since the beginning of this process, and has built its inputs on the work and concerns of Franciscans at the grassroots. In particular, these concerns have centered on extractive industries and their impacts on communities and the environment.

At the start of this negotiating process, FI invited representatives of Franciscans and other partners working at the grassroots to Geneva to help build the case for a future treaty and to encourage States to engage constructively in this process. In the last few years, as the negotiations have entered a more technical phase, we have collaborated with various experts, including lawyers who work on cases like the mining disaster in Brumadinho, Brazil.

Negotiating a future treaty to regulate big commercial and financial interests is an arduous task, and in recent years we have seen a division between States that threatens to put the process itself at risk. FI and its civil society allies within the “Treaty Alliance” have therefore been working to urge States to engage constructively in the process as well as to improve the text so that the future treaty can address the major obstacles to access to justice for victims of human rights abuses by businesses. 

During the upcoming session of the intergovernmental working group, we will therefore pursue a two-pronged effort, defending both the process itself and providing technical inputs to improve the current draft text that will be discussed.

Throughout the session, you can find regular updates on our activities through our Twitter feedWe also invite you to join our side-event on 25 October 2022 where speakers from the grassroots will again raise the potential of the future treaty and raise issues faced by communities impacted by business activities. If you’re interested in receiving specific updates about our work on business and human rights, we also encourage you to sign up for our dedicated mailing list.

Have a look at some of our work on this issue


  • Free, prior, and informed consent in FI’s fact-sheets on Covid-19, Indigenous Peoples, and human rights (September 2021)
  • Cases studies on mining and human rights (October 2017)


  • UN Member States must not walk away from treaty on business and human rights (March 2022)
  • United Nations debates draft treaty on business and human rights (October 2019)
  • Second Revised Draft of the Binding Treaty: An important Step Toward Protecting Human Rights from Corporate Abuse (August 2020)                                   
  • Franciscans International stands with victims of Brumadinho disaster (January 2020)
  • Religious leaders speak out in favor of strong UN treaty on transnational corporations (October 2018)

Events and discussions

  • IGWG7 – Adequate reparations in the future LBI – Examples of mining disasters (27 October 2021)
  • HLPF 21 – Is Extractivism Compatible with Sustainable Development?” (14 July 2021)
  • UNPFII20 – Justice and Accountability in the Context of Extractive Industries: Indigenous women human rights defenders from Guatemala, Brazil, Indonesia, and Bangladesh (29 April 2021)
  • The responsibility of business on human rights: Franciscan action at the United Nations from the perspective of Laudato Si’ (13 November 2020)
  • IGWG6 – Human rights abuses and environmental degradation: what the treaty can bring (29 October 2020)
  • DRC – Revised Mining Code and national governance and COVID-19 (24 September 2020)
  • Dams and business accountability in the Amazon region: Putting the draft treaty to a test (15 October 2019)
  • The impact of megaprojects on the human rights to water and sanitation (12 September 2019)
  • Mining disasters: Testimonies from Brazil and the DRC (6 March 2019)

Statements and submissions

To the working group:

Other notable statements:

  • HRC48 – Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation (September 2021)
  • HRC47 – Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on environment and human rights (March 2020)
  • CSocD58 – Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness (February 2020)
  • HRC38 – A renewed commitment to a multilateral approach to business and human rights (June 2018)

Universal Periodic Review

“Last month, when I met Franciscans in São Paolo and Uberlandia, they shared how they had to open community kitchens, providing meals to people hit by the consequences of the pandemic and who cannot feed themselves anymore. Franciscans have started a new campaign to combat hunger,” says Ulises Quero, Franciscans International’s Program Coordinator for the Americas. 

Franciscans in the Philippines face similar challenges, and these testimonies are only some of the many that we received at Franciscans International during and after the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. As September 2022 marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights, the world faces a surge in the number of people who have remained or been pushed back into extreme poverty across the globe.

This shows that, even if some progress had been achieved before the pandemic struck, it was not robust enough. Measures taken, for example under the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, failed to address the structural inequalities that perpetuates extreme poverty and, when shocks occur, create new ones.  It is important to remind ourselves of some key figures. While analysts at the World Bank estimate that the pandemic pushed an additional 97 million people into poverty in 2020, analysts at the International Monetary Fund just confirmed the dramatic extent of world inequality. The World Inequality Report 2022 shows that 10% of the world population hold over 75% of the global wealth and is responsible for half of our carbon emissions.

