VANN Yuvaktep, RADU Mares


The impact assessment is a widely accepted method for risk management as well as a legal requirement, such as in environmental law requiring companies to conduct environmental impact assessment (chapter 28). Human rights impact assessments help businesses, especially in large infrastructure projects (chapter 25), to very early on identify the possible impacts of their operations on human rights and prepare mitigation measures to minimize negative impacts (chapters 10-14). One cannot manage risks without understanding them first and impact assessments are therefore essential for understanding the exact risks of harm and putting safeguard mechanisms in place. Environmental impact assessments have become part of national laws since 1970s in the US and are now commonly found in all legal systems. In the 1990s, social impact assessments emerged either as standalone or as part of environmental impact assessments. Human rights assessments can complement social assessments and are different by being based on international human rights standards and thus by screening risks of harm against a comprehensive checklist of such rights. As a difference from environmental assessments, which are mandated by law in order to obtain a permit, and social impact assessments, which are mandated by financial lenders (such as development banks, e.g. World Bank) as a condition to obtain finance, human rights impact assessments are still voluntary. It can happen that commercial banks and investors require a human rights impact assessment, as in the Goldcorp mining project below. Such assessments could easily be made a requirement under national laws with extraterritorial effects, such as the forthcoming due diligence law in the EU (chapter 4). Only around a dozen of such human rights impact assessments are currently available on the internet although many more have been conducted as part of corporate risk management processes. Companies usually do not release them publicly given the sensitivity of the problems uncovered. There is currently no universally accepted methodology for conducting human rights assessments even though guidance is available and work to develop methodologies fully is continuing apace. Finally, it is not only companies that perform such assessments. Other economic decision-makers – for example negotiators forging international trade and investment agreements – need to understand better the impact of their economic policies on the enjoyment of human rights.

In Cambodia, the general concept of ‘human rights impact assessments’ is very new and can be misconstrued in one of two ways. The first is that one could understand it as the assessment reports NGOs produced for ongoing projects in their role as ‘watchdog’ via ‘assessment and evaluation’. The other way could be that to see it as similar to social-environmental impact assessments (ESIA). However, the correct understanding of a ‘human rights impact assessment’ clarifies that it is a process of identifying risks to human rights, which is not restricted to only the ex post, but can also take place ex ante (i.e. prior to the start of the project), and which can if needed be done more than once and at any stage of the project life cycle. Some projects (e.g. digital sectors) are less likely to trigger an “ESIA” (which attracts more toward projects of ‘physical impacts’), human rights impact assessments would become a useful tool of regulation, better risk management for businesses, and human rights law compliance. In Cambodia as in other countries, obligations to assess some human rights impacts might arise from the local regulatory framework on EIAs and involuntary resettlement, as well as ‘social performance standards’ imposed by major multilateral development banks for financing a proposed project. Nevertheless, because human rights are interdependent and some harms are not immediately visible, a dedicated human rights impact assessment could be needed to make a comprehensive and proper evaluation of risks.

Main Aspects

  • Impact assessments – environmental, social and human rights assessments
  • Impact assessments – integrated or stand-alone assessments
  • Impact assessments – ex ante and ex post assessments
  • Impact assessments – state and corporate conduct
  • Principles of human rights impact assessments
  • Cumulative impacts
  • Inter-dependence of human rights
  • Human rights due diligence
  • Sectors: security, tourism, dairy products, finance, trade and investment


Oxfam, Community-Based Human Rights Impact Assessment[1]

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both positive and negative. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) defines an EIA as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, to find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, and to shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers. By using EIA both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved, such as reduced cost and time of project implementation and design, avoided treatment/cleanup costs and impacts of laws and regulations.

            Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is an overarching framework that embodies the evaluation of all impacts on humans and on all the ways in which people and communities interact with their socio-cultural, economic and biophysical surroundings. SIA includes the processes of analyzing, monitoring, and managing the intended and unintended social consequences (both positive and negative) of planned interventions, and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its primary purpose is “to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment”. SIA assumes that social, economic and biophysical impacts are interconnected. SIA covers indicators such as poverty, health, education and gender equality. SIAs can include interesting indicators on the environmental impacts (biological diversity, etc.). It can be applied in different contexts and for different purposes, and it can be ex ante (before an activity takes places) as well as ex post (after the activity has taken place). SIA has strong links with a wide range of specialist sub-fields and therefore cannot normally be undertaken by a single person, but requires a team approach.

            Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) is a process to measure the gap between the human rights commitments of the state (human rights in principle) and the actual enjoyment of these rights by rights-holders (human rights in practice). By calling on the participation of all stakeholders involved in the project, the assessment seeks to identify the rights that are not respected, or indications that they might not be respected in the future, so that satisfactory solutions can be found. HRIA is based on the normative framework of international human rights law described in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Civil and Political rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. HRIAs examine a wide range of different activities from the human rights perspective, including the impact of development programs of foreign governments on beneficiary countries, the impact of government policy and legislation on domestic protection of human rights, the human rights impact of multinational companies, and the extent to which human rights-related NGOs have achieved their policy aims and objectives. A main benefit of HRIA is that it helps users to collect data in a structured way, making a clear link with international human rights standards, to analyze the effects of a policy, and to bind governments [and companies] to action and trigger improvements with regards to affected communities’ human rights situation. HRIAs are part of a larger advocacy process. They should be seen as a means, and not an end. Therefore, follow-up activities should be thought about from the onset.

EU, Guidelines on Human Rights Impact Assessments for Trade Agreements[2]

Impact assessments and evaluations are policy tools which provide a structured approach to gathering and analysing evidence that will be used to support policy making. (…)

An impact assessment is meant to bring to the attention of policy-makers the potential impacts of the different options under consideration and thus, to support sound policy-making. An impact assessment should verify the existence of a problem, identify its underlying causes, assesses whether EU action is needed, and analyse the advantages and disadvantages of available solutions. It is not intended to pass a judgement on the actual human rights situation in a country, nor to decide whether a country is eligible for a trade agreement. This is an important distinction to keep in mind when writing the impact assessment.


UN, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights[3]

In order to gauge human rights risks, business enterprises should identify and assess any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which they may be involved either through their own activities or as a result of their business relationships. This process should:

(a) Draw on internal and/or independent external human rights expertise;

(b) Involve meaningful consultation with potentially affected groups and other relevant stakeholders, as appropriate to the size of the business enterprise and the nature and context of the operation.


The initial step in conducting human rights due diligence is to identify and assess the nature of the actual and potential adverse human rights impacts with which a business enterprise may be involved. The purpose is to understand the specific impacts on specific people, given a specific context of operations. Typically this includes assessing the human rights context prior to a proposed business activity, where possible; identifying who may be affected; cataloguing the relevant human rights standards and issues; and projecting how the proposed activity and associated business relationships could have adverse human rights impacts on those identified. In this process, business enterprises should pay special attention to any particular human rights impacts on individuals from groups or populations that may be at heightened risk of vulnerability or marginalization, and bear in mind the different risks that may be faced by women and men.

            While processes for assessing human rights impacts can be incorporated within other processes such as risk assessments or environmental and social impact assessments, they should include all internationally recognized human rights as a reference point, since enterprises may potentially impact virtually any of these rights.

Because human rights situations are dynamic, assessments of human rights impacts should be undertaken at regular intervals: prior to a new activity or relationship; prior to major decisions or changes in the operation (e.g. market entry, product launch, policy change, or wider changes to the business); in response to or anticipation of changes in the operating environment (e.g. rising social tensions); and periodically throughout the life of an activity or relationship.

To enable business enterprises to assess their human rights impacts accurately, they should seek to understand the concerns of potentially affected stakeholders by consulting them directly in a manner that takes into account language and other potential barriers to effective engagement. In situations where such consultation is not possible, business enterprises should consider reasonable alternatives such as consulting credible, independent expert resources, including human rights defenders and others from civil society.

UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, An Interpretive Guide[4]

What is meant by “human rights risks”

An enterprise’s human rights risks are the risks that its operations pose to human rights. This is separate from any risks that involvement in human rights impact may pose to the enterprise, although the two are increasingly related.

How should human rights impact be assessed?

Standard approaches to risk assessment may suggest that the probability of an adverse human rights impact is as important as its severity. However, if a potential human rights impact has low probability but high severity, the former does not offset the latter. The severity of the impact, understood as its “scale, scope and irremediable character”, is paramount (see Guiding Principle 14). Equally, human rights risks cannot be the subject of a simple cost-benefit analysis, whereby the costs to the enterprise of preventing or mitigating an adverse impact on human rights are weighed against the costs to the enterprise of being held to account for that harm.

