May 23, 2013
The Climbing for Climate Justice Everest expedition – organized by Save the Himalayas Campaign and Khangri Media in collaboration with Friends of the Earth Nepal / Pro Public – made headlines this week.
Nepali climber Min Bahadur Sherchan (now 81 years old) aims to become the oldest man to summit the mountain, a record he held for five years, until yesterday, when 80 year old Yuichiro Miura from Japan summited the world's highest peak. The Climbing for Climate Justice expedition, which aims to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change and the need for climate justice, are currently on their way to the summit. They hope to reclaim Sherchan's record.
Nepal is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and is already experiencing severe problems. The glaciers and glacial lakes in the Himalayan mountain range, which provide water to approximately ten percent of the world’s population, are melting at an increasing rate. The problems associated with this are firstly that the risk of glacial lake flooding is significantly increased. There have already been a number of instances of this happening in Nepal and the results can be disastrous for communities that live in the area or downstream.
Photo: Mogens Engelund
May 21, 2013
Images and videos capture personal and moving testimonies by people affected by Wilmar's plantations in Kalangala, Uganda.
Wilmar International is developing palm oil plantations in biodiverse islands off the coast of Lake Victoria, Uganda. The first phase of the project was completed in 2011 and the second phase of the project is currently going ahead. The second phase will expand palm oil plantations onto several other islands. The project is being promoted as a poverty-reducing endeavour, yet it is causing displacement, food insecurity and deforestation. Read more on the background to this case.
Images and personal stories
May 02, 2013
Social movements in Guatemala are being increasingly criminalized, repressed, intimidated and subjected to human rights abuses
Guatemala has increasingly opened its doors to foreign and European investors exploiting the country's hydrological and mineral resources, and sugar and palm oil plantations, which has resulted in mounting pressure on local communities and the environment, and has led to land grabs and human rights violations.
These violations often take place in collaboration with the government, according to the representatives of social movements.
“The current government has introduced a policy of repression – pursuing and illegally incarcerating people from social movements resisting so called “development” projects,“ warned Víctor Barro, chair of Friends of the Earth Spain.
Barro took part in a November 2012 international mission organized by Friends of the Earth International that verified systematic human rights violations and criminalization of environmental activists and communities resisting mining and hydroelectric projects in Guatemala and El Salvador.
According to Natalia Atz Sunuc, Friends of the Earth Guatemala general coordinator : "Campesinos and indigenous people are labeled as 'terrorists' for defending their basic human rights in a peaceful way".
According to Paula del Cid, representative of the Feminist Association “La Cuerda” of Guatemala : "in a context of mandatory evictions, the role of the army is increasing, and sexual abuse is being used as a tool to intimidate women who are defending their land."
In June 2011, forty European parliamentarians denounced the situation in Guatemala, but the European Union still refuses to take an effective stance in its trade and investment policies.
Civil society organisations based in Brussels – Friends of the Earth Europe, Aprodev, CIFCA and Grupo Sur – have called on the European Union to ensure policies include mechanisms to monitor and enforce the defence of human rights.
The Spanish company Hidralia Energía, developing dams for hydroelectric power in Santa Cruz de Barillas, Guatemala, began development with neither permission nor consent from indigenous and local communities.
This is just one blatant example of how a company supported by the government grab land to exploit Guatemala's natural resources while criminalising peasants and indigenous people.
“The Guatemalan and Spanish governments must take responsibility and do everything in their power to protect human rights in Guatemala,” said Víctor Barro, Chair of Friends of the Earth Spain.
A recent example of unjust detention is the case of Ruben Herrera who has been detained since March 2013 in Guatemala. He has participated in the resistance to projects such as Hidro Santa Cruz (originally Hidralia SA) and a member of the Peoples’ Assembly of Huehuetenango (ADH).
An international petition to free Herrera has been launched. The petition states that over 20 community leaders, including Ruben, are being unjustly persecuted or are unjustly put on trial.
AMSTERDAM/PORT HARCOURT, 1 May 2013 – Today, the Nigerian farmers from two villages who lost their case against Shell, together with Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie), have submitted an appeal to the 30 January decision by the court in The Hague. Milieudefensie is also filing an appeal in a third case. All the cases are centred around oil pollution due to spills from Shell pipelines and oil wells.
