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Natural resource extraction and racial discrimination: Report

Deadline: The Special Rapporteur’s 2019 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council is now online.

Issued by: Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism

View Report: A/HRC/41/54

The report to the 41st session of the Human Rights Council addresses the issue of racial equality and natural resource extractivism. It explains why racial equality and non-discrimination obligations enshrined in the international human rights framework must be central to reform, regulation and evaluation of the extractivism economy. It develops:

  1. A structural racial equality analysis at a global level that foregrounds the racially subordinating effects of unequal distribution of power among nation-states, and between nation-states and transnational corporations; and
  2. A more localized racial equality analysis at the national level that foregrounds the racially discriminatory human rights violations experienced by communities living directly on or close to territories of extraction.

The report presents some recommendations addressed to all stakeholders to ensure human rights protections in the extractivism economy, especially to tackle global structural racial inequality that is rooted in persisting sovereign inequality.

Call for submissions

To inform her report, the Special Rapporteur requested input from relevant stakeholders, including national and local governments, national and international non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions and equality bodies, inter-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies and entities, activists, academics and corporations.


International human rights law prohibits racial discrimination, which it defines broadly as discrimination based on race, colour, descent, or national and ethnic origin.1 In 2013, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples issued a report on extractivist industries and Indigenous peoples highlighting that “indigenous peoples around the world have suffered negative, even devastating, consequences from extractivist industries”.2 In 2016, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders also reported on threats to those defending their communities’ welfare and right to retain control and ownership of their land and environment.3 Civil society organisations, academic researchers, governments and local communities across the world have similarly documented human rights abuses arising from the extraction of minerals, gas, oil, water and other resources. 

Governments and corporations have increased their attention to some of these issues: among other responses, transnational corporations have helped formulate trade, supply chain, and development standards intended to improve protections from the worst of these abuses. Unfortunately, these increased safeguards have been unable to prevent the myriad of human rights violations associated with the processes of natural resource extraction and have especially failed to address historically racialized and marginalized groups’ disproportionate vulnerability to such harms. The Special Rapporteur assesses in this thematic report the nature and scope of these violations in terms of her mandate, and specifically the impact of resource extraction around the world from a racial equality perspective.   

Purpose of the report

Generally, the report of the Special Rapporteur will seek to map the impact of natural resource extraction on racial equality. It will seek, inter alia, to:

  • Identify types of extractivist industries and activities, their prevalence in different parts of the world, and relevant actors participating in or affected by these modalities of extractivist practices;
  • Situate the current practices of extractivist industries in relevant historical, social and economic contexts, including the racial structures and dynamics underlying those processes;
  • Review the current legal frameworks governing transnational extractivist industries and activities;
  • Document the impacts of extractivist industries and activities on marginalized racial and ethnic groups,4 on racial equality and on social cohesion;
  • Identify how these impacts may intersect with other forms of discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerance;
  • Elaborate on the applicable legal and normative frameworks governing racial equality in the governance of domestic and transnational extractivist industries and activities;
  • Identify measures that States, civil society actors or others have taken to curb the adverse effects of extractivist industries and activities on historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups;
  • Outline existing good practices in ensuring that actors within extractivist industries and activities are held to account for racial discrimination and other racialized harms;
  • Identify good practices for ensuring the participation of historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups and affected communities in decisions concerning the development of natural resources and in the sharing of the benefits derived from them;
  • Identify community-based good practices for countering racial discrimination and inequality in extractivist processes, as well as community-based alternative models of resource management and development; and
  • Provide concrete recommendations to all relevant stakeholders, including States, corporations engaging in extractivist activities, concerned communities and their representatives.

Input requested

In her request for input, the Special Rapporteur invited all interested stakeholders to provide information and share views on any of the following issues:

Resource extractivism – forms, context, and relevant actors

  • Modalities of domestic and transnational resource extractivist industries, projects, and activities;
  • Structural, economic, social and historical factors that have led to the prevalence and prominence of transnational resource extractivism in different settings; and
  • Actors governing, participating in, or affected by extractivist industries, projects, and activities.

Impacts of extractivist industries and activities on racial equality

  • The prevalence of racial discrimination linked to extractivist industries and activities;
  • Types of human rights violations arising from or related to extractivist industries and activities and the effects of these violations on racial equality;
  • Impact of extractivist industries and activities on the rights of marginalized racial and ethnic groups, including collective rights to land, territory and resources, to self-determination, to enjoy the benefits of development, and to economic, social and cultural rights;
  • The effects of extractivist industries and activities on marginalized racial and ethnic groups while taking into consideration the intersectionality between these categories and, gender, disability, age, and sexual orientation; and
  • Different actors’ roles in committing, exacerbating, alleviating, preventing, or advocating against racial injustices connected to resource extraction.

State and corporate governance, including protection gaps and good practices

  • Local government and international oversight, supervision and control policies pertaining to the extractivist activities of multinational corporations;
  • The role that international legal and policy instruments that proscribe racial discrimination play in both state governance of extractivist industries and corporate execution of extractivist practices;
  • Discrimination and exclusion around the world attributable to laws and policies that govern resource extraction and connected activities;
  • Good practices in various regions of the world for diminishing the threat that extractivist industries and activities pose to racial equality;
  • Government and corporate procedures for consulting with and obtaining free and prior consent from potentially affected communities before undertaking or permitting extractivist activities;
  • National and multinational corporation policies and procedures regarding their supply chains and how they control the purchasing or resourcing of source material for their products; and
  • Efforts by national and multinational corporations to comply with UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and/or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidance.

Accountability – examples and mechanisms

  • Good practices in various regions of the world for ensuring accountability for racial equality in the extractivism context;
  • Examples of States and corporations that have been held to account for violations of human rights to racial equality and to be free from discrimination in the context of extractivist activities;
  • Instances or patterns of state and corporate impunity for violations of human rights arising from or connected to extractivist industries and activities;
  • Remedies for racial discrimination and violations of racial equality arising from or connected to extractivist industries and activities;
  • Government complaint procedures for marginalized racial and ethnic groups facing social and cultural ramifications generated by extractivist or development activities in communities in which they occur; and
  • Regional mechanisms that address racial discrimination and human rights violations in the context of extractivist industries.

Community-based practices and alternatives

  • Community-based good practices for countering racial discrimination and inequality in extractivist processes;
  • Community-based alternative models of resource management and development;
  • Incorporation of local knowledge bases in the decisions and direction of natural resource management;
  • Processes for ensuring that local communities have access to requisite knowledge regarding the use and management of natural resources and environmental impacts;
  • Good practices for sharing the benefits of resource extraction in ways that are racially equitable; and
  • Examples of local community organization and empowerment of historically marginalized and vulnerable groups around the threat of extractivist industries.

In relation to these issues, stakeholders may also make suggestions for concrete recommendations that the Special Rapporteur may include in her report.


1/ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination art. 1, Dec. 12, 1965, G.A. Res. 2106 (XX), U.N. Doc. A/6014.

2/ A/HRC/24/41, para 1.

3/ A/71/281, A/HRC/21/47

4/ “Marginalized racial and ethnic groups” as used here is intended to capture those affected by extractivism from a racial equality perspective.  It should be understood to encompass all those who encounter discrimination in the processes and effects of extractivism based on race, colour, descent, or national and ethnic origin, as broadly interpreted by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Special Rapporteur.

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Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism
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Contact information

Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
Email: ohchr-racism.un@org

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