How far afield should an enterprise look when assessing human rights impact?

The purpose of assessing impact is to identify any adverse impact in which an enterprise might be involved. As set out in Guiding Principle 13, this includes impact it may cause or contribute to through its own activities, and impact to which it has not contributed, but which is linked to its operations, products or services by a business relationship. Therefore, when assessing actual and potential human rights impact, an enterprise should look both at its own activities and at its business relationships. (…)

In multi-tiered and complex value chains, and for companies with thousands of suppliers even in their first tier, it is even less feasible to assess every individual business relationship. The same may be true for a small or medium-sized enterprise with a large number of business relationships relative to its own resources. However, this does not reduce its responsibility to respect human rights: not knowing about human rights abuses linked to its operations, products or services is unlikely by itself to satisfy key stakeholders, and may be challenged in a legal context, if the enterprise should reasonably have known of, and acted on, the risk through due diligence.

As the commentary to Guiding Principle 17 explains, if due diligence on every individual relationship is impossible, “business enterprises should identify general areas where the risk of adverse human rights impacts is most significant, whether due to certain suppliers’ or clients’ operating context, the particular operations, products or services involved, or other relevant considerations, and prioritize these for human rights due diligence”. This would include, for example, agricultural products sourced from suppliers in an area known for child labour; security services provided by contractors or forces in areas of conflict or weak governance and rule of law; and drug trials conducted through partners in areas of low education, literacy and legal safeguards. If abuses do occur where they could not reasonably have been foreseen, the enterprise’s stakeholders will assess it on its response: how well and how swiftly it takes action to prevent or mitigate their recurrence and to provide for or support their remediation (see Guiding Principles 22 and 29).

Ruggie, Human Rights Impact Assessments – Key Methodological Questions[5]

Distinctiveness of Human Rights Impact Assessments: A Different Approach

22. The clearest difference between HRIAs [Human Rights Impact Assessments] and ESIAs [Environmental and Social Impact Assessments] is that, while following the impact assessment methodology and principles described above, HRIAs should be framed by the International Bill of Rights, which consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

23. In addition to the legal and regulatory requirements described in paragraph 12, HRIAs should catalogue the relevant human rights standards, including those set out in international conventions to which the home and host countries are signatories (perhaps also noting human rights conventions those countries have not ratified), other standards such as indigenous customary laws and traditions (for example those that govern the distribution and ownership of land), and international humanitarian law, where there might be armed conflict.

26. HRIAs should deviate from the ESIA approach of examining a project’s direct impacts, and instead force consideration of how the project could possibly interact with each and every right. For example, the ESIA approach might not result in any discussion of freedom of expression, whereas an HRIA could envision a community protest against the project being suppressed by State forces. While there is currently no global consensus about the roles and obligations of companies under international human rights standards, this exercise can be undertaken without normative assumptions, like scenario planning or other similar exercises.

27. HRIAs might draw upon the Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) used by development agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme. (…) The HRBA requires an analysis of the rights-holders and their needs and entitlements and the corresponding duty-bearers and their obligations. This analysis is meant to include an assessment of the causes of the non-realization of rights, and of the capacity of the rights-holders to claim their rights and the duty-bearers to fulfil their obligations. Such an analysis could be extremely helpful to private sector investment. (…)

Arla, Human Rights Assessment[6]

As Arla continues to expand its business activities in African markets, it is essential to the long-term success of our business that the company’s growth is achieved in a responsible way that does not bring unintentional negative consequences for the local dairy sector and its related communities. As part of Arla’s commitment to respecting human rights, as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the company has the responsibility to assess and address our human rights impacts. The purpose of this human rights assessment is, therefore, to identify whether Arla’s activities actually or potentially cause, contribute or are linked to a deterioration of human rights in Senegal with a specific emphasis on working opportunities, working conditions and adequate living standards for local farmers who depend on raw milk production, processing, distribution, marketing and sales of dairy products.

            During our stakeholder consultation process, widespread concerns were expressed regarding the potential negative impact of Arla’s future business model in Senegal. Since Arla’s business model in its first stage will be based primarily on imports and repacking of imported milk powder, the major concerns are related to its potential negative impact on development of the domestic dairy sector and thereby contributing to adverse human rights impact on small-scale farmers. (…) The chosen business model relies entirely on repackaging, distribution and sales, with a facility based in the city of Dakar, thus employing people from the respective area. As the company will not rely on local sourcing and will not be involved in processing, there is no business link to local producers or small to medium dairies. (…)

            The main questions to be discussed in this report will be used to assess the potential impact of Arla’s business activities on the right to adequate living and other related human rights of the local dairy farmers and their dependants in Senegal:

  • Does Arla’s sales and distribution of milk powder outcompete locally produced dairy products and thereby adversely impact small-scale dairy farmers’ income and livelihoods of farmers and their dependants?
  • Is the sale of milk powder from Arla a barrier to unlocking the potential of local dairy production and thereby a barrier for development?
  • Does the import of milk powder lead to lack of government incentives to invest in sufficient infrastructure to build the local dairy sector?
  • Some of the concerns raised need to be understood in a broader perspective9, namely whether Arla contributes and/or hinders sustainable development of the domestic dairy sec-tor by the exclusive focus on distribution and sales?
  • What are the concerns and aspirations made by the stakeholders we consulted during our field study and what are our findings based on our field observations, together with the literature reviewed?

Capacity of actors

The dairy sector in Senegal faces a lot of structural barriers to its development. The challenges can be summed up as:

  1. Low yield due to genetic potential for milk production from local cattle (White Fulani, milk is a by-product of cattle)
  2. Inefficient pastoralist production methods (milk is a by-product of cattle, cattle are perceived as a bank rather than business, production is scattered, long distance to cities)
  3. Limited success with cross-breeding
  4. High cost of inputs (fodder, medicine, services)
  5. Lack of access to processing facilities (cold chains, storage and processing) is a barrier to business development
  6. Widespread cattle diseases and lack of veterinary services
  7. Scarcity of water and breeding
  8. Climate changes and increasing pressure on grazing land leading to increasing land conflicts
  9. No legal framework to support cross-border cattle breeding
  10. Lack of governmental investments in basic infrastructure (roads, water, electricity)
  11. Lack of well-organised production and processing units (cooperatives)
  12. Competition from import of milk powder (cheaper price, availability, regular delivery, higher food safety standards and easy storage)
  13. Lack of standards and equipment for quality control of local fresh milk and milk products (consumers do not trust local fresh milk)
  14. Lack of training of farmers and personnel to handle milk production and processing on a broad scale
  15. Lack of access to credit and/or subsidises to support dairy producers
  16. Lack of commercial players to source and process local produced raw milk in an industrial and safe way (no business case, lack of business investment to boost the sector)
  17. Lack of sufficient investment in the dairy sector to stimulate dairy production
  18. Lack of access to supermarkets with cooling facilities (limits the opportunity to sell fresh milk)
  19. Huge gap between demand and supply (milk powder is needed to meet demand)
  20. NGO-funded mini-dairies break down due to no money for repairing and investment (no susainable business models to build up the sector)

On Common Ground Consultants, HRIA of Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine[7]

The primary objective was clarified to determine whether the mine’s presence and activities were affecting human rights, and to review whether the company’s policies, procedures, and practices address those impacts and respect human rights. The terms of the MOU were modified to further clarify that the assessment was intended to improve the company’s performance in respecting human rights, not to improve Goldcorp’s ability to operate profitably in Guatemala.

            The MOU’s three principles of transparency, independence and inclusivity were defined as:

  • Transparency: Information on the assessment mechanisms, stages and processes will be made available to all stakeholders in a timely and understandable manner.
  • Independence: The assessment process and the assessor(s) chosen to perform the assessment will be independent. Independence means that there shall be no material relationship (other than performance of the assessment) between the assessor and the stakeholders and that the assessor is free from external control in the performance of the assessment.
  • Inclusivity: The assessment will engage, to the best of the assessor’s ability, all the various stakeholders impacted by the company’s activity in Guatemala.

