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Jul 03, 2013

Friends of the Earth Australia: Australia’s forest carbon experiment in Indonesia ends in failure

by Friends of the Earth Australia — last modified Jul 03, 2013 12:45 PM

AusAID has effectively axed its $47 million forest carbon experiment in Kalimantan ahead of Prime Minister Rudd's visit to Indonesia this week. The Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP) began in 2008 as part of a program to demonstrate that ‘forest carbon offsets’ were a viable way to reduce carbon emissions. The KFCP pilot project began with big promises to demonstrate policy and program activities capable of reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation in Indonesia, and incentivise sustainable livelihoods for local communities.

Friends of the Earth groups criticise the Federal government and its implementing partner’s for their failed approach to deforestation and the land rights issues in Indonesia.

 

Deddy Ratih from WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) said: ‘AusAID and the KFCP staff have failed to support conservation programs that are environmentally effective and sensitive to the rights of indigenous people in rural Indonesia.’

 

‘The KFCP is a missed opportunity to empower local communities to develop their sustainable livelihood practices and address the drivers of land conversion in Kalimantan.’

 

Ratih is Bioregion and Climate Campaigner campaigner for WALHI - Indonesia’s leading environmental justice organisation with more than 450 groups across the Indonesian archipelago.

 

‘A key aspect of deforestation and land degradation is the lack of formal rights held by indigenous and rural people in Indonesia. The KFCP did nothing to assist local communities to assert their customary rights and develop capacity for sustainable land management.’ says Ratih

 

‘Over five years the project has produced no significant environmental outcomes, it created conflict in local communities and confusion about the status of their land.’ says Deddy Ratih

 

Rebecca Pearse, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Australia argued that ‘the KFCP is a failed experiment in carbon pricing and a sign of ongoing troubles in carbon offset markets.’

 

‘The failed KFCP also reflects the fundamental flaws of carbon pricing. Forest carbon offsets and other payment schemes for conservation are not addressing the drivers of land-based emissions. Despite being a key area for experiments in forest carbon projects, Kalimantan is rapidly expanding palm oil and coal production.’ says Pearse.

Pearse said ‘Both the Liberal and Labor governments have responsibility for the failure of this scheme.’

 

The KFCP is part of a larger $273 million partnership with Indonesia to demonstrate that a ‘market-based approach’ to forest protection is viable. It was first announced in 2008 by the Howard administration then carried forward by Rudd and Gillard.

 

‘It’s time to shift to direct regulation of industries driving forest destruction and proper recognition of individual and customary land tenure. Nothing less will halt extractive industries in Indonesia.’ Pearse concluded.

Photo: Michael Padmanaba/ Center for International Forestry Research

Jun 14, 2013

Honduran activist Berta Caceres cleared of “charges” brought against her.

by Real World Radio — last modified Jun 14, 2013 10:55 AM

Berta Caceres was accused of illegal possession of a firearm. After an eight hour trial, testimonies by military and police officers, who had conducted a search of her vehicle, were ultimately considered insufficient evidence. Berta, who had been closely monitored and forbidden from leaving the country, has been cleared of all charges and has had her rights to free travel restored.

It became evident that members of the army contradicted themselves. The police had done no investigation and had merely parroted the army's version of events.

 

“The military officers were the ones who planted the weapon so that they could arrest us, they always look for a way to mess with our friends”, said Tomas Gomez, who was arrested at the same time as Berta, but quickly released. “If Berta hadn’t been released, there would have been huge mobilizations in several municipalities”, he added.

 

Berta is the latest target of the Honduran government's attempts to criminalize legitimate dissent. She has been helping communities to peacefully mobilize against government and business interests to defend their lands.

 

Delegates from more than 40 organizations across Honduras arrived in the city of Santa Barbara, where the trial took place, to show their solidarity with the indigenous rights campaigner.

 

“What bothers the regime the most is that communities are mobilizing, and are far from being afraid, because they are aware of the value of the natural resources of their territories”, said Tomas.

 

The humanitarian situation in Honduras worsens by the day and many organizations believe that most communities are threatened, militarized and under a permanent state of siege. This trend is expected to worsen with the coming presidential elections in November.