In one case, the court ruled in favour of Milieudefensie and one of the Nigerian plaintiffs, Elder Friday Akpan. Shell was ordered to pay compensation to this farmer from the village of Ikot Ada Udo, because the company did not adequately protect its oil well from vandalism, and oil from the well streamed over Akpan’s land. In this case, however, the court ruled that Shell Headquarters in The Hague could not be held liable for the failures of its subsidiary, which is responsible for the daily management of Shell in Nigeria. Milieudefensie hopes that the court in The Hague will reverse its decision on this point – for Milieudefensie it is clear that the headquarters shares responsibility for the massive environmental damage in Nigeria.
The lawyer for the farmers and Milieudefensie disputes in its entirety the decision taken by the court in the cases addressing damage from oil spills from Shell pipelines in the other two villages, Goi and Oruma. In those two cases, the court did not find Shell liable for the damages suffered by the farmers due to the oil spills because the cause was
considered to be sabotage and the court ruled that Shell could not have reasonably prevented it.
In Nigeria the cases are being watched with great interest. Oil and Mining campaigner Evert Hassink of Milieudefensie has been to the country numerous times: ‘In the village of Goi, Chief Eric Dooh and his fellow villagers are still living amidst the sticky black remnants of oil spills from the Shell Trans-Niger pipeline. In Oruma, Chief Fidelis
Oguru, Alali Efanga and the rest of the village are trying to rebuild normal lives. But the fish that supported them in the past have yet to return to the polluted creeks, and they are still hoping to receive compensation for all the years that agriculture was impossible because their fields were polluted by Shell oil.’
The case, which today enters its next phase in the court in The Hague, is of considerable international significance, especially after the recent decision by the US Supreme Court in a comparable case. It ruled that under US law it is not possible in principle to take multinationals to court for human rights violations outside the United States. This further increases the need to hold multinationals liable in their home
Apr 22, 2013
Environmental justice NGO Friends of the Earth South Africa/ groundWork is celebrating Earth Day today by launching its latest publication 'Unpacking Climate Change: Background notes to the catastrophe' in an e-book version online. This year's Earth Day theme is “The face of climate change”, looking at how climate change is affecting real people and environments throughout the world, and how people are stepping up to take action to stop it.
Written by groundWork associate researcher David Hallowes, the guide aims to help readers work through the jargon and engage with the global debate on an issue that is already majorly impacting upon people today.
Climate change is just one dimension of global ecological change forced by the massive scale of industrialisation powered by the fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas. The scale of change is such that scientists are calling this the beginning of a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene. Almost as scary as climate change is the jargon that comes with it. This short guide is intended to let people know what is happening and to make the debate more accessible.
This online version of Unpacking Climate Change is interactive, enabling readers to engage in critical discussion with groundWork around the issue of climate change and the various points raised by this publication.
 groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Air Quality, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International www.groundwork.org.za
 To read the e-book, visit http://www.groundwork.org.za/Unpacking%20climate%20change%20for%20web/Unpacking%20climate%20change%20for%20web.pdf
 For more information on the Earth Day Network and what they have planned this year, visit the website at http://www.earthday.org/2013/
 David Hallowes is a Durban-based researcher focusing on climate and energy. His most recent publication Toxic Futures: South Africa in the Crises of Energy, Environment and Capital was published in 2011 by UKZN Press.
Apr 18, 2013
Social movements in Guatemala are being increasingly criminalized, repressed, intimidated and subjected to human rights abuses, according to representatives of indigenous and feminist social movements.
Guatemala has increasingly opened its doors to European investors, which has resulted in mounting pressure on local communities and the environment, and has led to land grabs and human rights violations. This is often done in collaboration with the government, according to the representatives, in a rush to exploit the nation's gold and nickel deposits, and land for sugar and palm oil development.
The current government wants to introduce a policy of terrorism and repression – pursuing and illegally incarcerating people from social movements. Natalia Atz Sunuc, Friends of the Earth Guatemala said: "Campesinos and indigenous people are labelled as 'terrorists' for defending their basic human rights in a peaceful way".
Paula del Cid, representative of the Feminist Alliance of Guatemala said: "in a context of mandatory evictions, the role of the army is increasing, and sexual abuse is being used as a tool to intimidate women who are defending their land."