(…) the following approach was developed for the analysis of information and to make a determination of impacts and company compliance:

  • Seven priority issue areas were identified from concerns raised by stakeholders: consultation, environment, land acquisition, labour, economic and social investment, security, and access to remedy. These serve as the framework for this report. (…)
  • For each issue area, the relevant human rights standards were identified based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international human rights and labour conventions. (…)
  • To determine the criteria for compliance with international human rights standards, the relevant questions and indicators from the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) Human Rights Compliance Assessment (HRCA) tool were identified and assessed for each of the issue areas. To permit a more detailed analysis of the mine’s operations, performance was reviewed in relation to international good practice standards applicable to mining (…)

… the finding of company performance in terms of respect for rights [was], based on the following classifications:

  • Violation: Action or inaction by the State results in human rights of individuals or groups not being protected or fulfilled;
  • Infringement: Action by the company results in a proven worsening of the human rights situation for a person or group of people;
  • Failure to Respect: Inaction by the company results in potential for or worsening of the human rights situation for a person or group of people. This may also cover situations in which the company has not safeguarded or provided sufficient due diligence against complicity or involvement in violations by the State or by others, such as contractors;
  • Respect: Actions/due diligence by the company results in managing the risks of harm to human rights; and
  • Enhancement: Actions by the company result in the proven improvement of the human rights situation for a person or group of people.

Oxfam, Community Voice in Human Rights Impact Assessments[8]

Human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) are intended to minimize human rights risks, lessen adverse impacts, and strengthen positive outcomes of business investments on affected populations. For an HRIA to fulfill this purpose, it must consider the perspectives of everyone affected by a company’s operations, project, products, or services. But all too often, companies ignore this critical input, instead opting for top-down tools that fail to capture communities’ assertions. In doing so, they forfeit the opportunity to minimize human rights violations and costly conflicts.

Danish Institute, Human Rights Impact Assessment: Guidance and Toolbox[9]

In the business context, HRIA can be defined as a process for identifying, understanding, assessing and addressing the adverse effects of a business project or activities on the human rights enjoyment of impacted rights-holders such as workers and community members. (…)

            HRIA involves several phases or steps, all of which need to be included to ensure a comprehensive assessment. In this Guidance and Toolbox the phases have been divided into:

  1. Planning and scoping
  2. Data collection and baseline development
  3. Analysing impacts
  4. Impact mitigation and management; and
  5. Reporting and evaluation.

10 Key Criteria for Human Rights Impact Assessment

These ‘key criteria’ relate to both the process and content of HRIA, and reflect what is unique about HRIA, as well as emphasising aspects which may to a lesser or greater degree be reflected in other impact assessment methodologies but which arguably warrant heightened attention from a human rights perspective. These aspects can be grouped into five key criteria relating to process and five key criteria relating to content.

Process criteria

  1. Participation – Meaningful participation of affected or potentially-affected rights-holders during all stages of the impact assessment process, including scoping, data collection and baseline development, impact analysis, and design implementation of measures to prevent, mitigate and remediate impacts.
  2. Non-discrimination – Engagement and consultation processes are inclusive, gender-sensitive and take into account the needs of individuals and groups at risk of vulnerability or marginalisation.
  3. Empowerment – Capacity building of individuals and groups at risk of vulnerability or marginalisation is undertaken to ensure their meaningful participation.
  4. Transparency – The impact assessment process is as transparent as possible to affected or potentially affected rights-holders, without causing any risk to security and well-being of rights-holders or other participants such as NGOs and human rights defenders. Impact assessment findings are appropriately publicly communicated.
  5. Accountability – The impact assessment team is supported by human rights expertise, and the roles and responsibilities for impact assessment, mitigation and management are assigned and adequately resourced. The impact assessment identifies the entitlements of rights-holders and the duties and responsibilities of relevant duty-bearers, for example, the company, contractors and suppliers, local government authorities and so forth.

Content criteria

  1. Benchmark – Human rights standards constitute the benchmark for the impact assessment. Impact analysis, assessment of impact severity and design of mitigation measures are guided by international human rights standards and principles.
  2. Scope of impacts – The assessment includes actual and potential impacts caused or contributed to by the business, as well as impacts directly linked through operations, products or services through business relationships (contractual and non-contractual). The assessment includes cumulative impacts as well as legacy issues.
  3. Assessing impact severity – Impacts are addressed according to the severity of their human rights consequences. This includes considering the scope, scale and irremediability of particular impacts; taking into account the views of rights-holders and/or their legitimate representatives.
  4. Impact mitigation measures – All human rights impacts are addressed. Where it is necessary to prioritise actions to address impacts, severity of human rights consequences is the core criterion. Addressing identified impacts follows the mitigation hierarchy of ‘avoid-reduce-restore-remediate’.
  5. Access to remedy – Impacted rights-holders have avenues whereby they can raise grievances regarding the impact assessment process and outcomes. Impact assessment and management ensure that the business provides for or cooperates in access to remedy for impacted rights-holders.

OHCHR, Human Rights Impacts of Infrastructure Investment[10]

Infrastructure serves as the backbone of our society and economy. Infrastructure should not be thought of as a single object, but rather, a sophisticated network linking multiple infrastructure assets and corridors to streamline the movement of goods, data and people, for commercial, economic and social benefit. (…) This kind of connectivity differs from past infrastructure programs in terms of its geographical expanse, scale, and complexity, and its power to fundamentally alter economic, social and political organization. Of these plans, the regional master plans, such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and the Infrastructure in South America Initiative that is now part of the South American Council for Infrastructure and Planning (COSIPLAN-IIRSA), aspire to connect infrastructure within a region or across regions (see Annex 1 for the maps of the relevant regions depicting these plans). There are also sub-regional plans, such as the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025. Some large national plans can be just as ambitious, such as the Masterplan for Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI) with six economic corridors. India has five huge economic corridors, and the Mausam Project, called “India’s answer to China’s Maritime Silk Road,” is currently in various stages of preparation and implementation.

            Regional infrastructure plans are intended to facilitate growth and economic integration; however, they face serious challenges. Many suffer from design flaws, reflecting outdated industrial models that connect extractive industries to power sources via thermal or hydropower plants and transmission lines, and to port facilities via roads, railways, and pipelines. The benefits of connectivity frequently elude the poor, vulnerable and marginalized communities. Important issues such as affordable access to energy, water, sanitation, and waste management are often relegated to the sidelines. Climate change mitigation and resilience of infrastructure are rarely given sufficient attention in the design of regional plans. In addition, and closely related to the fundamental design flaws of this kind, public consultation and participation in project selection and design has generally been weak if not absent. As a result, the plans lack democratic legitimacy, accountability, and may generate increased risks of social conflict. Violence against human rights defenders, environmental activists and union leaders who speak out on infrastructure projects continues to mount around the world.

            To understand the complex interplay between mega-infrastructure projects and human rights, this baseline study classifies potential negative human rights impacts into three levels – micro-, meso- and macro-levels. This classification helps signal to decision makers the wide-ranging and multi-level human rights impacts that infrastructure projects can bring about, and that impacts may extend well beyond those typically covered in the MDB safeguard policies, which address mostly the micro-level impacts. It also underscores the fact that impacts that are not readily identified as human rights and those that may seem diffuse or abstract will often, in fact, have explicit human rights underpinnings and accountability consequences.

            The analysis focuses on regional, sub-regional and national master plans in the energy, transport and water sectors (…). The study classifies and analyses impacts at three levels:

  • micro-level impacts, which are potential impacts on people and the environment arising from the physical activities of implementing the plans;
  • meso-level impacts, which are potential impacts on the consumers of infrastructure services arising from the operation of the relevant infrastructure assets; and
  • macro-level impacts, which are impacts on the general population and society arising from government acts and omissions or broader financial, fiscal, macro-economic or other public policy implications of infrastructure plans or projects.

Not every land acquisition, resettlement, fee hike, or other negative human rights impact discussed below will necessarily constitute a human rights violation. The determination of a violation is a matter of expert judgment guided by evidence and applicable law and, depending on the facts and parties involved, may not be a straightforward matter even for courts or other bodies charged with this purpose. But where internationally recognized human rights are at stake, serious negative impacts cannot be dismissed as trade-offs for a greater good. Trade-offs between different interests are inevitable in policy-making. The human rights framework helps to inform and frame difficult trade-offs, ensuring that interests protected by an internationally recognized human right (or rights) are prioritized over other competing interests, that all voices are heard in the process, and that effective and accessible grievance redress mechanisms are in place where human rights are violated. The risk of a potential human rights violation should trigger strengthened due diligence by all relevant parties, taking into account all available country-specific/contextual and sector/project-relevant information and analysis from international and regional human rights bodies.

Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, Tourism Impact Assessment[11]

Sector-wide impact assessments

The SWIA [sector-wide impact assessment] draws on established environment and social impact assessment methodologies, but applies a human rights lens. The scope of a SWIA goes beyond a particular project. It is about a whole sector and involves assessing not only impacts on individuals and groups that may arise from particular projects, but also the potential for the sector’s impact on society as a whole. It therefore looks at impacts on three levels. Firstly, it examines sector level impacts; these cover the aggregate impacts of the sector and paint the “bigger picture” of the interaction between the sector and Myanmar society. Secondly, it looks at project level impacts over eight areas: stakeholder consultation, engagement and grievance mechanisms; community impacts; land; labour; groups at risk; culture; physical security and the environment. Thirdly, it considers cumulative level impacts. Given the concentration of tourism activities in particular destinations, these are inevitable. They will arise from the combined impacts of tourism – and potentially other economic – activities in the same area or timeframe.

            Some issues emerged strongly from the sector-wide impact assessment. The first is that some of Myanmar’s flagship sites such as Bagan, Inle and Kyaiktiyo, are already under environmental and social pressure from the effects of tourism. This is impacting on livelihoods and the long-term viability of these places as tourism destinations. That pressure comes as much from a rise in domestic tourists as it does from foreign tourists. Domestic tourists greatly outnumber foreign tourists, particularly at certain pilgrimage sites. It highlights the need – already mentioned in the Tourism Master Plan – for destination management plans, drawn up with the participation of local groups as well as all relevant government authorities and tourism businesses, which should inter alia address the question of carrying capacity, before steps are taken to actively market the destination further or expand hotel room capacity. These plans will need destination management organizations, led by local government, which should include representatives of public, private and civil society organizations. They should promote grassroots participation in tourism planning and decision making.

            The frequent findings from field research of negative impacts caused by ‘hotel zones’ – areas of land compulsorily acquired and set aside for concentrated hotel development – are a consequence of the above-mentioned absence of participatory destination management. They also reflect the fact that land is possibly the most complex challenge any business investing in Myanmar with a land footprint will face. The reform of the land policy and laws in Myanmar is incomplete. It is characterised by a patchwork of old and new laws and regulations that leads to overlap, contradiction and confusion that can, and has been, used to deprive people of their land. Land is often the most significant asset for most rural families, but they are vulnerable to exploitation and have limited protection under the existing and even new land laws.

            A further common finding of the sector-wide assessment for tourism (and that for the oil and gas sector), was that engagement and genuine two-way communication and transparency by business with stakeholders has historically been almost completely absent. This has led to mistrust, misunderstanding and occasionally conflict. Businesses, whether those already present or investing for the first time, need an in-depth understanding of local priorities and concerns, through greater engagement with, and accessibility to, workers, local communities, national level stakeholders and the local and national media.

Human Rights Concerns Regarding Cumulative Impacts

Cumulative impacts are areas of concern from a human rights point of view for a number of reasons:

  • Cumulative impacts are often much harder to predictthan singular impacts from one project. (…)
  • Cumulative impacts can be severe– both in terms of the type of impact (e.g. the cumulative burden on poor infrastructure causes it to collapse) or the widespread nature of the impact (e.g. cumulative water use due to tourism development reduces water tables, resulting in drought with widespread effect on food security in the local community) (…).
  • Even where a responsible party can be identified in the case of a singular negative human right impact, there are often challenges in holding the responsible party accountable; where cumulative impacts are involved, responsibility for impacts is even more dispersed, making it even harder to identify parties responsible for prevention, mitigation and remediation, and hold them accountable. (…)
  • Companies may not consider themselves responsiblefor cumulative impacts as they make only a contribution to these impacts. This may especially be the case where their activities individually fit within acceptable regulatory limits, but the regulatory regime is not advanced enough to take account of accumulation of impacts over time or space. (…)
  • Populations most at riskare affected by cumulative impacts, as they are likely to have the least resilience to respond and the least capacity to demand a response from the authorities or businesses.
  • Cumulative impacts are sometimes slow and may build up incrementally over time. Accordingly, it may be more difficult to draw attention to the issues and prompt action from responsible parties.

Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum, Cumulative Human Rights Impacts[12]  

When conducting human rights due diligence, human rights risks are considered from the perspective of the actual or potential impact on stakeholders. After identifying that stakeholders are experiencing an adverse impact, and that the company is involved in that impact, responsible companies will then attempt to remedy the impact. However, in certain circumstances stakeholders may identify and report impacts that are the cumulative result of the:

  • The concurrent, collective impacts of multiple companies (and other actors)
  • The cumulative impacts of a company/companies (and other actors) over time

As such, identifying the source of an adverse impact may not be as straightforward as simply linking it back to a single company. For example, a community relying on a water source may find that the source is polluted or depleted. The impact may arise, not from one company’s excessive water use or emissions, but from the cumulative effect of four companies and several local farmers drawing from, or discharging into, the same source. Whilst each actor on their own is not causing an impact, the cumulative result of all of the water withdrawals may impact the right to life, health, property or livelihood of the community. Similarly, whilst one company advertising high sugar foods or beverages to children may not create a human rights impact on its own, several companies, over time, targeting high-sugar foods and drinks at children can have a cumulative impact on child obesity and the right to health.

            Multiple companies sourcing raw ingredients for products such as medicines or food and beverages in the same geographical area can cumulatively impact local communities’ right to food. Although each individual company may source only a reasonable amount of the natural resource in question, such as local wild flora, the cumulative effect on total local supplies can be serious.

            Corporate impact assessments seldom consider the pattern of land acquisition, lease or expropriation (i.e. from which they benefit) in the area surrounding their proposed or actual operations. However, the acquisition, lease or expropriation of land by several companies in the same area can have a significant cumulative impact on the freedom of movement and right to an adequate standard of living of local communities, among others. For example, as outlined above, following a critical number of corporate land purchases for mineral exploration in an Asian state, nomadic herders found their access to grazing lands restricted and communities complained of being pushed outwards into areas with limited access to essential services.

            Access to water raises risks of impacts to the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to health, among others. (…) Stakeholder concerns around corporate water impacts include the following: depletion (…) pollution (…) access and affordability (…) conflict (…) gender-related impacts (…). In many cases, the adverse effects experienced by communities are as the result of the incremental contributions of many different actors drawing from the same watershed, or discharging into the same water bodies. 

            The effect of a single company advertising a high-sugar or high-fat product to children (or their parents) may be negligible. However when many companies do so – and such advertising becomes more pervasive – it may contribute to a broader cumulative impact on childhood obesity and the right to health. Similarly, evidence suggests that the regular portrayal of the ideal of a skinny figure in women’s magazines has an effect on the prevalence of eating disorders – and thus may also impact on the right to health. (…)

DCAF & ICRC, Security and Human Rights Challenges in Complex Environments[13]

Impact Assessments should consider the following aspects:


  • Collect information about the potential impact of a project on communities in consultation with women, men, indigenous peoples, migrants, members of different socioeconomic, caste, ethnic and religious groups and community organisations.
  • Consult with specialised organisations working with vulnerable groups.
  • Adopt a gendered perspective, as women and men may be affected differently by company operations.
  • Obtain information about child rights impacts from adults who have close contact with children or expertise in children’s rights.
  • Arrange separate meetings for the women of the community, conducted by female members of the assessment team.


  • Use participatory research methods that actively engage community members in the assessment (e.g. focus groups, public perception studies, multi-stakeholder meetings).
  • Explain the purpose of the assessment and how the information gathered will be used.
  • Ensure that participants can express their views in their local language. Interpreters should be independent of the company (and, if possible, of local communities) to avoid bias.
  • Publically report results of the impact assessment, if this has been mutually agreed upon with the community.


  • Consider all direct and indirect impacts of the company’s operations on local communities, including: in-migration, displacement, loss of land, loss of livelihood, loss of biodiversity, all forms of pollution, prices of goods, services and accommodation, rise in violence and crime, effects on community health, damage to religious, spiritual or cultural sites of significance, and increased socio-political tensions, strife or conflict.
  • Record and follow up on all concerns voiced by community members.


  • Ensure that the assessment team is familiar with the local setting and make sure that your team generates trust and confidence among affected communities.
  • Work in partnership with reputable third parties that know the history and relations of local communities. “Relevant partners can be local and international civil society organizations, development agencies, or think tanks and universities.”