 

Read more about the trial and the display of solidarity on Real World Radio (in Spanish)


Image and reporting by Real World Radio

Jun 12, 2013

Warning sounded ahead of EU-US trade negotiations

by Denis Burke — last modified Jun 12, 2013 03:34 PM

Friends of the Earth Europe: Concerns about possible negative effects of an EU and US trade agreement are the subject of a letter sent to European Trade ministers today.

Friends of the Earth Europe, the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) and Eurogroup for Animals today wrote to the 27 ministers to raise concerns about the threat a deal could pose to environmental, consumer, and social regulatory standards.

The EU's Foreign Affairs Council is expected to meet in Brussels on Friday June 14 to approve a mandate for the European Commission to negotiate a trade agreement, also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

 

Paul de Clerck, economic justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said:

"The trade negotiations between the EU and the US will have significant impacts on regulatory standards which touch upon all aspects of life for people and the environment on both sides of the Atlantic. Considering the current economic and financial challenges, as well as the climate emergency, it is absolutely essential that any agreement builds on regulatory pillars such as the precautionary and polluter-pays principles and allows countries to introduce safeguards that go beyond those in the partnership. Specific rights for investors should absolutely be excluded from the agreement."

 

In the letter, the three organisations make the following points:

  • Negotiations should be fully open to public scrutiny, including through the publication of the negotiating texts. There should be full transparency about the exact scope of the agreement and consultation with civil society about the mandate.
  • Negotiations should aim at the highest common standard. Regulatory convergence should not be used to lower existing environmental, social, or consumer protection standards.
  • National governments should retain the rights to maintain or introduce higher standards which go beyond what is agreed in the TTIP. These should be applied in a non-discriminatory way to domestic and foreign producers and suppliers.
  • Investor States Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions should be excluded from the mandate. This mechanism allows foreign investors to legally challenge national governments, thereby elevating them to the same status as sovereign states. As both the EU and the US have well-functioning court systems, there is absolutely no need to include such provisions in the agreement.

Visit the Friends of the Earth Europe website

Jun 11, 2013

Friends of the Earth International demands the annulment of legal proceedings against Berta Caceres and the Honduras Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH)

by Denis Burke — last modified Jun 11, 2013 11:20 AM

Berta Caceres, a community organiser from Honduras, has been summoned to court to face fradulent charges for posession of an illegal weapon. She is the latest target of the Honduran government's attempts to criminalize legitimate dissent. She has been helping communities to peacefully mobilize to defend their lands. The letter below, from the executive committee of Friends of the Earth International, calls for the immediate annulment of all proceedings against Berta Cáceres and insists that the Honduran government fulfill its responsibilities under national and international law to protect the rights and security of activists.

To the legal authorities in Santa Barbara municipality, Honduras

 


To the judges in the Supreme Court of Honduras

 


To the companies responsible for the Agua Zarca hydropower project (DESA-SINOHIDRO and FICOSAH bank)

 


To the Honduran and international public



On behalf of the environmental federation Friends of the Earth International, I would like to express our concern over the repeated episodes of violence against social leaders in Honduras caused by state forces and by mercenaries hired by companies, landowners and several consortia, as a variety of national testimonies and international reports confirm.



I would also like to table a petition of concern to your institutions, in light of the trial indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres faces in your country, which I consider to be illegitimate, illegal and represents a high risk for her personal integrity and the security of her organization, the Honduras Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH).



We have been notified over the past few weeks about the persecution and criminalization of this social activist who works for the rights of Honduran indigenous peoples, their territories and culture, against whom the authorities have initiated unjustified legal proceedings accusing her of the illegal possession of a firearm without any formal evidence.



Berta Cáceres has been summoned to court in the city of Santa Bárbara, Honduras on June 13, at 9am, to defend herself against these false accusations.


Legal proceedings were initiated on May 24, 2013, following the illegal detention of Berta Cáceres and indigenous journalist Tomás Gómez, both members of the Honduras Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), while they were traveling to the area where the Lenca indigenous people are mobilizing against the installation of the Agua Zarca hydro power dam. If this dam is built, hundreds of indigenous families of the Honduran North-West region will be displaced.



