“You treat this land like gold, this land is life itself.”
15 December 2022
For those of us working in the world of business and human rights, International Human Rights Day is often a day to reflect, a time for us to step back and consider the role we play in helping companies to contribute to a fairer and more inclusive world.
For Human Rights Day, we are sharing the reflections of our colleague Amy Coupland who is making her way from the UK through West Africa to Cape Town. Travelling by truck with her partner James and their dog Luna, they are visiting rural locations with the aim of telling stories that matter and contributing positively along the way, including travelling plastic free.
In this short blog, Amy reflects on her time in Morocco and the important interlinkages between human rights and climate change in the year that the UN General Assembly adopted a new and important resolution recognising the right to a healthy environment.
Amy in her own words...
“During my 7 weeks in Morocco I’ve experienced drought, downpours and landslides, thunderstorms, sandstorms and hailstones. With that context of climatic change in mind, imagine the only fertile land in your community is a small, shared plot, a few hectares. The rest is sandy, arid desert that holds no water and barely any nutrients. Imported food is expensive and you need to grow most of what you need. In this fertile communal plot there are several date palm trees and ground fauna, like herbs. They take up space, but as tempting as it is, you can’t uproot any of these to make space to grow more of what you need, to make the land more ‘productive’. The date palm gives your veg shade, breaks the wind and stores water in the soil for drier times, the ground herbs keep the ground moisture in and stops the soil from being scorched by the sun.
Ancestral knowledge tells you that when the date palms are dry and sick, it’s the last sign of a bad drought and famine will follow. You must resist all temptation to pull them up to ‘make more space’. You must tend this communal fertile land in cooperation with the whole community. It doesn’t make sense to plant the same as your neighbour has, it makes sense to plant something complementary, and share your yields with her. You don’t litter or leave anything that is not intentional in this shared back garden.
You treat this land like gold, the land is life itself. Keeping it in health is your biggest inheritance, and your biggest gift to your children. This is my observation of the value and management of every community relying on an Oasis (pronounced in Arabic ‘O-Aziz’) that I’ve seen or visited in Morocco. By their mere survival, these communities operate a level of cooperation and cohesion that I have never experienced or really seen before.”
Cooperation and cohesion
Now imagine if this level of cooperation and cohesion could be mirrored in the negotiation rooms of COP or company Board rooms. Imagine what we could achieve if we listened to these communities, learnt their lessons and applied them at scale.
Amy’s reflections are from her travels, but they mirror the experiences we see when working with our local teams implementing Human Rights Due Diligence in Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Malawi, India, Turkey, Pakistan and more. These are the people that we listen to and learn from through our work every day. These are the people who have lessons to share.
Note: the right to a healthy environment includes the right to clean air, a safe and stable climate, access to safe water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainably produced food and non-toxic environments for us all to live, work, study and play, alongside healthy biodiversity and ecosystems. It also includes access to information, the right to participate in decision-making and access to justice and effective remedies including the secure exercise of these rights from reprisals and retaliation.
Photo credit: Amy Coupland with a lady in the Rift mountains.