Alfred Brownell is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading defenders of human rights and the environment in Africa. He is the Founder and lead campaigner of Green Advocates International and currently served as Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Northeastern University School of Law Program on Human rights and the Global Economy.
He is a litigator and served as lead counsel to Green Advocates and its community partners and networks which include hundreds of local community organizations, labor unions and informal sector business enterprises and tens of thousands of indigenous peoples and local community inhabitants. He has campaigned ferociously for the recognition of the customary land and property rights of local communities and indigenous peoples throughout Liberia and West Africa. Through Green Advocates Public Interest Law Program, Alfred has filed several international complaints against major agro companies on behalf of local communities and indigenous peoples. He established a network civil society and local community organizations across Liberia and West Africa. In recent years, in Liberia in particular, these networks he formed along with his legal expertise have succeeded in suspending the activities of logging companies, won reparations in millions of dollars and secured an independent forensic investigation into complaints alleging that oil palm companies were grabbing customary lands which were home to communities for generations.
He along with several local communities and indigenous peoples won a massive victory against Golden Agric Resources (Golden Veroleum), the world Second largest oil palm conglomerate after The Appeal Panel of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) denied Golden Agric Resources appeal against complaints Brownell and his colleagues filed against this company in 2012 on behalf of communities and indigenous peoples in Liberia.
In communicating this victory to partners, Brownell said “We have scored another big victory against the massive multi-billion-dollar oil palm giant, Golden Agric Resources,” said Brownell. “This is a massive victory for our communities, indigenous peoples and the Upper Guinean forests — the lungs of West and North Africa. Even though they threatened us, plotted assassination attempts against us and masterminded our exile from Liberia, we have shown them we can still fight and win,” said Brownell.
He is active in the field of business and human rights, serving on the Steering Committee of ESCR-Net’s Corporate Accountability Working Group and assuming leadership in the African regional civil society processes relating to the drafting of a treaty on business and human rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Alfred is a member of the OECD Watch, Coordinating committee, representing civil society in Africa, a founding member of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition and a former international board member of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). He is currently a Steering Committee member of the ETO Consortium which refers to the extraterritorial (human rights) obligations of states towards persons outside their territories. At the sub regional level, Alfred along with other civil society colleagues, formed the Mano River Union Civil Society Natural Resources Rights and Governance Platform and the Public Interest Lawyering Initiative of West Africa (PILIWA) where Alfred currently serves as the co-director.
At Northeastern University School of Law, Alfred has designed and is teaching a course syllabus from scratch based on his more than 15 years of field experiences and the experiences of other public interest environmental and human rights lawyers across the globe focusing on human rights, the environment, development and community resilience. A kind of a one stop shop combining human rights law, environmental law, international law and development finance. In his course, Alfred introduces his students to issues such as the evolving doctrine of environmental rights, constitutional environmental rights, a review of the Millennium Development goals and an analysis of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda, supply chain analysis focusing on his work in the logging, agriculture and mining sectors as well as the use of regional human rights mechanisms, the United Nation Treaty Bodies, the United Nations Special Procedures, International Accountability Mechanisms and non-judicial grievance mechanism associated with international financial Institutions and Inter governmental organizations like the National Contacts Points (NCPs) for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the complaints system of the Round Table on sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). In addition to teaching, Alfred is also involved with ground breaking research focusing on the design of a Land Tenure Security Index, a future composite land tenure data tool that will measure, score and rank how governments protect the land rights of their citizens. Alfred will work with data expert or data scientist who have an understanding of quantitative analysis to access, identify, collect, catalog and construct a composite land tenure data tool from publicly available and existing data and indicators.
A global land tenure security index that measure, score and rank how governments protect the land rights of their citizens, could serve as an early warning tool /radar indicating potential location for land related conflicts, areas where deforestation is accelerating and areas avoiding deforestation and land degradation, areas prone to displacement and future flash point for migration and areas that could pose reputational risk to businesses. The data analysis and visualization would be complimented by Legal research and analysis of the land tenure situation in the targeted countries. For example what indicator or combination of indicators can effectively capture the ways in which insecure land rights drive climate change or contribute to global mass migration, poverty, or political instability or the situation of land rights defenders?
To ensure that the data, tools and indicators are own and driven by the people whose land are under threat, Alfred is pursuing a strategy of Co Creation wherein they are consulting and will be working directly with activists, community members, indigenous peoples, land rights defenders and a diverse range of stakeholders to co create the index in a manner to ensure national and international level ownership. Even though, there are about a thousand or more various kinds of land indicators or tools designed and use by several organizations to monitor, assess and evaluate reform in the land sector, none of these organizations or tools have been able to measure, score or rank how governments protect the land rights of their citizens. None has also achieved cross country comparison of how governments are performing in protecting land rights.