In the operation that resulted in their arrest, over 15 members of the Honduran Army and the Police participated. They were arrested without a warrant and despite the fact that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has extended a precautionary measure in favor of this Honduran leader, following multiple threats against her life.

Berta and Tomás stated that the officers stopped the COPINH vehicle in which they were traveling and detained them with vehicles identified with the logos of the consortium responsible for the construction of the dam (DESA-SINOHIDRO and FICOSAH bank).

Berta was detained for almost 24 hours and is now prevented from leaving the country and has to make herself present at the police headquarters every week until the case is solved (See article).



The COPINH members’ detention testifies to the strong trend towards the militarization of the Honduran police. The actions by the Honduran armed and security forces violate the human rights of social, environmental and indigenous activists who are systematically harassed as if they were “enemies” and not citizens who are entitled to their rights.



Berta Cáceres’ life and freedom are at risk and depend on the outcome of the hearing that will take place on June 13.



Therefore, on behalf of Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation with national member groups in 74 countries on every continent, I am addressing you, together with organizations and individuals who fight for social and environmental justice, calling for the immediate annulment of the proceedings against Berta Cáceres’ and demanding the Honduran authorities and international human rights organizations to guarantee the necessary conditions for her to continue working as a defender of the human and environmental rights of indigenous and peasant communities and women in Honduras.



In solidarity with the Honduran people, sincerely,



Jagoda Munic

 

Sign this petition calling for justice for Berta and read more about her arbitrary arrest and the harassment she has faced.

May 27, 2013

UPDATE: Guatemalan human rights defender Rubén Herrera has been released!

by Denis Burke — last modified May 27, 2013 05:25 PM

Rubén Herrera has been released following a decision by a Guatemalan court. Thousands of people around the world gave their support to a Friends of the Earth International email campaign.

Rubén Herrera's most recent hearing resulted in a provisional decision to grant his release. Friends of the Earth International will continue to monitor the situation. Family and friends have expressed their thanks to everyone around the world who sent an email to the Guatemalan authorities calling for his release.

 

Rubén Herrera was arrested as he left his house in Huehuetenango district, Guatemala on March 15 this year.

 

Rubén has been an active community organiser, working on many environmental and social justice campaigns and bringing together networks and organizations commited to social good for most of his adult life.

 

The flimsy reasons for his arrest – including incitement and kidnapping – were decisively refuted by Rubén and his defense during a hearing on March 19. However, despite requests by Guatemala's Public Prosecutor to dismiss the case due to a lack of evidence, the judge ordered that the case continue and that Rubén Herrera return to court at the end of May. Following this hearing, the judge decided to release him.

 

Rubén's case is part of a deeply disturbing cycle of criminalization of human rights and environmental activists in his part of Guatemala (Barillas, Huehuetenango). Spanish company Hidralia SA is building a hydroelectric dam in the area, despite 90% of local community members voicing their opposition to and voting against the implementation of hydroelectric and mining projects in a 2007 consultation. Local communities have repeatedly implicated the company in political repression, intimidation and manipulation of local and national legal processes in recent years. Rubén has been involved in efforts to demand that the company pull out of the area.

 

Read more about the controversies surrounding transnational corporations in Guatemala

Read about another recent case in Guatemala, involving Hidralia's dam.

Read an interview with the director of Friends of the Earth Guatemala

May 23, 2013

Everest expedition calls for climate justice from top of the world

by Denis Burke — last modified May 23, 2013 05:20 PM

The Climbing for Climate Justice Everest expedition – organised by the Save the Himalayas Campaign and Khangri Media, in collaboration with Friends of the Earth Nepal / Pro Public – successfully climbed Mt. Everest on May 20 to demand climate justice from the top of the world.

 

The team returned to Kathmandu and held a press conference on May 25, 2013.

 

Sudarshan Gautam – a Nepal-born Canadian resident who has no arms – has just become the first person with no arms or prosthetic limbs to climb Mt Everest. He told the media that he saw how climate change is affecting the Himalayas, and stated that “Mount Everest has lost most of its glacier and now largely looks like a big black rock.” He urged the world community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately.

