Throughout the developing world, many resource development projects are causing grave harm to the environment and human rights of affected communities. This is happening in particular to the lands, health, culture, and way of life of indigenous peoples. Projects are too often undertaken or conducted in disregard of the rights and views of these communities, and without taking necessary measures to avoid damage to the environment. The resulting harms include the denial of the most fundamental civil and political freedoms, displacement, and large-scale and severe human health effects and environmental devastation. Governments are often complicit in this behavior.
Litigation in national courts using domestic law
Environmental defenders often must turn to the courts to seek effective remedies. In national courts around the world, a growing number of private and public interest attorneys are bringing cases based on domestic law to prevent unwanted resource development projects, and to obtain compensation and other remedies for victims of harms related to those projects.
Legal actions threaten serious financial and reputational consequences for the offending party that violates human rights. They also put others on notice of the risk of rights violations occurring, and of the potential for legal liability in the absence of active measures to prevent such violations. Successful cases will lead to more cases being filed for similar violations, and the risk of cascading consequences can have a preventive effect on future violations.
EDLC’s grant program
EDLC believes that the financial obstacles to bringing these cases can be overcome in part by advancing expenses to lawyers pursuing such claims. In 2010, EDLC created a grant program for expenses in public interest litigation against those responsible for resource development projects that harm the human rights, health, and environment of communities in developing countries. EDLC’s financial support can make the difference between whether or not a case is brought.
While cases are much less expensive to litigate in developing countries, the ability of local groups and their lawyers to obtain even these relatively small amounts of money for expenses and/or legal fees is critical. Yet it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain such funding from foundations on a “one time, one case” basis. This underscores the need for EDLC’s fund- the only one of its type spanning the developing world. EDLC has provided roughly one hundred grants supporting cases of this type, a number of which are described in the Cases section of this website.
How to Apply
Contact EDLC by email for further information on what types of cases are eligible, how the program works, and how to apply.
EDLC Programs in Action
Cambodian Villagers Sue Sugar Company over Land Grabs
When Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol obtained a concession in 2008 to develop a plantation on 50,000 acres of land in northern Cambodia, local villagers experienced the shock of massive logging operations and evictions. While the company ultimately abandoned the project, U.S. NGO Inclusive Development International and its partner Equitable Cambodia asked EDLC for support in bringing a class action case in Thailand against the company on behalf of over hundreds of Cambodian families harmed in the meanwhile by the project.
In addition to providing providing modest funding and ongoing legal and strategic advice, EDLC recruited a pro bono economist, and the court ordered mediation in 2018. However, the company refused to mediate and the case is proceeding to trial. The court denied certification of a class following hearings in 2019, and the decision is currently under appeal. This is the first transnational natural resources case being brought in a court outside of Europe or the U.S.