In 2012, the UN Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights were adopted by consensus by States within the UN Human Rights Council. They enshrined the nexus between human rights violations and poverty – the former being both a cause and a consequence of the latter. They also provided detailed policy guidance to public authorities and other relevant actors to design and implement anti-poverty policies that respect, protect, and fulfill human rights. And, as Markus Heinze, FI’s Executive Director states, “this is particularly important for us as Franciscans. Our strategy and our values inspire us to fight for equal dignity for all, and to consider the fight against extreme poverty as a matter of justice and rights and not just of charity or economic growth.”

For this reason and together with other civil society allies including ATD Fourth World, FI contributed to the implementation of the Principles at the grassroots, working with people living in extreme poverty to ensure that they can be agents of change, active in society and in decision-making for issues that concern them. In particular, we participated in the elaboration and use of the collective manual Making Human Rights Work for People Living in Extreme Poverty to help Franciscans and others living with and accompanying the most marginalized and disadvantaged communities to assert their rights.

Nevertheless, as the latest reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and extreme poverty denounce, a large share of the help formally available to the poorest households fails to reach them because of the way people are treated in public services, feeling ashamed and stigmatized. Oftentimes, programs are not conceived in consultation with those who need to access them and thus fail to take into consideration gaps in information or in digital access, to name only a few factors.

Hence, 10 years down the line, these very valuable UN Principles have been left under-, if not completely un-used by the international community. This has not been the case for other similar instruments in the UN system, and one can wonder if the lack of political will to tackle extreme poverty and structural inequalities, discrimination against those who experience them, and the criminalization of poverty, is not reflected in the treatment of the Principles themselves. It is therefore high time for States to renew not only their commitment to implement the important policy recommendations in the Guiding Principles, but also their commitment to a truly human rights-based approach to the fight against extreme poverty and extreme inequalities that threaten our societies and planet.

Brazil has seen a worrying regression in terms of human rights in recent years. Existing social inequalities have been further deepened by the Covid-19 pandemic, plunging many into extreme poverty. Marginalized communities, including the country’s Indigenous peoples, are treated with hostility by the current administration. Weak environmental regulations and poor oversight have allowed extractive industries, particularly mining, to threaten some of the world’s most vital ecosystems.

“We are living through the dismantling of the human rights system, especially over the last four years,” says Brother Rodrigo Péret, a Friar Minor from Brazil who has repeatedly raised these issues at the United Nations. “We are opposing these trends. However, to be successful we need a collective response – including from the international community.”

Franciscans International recently visited Brazil, ahead of a crucial presidential election in October and an upcoming examination of the country’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review* (UPR). During this mission, FI visited several Franciscan projects through which sisters and brothers provide direct care to people in need and to better understand the challenges they face.

FI meets with the team of the Serviço Franciscano de Solidariedade (SEFRAS) in São Paulo.

Local Franciscan projects that directly help affected communities  

The Franciscans in Brazil work on numerous projects that seek to improve the human rights situation of local and marginalized communities. For example, in São Paulo, the “Casa de Assisi” shelter welcomes migrants and refugees. Other Franciscans work with local authorities through mobile outreach centers that offer support and legal aid to vulnerable migrants. While the total number of migrants briefly decreased at the height of the pandemic other issues, such as discrimination and forced labor, surfaced.

Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, the Franciscans are again seeing a new influx of migrants – both from neighboring countries and as far as Africa and China. However, since the government process of regularize migrants all but stopped because of Covid-19, they are facing long delays in formalizing their status.

The pandemic also exacerbated many of the deep-rooted social inequalities in Brazil. The number of people experiencing hunger, homelessness, and shortages of water has spiraled. Franciscans have responded in various ways: some directly distribute food, while in Uberlandia the Franciscans supported the creation of communal kitchens that feed hundreds of people every day. Others provide shelter to those that were evicted during the pandemic. However, this work mainly addresses the immediate hardship – active engagement from the authorities is needed to structurally improve the situation.

A mural in the “Casa de Assisi” shelter for migrants and refugees.

Extractive industries, on the other hand, have thrived during the pandemic. Mining was declared an ‘essential activity’, allowing projects to move forward threatening both local communities and vital ecosystems. Oftentimes, these operations also infringe on Indigenous lands, without their consent.