 

Pemba Dorje Sherpa – who holds the world record for climbing Mount Everest in the fastest time and has set four World Records climbing Mt. Everest - said that it has become easier to reach the top due to climate change as there is less and less snow on Mt Everest. “You can get to camp 3 just using sports shoes these days,” he said.

Prakash Mani Sharma, Director of Friends of the Earth Nepal congratulated expedition members and thanked them for their effort to raise awareness of climate justice.

“Nepal is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the people of Nepal are already suffering its consequences. Himalayan glaciers are melting rapidly and the risks of glacial lake outburst floods have significantly increased. There are more than 40 glacial lakes at risk of bursting. Outburst floods have catastrophic impacts on the life and property of the thousands of people residing downstream of those lakes,” warned Prakash Mani Sharma.

Two expedition members, Kapur Shrestha, and Min Bahadur Sherchan, 82, could not reach the top with the expedition and decided to attempt the climb separately, but were ultimately prevented from reaching the summit.

Nepali climber Min Bahadur Sherchan, 82, was aiming to become the oldest man to summit the mountain, a record he held for five years, until May 22, 2013, when 80 year old Yuichiro Miura from Japan summited the world's highest peak.

 

You can read more about the expedition in our press release and more on the rivalry between these octogenarian climbers in this article by Associated Press.

 

Image: Climbing for Climate Justice/ Save the World Heritage and Everest is Melting -  banners held by Pemba Dorge Sherpa ( left with white helmet ) and Suman Shrestha ( right without helmet )

Khangri Media and Pro Public/ FOE Nepal

May 21, 2013

Land grabbing in Uganda: Voices from the community

by Denis Burke — last modified May 21, 2013 01:15 PM

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.

 

 

Watch more video testimonies from community members affected by land grabbing >


Images and personal stories

 

 

Okia

 

Land grabbing in Uganda II

 

Nathaniel Bagira

 

Okia comes from the mainland and is a palm plantation security guard. He is employed to protect the land from locals looking for firewood or people attempting to remove diesel from the diggers.

Some of the men and their machines on a newly cleared site of hundreds of acres by the lakeside. This land assumed by locals to be common land and therefore for public use was all of a sudden in the hands of the plantation owner, BIDCO. Locals were shown a piece of paper and told that BIDCO were now the new owners.
Nathaniel Bagira is one of only a few in the small village of Kasenyi who have not lost land. He, however, is worried that once the forestland has been consumed by the plantation, his 3.7 acre plot may be given to the company. Without the plot he has nothing and no way of supporting himself.

 

John Zziwa

 

Edison Musiimenta, Rosemary Nabukeera

 

Deforestation on Buvuma Island

John Zziwa is a farmer from the village of Njoga which is surrounded by palm plantations. John's neighbours (Epson and Rosemary) have joined the plantation scheme and have planted over forty acres with palm trees. Instead of walking home through a tropical forest John now walks through a plantation. Edison Musiimenta, Rosemary Nabukeera and daughter Maureen Nuwagaba have come from the mainland. Around eight years ago Edison came looking for work. He was so impressed with the quality of the soil and crop that he asked someone for a small plot of land to farm on. Edison is now one of the larger charcoal producers selling huge bags of the fuel to a mainland agent.
Deforestation on Buvuma Island

 

See more images and videos >

May 02, 2013

Transnational Corporations don’t respect Human Rights in Guatemala

by Radio Mundo Real — last modified May 02, 2013 11:35 AM

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.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands: Nigerians and Milieudefensie appeal in Shell case

by milieudefensie — last modified May 02, 2013 11:22 AM

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.

Chief Fidelis Oguru and Eric Dooh in court are plaintiffs in the case against Shell.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
country.

Apr 22, 2013

Friends of the Earth South Africa: Climate change to be 'unpacked' on Earth Day 2013

by Megan Lewis — last modified Apr 22, 2013 10:30 AM

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.