Extent and Scope

  • Consider impacts throughout the various stages in the life cycle of the project.
  • Update the impact assessment regularly and before any new stage of the project.

de Schutter, Principles on Human Rights Assessments of Trade & Investment[14]

1. All States should prepare human rights impact assessments prior to the conclusion of trade and investment agreements.


1.1 By preparing human rights impact assessments prior to the conclusion of trade and investment agreements, States are addressing their obligations under the human rights treaties. First, since States are bound by these pre-existing treaty obligations, they are prohibited from concluding any agreements that would impose on them inconsistent obligations. Therefore, there is a duty to identify any potential inconsistency between pre-existing human rights treaties and subsequent trade or investment agreements, and to refrain from entering into such agreements where such inconsistencies are found to exist.4 Human rights impact assessments are a tool to ensure consistency and coherence between the obligations of States under international law and other international agreements to which they are parties, and thus to overcome, or at least mitigate, the problems resulting from the fragmentation of international law. (…)

3. Human rights impact assessments of trade and investment agreements should be prepared prior to the conclusion of the agreements and in time to influence the outcomes of the negotiations and, if necessary, should be completed by ex post impact assessments. Based on the results of the human rights impact assessment, a range of responses exist where an incompatibility is found, including but not limited to the following: (a) Termination of the agreement; (b) Amendment of the agreement; (c) Insertion of safeguards in the agreement; (d) Provision of compensation by third-State parties; (e) Adoption of mitigation measures.


3.3 Not all the impacts of the entry into force of a trade or investment agreement can be anticipated. Therefore, ex ante human rights impact assessments should be complemented by human rights impact assessments performed ex post, once the impacts are measurable. A human rights impact assessment should be conceived of as an iterative process, taking place on a regular basis, for instance, every three or five years. Safeguard clauses should be inserted into the trade or investment agreement to ensure that, should such ex post assessments lead to the conclusion that the State is unable to comply with its human rights obligations within the constraints of the agreement, it should be released from such constraints to the extent of the incompatibility.

6. States should use human rights impact assessments, which aid in identifying both the positive and negative impacts on human rights of the trade or investment agreement, to ensure that the agreement contributes to the overall protection of human rights.


6.1 Each State retains the prerogative in setting its priorities, which often requires balancing different competing priorities. Trade and investment agreements may benefit certain groups, making them better off, while hurting others, whose situation will worsen as a result. Delicate choices will have to be made about the priorities that the State seeks to pursue, for instance, where trade and investment agreements contribute to economic growth and thus may facilitate the ability of the State to realize certain rights by mobilizing budgetary resources to finance certain public goods and services in various areas, including education, food, health and housing, while at the same time negatively affecting the State’s capacity to protect the rights of certain groups, such as workers in the least efficient sectors of the economy. (…)

6.2 Human rights impact assessments seek to clarify the nature of such choices, and to ensure that they are made on the basis of the best information available. The question of which trade-offs are acceptable is to be decided at the level of each country, through open and democratic processes, which the human rights impact assessment seeks to inform. However, the process of setting priorities and of managing trade-offs, as well as the substance of the outcome, must comply with certain conditions. (…)

EU, Guidelines on Human Rights Impact Assessments for Trade Agreements[15]

On 25 June 2012 the Council adopted a Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy accompanied by an Action Plan. The Action Plan called on the Commission to “incorporate human rights in all impact assessments on an on-going basis” (point 1) and to develop by 2014 “a methodology to aid consideration of the human rights situation in third countries in connection with the launch or conclusion of trade and/or investment agreements” (point 11a).

In response to these commitments DG Trade has developed in-house guidelines in order to help with examination of the potential impacts of a trade-related initiative on human rights in both the EU and the partner country/ies.

These guidelines focus in particular on the methodology to be followed when carrying out impact assessments (IAs), which are conducted before the European Commission proposes a new policy initiative, such as the opening of a trade negotiation; and sustainability impact assessments (SIAs), which are carried out in parallel with major bilateral and plurilateral trade negotiations. However, the principles and approach described are applicable throughout the entire policy cycle of an initiative. They could therefore be used for ex post evaluations, which are carried out after (eg.) a trade agreement has entered into force and after sufficient time has passed to gather a robust body of data and evidence; or when evaluating the impact of other types of trade policy initiative, such as a regulation. (…)

The Commission has an integrated approach to the assessment of impacts which is designed to ensure that all the likely economic, social, environmental, and human rights impacts are analysed and presented together in a single document. Integrated impact assessments thus provide the most effective way of making a balanced assessment of the potential impacts of any proposed legislative or non-legislative initiative. (…)

Analysis of the human rights impacts of a trade-related initiative sets out to assess – against the normative framework of human rights obligations as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR) and a number of international sources – how trade measures which might be included in a proposed trade-related policy initiative are likely to impact: either on the human rights of individuals in the countries or territories concerned; or on the ability of the EU and partner country/ies to fulfil or progressively realise their human rights obligations. (…)

Scope and depth of the analysis

Analysis of the possible human rights impact of a trade-related initiative should look at the potential impact of the proposed initiative on human rights in both the EU and the partner country/ies, and should include consideration of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and core labour rights. (…)

The depth and scope of the assessment should be calibrated to the type of trade measures included in the initiative, as well as to the magnitude of the expected human rights impacts. It is, however, always important to keep in mind that human rights are interdependent and interrelated; and therefore to consider the likely multiple impacts that a particular trade measure might have.

The analysis of human rights impacts undertaken in IAs (which are carried out in support of Commission initiatives that are likely to have significant and clearly identifiable impacts) should be comprehensive, participative, balanced and transparent. (…)


Screening is a means to narrow down the measures which need to be assessed, identifying the key human rights issues as well as the related individual elements of the policy initiative which should be focused on for further analysis.

In particular, the screening of the proposed initiative aims at identifying:

(a) which particular trade measures under consideration have the potential for significant human rights impacts;

(b) which specific human rights would be likely to be affected (and with respect to which population groups);

(c) whether the rights in question are absolute rights21, which cannot be limited or restricted under any circumstances.

To identify the list of rights on which the impact of trade measures will require additional analysis, the following criteria should in particular be considered:

1. “Direct vs indirect”: it is important to focus on those areas which are more directly trade related and likely to be directly affected by the proposed options.

2. “Major vs minor”: the analysis should focus on major impacts; a direct, but really minor impact, might not be relevant for the assessment.


The trade measures identified in the screening process should be described in detail, explaining how they would actually operate and which particular elements or aspects might give rise to human rights impacts. For each measure identified, the likely impact on human rights should be described, indicating whether the impact is expected to be beneficial (promotion of human rights) or negative (limitation of human rights).

Detailed assessment

A detailed assessment should then provide evidence-based information about the extent to which the particular measures foreseen in the policy initiative may enhance or impair the enjoyment of the relevant rights of individuals; and/or may strengthen or weaken the ability of the EU and partner country/ies to fulfil or progressively realise their human rights obligations.

Baseline scenario

The analysis of the baseline scenario (not pursuing a new EU trade agreement with a country) should also take into account potential opportunity costs: for example, would the failure of the EU to conclude an agreement with the partner country leave space for the expansion of activities by other economic partners whose companies abide by less stringent codes of conduct than European companies?

Stakeholder consultation

The consultants carrying out the SIA are responsible for ensuring a dynamic, far-reaching and open consultation of all relevant stakeholders in the EU and in partner country/ies; including social partners (workers’ and employers’ organisations), businesses, experts, NGOs, and other civil society organisations.

Additional analytical elements

The assessment needs to identify potential interferences with human rights. In particular, the analysis should consider whether possible negative impacts on human rights are justified in terms of necessity and proportionality (limitations on rights must be: provided by law, and respect the essence of the rights concerned; necessary to achieve an objective of genuine public interest or social need, or to protect the rights and freedoms of others; and proportionate to the aim pursued).

The analysis should also consider dynamic trends, and draw attention to situations where human rights impacts in the short term might differ from those in the long term (eg, a trade agreement may generate growth and therefore contribute to improved human rights conditions over the long term, but have negligible impacts in the short term).

