disclosing the truth, building awareness and mobilizing against corporate abuses
To do this more effectively, we focused on the use of innovative and mass means of communication, to disclose our research findings to a much wider audience than ever before, and to mobilize people to fight for environmental justice.
We have developed new ideas to convey our campaign messages in more innovative and creative ways; and used creative campaign tools so that people can understand and support our messages more easily. These included a series of video clips (community testimonies) and using YouTube to broadcast them to the public. We have also started to work with artists in designing strong visuals with a clear message.
In the period 2005-08, FoEI produced two quality TV programs, Lost in Palm Oil and Poison Fire. We also focused on producing quality footage suitable for TV broadcast on a series of issues related to sustainable livelihoods and environmental protection, including extractive industries, biodiversity, and women and the environment.
‘Lost in Palm Oil’ is a documentary about the impacts of oil palm plantations on local communities in Indonesia, and the production, trade and consumption of palm oil. The documentary was screened (sometimes fully, sometimes partially) on TV and at film festivals. Many of these broadcasts reached out to audiences of more than 100,000 viewers. A list of TV broadcasts and slots in 2008 includes: Eenvandaag (Netherlands); ORF Weltjournal (Austria); TV Eco (Switzerland); French TV channel France 2; YLE (Finland); SWR Auslandsreporter, Phönix and NDR ARD (Germany); RTP (Portugal); TVN27 (Poland); TV2 (Finland); SVT (Sweden); Green Film Festival-Seoul (Korea); NHK (Japan); and the Berlin Film Festival (Germany). ‘Lost in palm oil’ was also screened at an alternative summit in Bali, Indonesia, during the United Nations climate talks (UNFCCC) in December 2007; and about 500 DVD copies of the film were circulated to communities in Indonesia (in Bahasa Indonesia). The DVD version is available in English, French, German and Bahasa.
For ‘Poison Fire’ FoEI contracted Lars Johansson to make a documentary about the impacts of oil in Nigeria, using a 'participatory approach' to film-making and at the same time training local community members in Nigeria to use video tools in their campaign activities. Poison Fire shows how increasing people’s capacity to advocate on their own behalf with video tools and skills led to exposing oil giant Shell’s violations of Nigerian law and the fact that it was ignoring court judgments in Nigeria.
‘Poison Fire’ was selected by and launched at the world's largest documentary festival, IDFA. The film was screened at IDFA five times (always sold out), and public debates followed the screenings. The documentary was also broadcast in its entirety on BEN TV (Great Britain and Ireland), reaching more than 8 million homes via the popular BSKYB platform (channel 184). This channel also reaches out to Western Europe and Africa potentially reaching more than 30 million homes.
Footage of the documentary was even aired by the Dutch investigative program 'Netwerk' and mainstream news program 'RTL news' in the years previous to the film’s formal launch. A short film based on footage from Lars Johansson was produced with Element TV (a project focused on the UN millennium development goals) and broadcast on other MTV channels in 2007. Element was initially broadcast on three European MTV 'feeds' and in Israel, and was picked up for 'Switch', a global campaign for MTV which reached a potential audience of 1.5 billion viewers in 62 countries. Guardian films also used footage from Poison Fire (and took on board information exposed in the film) in a video report by The Guardian's George Monbiot (a renowned environmental writer and author of a number of bestselling books). The report focused on an interview with Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer, and generated substantial debate on The Guardian newspaper’s website. A short version of the documentary was also aired on MTV and at the March 2008 Amnesty ‘Movies that Matter’ film festival in Amsterdam.
The film, which can be viewed online on various websites including its own, at www.poisonfire.org, also caused intense debate in Nigeria, where it has been screened to many local communities and policy makers. Nigerian lawmakers have watched it in special screenings and commented on it. A high policy committee annexed it to its report on the Niger Delta sent to the Nigerian President. It also had an impact on Shell; the company made direct references to the film in a Shell video online on www.shell.com. In 2008, the film-maker entered a co-production agreement with Danish production company Everest Pictures (Anders Ostergaard, the director of the highly successful documentary 'Burma VJ') which decided to finance a longer, more ambitious version of Poison Fire.
FoE Europe also created and displayed an exhibition on the extractive industry with images of Shell's operations around the world, showing the negative social and environmental effects of some of their activities. We started touring with it at the 2008 Shell shareholder meeting in The Hague, at the 2008 EU Green Week, and at an event organized by Shell in Brussels on future energy scenarios, where our campaigners distributed an alternative publication depicting what Shell's future energy scenarios are likely to be. We also spoke directly to Shell CEO, Jeroen Van Der Veer, and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana. Our report, ‘Extracting the truth’ also revealed the oil industry’s attempts to undermine the European Commission’s Fuel Quality Directive through a barrage of oil company advertisements, which had appeared in European media in the previous year; and exposed the industry’s combative approach towards European efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuels.