In June 2011, forty European parliamentarians denounced the situation in Guatemala, but the European Union still refuses to take a stand in their trade and investment policies. Civil society organisations based in Brussels – Friends of the Earth Europe, Aprodev, CIFCA and Grupo Sur – call on the European Union to ensure policies include mechanisms to monitor and enforce the defence of human rights.
The Spanish company Hidralia Energía, developing dams for hydroelectric power in Santa Cruz de Barillas, Guatemala, began development with neither permission nor consent from indigenous and local communities. This offers a clear example of company and governmental roles in criminalising peasants and indigenous people, while grabbing land to exploit Guatemala's natural resources. Either the Guatemalan or Spanish government must assume their responsibility to respect and protect human rights in Guatemala.
Mar 20, 2013
As the five heads of states of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) meet on African soil in Durban next week for the developing nations’ summit, civil society in Durban will be holding its own summit of a very different nature.
BRICS governments often use radical rhetoric alluding to anti-imperialism, and in this year’s summit, they will undoubtedly impress upon the rest of Africa that their corporations offer better investments in infrastructure, mining, energy, and agriculture than traditional Northern multinationals. In the brics-from-below! civil summit, hosted by groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa) , the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)  and the University of KwaZulu Natal Centre for Civil Society (UKZN CCS) , civil society will play two major critical roles: firstly, acting as a watchdog of the claims, processes and outcomes of the BRICS summit, and secondly, providing a platform for civil society organisations in these countries to share experiences and create networks.
The prospect that South Africa “presents a gateway for investment on the continent”  could leave Africa overwhelmed by BRICS corporations and is indicative that the trajectory of the 21st century ‘scramble for Africa’ has already begun. Africa’s ‘Resource Curse’ will attract billions of dollars worth of BRICS infrastructure developments. In this light, the BRICS Summit in Durban is set to be the next successor to the initial carving up of Africa, which took place in 1885 in Berlin.
Africa’s survival, however, is largely at the mercy of climate change. Climate change is driven by increased greenhouse gas emissions, which is fuelled by South Africa and other BRICS countries that continue to rely on and supply their Northern counterparts with dirty, non-renewable sources of energy, or the products created from dirty energy. The United Nations COP17 hosted in Durban in 2011 resulted in a weak, non-binding deal, which neglects the historic responsibility of Northern countries and promotes a rising average temperature for the continent at 1.5 degrees higher than the rest of the world.
The major focus of this year’s summit is the new BRICS Bank, despite the growing world financial crisis clearly not boding well for this. Austerity scenarios continue to play themselves out in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, as a result of IMF bail-out of banks – which in 2012 included $75 billion of BRICS countries’ capital. The proposed BRICS Bank will exacerbate the chaos in our and our neighbour’s social, economic and environmental spheres already caused in part by multilateral financing. Existing development finance institutions in BRICS countries – like South Africa’s Development Bank of Southern Africa – offer mainly negative lessons.
Along with these issues, people in BRICS countries face numerous serious socio-economic, political and civil rights violations. Inequality, lack of adequate infrastructure, increased levels of violence, state repression, and the exploitation of resources to the detriment of people’s livelihoods and their ability to live in a healthy relationship with their environments, are all symptoms of development not oriented towards people but rather government and corporate profit.
The brics-from-below! civil society summit will take place from 22 to 27 March at different venues around Durban and is open to all journalists to participate.