Walker, Human Rights in the EU–Tunisia Free Trade Agreement[16]

This article critically examines the integration of human rights in the trade and sustainability impact assessment of the proposed Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Tunisia. The main contribution of this article is to list the basic requirements of a human rights impact assessment methodology in the form of a list of questions as a means to evaluate impact assessments of trade agreements. Using this list, the article demonstrates how the EU–Tunisia assessment meets many of the formal requirements of human rights impact assessment but that the underlying human rights analysis and recommendations were weak and that the approach to consultation and participation of individuals and groups in the assessment process needs review and strengthening. The article recommends the continued professionalization of human rights impact assessment of trade agreements and concludes by noting that the 2015 adoption by the European Commission of Guidelines on the analysis of human rights impacts in impact assessments of trade-related policy initiatives provides a clearer framework to guide and improve future assessments.

tzmann, Principles and Approaches to Human Rights Impact Assessment[17]

A key point is that HRIA seeks to provide detailed and evidence-based analysis that takes into account different perspectives and contributes to decision-making about business activities that may impact on people’s enjoyment of their human rights. It can provide a structured approach through which to …:

  • identify adverse human rights impacts, including understanding these from the perspectives of impacted rights-holders;
  • contribute to effective HRDD by determining measures to address any adverse human rights impacts identified through prevention, mitigation and remediation;
  • analyse the human rights implications of specific legal, regulatory and policy measures concerning business activities;
  • facilitate meaningful dialogue between stakeholders in a given context, including business actors, rights-holders and other relevant parties (in particular, human rights actors);
  • facilitate participation and learning of those stakeholders involved in the impact assessment, including through awareness-raising of respective rights, responsibilities and duties;
  • enhance the accountability of state actors and businesses through documenting the impacts that have been identified and the actions proposed to address these, including
  • by empowering rights-holders to hold state actors and businesses to account for adverse business-related human rights impacts; and
  • build partnerships between the stakeholders involved to address human rights impacts, including through developing joint actions to address cumulative impacts or legacy issues.

Background (Cambodia)

Xia, EIA in Governing Hydro-Power Projects in Cambodia[18]

4. Imperfect Land Law and Expropriation Law Exasperate Illegal Evacuations

Local residents are often reported in recent years as the victims of the rapid development in the country. At all levels of environmental planning and management, management of natural resources is the cornerstone for the peace and security of a society. Land Law and Expropriation Law have the utmost impact on EIA in Cambodia. As is discussed in this section, the flaws in land and expropriation laws no doubt are to be blamed for the difficulties in EIA implementation, and should be amended through legislative procedures.

4.3. Expropriation Law

(…) The Law on Expropriation sets out the conditions and procedures under which legitimate owners and possessors may be legally deprived of their land if it is required for a public interest project. (…) In addition, the law brought forth ideas of publicly conducted survey by a to-be-established Expropriation Committee with detailed descriptions about the owner and/ or rightful owner of the real estate and other properties which might need for compensation. It stipulates that the Expropriation Committee shall conduct a detailed interview with all concerned parties about the issues of immovable property affected by the public physical infrastructure project. Within 30 working days after completing the survey, the Committee shall provide a report with recommendations and propose for the government’s approval. More importantly, the Expropriation Committee shall determine the fair and just compensation; set a deadline for complaint; send the declaration accompanying a copy of the Expropriation Law to all owners and/ or rightful owners; disseminate the declaration via media; post the declaration at relevant commune offices where the public physical infrastructure is going to take place. (…)

            As illustrated above, what may need amendments for EIA in Cambodia are two keystone statutes in resource management: the land law and expropriation law. Meanwhile, more and area-specific guidelines with unified version used by all project owners will greatly stimulate the efficiency and credibility of EIA report compiled by consultants.

Instruments (Cambodia)

Sub-Decree on Environmental Impact Assessment Process[19]

Article 6: A project owner must conduct an Initial Environmental Impact Assessment (IEIA) in order to comply with the EIA requirement as stated in the annex of this Sub-decree.

Article 7: A project owner must apply to the MoE [Ministry of Environment] for reviewing their IEIA report and report of pre-feasibility study.

Article 8: A project owner must apply to the MoE for reviewing their full report of EIA report and pre-feasibility study, in case a project tends to cause a serious impact to the natural resources, ecosystem, health and public welfare.

[See Annex to see projects subjected to IEIA]

Prakas on Classification of EIA for Development Project[20]

Article 4: The project category that is required to prepare environmental protection contracts refers to projects that have minor environmental and social impacts, as stated in the Annex. If these projects have medium or serious impacts on the environment and society, then the Ministry of Environment requires the project owner to prepare initial [EIA] or full [EIA]. (…)

Sub-Decree on Land Acquisition & Involuntary Resettlement[21]

V. Social Impact Assessment

87. The assessment of social impacts (ASI) is a process to identify the social impacts of the project due to involuntary resettlement. The ASI is carried out as part of resettlement planning through a SES [Socio-Economic Survey] and an inventory of displaced persons and loss of assets. It is not a stand-alone report and no separate report on social impact assessment is necessary. (…)

D. Impact on Poor and Vulnerable Group

95. The … Questionnaire will identify displaced persons who are poor and living the below the poverty line and groups that are vulnerable. The data will be collected on a disaggregated basis to identify the types of vulnerable groups and the potential impacts on them from the project. The specific concerns expressed during the one to one/house to house consultations with these groups of displaced persons will provide a more informed basis for the assessment of the social impacts on them. Based on the results of the assessment, targeted measures to avoid or mitigate the adverse impacts will be developed. The key objective is to improve their status and livelihood sources as much as possible through additional compensation package for livelihood restoration. The table below provides general guidance on the types of vulnerable groups and measures that could be taken into consideration.

Resettlement Planning Considerations for the Vulnerable Groups

No.Vulnerable GroupResettlement Planning Considerations
1Poor Households (below poverty line as defined nationally),The objective is to provide sufficient protection during the transition phase and improve their source of livelihood to move out and remain above the poverty level in the medium to long term. Various options that could be considered during the preparation of mitigation measures: • Additional Income Support for a specific period of time without creating a dependency syndrome • Financial support for upgrading of skills to improve opportunities for employment or engage in other alternative livelihood sources
2Women Headed Households with dependentsThe objective is to ensure that this vulnerable group is not disadvantaged and their specific needs are satisfied. The planning considerations under 1 will be considered for this category if the household living below the poverty line. In addition, the following could be considered: • Where land is provided, the title must include the name of the women • Women will be the recipient of any financial assistance • Preference for temporary employment opportunities for women during the implementation of the project. • Assistance in seeking gainful employment
3Elderly headed Households with no means of supportSame considerations as under 1 will be considered for this category of household.
4Disabled Headed HouseholdsThe social impacts on this group of vulnerable people are more severe particularly if they are relocated. There will be a need to involve the provincial social welfare and other agencies to develop the most appropriate measures. The options may include: • Ensure they have access to the package of social welfare assistance provided under any RGC national or provincial program. • Provide additional financial support for the transition period. • Identify sources of livelihood that they are able to participate in and provide the necessary financial support to acquire the skills for alternative sources of livelihood.
5Customary land users and indigenous peoples without formal titlesAcquisition of customary land must be avoided but in exceptional case when this becomes necessary, a separate and more detailed study will be carried out in conjunction with the SES and an Indigenous People Plan (IPP) will be prepared to mitigate against all social impacts. • The IPP will spell out the assistance package including additional financial support for re-establishing the livelihood.

E. Impact on Indigenous Peoples

96. Any land acquisition and resettlement involving indigenous people is avoided to the maximum extent possible. (…) A separate study on the social impacts will be carried out on how the indigenous peoples use their land, how they conduct their economic activities, and how they organize their social activities.

97. A separate Indigenous Peoples Plan (IPP) is prepared to mitigate the social impacts, develop the compensation and resettlement package that will be offered, and set out implementation arrangements. The customary practices will need to be taken into consideration during the consultation process. (…)

Prakas on General Guidelines for Developing Initial and Full EIA Reports[22]

Annex 1: Environmental Impact Assessment

3. Content of the General Guidelines, Chapter 4: Description of Existing Environment

The chapter provides description of the natural environment and socio-economic aspects (based on primary and secondary data) within and in the surrounding environment of the project location including: (…)

4.2 Socio-economic aspects

  • Demography and settlement;
  • Economic status: employment and income (primary and secondary);
  • Land use;
  • Water use;
  • Energy use;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Education;
  • Public health and well-being;
  • Cultural heritages, historical monuments, ancient temples, pagodas, customs/ traditions, ethnic minority or indigenous people, etc; and
  • Tourism destinations.

Ministry of Environment, Guidebook on EIA in Cambodia[23]

b. Project Screening

Generally, project screening is determined by MoE based on laws or sub‐ decrees regarding project types and size that will require initial or full environmental impact assessment report.

In case an investment project is not mentioned in the annex list of the legal instruments, MoE can use an alternative list to determine impact size. This list shows whether a project is required to conduct an EIA or not as described in details below:  

  • For project with serious environmental impact, project owner is required to prepare a full EIA report; or
  • For project with medium environmental impact, project owner is required to prepare an initial EIA report; or
  • Project owner is not required to prepare an EIA report. There are three types of such project:

1. Project determined by the government as special and urgently needed;

2. Required Environmental Management Plan (EMP); 

3. Required environmental protection contract for projects not stipulated in the annex of sub‐decree but the project has minor environmental impacts such as garment factory, etc. (…)

d. Environmental Impact Assessment

To analyze environmental impact in the initial or full EIA, analysis needs to be made on three things: (1) Type of impact, (2) Prediction of possible scale and scope of impact, and (3) Determine impact notions. 

