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Human Rights Watch submission to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs public consultation on due diligence on forest risk commodities

Cattle near Governador Indigenous territory, Maranhão State, in June 2018. The Pyhcop Catiji Indigenous people protect a remnant of Amazon rainforest surrounded by cattle ranches, mostly devoid of trees. © 2018 Brent Stirton/Getty Images for Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch welcomes the initiative of the UK government to launch a public consultation on due diligence on forest and ecosystem-risk commodities, as well as the announcement by minister of state Zac Goldsmith that the UK intends to spearhead a major global crackdown on illegal timber and deforestation in the run-up to COP 26.

However, narrowly cast legislation that is designed to only prevent the illegal conversion of forests into agricultural land, as the government currently proposes, would miss a critical opportunity to address the wide range of rights abuses that undermine the protection of forests, as well as the consequences of the destruction of forests for climate change mitigation efforts. 

Human Rights Watch research shows that environmental crime impacts not only ecosystems, but also the people who defend them and depend on them, including Indigenous peoples. Conversely, studies show that protecting forest defenders is one of the most cost-effective and impactful conservation strategies. Legislation that requires businesses to conduct due diligence both on environmental and human rights matters would go a long way in advancing this rights-respecting conservation model. 

Based on its reporting on abuses linked to deforestation in the world’s largest rainforests, Human Rights Watch proposes a comprehensive set of recommendations for a regulation that would prevent human rights abuses and imported deforestation in the supply chains of goods and services provided in the UK market, and would require businesses to address their contribution to global climate change.

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