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sweden: south-north dialogue on pulp, paper and plantation struggles

Timber, pulp, sugar cane and agrofuels are all exported from the Global South for consumption in Northern countries, earning vast profits for transnational companies. But the large-scale plantations established to feed the pulp, paper and agrofuels industries have a host of negative social, environmental and economic impacts: they displace local people, devastate biodiversity, exhaust water resources, and impoverish workers, farmers and communities.

sweden: south-north dialogue on pulp, paper and plantation struggles

The cellulose industry is focusing on South America in a bid to significantly expand its export operations. Seven of the world’s ten largest cellulose companies have installed pulp mills and established tree monocultures in South America, including European transnationals such as the Swedish/Finnish paper, packaging and ‘forest products’ company Stora Enso. These companies directly threaten local people’s rights to livelihoods, water, health and democratic influence.

 

what happened?

Friends of the Earth Sweden and Friends of the Earth Finland are working to highlight the negative impacts of the paper and agrofuel industries. The European Social Forum (ESF), which took place in Malmo, Sweden, in September 2008, provided a focus.

 

FoE Sweden invited and hosted a number of guests from the Global South to participate in sessions at the ESF. Guests from Brazil, Uruguay and India contributed to seminars and workshops on paper and sugarcane monocultures, on resistance to other unsustainable developments, such as dams and motorways, and on the radical social changes needed to combat climate change.

 

Both before and after the ESF, the speakers toured Sweden and Finland, giving eight talks in towns and cities in the two countries, and speaking to some 420 people. The Brazilian visitor also held a debate with representatives of Stora Enso, along with Finnish campaigners.

 

FoE Sweden published a newspaper focusing on the issues of monocultures, climate justice, popular resistance and testimonies of struggle. 8,000 copies were distributed at the ESF and a further 1,500 at the World Social Forum (WSF) in Brazil in January 2009. They also created an exhibition, Paper and Ethanol: Northern Consumption, Southern Destruction, which was made and shown at the ESF.

 

In June 2008, FoE Sweden and FoE Finland, together with Friends of the Landless  Workers Movement, wrote an open letter to the Finnish parliament, the Finnish government and Stora Enso.

 

The work has continued into early 2009, with the WSF providing a new focus. Activists toured Brazil, meeting groups campaigning on pulp and paper and ethanol monocultures. At the WSF itself, a seminar was held on paper and ethanol monocultures, and FoE Sweden’s campaigners held meetings and made connections with indigenous organizations, small farmers and rubber tappers. Two blogs were set up to spread information about the WSF, the activists’ tour and the issues raised.

 

what changed?

The project has resulted in much better contacts between organizations from the Global South and North working on pulp and paper issues, both within and outside the FoE International network.

 

The events at the ESF and WSF, the speaker tours, and the dissemination of information in print and online succeeded in spreading the message about the campaign far and wide. FoE was very visible at both the ESF and WSF, increasing its profile and reputation.

 

The project also improved public awareness in the north about the impacts of companies such as Stora Enso.

 

what next?

Both FoE Sweden and FoE Finland plan to continue campaigning on pulp, paper and plantations, striving for climate justice, economic justice and environmental justice. They plan to build and deepen their cooperation with South American groups. The exhibition remains online and both blogs will continue.

 

with thanks to our funders: the isvara foundation

 

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