            Environmental impact can change the existing form of environment and it could be direct, indirect or cumulative impact. These changes can be seen in different ecological system (types of ecological system) and social levels (from individual to community) which may vary beyond limitation or time of the study and include both negative and positive impacts.  

            Direct impacts include changes in environmental components caused by direct interaction between the environment and project activities. Indirect impacts are caused by indirect interaction between the environment and its indirect causes. Cumulative impacts include combination of environmental changes caused by human activities (Ex. past, present and requested activities including the project under current EIA). Environmental damages can cause extreme changes to relevant existing resources and place more burden on human and animal health as well as create disaster for now and future.

AIIB, Environmental and Social Framework[24]

Annex: Environmental and Social Policy [ESP] and Environmental and Social Standards [ESS]


C. Environmental and Social Assessment

26. Environmental and Social Assessment. Generally, the Bank requires the Client to adopt an integrated approach to the process of assessment, given the complex interrelationships of environmental and social risks and impacts in both public- and private sector Projects. However, the Bank recognizes that in some countries the legislation and procedures require separate environmental and social documents, making the preparation of an integrated environmental and social assessment difficult to achieve. (…)

28. Elements of the Environmental and Social Assessment. The Bank requires the Client to undertake an environmental and social assessment that consists of the following elements in varying degrees, depending on the categorization of the Project: (a) description of the Project; (b) policy, legal and administrative framework, including the international and national legal framework applicable to the Project; (c) scoping, including stakeholder identification and consultation plan; (d) analysis of alternatives, including the “without Project” situation; (e) baseline environmental and social data; (f) evaluation of environmental and social risks and impacts; (g) public consultation and information disclosure; and (h) development of mitigation, monitoring and management measures and actions in the form of an ESMP or ESMPF. The assessment considers Project and design alternatives, to avoid or minimize physical and/or economic displacement and impacts on Indigenous Peoples.

29. Scope of Analysis. The scope and depth of analysis is proportional to the nature and magnitude of the Project’s potential environmental and social risks and impacts. The environmental and social assessment applies a mitigation hierarchy to: (a) anticipate and avoid risks and impacts; (b) where avoidance is not possible, minimize or reduce risks and impacts to acceptable levels; (c) once risks and impacts have been minimized or reduced, mitigate them; and (d) where residual risks or impacts remain, compensate for or offset them, where technically and financially feasible. (…)

30. Involuntary Resettlement. The Bank screens each Project to determine whether or not it involves Involuntary Resettlement… Where it is not feasible to avoid Involuntary Resettlement, the Client is required to ensure that resettlement activities are conceived and executed as sustainable development programs, providing sufficient resources to enable the persons displaced by the Project to share in Project benefits.

31. If the Project involves Involuntary Resettlement, the Bank requires the Client to prepare a resettlement plan or RPF (as applicable) that is proportional to the extent and degree of the impacts. The degree of impacts is determined by: (a) the scope of physical and economic displacement; and (b) the vulnerability of the affected people. The resettlement plan or RPF complements the broader coverage of social risks and impacts in the environmental and social assessment and provides specialized guidance to address the specific issues associated with Involuntary Resettlement, including land acquisition, changes in land use rights, displacement and need for livelihood restoration.

32. The Bank does not endorse illegal settlement; however, it recognizes that significant populations already inhabit both urban and rural land without title or recognized land rights in its countries of operation. Given this situation, the Bank requires the Client to ensure that displaced persons without title to land or any recognizable legal rights to land, are eligible for, and receive, resettlement assistance and compensation for loss of non-land assets, in accordance with cut-off dates established in the resettlement plan, and that they are included in the resettlement consultation process.

33. Indigenous Peoples. The Bank screens each Project to determine whether or not it would have impacts on Indigenous Peoples. In conducting this screening, the Bank seeks the technical judgment of qualified social scientists with expertise on the social and cultural groups in the Project area. The Bank also consults the Indigenous Peoples concerned and the Client. If the Project would have impacts on Indigenous Peoples, the Bank requires the Client to prepare an Indigenous Peoples plan or IPPF. The level of detail and comprehensiveness is proportional to the degree of the impacts. The degree of impacts is determined by evaluating: (a) the magnitude of the impact on Indigenous Peoples’ customary rights of use and access to land and natural resources; socioeconomic status; cultural and communal integrity and heritage; health, education, livelihood systems and social security status; and indigenous knowledge; and (b) the vulnerability of the affected Indigenous Peoples. The Indigenous Peoples plan complements the broader coverage of social risks and impacts in the environmental and social assessment and provides specialized guidance to address specific issues associated with the needs of affected Indigenous Peoples.

BSR, Human Rights Impact Assessment: Facebook in Cambodia[25]

Project Overview and Methodology

Facebook commissioned BSR to undertake a human rights impact assessment (HRIA) of the company’s presence in Cambodia. The objectives of the HRIA are to:

»   Identify and prioritize actual and potential human rights impacts, including both risks and opportunities.

»   Recommend an action plan to address the impacts by avoiding, preventing, or mitigating risks, and by maximizing opportunities.

»   Build capacity of relevant staff to lead constructive dialogue with rightsholders and stakeholders and to improve the management of human rights.

BSR undertook this HRIA between October 2018 and December 2019, using a methodology based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The majority of the primary research was conducted during October and December 2018, and as such this assessment principally reflects the human rights context, insights, and rightsholder experiences gathered at that time. This methodology included a documentation review, direct consultation with around 35 potentially affected rightsholders and stakeholders during one visit to Cambodia by BSR staff, and interviews with relevant Facebook employees. This HRIA was funded by Facebook, though BSR retained editorial control over its contents. (…)

Actual and Potential Human Rights Impacts

BSR prioritizes the following actual and potential human rights impacts based on their severity for rightsholders. It should be noted that, while we have segmented impacts this way in the assessment, these rights are highly interdependent and interrelated, with the improvement or deprivation of one right significantly affecting the others.

» Security: As specified in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person, and advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence should be prohibited by law. This may include arrests and prosecution of users for content posted on Facebook, even if that content does not violate Facebook’s Community Standards.

» Privacy: As specified in Article 12 of the UDHR and Article 17 of the ICCPR, no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his or her privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his or her honor and reputation, and everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. This may include data requests from law enforcement agencies, content that violates the privacy rights of users (such as personal photos, passwords, and bank details) being posted on Facebook, or the hacking of private information by malicious actors.

» Freedom of Expression, Assembly, and Association: As specified in articles 19 and 20 of the UDHR and Article 19 of the ICCPR, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. These rights include the freedoms to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. This may include users exercising self-censorship, content not violating Community Standards occasionally being removed in error, or the potential for government restrictions on content or access. (…)

Daniels & Korm, Impact Assessment for ‘The Harbour Bay’[26]

1. Introduction

This [Social and Human Rights Impact Assessment (SHRIA)] report aims to present the findings before the project has commenced. In particular, it highlights the most important social, economic, environmental and human rights issues that were found to be associated with the design, construction and operational aspects of The Harbour Bay Project. (…)

3. Scope of the Project Report

The report is rapid in its nature and is not a full EIA, SIA nor HRIA. The report was unable to assess many potential impacts due to the GYTG not sharing their plans or wanting to be involved in the research process. The research that produced this report was designed to address the most vulnerable groups and as such, some information is considered only representative and not wholly accurate. As this report is ‘rapid’ in its nature, due to it being time-sensitive, it is not conclusive and provides conclusions on what other information is required in order to for the project to move forward. (…)

7. Project Description

The project will develop the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port (PPAP) and a formerly public park, about 9.25 hectares of riverside land, into a commercial complex, comprising of roughly of 19 buildings, 18 of which are over 40 stories high, as well as the construction of a floating market, a “public space”, a cultural centre, and some infrastructure. The Chean Chhoeng Thai Group (CCTG), a subsidiary of GYTG, which is a Chinese developer, will be developing the area. (…)

Chapter Six: Impact Assessment Article 25 Right to Housing

The loss of any area to dock boats will affect boat owner’s ability to live in the area. Further, the loss of the formerly public park will affect homeless persons that used the park as an area to sleep and rest. Article 26 Right to Education

Children of boat operators/owners, who are growing-up on boats and attending schools in the area, will likely be affected should relocation of boats mean that they will have to move schools or stop studying.