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] 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

[2] To read the e-book, visit http://www.groundwork.org.za/Unpacking%20climate%20change%20for%20web/Unpacking%20climate%20change%20for%20web.pdf

[3] For more information on the Earth Day Network and what they have planned this year, visit the website at http://www.earthday.org/2013/

[4] 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

European companies not respecting Human Rights in Guatemala

by admin — last modified Apr 18, 2013 05:45 PM

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

Friends of the Earth South Africa: Brics-from-below summit: Watching and challenging power!

by Megan Lewis — last modified Mar 20, 2013 10:50 AM

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 from belowBRICS 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) [1], the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) [2] and the University of KwaZulu Natal Centre for Civil Society (UKZN CCS) [3], 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” [4] 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:

 

CONTACTS

Megan Lewis, Media and Information Campaigner at groundWork (Friends of the Earth, South Africa): +27 (0) 83 450 5541 or megan@groundwork.org.za

 

Desmond D’Sa, Coordinator at South Durban Community Environmental Alliance: +27 (0) 83 982 6939 or desmond@sdceango.co.za

 

Patrick Bond, Director at University of KwaZulu Natal Centre for Civil Society: +27 (0) 83 425 1401 or bondp@ukzn.ac.za

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] 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

 

[2] 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

 

[3] 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/

 

[4] 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

Genetically modified crops: European farming at risk

by Friends of the Earth Europe — last modified Mar 18, 2013 04:40 PM

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.

Genetically Modified Food

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

 

Photo Credit: Peter Blanchard via Compfight cc

 

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:

http://www.itnproductions.co.uk/CEO/

Mar 01, 2013

March 8 is International Women's Day: Interviews with women leaders from the Fair Green and Global Alliance

by Fair Green and Global — last modified Mar 01, 2013 10:45 AM

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

Stop threats to Nigerian environmentalist Odey Oyama

by Denis Burke — last modified Feb 14, 2013 02:15 PM

odeyOdey 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

by FoE APac — last modified Feb 14, 2013 11:30 AM
Filed Under:

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

Free Stop the Wall activist Hassan Karajah!

by Maarten van den Berg — last modified Feb 04, 2013 05:35 PM

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.

Send a message to your consulate

Nov 16, 2012

Solidarity for missing environmental activist Miguel Ángel

by Joukje Kolff — last modified Nov 16, 2012 10:55 AM

Friends of the Earth International expresses its alarm and distress at the disappearance of Miguel Ángel Pabón Pabón, leader of the social movement for the defense of the Sogamoso River in Colombia.

Miguel Ángel Pabón PabónMiguel Ángel was last seen on October 31 2012. The environmental federation Friends of the Earth International, composed of environmental groups from 76 countries, learned of his disappearance during their Biennial General Assembly in El Salvador.

 

Please take part in our action in solidarity with Friends of the Earth Colombia and Miguel Ángel Pabón Pabón!

Miguel Ángel, a 36 years old father of two girls, is a dedicated and notable environmentalist, defender of the River Sogamoso and of the fisherfolk and peasant communities in the area. He created the Social Movement for the Defense of the Sogamoso River, together with other leaders of the region in 2008, which has contributed to building awareness among the communities about the terrible consequences of local hydro-electrical projects. He has also participated in demonstrations against the company ISAGEN, denouncing the negative social and environmental consequences that have hurt fisherfolk and peasant communities, and the terrible labour conditions of the workers that are building the hydro project.

In 2011, he was instrumental in the creation of the Columbian Movement in Defense of the Territory and Affected People by Dams “Ríos Vivos”.

Since his disappearance, members of the settlements, peasants and fisherfolk of the region who closely know Miguel, have organized groups (brigades) to search for him in the surrounding areas, including Municipalities of Sabana de Torres, San Vicente, Betulia and Barrancabermeja.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that such a tragedy has happened to the members and leaders who defend the rights of communities in the region. The Observatorio de Paz Integral reported that 11 people have already disappeared in 2012, 6 of whom were subsequently found dead. Several social leaders have been assassinated in the region of the Sogamoso River since 2009. These crimes have been committed with total impunity, with no consequences for the perpetrators.

Friends of the Earth International requests that the Colombian authorities - particularly the Magdalena Medio Police, the National Attorney General, the Ombudspeople, the Municipality of San Vicente, the Regional Attorney, and other entities of Public control - to do everything in their extensive powers to prevent a major tragedy, and to make sure that Miguel Ángel Pabón Pabón is found and returned to his home in good health.


