This week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) announced that it would open accession discussions with six countries: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Peru, and Romania. OECD Watch, a global network of over 130 civil society organisations and key stakeholder at the OECD, is warning the OECD not to grant these countries membership before they have aligned their environmental and human rights laws, policies, and practices with the OECD’s standards and values.
Of the six countries up for accession, Brazil is by far the biggest player, a geopolitical heavyweight. Over the past two years, OECD Watch and members Conectas, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), including its Brazilian member organisations Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos and Justiça Global, and SOMO have collected extensive evidence of diverse problems in Brazil. These include climate change and deforestation, environmental degradation and pollution, failure to protect Indigenous Peoples rights and secure the freedom and safety of environmental and human rights defenders, and failure to protect labour rights and public health.
The organisations have documented serious governance gaps – ranging from missing or harmful laws and policies, to failures of enforcement, to repression of public engagement – that show Brazil is currently out of alignment with the OECD’s standards.
“The current Brazilian administration’s poor track record in addressing some of the world’s most pressing crises – from climate change to global pandemics – has shown its lack of commitment to protecting the environment, human rights, and the rule of law,” said Julia Mello Neiva from Conectas. “In Brazil, the most affected populations are the most vulnerable: indigenous peoples, rural communities, afro-descendant communities such as the quilombola communities, human rights defenders, poor and migrant workers, women, and children. We believe the government has often demonstrated complacency, or even complicity, in allowing social and environmental governance to deteriorate in Brazil.”
The research, to be launched in March 2022, presents case studies documenting the human and planetary toll of these governance gaps. It also urges practical reforms the OECD should demand that Brazil take as part of its path to accession, before it can be allowed to join as a member.
“The OECD cannot treat Brazil’s accession as it has past processes, which have focused too narrowly on removing barriers to foreign trade and investment,” said Marian Ingrams, Coordinator of OECD Watch. “For all six countries, we urge the OECD to use the powerful accession process to demand meaningful reforms in candidate countries to protect people and the environment – and refuse membership if the candidates, including Brazil, do not live up to the OECD’s stated values.”
Brazil has been attempting for over a decade to align itself with OECD instruments. Full membership would bring it enormous economic and political advantages, including improved standing among donors and increased access to trade and foreign direct investment. Those advantages should not be granted if Brazil does not clean up its environmental and human rights record.
In its announcement of the opening of accession talks, the OECD has explained that “individual roadmaps will now be prepared provided those [six] countries confirm their adherence to the values, vision and priorities reflected in the OECD’s 60th Anniversary Vision Statement and the Ministerial Council Statement adopted last year.”
“As we move firmly into the next decade – the last decade left to meaningfully change the course of climate change – it is vital that the OECD approach Brazil’s accession differently,” said Maddalena Neglia, Director of the Globalisation and Human Rights Desk, FIDH. “We urge OECD member governments to take Brazil’s accession process – and the OECD’s own values – seriously and grant membership only if Brazil earns it.”
About OECD Watch
OECD Watch is a global network with over 130 member organisations in more than 50 countries. Founded in 2003, OECD Watch’s primary aim is to help support CSO activities related to the OECD Guidelines and the work of the OECD’s Investment Committee. Membership consists of a diverse range of civil society organisations – from human rights to environmental and development organisations, from grassroots groups to large, international NGOs – bound together by their commitment to ensuring that business activity contributes to sustainable development and poverty eradication, and that corporations are held accountable for their adverse impacts around the globe. For more information, please visit www.oecdwatch.org.
Conectas exists to preserve, implement and extend human rights. More than a non-governmental
organisation, we are part of a lively and global movement that continues in the fight for equal rights. Connected via a broad network of partners, spread across Brazil and around the world, we are always available, and we participate in various decision-making debates that advance the path of human rights from the Global South perspective. We work to secure and extend the rights of all, especially the most vulnerable. We propose solutions, avert setbacks, and denounce violations to create transformations.
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) is an international human rights NGO federating 192 organisations from 117 countries. Since 1922, FIDH has been defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. FIDH acts at national, regional and international levels in support of its member and partner organisations to address human rights abuses, including ensuring corporate accountability and improve victims’ access to justice through documentation, advocacy and litigation.
SOMO investigates multinationals. Independent, factual, critical and with a clear goal: a fair and sustainable world, in which public interests outweigh corporate interests. We conduct action-oriented research to expose the impact and unprecedented power of multinationals and show the underlying structures that enable them. Cooperating with hundreds of organisations around the world, we ensure that our information arrives where it has the most impact: from communities and courtrooms to civil society organisations, media and politicians.
This article first appeared on the website of OECD Watch.