Ritualistic infanticide is a phenomenon still widely practiced in certain areas of Northern Benin. In these traditional communities, a child born breach, or premature, born with teeth, or a visible handicap, runs the risk of being labelled a “witch,” bringing bad luck to the family, and therefore killed or abandoned. The practice of ritual infanticide jeopardises the rights to life, health, and development of thousands of children in several African countries. Addressing the issue remains a taboo, impeding significant improvements. FI and its local partner Franciscains-Bénin have been collaborating since 2011 to carry out awareness-raising projects on the ground, and to advocate at the UN in different ways including reports to UN human rights monitoring mechanisms and bodies, statements, events, and the participation of field partners in UN meetings.
As a result of this advocacy work, the government of Benin is now fully aware of the issue, and is collaborating with Franciscains-Bénin and others to prevent the further ill-treatment and killings of children accused of witchcraft. Pressured by repeated UN recommendations, the Beninese authorities adopted a new Child Code in December 2015. The Code includes a provision criminalising ritual infanticide, which is what FI and field partners have been calling for since the beginning.
Thanks to FI’s efforts in training and empowering Benin partners on international and national human rights advocacy work, the Franciscains-Benin Association was created in 2012, and is now recognised nationally for its dedication to protect children accused of witchcraft. In December 2014, the French Embassy in Benin awarded the 2014 Prize for Human Rights to the Franciscains-Bénin Associati
Fracking is the process of breaking up shale underneath the Earth's surface to extract natural gas and oil. It has been hailed as the new direction to take in energy production, and promoted as a safe alternative to traditional fossil fuel sources, especially coal. But fracking activities threaten vital ecosystems, the quality of water, soil and air, thus endangering the health and livelihoods of entire communities. Several countries allow and promote these dangerous practices without independent and transparent assessments of the long-term consequences on affected communities. In 2013, the government of Canada proposed plans for fracking and opened the debate to input from civil society.
FI and 11 partner NGOs, both Canadian and international, took this opportunity to put together a report documenting how hazardous waste and water pollution caused by fracking threatens human rights. They shared the report with national and provincial authorities, as well as with UN human rights bodies. The main recommendations of the report were echoed in a statement read at the UN in September 2013, requesting the UN to study the specific threats posed by hazardous wastes from hydraulic fracturing to the enjoyment of human rights, including the right to water, and urging Canada to ensure effective participation of local communities in decision-making about fracking.
A few weeks later, the provincial governments of Newfoundland and Labrador announced that it would suspend all licenses for fracking exploration. FI received a letter from the provincial governments, stating appreciation for having brought the information to the UN.
Companies on the coast line of Cagayan, in the North of the Philippines archipelago, have been operating illegal black sand mining operations with the consent of national authorities for years. Black sand is used as an additive in the manufacturing of concrete and steel products, magnets, paint, ink, paper, jewellery and cosmetics, making it a lucrative commodity in China, Taiwan and other foreign marketBlack sand mining has affected more than 50 000 hectares of coastal lands and foreshore lands, as well as communities living there. It has caused the depletion of fisheries, worsened flooding in coastal and riverside communities, and worsened the intrusion of salt water and chemicals into freshwater. This in turn has caused shrinking rice fields and an important drop in harvests. Black sand mining has therefore had negative effects on communities’ rights to food, health water, and on their freedoms of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.
FI was contacted by a group of Franciscan Sisters working in the area, who had analysed the situation and developed tight links and trusted relationships with indigenous leaders. In collaboration with this group, FI submitted reports to the UN about the situation, met with decision makers at the UN, trained field partners on national advocacy and UN human rights mechanisms, and mobilised the community through campaigns and awareness-building.
In 2014, the authorities decided to ban black sand mining operations along the Cagaya Valley coastline, not only revoking or suspending all permits for the mining companies operating in the area but also demanding that they rehabilitate the region. Furthermore, communities living along the shores have started organising themselves to monitor any new company attempting to undertake extractive activities in the area, and are advocating locally and nationally to stop offshore mining and review the Mining Act of the Philippines, insisting that companies need to take into account the rights of indigenous and other local communities to be fairly consulted.