To follow the brics-from-below! summit on social media:
Megan Lewis, Media and Information Campaigner at groundWork (Friends of the Earth, South Africa): +27 (0) 83 450 5541 or email@example.com
Desmond D’Sa, Coordinator at South Durban Community Environmental Alliance: +27 (0) 83 982 6939 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Bond, Director at University of KwaZulu Natal Centre for Civil Society: +27 (0) 83 425 1401 or email@example.com
 groundWork is an environmental justice organisation based in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa. groundWork assists civil society on issues relating to environmental justice and human rights, focusing particularly on Air Quality, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International http://www.groundwork.org.za
 The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) is an alliance of 16 organizations concerned with environmental justice and human rights, particularly relating to industrial pollution in the south Durban Basin, an area which is home to more than 285 000 people living in settled communities http://www.sdcea.co.za
 The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) was established at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in July 2001, with the mission of promoting the study of South African civil society as a legitimate, flourishing area of scholarly activity. The CCS’s objective is to advance socio-economic and environmental justice by developing critical knowledge about, for and in dialogue with civil society through teaching, research and publishing http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/
 Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Deputy Minister, Marius Fransman. 2012. Roundtable Discussion held at the University of Stellenbosch on the theme “South Africa: A strong African Brick in BRICS” on 21 November 2012 http://www.dfa.gov.za/docs/speeches/2012/frans1121.html
Mar 18, 2013
Environmental and agricultural organisations have launched a new campaign today to prevent the further spread of genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe. The European Commission is currently considering reviving talks to approve 25 new GM-crops for cultivation in Europe – including crops resistant to the pesticide RoundUp and insecticide-producing varieties of GM maize, soybean and sugarbeet. The groups claim that such a move would drastically change farming in Europe, leading to a big increase in pesticide use, contamination of conventional and organic crops and a further industrialisation of the countryside.
Mute Schimpf, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "This campaign aims to stop further genetically modified crops from being licenced in the European Union. Experience shows that this way of farming leads to an increase in pesticides and the further industrialisation of the countryside. If this happens any more in Europe then our landscapes will be poorer, our nature damaged and our food contaminated."
The campaign launches with a new film documenting GM-crop cultivation and extensive pesticide use in Latin America, and the negative environmental and human health issues experienced by local communities.
Nina Holland, campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory said: "Currently, the EU imports soy from large-scale monoculture plantations in South America, causing not only deforestation and displacement of people, but also a public health disaster among rural communities living nearby. In those areas, citizens have taken legal action and have brought soy farmers and agribusiness companies to court."
The introduction of patented GM-crops has increased the corporate control of the food chain. Moreover, contamination of other fields is unavoidable. In the USA Monsanto has so far sued 410 farmers and 56 farm companies for patent infringements; a situation that could be repeated in Europe if GM-crop cultivation is expanded.
The campaign also claims that the push for GM crops draws attention away from sustainable alternatives, while failing to find real solutions to alleviate hunger or poverty.
Mute Schimpf continued: "GM crops are unnecessary, risky and profit large multinational companies at the expense of small scale and sustainable farming. The public clearly demands greener farming that doesn't include genetically modified crops or foods. It's time to plough all our resources into making farming really sustainable and to stop pandering to the biotech industry and their empty promises of reducing hunger or feeding the world."
Visit the campaign site: Stop the Crop
VIDEO NEWS RELEASE AND MATERIAL
ITN Productions have produced a video news release (VNR), including interviews with farmers, researchers, campaigners and politicians on the upcoming authorisations. The VNR is available in English, French and German, in different sizes, as well as scripts for translation into other languages. Longer interviews and other materials are also available. All materials are open-source and are available here:
Mar 01, 2013
March 8 is International Women's Day: Interviews with women leaders from the Fair Green and Global Alliance
March 8 is International Women's Day. We are proud to present a selection of videos with women leaders from around the world. Hover over the image below for links to the videos.
What would the world look like if men and women around the world had the same opportunities in life? What would politics look like if half of the world's leaders were female? What would development look like if men and women had equal access to and control over the natural resources they depend upon? We are convinced that the world would be a better place if at least half of the seats at all negotiating tables were occupied by women. Women are not only primary care takers of their families and their communities, they also form the majority of small-scale farmers and are the guardians of biodiversity worldwide.
They have a wealth of experience and knowledge on how to use and manage the world's resources in a sustainable way and have often come with innovative ideas. In our view, female visions and knowledge are indispensable for making balanced management decisions on a local, national or international level. But what do female leaders in developing countries have to say about this themselves? What role do women already play? To mark International Women's day 2013, we asked these and other questions to six female leaders from around the world.They all express their own vision on the role of women in sustainable and fair development. Six visions from strong women on the female contribution to a green and fair world.
Feb 14, 2013
Odey Oyama, director of the Nigerian Rainforest Resource Development Centre (RRDC) is facing threats to his life due to his advocacy on behalf of communities and against Wilmar International, one of the world’s largest palm oil corporations. Wilmar has recently established a 50,000 hectare palm oil plantation in Cross-River State, Nigeria; Odey and RRDC say that the lands claimed by Wilmar belong to local farmers and lie within the boundaries of protected forests. The company has begun planting palm oil seedlings without conducting a proper Environmental Impact Assessment, and without consent from locals who claim rights to the land.
