halting destructive projects
Through the FoEI Corporates and IFIs campaigns, civil society organizations were able to halt specific harmful projects while employing campaign activities that highlight the systemic tendencies that allow these types of projects to move forward. We provided financial support for local and national activities, and technical assistance on policy research and analysis, as well as bringing international attention to local concerns in order to ensure successful campaigns.
In 2008 FoE groups developed a series of national campaigns relating specifically to the extractives sector, which poses severe threats to environmental sustainability, people’s livelihoods and food security. For example, we led outreach and education efforts on the expansion of extractive industries in Guatemala; this contributed to 600,000 people in 31 municipalities participating in community referendums regarding mining concessions. The majority of the community members participating in these efforts were women, presumably because this issue is intimately connected to their ability to grow food and feed their families.
In the Philippines, we campaigned against the increasing power of mining corporations, which have lobbied IFIs to promote investments in their industry, and have actively prevented the institutionalization of key reforms proposed by the Extractive Industries Review Panel, which the World Bank itself created. We advocated for local and national laws and administrative issuance's that would uphold the rights of marginalized sectors. In Togo, we were successful in preventing a Bahamas-based company from extracting one million tons of bauxite from Mount Agou, the highest mountain in the country.
We also worked with our partners to halt the harmful expansion of plantation monocultures for agrofuel feedstock production in Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia (promoted, for example, by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank). FoE groups from Europe collaborated with groups from ATALC to produce two important publications (in English and Spanish) on agrofuels: “European banks financing damaging agrofuels in Latin America” and “Fueling destruction in Latin America” (which focuses on the social impacts of the agrofuels boom). A similar collaboration between FoE groups in Asia and Europe led to the publication of “Malaysian palm oil: Green gold or green wash?” on the misleading activities and statements of the Malaysian palm oil industry concerning the sustainability of palm oil.
We also accompanied Nigerian communities in their tireless efforts to force Shell and other oil companies to stop gas flaring and other damaging practices connected to oil extraction. FoEI helped twelve Nigerian communities file an official complaint with the World Bank Inspection Panel, for which the Board approved an Inspection, which then took place in July 2007. The final report of the Inspection Panel’s investigation, released in August 2008, outlines serious errors made by the West African Gas Pipeline Company, as it took possession of lands and displaced already-impoverished residents. In its response to the Panel report, the World Bank’s management admits that residents were paid just 10% of the established value of their land. The Panel also validates the complaint that the Bank refused to consider the pipeline’s impact on communities in the Niger Delta, the source of the gas. This is an important recognition of the concerns of FoE groups and communities in the region.
Given the long-term nature of our campaigns to help communities denounce and halt damaging projects in Africa, it is important to maintain momentum and encourage communities. One successful approach has been the sponsoring of community exchanges, where communities that are affected by the same corporation or sector or type of project (gas pipeline or dam, for example) can meet, share experiences, and corroborate that they are not alone. In 2008, we sponsored exchanges among communities from Togo and Mali, Nigeria and Ghana, all of whom are affected by oil companies’ environmental and social crimes.