In February 2008, following up on a project which started in 2006, a map with details of 50 environmentally damaging and economically dubious infrastructure projects in Central and Eastern Europe was launched by CEE Bankwatch Network and FoE Europe. The projects are either already financed, or in preparation and likely to be financed by EU structural and cohesion funds and/or the European Investment Bank (EIB). FoE Europe continues to monitor the developments of these projects, raise public awareness and campaign to stop them.
From 28 May through to 2 June 2008, representatives of Sakhalin Environment Watch, FoE Japan and Pacific Environment conducted a fact-finding mission along the pipeline right of way for the Sakhalin-II oil and gas project. During the trip, these groups documented serious violations of public and private bank policies, internationally accepted good practice and Russian law. This photo report provides graphic evidence of these violations.
To respond to various destructive projects in Southern and Eastern Africa, FoE South Africa and FoE Mozambique, together with the International Working Group on Oil, hosted the East and Southern African workshop in September 2008. Participation was from a variety of sectors that had close links to the daily reality on the ground: fishermen from Mauritius, Islamic clerics from rural Mozambique, community members from Lake Albert in Uganda, and rural community folk from Ethiopia, together with other representatives of social organizations and local communities from Angola, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda, A number of participants also came from West African countries including Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Mali and Nigeria. Critically, community people shared the experience of their present struggles and considered how these struggles could provide a platform for articulating their efforts in the future.
FoEI also convened a network of groups focusing on the environment and social impacts of ArcelorMittal, connecting civil society organizations in the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Liberia, South Africa, Ukraine and the US. In 2008, we produced a report on these impacts and visited the shareholder meeting. We also met with the board of ArcelorMittal, who committed to improving their performance.
FoEI continued, along with others around the world, to denounce the abuse by companies aiming to put Latin American governments under pressure. ATALC is monitoring the cases with ETI Telecom in Bolivia, RDC in Guatemala, Harken and other oil companies in Costa Rica, and Katoen Natie in Uruguay.
FoE groups also continue to monitor regional infrastructure projects under the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA). Throughout 2008, FoE Uruguay monitored all infrastructure projects planned for Uruguay, especially those related to ports and harbors. FoE Brazil and FoE Argentina jointly carried out activities on the Garabi Hydro-electric complex, alerting local organizations and individuals about the potential socio-ecological impacts of this mega-project. FoE Brazil produced and screened a video on the Garabi project, using it at schools, at rural workers’ labor unions at the Brazil-Argentina border, and on various web sites. The video was launched in the Argentinean Social Forum of Misiones, which around 500 people attended. In this process, FoE Brazil worked very closely with the large and influential Brazilian Movement of Dam Affected People (MAB).
Together with various FoE groups, FoEI also produced a booklet 'The story of IIRSA; Latin American people versus mega infrastructure projects and trade negotiations with the European Union' This booklet is designed with popular education in mind, in line with the new FoEI communications strategy, and is currently being used in activities by us and by social movements and local leaders in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay.
FoE groups in Europe and Latin America also worked together to address the impacts of European (mostly Scandinavian) pulp and paper producers in Latin America. At the European Social Forum, an exhibition exposing these impacts was displayed. Groups also worked together on a specific project relating to the Finnish company Botnia, and its activities in Uruguay. Several European investors, such as ING, decided not to finance the project as it has been highly controversial in Uruguay and Argentina and did not adhere to World Bank’s environmental standards.
In 2008, we also exposed the myth that fossil fuels are central to development. FoEI believes this assumption is misguided on both climate and development grounds, and subsidies to the fossil fuel sector must be ended. We challenged the Asian Development Bank during at its annual meeting in Madrid in May 2008. The ADB issues calls for clean energy investments to fight global warming, while providing massive financial support to dirty coal projects in Asia. Together with WEED, Oil Change International and APMDD Jubilee South, we produced a concise argument about the link between oil and poverty, which was distributed at the 2008 ADB annual meeting, the Netherlands conference in July 2008 on ‘The Future of the World Bank,’ and at the national level.
Several FoE groups (Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa and affiliate member the Mineral Policy Institute) participated in the International Mining Conference and Skillshare organized by FoE Philippines in November 2007; and a 10 minute-video of women resisters, campaigners and advocates from Australia, Indonesia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Thailand was produced. The video is available at the following link: www.youtube.com/lrckskvideos. Inspired by this experience, FoE national groups working with communities resisting large-scale mining projects are beginning to record testimonies in order to make another video, which will highlight women’s roles and contributions to community-based resistance movements. It is hoped that this project will also inspire other civil society groups, prompting them to give due attention to women and the gender dimensions of extractive projects such as mining.
FoEI had a strong presence at several international events in 2008. We also supported the participation of community representatives and civil society organizations from the South in many international events, giving them an opportunity to publicize their experiences and struggles.
Some of the events in 2008 included:
- the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank
- the spring and annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- the annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank
- UN Framework Convention for Climate Change meetings
- UN Convention for Biological Diversity meetings
- MOVIAC’s meetings
- Via Campesina´s 5th International Conference
- the EU-Latin American Summit and the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Corporations
- the III Americas Social Forum
- the European Social Forum 2008
- meetings of the Latin American Network on Dams