RRDC is on the eve of launching a lawsuit against both the company and the government due to Wilmar’s failure to comply with Nigerian laws. As a result of his advocacy, Odey has been placed on a government watch list – a recognized signal that his life could be under threat – and has been forced to flee his home.
Please click here to join us in calling for an end to threats against Odey Oyama and other Nigerian environmentalists. Alert Nigerian government officials that the world is watching: Odey Oyama’s safety must be guaranteed, and the company must comply with national and international law.
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific (FoE APac): statement on the duplication of the Four Rivers Project in Thailand
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific(FoE APac) is very much concerned that the Korean government is distorting the true consequences of the Korean Four Rivers Project to win a contract for a similar project in Thailand. It is also regrettable that South Korean environmental NGOs who have been critical of this project were described as "unpatriotic" and "anti-state" in a Korean Cabinet meeting last January 15th.
When FoE APac visited the Four Rivers Project construction sites on the South Han River on 30th of June, 2011, it was clear that the project had damaged the river ecology, blocking the river flow by constructing dams, and making the serpentine river a straight one. Despite the information circulated by the Korean government, we believe the dams cannot prevent floods or provide clean water.
Construction went ahead despite requests from FoE APac for the suspension of the project. We learned that the Korean government is now chasing another contract for a similar water management project in Thailand, despite the ecological impact of the Four Rivers Project. The Four Rivers Project was nothing but the destruction of the river ecosystem due to unnecessary construction, which was obfuscated by supposed benefits such as flood control, improvement of water quality, securing water supply, job creation and so on.
Thailand is our neighbor in Asia Pacific, with high riverine biodiversity, and we are concerned that the model of the Four Rivers Project may cause severe damage to Thailand’s rivers and ecosystem, and neighboring countries on the Mekong.
FoE APac is also worried about the suppression of civil society voices in Korea in this regard. Last January 15th when there was a Cabinet meeting, President Myeongbak Lee said that it is obviously "unpatriotic" and "anti-state" for some NGOs to hinder efforts by Korean companies to win the Thailand contract. This is an attempt to politically constrain our collaborative response – the natural duty of environmental organizations – to environmental problems, whose impacts spread beyond national borders.
We further request that the Korean government stop citing the Four Rivers Project as a great achievement and stop promoting this ecosystem-destruction model to other Asia Pacific countries. We appeal to the President of South Korea not to block the voice of civil society who are searching for the truth. FoE APac stands with Korean civil society.
Feb 04, 2013
In the early hours of 23rd January 2013, the Israeli army arrested Hassan Yasser Karajeh, a 29 years old Palestinian youth activist in the Stop the Wall Campaign, violently breaking into his home in the West Bank village of Safa, west of Ramallah. He has been detained since.
The arrest comes as Palestinian popular resistance against the onslaught of Israeli settlement construction and expulsion of Palestinian communities is gathering pace.
Hassan Karajeh is youth coordinator of Stop the Wall, a coalition of Palestinian NGOs and popular committees that mobilizes and coordinates efforts aimed at stopping and dismantling the wall erected by the state of Israel along and within the West Bank, and resisting Israeli occupation and colonization. Friends of the Earth Palestine (PENGON) is member of the coalition.
Hassan is a young human rights activist, well-known both at the local level and across the Arab world. He served as youth ambassador for Palestine at the Arab Thought Forum and has represented various Palestinian organisations at international conferences and seminars.
Stop the Wall calls on all human rights organizations, international solidarity movements and human rights defenders to support them in mounting a powerful and effective campaign for the release of Hassan Karajah. Specifically, the coalition urges you to
- use your government’s influence to pressure the Israeli authorities for the immediate and unconditional release of Hassan Karajeh and to seek assurances from Israeli authorities that his rights as a detainee will be fully respected for as long as he remains in custody;
- ensure consular representatives are following the case of Hassan Karajah;
- raise the case of Hassan Karajah and the issue of Israeli repression of Palestinian human rights defenders at the upcoming EU Foreign Affairs Councils.