The dangers of these practices are exemplified by the mining disasters in Mariana in 2015 and four years later in Brumadhino, where the collapse of tailing dam caused hundreds of deaths and widespread environmental damage. Years later, the victims are still suffering the residual harm from pollution and toxic waste. Many have not received full reparations.

Climate change is further exacerbating the problem, as increasingly heavy rains and storms spread the pollution over an even wider area. “In Brazil, mining does not only deplete the land. The destruction it brings also depletes the people.” says Brother Rodrigo, who works closely with the affected communities.

The FI delegation attends the launch a report by the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI) on violence against Indigenous peoples.

Using the United Nations mechanisms to build additional pressure for change

Beyond these projects, the Franciscans are also looking to the international community to help improve the human rights situation in Brazil. In August, immediately after FI’s visit, Brother Rodrigo also traveled to Geneva, where he raised Franciscans and allies’ concerns in a pre-session addressing a wide range of diplomatic missions ahead of Brazil’s UPR and met with several UN human rights experts.

As the basis of this advocacy work, FI and its partners submitted a joint report submitted to the UN. This report details a wide range of concerns related to the human rights situation in the country. During the pre-session with diplomatic missions in Geneva, Brother Rodrigo also made specific recommendation to ensure that the rights of victims are protected and to end the prevailing impunity that allows companies to evade accountability for the human rights violations caused by their activities.

“These recommendations are extremely important, as they will be the basis for a roadmap for the new government,” says Brother Rodrigo. “They will also give us the tools to apply pressure to improve the human rights situation in Brazil.”

* Under the UPR, the human rights record of all UN Member States is examined on a rotating basis. During the process, States offer each other recommendations for improvement. The pre-sessions offer an opportunity to discuss what issues should be raised during the examination, and what recommendations can be offered. Brazil’s examination under the UPR is scheduled for 7 November 2022. 

A map showing all the conflicts related to mining activities across Brazil.

The Council will convene between 12 September and 7 October. During the session, we will raise various human rights situations and concerns shared by our partners at the grassroots. You can find all our statements below.

• • •

Item 10: Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report – the Philippines (5 October)

Despite a year-long implementation of the UN Joint Program on Human Rights, access to justice in the Philippines remains very limited. The government has failed to prove the effectiveness of domestic accountability mechanisms, especially those related to the so-called ‘war on drugs’. In a joint statement, we urged the Council to consider the Philippines as a priority and adopt a follow-up resolution with the view to establishing an Commission of Inquiry.

• Full statement (English)

Item 3 & 5: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples – Guatemala (28 September)

Racism and structural discrimination in Guatemala have stood in the way of traditional Indigenous knowledge to be considered in preventing environmental damage, land erosion, and even the effects of climate change. Moreover, Indigenous peoples are often ignored in decision-making processes and the participation of Indigenous women in particular is rare. Instead, those who defend their lands and territories are stigmatized for taking on this role. In a joined statement, we called on the Human Rights Council to urge Guatemala to protect women human rights defenders and to implement measures that guarantee the participation of Indigenous women in consultations and decision-making processes.

• Full statement (Spanish)

Annual Panel on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Guatemala (28 September)

During the Covid-19 pandemic, food insecurity in Guatemala was exacerbated by weakened institutions and exclusionary and discriminatory policies that benefit extractive and agro-industrial companies. According to the Ministry of Health, the number of children with malnutrition increased to more than 14.000. Nevertheless, the government does not prioritize initiatives designed to strengthen local and Indigenous agriculture and trade, which could contribute to food sovereignty. At the Human Rights Council, we called on all States to adopt policies to address and alleviate threats to adequate, and to protect defenders of land and territory.

• Full statement (Spanish)

Item 4: General Debate – Mozambique (27 September)

Despite the recommendations accepted by Mozambique during its 2021 Universal Periodic Review, the government has failed to contain the crises in Cabo Delgado, which has so far displaced over 900.000 people. The situation, inextricably linked to the exploitation of natural resources, is likely to further deteriorate as demand for gas from Mozambique soars due to the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the population continues to suffer widespread human rights violations. In our joint statement we called the Council’s attention to this urgent situation and called on Mozambique to comply with its international human rights obligations.

