UN experts said today they were concerned the 1,500-kilometre Train Maya project on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula was endangering the rights of indigenous peoples and other communities to land and natural resources, cultural rights and the right to a healthy and sustainable environment.
Human rights defenders raising concerns on negative impacts face threats and attacks and very limited safe access to an independent and impartial tribunal, the experts said.
“As a state-led project, the Mexican government should take additional measures to ensure respect for human rights and the environment,” the experts said. In addition, the government has now elevated the project as a national security project, which allows it to derogate from the application of environmental and social safeguards. “This change in status of the State-led project does not allow Mexico to elude its international obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of people affected by this megaproject and to protect the environment in line with international standards.”
“That decision not only has the potential to allow human rights abuses to remain unaddressed, but also to undermine the project’s purpose of bringing inclusive and sustainable social and economic development to the five Mexican states involved. In this context, the increasing involvement of the military in the construction and management of the project also raises great concern,” said Fernanda Hopenhaym, the Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
The experts called on the Government to ensure meaningful participation of affected communities and transparency in human rights and environmental impact assessments prior to any future decisions related to the project as key to identify, prevent and address any further negative impacts.
“Free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples should be respected, and the cumulative actual and potential impacts of projects should be transparently assessed, in line with international human rights and environmental standards,” they said.
The experts have also expressed concern over the lack of human rights due diligence by companies involved in the project, which is estimated to cost up to $20 billion. “Relevant companies and investors domiciled in Spain, the United States and China cannot turn a blind eye to the serious human rights concerns related to the Train Maya project.”
The experts urged companies and investors to take appropriate measures and exercise leverage to ensure that human rights due diligence processes are carried out in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.