San Salvador, November 9 2012.


Please take part in our action in solidarity with Friends of the Earth Colombia and Miguel Ángel Pabón Pabón!

Nov 06, 2012

November 10: A significant day for activists working against mining, oil and gas

by Denis Burke — last modified Nov 06, 2012 06:45 PM

Friends of the Earth International commemorates Ken Saro-Wiwa's death on November 10 as a day of solidarity with victims of mining, oil and gas activities around the world and a celebration of all the activists who continue to resist.

Ken Saro-WiwaSeventeen years ago,  environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were executed under the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria.

It was widely alleged that oil giant Shell interfered in the trial that led to his death sentence. Shell has been drilling in Nigeria for 50 years and its operations in the Niger Delta continue to have massively negative impacts on the population there.

Friends of the Earth International commemorates Ken Saro-Wiwa's death on November 10 as a day of solidarity with victims of mining, oil and gas activities and a celebration of the activists who continue to resist. 

Since the release of the 2011 report 'Memory, truth and justice for heroes' (1) the death toll and level of persecution of community leaders defending their territories against abuses by the extractive industries has continued unabated. (2)

The destruction of communities and ecosystems caused by extractive industries has generated a global resistance movement struggling for justice and the defense of life, land, resources, biodiversity, livelihoods and cultures.

Extractive industries have caused some of the world's worst environmental disasters and displaced tens of thousands of local people from their traditional homelands. Abuses perpetrated by the extractive industries have cost the lives of many environmental advocates and communities.

This year Friends of the Earth International  marks this anniversary during its biennial general assembly in El Salvador in November by reflecting on its work with environmental defenders across the globe.

Fifteen international delegates will visit communities negatively affected by mining in Guatemala and El Salvador as part of a solidarity tour following the general assembly, from 13-20 November. (3)

Friends of the Earth International reiterates its support for communities resisting destructive extractive projects, in their struggles against social injustices, and in bringing about environmental and economic justice.

On 11 October 2012, Friends of the Earth and four Nigerians brought Dutch oil giant Shell to court in The Hague for damage caused in Nigeria; a milestone in the decades of struggle of the people of the Niger Delta and a fitting testament to the struggle of Ken Saro-Wiwa. (4)


Notes:

(1) For more information see the report  published on November 2011: http://www.foei.org/en/resources/publications/pdfs/2011/memory-truth-and-justice-for-heroes/view

(2) For more information on activists at risk see http://www.radiomundoreal.fm/Luchadores-sociales-en-riesgo

(3) Full coverage of the tour can be followed at http://www.radiomundoreal.fm/?lang=en

(4) For more information see http://www.foei.org/en/media/archive/2012/30-january-verdict-expected-in-court-case-on-oil-giant-shells-nigerian-oil-pollution

 

Nov 02, 2012

Friends of the Earth International is proud to announce Jagoda Munić as our new chairperson

by Denis Burke — last modified Nov 02, 2012 02:40 PM

Friends of the Earth International is proud to announce that Jagoda Munić from Croatia has been elected as our new chairperson, effective November 15, 2012.

Jagoda november 2012Jagoda has extensive experience in environmental research, activism and conservation. She joined Friends of the Earth Croatia as a volunteer in 1997 and was president of the group from 2001 to 2007. She has degrees in biology; library and information sciences; and pollution and environmental control. She has led successful biodiversity research projects and public advocacy campaigns, including a campaign on Genetically Modified (GM) crops, which resulted in Croatia adopting one of the strictest GM laws in the world. Jagoda has served as FoEI's Treasurer on the executive committee since 2004.

 

Outgoing chairperson Nnimmo Bassey said, “Jagoda's commitment and experience will inspire the wider Friends of the Earth federation. Her appointment gives Friends of the Earth International a charismatic and talented new chair.”

 

Friends of the Earth International is deeply grateful to Nnimmo Bassey for his visionary and invaluable leadership. Nnimmo has demonstrated incredible dedication and passion for his work and the work of Friends of the Earth International.

 

Every two years, Friends of the Earth International's Biennial General Meeting elects FoEI's Executive Committee. 

 

Read the interview with Jagoda at Radio Mundo Real

 

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