• Full statement (English)

Item 4: General Debate – Guatemala (27 September)

In Guatemala, the deterioration of the rule of law, the co-opting of the judicial system, the weakening of national human rights institutions, and the closure of civic spaces continues to advance. Frequent attacks against people, organizations and rural and Indigenous communities that defend the rights to land, territory, and the environment occur with impunity. In a joint statement, we called on the Council to demand that Guatemala investigates and prosecutes those responsible, immediate stops judicial and extrajudicial evictions, creates an effective mechanism to seek solutions for agrarian conflicts, and renews the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country.

• Full statement (Spanish)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation – Guatemala (14 September)

To Indigenous peoples in Guatemala, water and rivers are sacred and must be protected.  Yet environmental human rights defenders in the country are systematically repressed and criminalized. The lack of legislation recognizing the human right to water has led to the adoption of unconstitutional exploitative policies, contrary to international human rights standards. In a joint statement, we called on the Human Rights Council to urge Guatemala to address these legislative gaps, respect the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples, and investigate attacks against environmental defenders.

• Full statement (Spanish)

Item 2: General Debate – Indonesia (14 September)

In 2018, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad bin Hussein was invited to visit West Papua. However, despite ongoing negotiations, no such visit has happened to date. Meanwhile, the human rights situation in West Papua has continued to deteriorate. The ongoing conflict between Indonesian security forces and pro-independence armed groups has displaced an estimated 60.000 people. The freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly of Indigenous Papuans continue to be violated and the region remains closed to the international community. In this joint statement, we called on the High Commissioner to visit West Papua as a matter of urgency.

• Full statement (English)

Item 2: Interactive Dialogue on the report on human rights in Sri Lanka (12 September)

The unprecedented economic crisis in Sri Lanka has generated a situation in which widespread violations of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights are occurring. Franciscans International condemned the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors and the increasing number of reprisals against human rights defenders. We also expressed our concern about the government’s failure to deliver justice for the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday Bombings. FI urged the Council to fully utilize its mandate under resolution 46/1 to strengthen the Sri Lanka Accountability Project while also considering establishing a new independent mechanism to complement this work and monitor the ongoing human rights violations.

• Full statement (English)

Thumbnail: UN Photo by Pierre Albouy

In October 2017, insurgents in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province sparked a violent conflict in which at least 3.000 people have been killed so far. Since the beginning of the conflict, more than 800.000 others have fled the terror with the majority heading to the neighboring Nampula province. Franciscan sisters are among those supporting these internally displaced people (IDPs), trying to address the lack of food, water, housing, education, the prevalence of trauma, and a range of other human rights issues.

“Morale is very low, so that is a big challenge that we face,” says Sister Lucia of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who, as part of her work, provides counseling to IDPs. “How do we raise the spirit of people – to feel that you are still a person, with dignity and respect?”

Despite an influx of foreign troops to fight the insurgency, the violence in Cabo Delgado remains largely underreported and the consequences unaddressed. The Franciscans in Mozambique are now looking towards the international community for help. Earlier this year, they welcomed a delegation from Franciscans International to explore how they can raise their case with the United Nations.

This delegation visited two IDP camps in Nampula, where people are now starting to settle permanently. Here, the living conditions remain difficult, and access to food, healthcare and education are lacking. Extreme weather events, including cyclone Idai, have further worsened the situation. Nevertheless, with the immediate ‘emergency’ over, international humanitarian organizations have started to withdraw, and the church is one of the main donors left to provide assistance to the population.

As part of the mission, FI also conducted two workshops to map the challenges faced by the local Franciscans and identify their needs to help improve the situation of the IDPs they support. As a second step, participants explored possible avenues to raise their case through the different human rights mechanisms at the United Nations.

While the immediate priority of the collaboration between the Franciscans in Mozambique and FI will focus on the situation of IDPs, it will also look at long term solutions to address the crisis in Cabo Delgado. Although ostensibly an Islamist insurgency, many of the underlying grievances that gave rise to the violence are rooted in long-term and persistent socio-economic inequalities.

“Ultimately, the situation in Cabo Delgado also raises the issues of wealth distribution among the local population who have not benefitted from the exploitation of gas reserves in the province,” says Mickaël Repellin, FI’s regional program coordinator for Africa. “To address the conflict, we must ensure a better enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights of people currently excluded and living in extreme poverty.”