Bugalski & Thuon, HRIA of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Economic Land Concessions[27]

2.1.2 The human rights assessed in the report

(…) The right to health

The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is recognized in article 12 of the ICESCR and article 24 of the CRC. The right to health is closely related to and dependent upon the realization of the right to an adequate standard of living as well as other human rights. It is also intimately connected to the natural environment, especially for people who derive their food, water and medicines directly from their natural surroundings. The UNDRIP recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants.

3.2 Method of Data Collection Methods

Both primary and secondary data collection methods were applied. Desk research was used to gather background information about the concessions and villages as well as information on relevant laws and policies. The primary data was collected during four trips to Ratanakiri between November 2013 and March 2014 through a range of tools including key informant interviews, participatory community mapping, focus group discussions, including separate women focus groups, and household interviews. The full set of primary data collection tools were applied in the eighteen villages already affected or expected to be affected by concessions known to be owned by HAGL, as well as in the three villages affected by Hoang Anh Lumphat. (…)

Chapter 6: Impacts on the Right to Health

 (…) Given the adverse impacts on the environment and natural resources, some affected people have reported changes in their physical health and to their system of health care. Moreover, the sudden loss of resources for basic needs and abrupt changes in the village due to the company’s presence has provoked feelings of stress and anxiety, affecting the mental health of some, especially women. (…)

Key findings:

In some villages, people have experienced a retrogression in the enjoyment of the right to health, but some people have also had improved access to medical care:

  • Adverse health impacts are mainly perceived to be due to pollution and destruction of the local environment and, relatedly, deterioration in the quantity and/or quality of food. Pollution of streams is viewed as a major cause of health issues.
  • Women, in particular, are reporting health impacts due to changes in food consumption.
  • Women are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety due to livelihood concerns and security issues, with potential implications for their mental health.
  • HAGL’s medical program has provided much needed services to communities, with notable positive impacts for those who have received treatment for visual impairment and eye disease.


  1. What is the importance of human rights impact assessment in Cambodia?
  2. How is Cambodia’s environmental impact assessment relevant to human rights impact assessments?
  3. What development sectors in Cambodia require human rights impact assessments?
  4. Are there any examples of ex ante human rights impact assessments in Cambodia? What are the scope and methods of such assessments?
  5. Are there any examples of ex post human rights impact assessments in Cambodia? What are the scope and methods of such assessments?

Further Readings

[1] Oxfam, Community-Based Human Rights Impact Assessment: The Getting it Right Tool – Training Manual (2011) https://www.oxfamamerica.org/static/media/files/COBHRA_Training_Manual_-_English.pdf.

[2] EU, Guidelines on the analysis of human rights impacts in impact assessments for trade-related policy initiatives (2015) http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2015/july/tradoc_153591.pdf

[3] Human Rights Council, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Seventeenth Session (2011) http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf

[4] UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human rights, The Corporate Responsibility To Respect Human Rights – An Interpretive Guide (2011) http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/RtRInterpretativeGuide.pdf.

[5] John Ruggie, Human rights impact assessments – resolving key methodological questions, Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, A/HRC/4/74 (2007) https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/106/14/PDF/G0710614.pdf?OpenElement

[6] Arla, Human Rights Assessment in Senegal (2015) https://www.arla.com/globalassets/arla-global/company—overview/responsibility/human-rights/arla-human-rights-assessment-in-senegal-november-2015_1.pdf

[7] On Common Ground Consultants Inc., Human Rights Assessment of Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine (2010) http://csr.goldcorp.com/2011/docs/2010_human_full_en.pdf.

[8] Oxfam, Community Voice In Human Rights Impact Assessments (2015) https://www.oxfamamerica.org/static/media/files/COHBRA_formatted_07-15_Final.pdf

[9] Danish Institute for Human Rights, Human Rights Impact Assessment – Guidance and Toolbox (2016) https://www.humanrights.dk/sites/humanrights.dk/files/media/dokumenter/business/hria_toolbox/hria_guidance_and_toolbox_final_may22016.pdf_223795_1_1.pdf.

[10] Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Baseline Study on the Human Rights Impacts and Implications of Mega-Infrastructure Investment (2017) www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Development/DFI/MappingStudyontheHRRiskImplications_MegaInfrastructureInvestment.pdf.

[11] Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, Tourism Sector-Wide Impact Assessment (2015) http://www.myanmar-responsiblebusiness.org/pdf/SWIA/Tourism/00-Myanmar-Tourism-Sector-Wide-Assessment.pdf

[12] Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum, Cumulative Human Rights Impacts, accessed 25 January 2021, https://hrbdf.org/dilemmas/cumulative-impacts/#.WwvaAe6FPDA.

[13] Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Addressing Security and Human Rights Challenges in Complex Environments – Toolkit (2016) https://www.securityhumanrightshub.org/toolkit

[14] Olivier de Schutter, Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments of Trade and Investment Agreements, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, A/HRC/19/59/Add.5 (2011) http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session19/A-HRC-19-59-Add5_en.pdf

[15] European Commission, Guidelines on the analysis of human rights impacts in impact assessments for trade-related policy initiatives (2015) http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2015/july/tradoc_153591.pdf.

[16] Simon Walker, ‘Human Rights in the Trade and Sustainability Impact Assessment of the EU–Tunisia Free Trade Agreement’, Journal of Human Rights Practice, 10:1 (2018), pp. 103–124 https://academic.oup.com/jhrp/article/10/1/103/4958805.

[17] Nora Götzmann. ‘Introduction to the Handbook on Human Rights Impact Assessment: Principles, methods and approaches’, in Nora Götzmann (ed.), Handbook on Human Rights Impact Assessment, Edward Elgar Publishing (Northamptom, Cheltenham, 2019) www.researchgate.net/publication/337558738_Handbook_on_Human_Rights_Impact_Assessment.

[18] Han Xia, The Role and Problems of Environmental Impact Assessment in Governing Hydro-Power Projects in Cambodia (2020) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341545968_The_Role_and_Problems_of_Environmental_Impact_Assessment_in_Governing_Hydro-Power_Projects_in_Cambodia.

[19] Cambodia, Sub-decree on Environmental Impact Assessment Process, 72 ANRK.BK (1999) http://sithi.org/admin/upload/law/72%20on%20the%20Environmental%20Impact%20Assessment%20Process%20(1999).ENG.pdf.

[20] Cambodia, Prakas No. 021 on the classification of environmental impact assessment for development projects, (2020), [in Khmer] https://data.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/en/laws_record/prakas-no-021-on-the-classification-of-environmental-impact-assessment-for-development-projects.

[21] Cambodia, Sub-decree on The Promulgation of the Standard Operating Procedures For Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement For Externally Financed Projects in Cambodia (22 February 2018) https://www.mef.gov.kh/documents/laws_regulation/LAR-SOP-Final-13032018.pdf.

[22] Prakas on General Guidelines for Developing Initial and Full Environmental Impact Assessment Report (2009) http://www.sustinatgreen.com/uploads/document/prakas-on-general-guideline-for-conducting-iee-and-eia-reports-376-2009-en.pdf.

[23] Ministry of Environment, Guidebook on Environmental Impact Assessment in the Kingdom of Cambodia (2012) http://ngoforum.org.kh/files/4cb32ea424c264c674c054ba18d2ffe8-Final-PK-official-eia-booklet-21-11-2012-Eng.pdf.

[24] Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Environmental and Social Framework (2019) https://www.aiib.org/en/policies-strategies/_download/environment-framework/Final-ESF-Mar-14-2019-Final-P.pdf.

[25] BSR, Human Rights Impact Assessment Executive Summary: Facebook in Cambodia (2019) https://about.fb.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/BSR-Facebook-Cambodia-HRIA_Executive-Summary2.pdf; see also similar links at https://www.bsr.org/en/our-insights/blog-view/a-human-rights-impact-assessment-of-facebook-in-cambodia.

[26] Issac Daniels & Chanraksmey Korm, Rapid Social and Human Rights Impact Assessment Report for ‘The Harbour Bay’ Built by Guangzhou Yuetai Group in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (2019) https://www.conftool.com/landandpoverty2019/index.php?page=downloadPaper&ismobile=true&filename=06-10-Daniels-324_paper.pdf&form_id=324&form_version=final.

[27] Natalie Bugalski & Ratha Thuon, A Human Rights Impact Assessment: Hoang Anh Gia Lai Economic Land Concessions in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia (2014) https://www.inclusivedevelopment.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/rubberhriawebfinal.compressed.pdf.


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