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Economic Justice - Resisting Neoliberalism (ejrn) program highlights

The EJRN Program’s objective is to build sustainable societies by building people’s power and dismantling corporate power, stopping corporate-led neo-liberalism and globalization, and challenging the institutions and governments that promote unequal and unsustainable economic systems.

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In 2009, FoEI’s advocacy efforts in the area of economic justice contributed to several positive developments in the EU, the OECD, the UN and a number of countries, regarding corporate practices that threaten the environment, human rights, and people's livelihoods. They have variously helped to influence policies and policy dialogue, and to strengthen civil society.

For example, through the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), which FoEI is a very active member of, the EJRN Program has developed legal proposals for corporate accountability and to improve OECD guidelines. The OECD now plans to revise its guidelines for multinational companies in order to improve them.

The EJRN Program has also been successful in its efforts to persuade the EU to improve its policies and practices with respect to human rights, international trade, and corporate regulation. The EU has finally started research into improving protections for developing country citizens, against the negative impacts of EU-based business.
EJRN also developed proposals for the EU and G-20 to regulate both EU lobbying and the financial sector. This included a campaign for the implementation of an EU lobby registry, which has now been implemented, although it only calls for voluntary registration. FoE is now pushing for this registry to be made mandatory, and together with ALTER EU has published research on current low levels of participation in the register and insufficient data quality ("The Commission's Lobby Register One Year On: Success or Failure?").

Friends of the Earth also filed a complaint with the European Commission arguing that the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), the main lobby group of the chemical industry in Brussels, had falsified its lobby expenditure report. The European Commission agreed with our conclusions and deemed CEFIC's lobby registration inaccurate and in breach of the code of conduct. The Commission temporarily suspended CEFIC and asked it to correct its stated lobby budget.

FoE also won a case with the European Ombudsman, challenging a case of conflict of interest, concerning EU officials that accepted gifts from companies that they were supervising. The EU is now preparing new rules concerning EU officials and conflicts of interest.  

A successful multilingual, easy-to-use cyberaction also saw 381 parliamentary candidates, including 75 MEPs-elect from 16 countries, signing pledges on lobby transparency and ethics, trade policy, financial market rules and corporate accountability.

As part of its ‘Global Europe’ campaign, the EJRN Program continued to support and strengthen civil society organizations representing Indigenous communities and local communities impacted by these policies. In 2009, this included calling for the suspension of the EU-Peru trade negotiations particularly over concerns about human rights violations. FoE also supported a delegation of representatives of Indigenous Peoples from Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, who toured European capitals to publicize the impacts of mining and biofuels. Although the EU-Peru negotiations have not yet been suspended, this collaborative campaign has so far resulted in a commitment from the European Commission that the negotiated Associated Agreement with Peru will not contain any provision which would be detrimental to the rights of indigenous people; and will contain proposals that guarantee that trade and economic development respect the environment, as well as a binding human rights clause.  

A focused effort to persuade Shell in particular to improve its business practices continues to be a priority for the EJRN Program. This has included support to FoE Nigeria in its campaign to expose the harmful nature of gas flaring. Shell's Utorogu Gas Plant and Chevron’s Escravos Gas Plant are the main sources of gas that feed the West African Gas Pipeline Project (WAGP) financed by the World Bank and its private sector insurance arm, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). FoE Nigeria's research and consultation with local communities revealed the harmful health impacts of processing a local cassava snack which is dried directly from the heat emitted from the flared gas. As a result, local residents raised the issue with the government and the campaign contributed to the decision by the Foreign Minister to publicly commit to enforcing the ban on gas flaring as of January 2010. FoE Nigeria has also prepared a lawsuit against ENI, an Italian gas company, for gas flaring.  


Efforts in Nigeria have been complemented by campaigning at the international level. FoEI collaborated with several organizations to publish "Shell's Big Dirty Secret," which documents Shell's continued investment in the dirtiest forms of energy and its position as the world's most carbon intensive oil company. An OECD complaint filed by FoE Netherlands resulted in a commitment by Shell to improve its oil depot in the Philippines and its communication with surrounding communities, but Shell refused to engage on the most crucial element of the case, relocation of an oil depot.

On 3 December the Netherlands-based court case against Shell got under way in The Hague. The case has been brought by three Nigerian communities and FoE Netherlands/Miluedefensie over oil pollution in Nigeria. Shell asked the court to rule that the Dutch court has no jurisdiction over Shell Nigeria, but on 30 December the court held that the Dutch court does have jurisdiction. Given that Shell has now lost this point, an important hurdle has been overcome, and the 'real' lawsuit can begin. This is the first time in history that a Dutch company has been brought to trial in a Dutch court for damages occurring abroad.

In the US, the ShellGuilty campaign launched by FoEI, Oil Change and Platform London, finally saw justice done when Shell was forced to pay US$15.5 million in an out-of-court settlement for its complicity in the 1995 murder of nine Nigerian activists who opposed its gas flaring, under the US Alien Tort Statute.

Among the many national campaigns that fall under the umbrella of the EJRN Program, FoE Uganda's efforts to stop or improve the Bujagali dam has been very effective. Bujagali Electricity Limited (BEL) and the Ugandan government have revized their compensation policies and procedures for communities affected by the construction of a dam on the River Nile that is financed by World Bank and the African Development Bank. Bujagali Electricity Limited is now providing water tanks to communities affected by the dam and those affected by the transmission line have been promised electricity to their homes. FoE Uganda has also succeeded in submitting a legal case against Lafarge group (a mining company) for illegal mining operations in Queen Elizabeth National Park, a 1,978 square kilometer protected area.

Friends of the Earth has also succeeded in getting the world’s largest steel company, Arcelor-Mittal to make some improvements to its operations in India, South Africa, and Liberia. In collaboration with several other organizations including Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, Karaganda Ecological Museum in Kazakhstan and the Sustainable Development Institute in Liberia, we published a report on the company's operations operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, India, Liberia, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Romania and the Czech Republic. The report, "Arcelor-Mittal: Going nowhere slowly - A review of the global steel giant's environmental and social impacts in 2008-2009," looks at the company's current practices and makes concrete recommendations to management, shareholders, International Financial Institutions and local and national authorities. FoEI also participated in shareholder meetings of ArcelorMittal and a community meeting with the board; and sent a fact finding mission to Liberia, with seven national and European media representatives, to investigate the company’s environmental, social and human rights impacts.

In 2009, the UN adopted the Ruggie Framework for Business and Human Rights, in response to pressure to improve its oversight of corporate behavior, from civil society groups including Friends of the Earth International. In a Joint NGO statement, a group of NGOs including FoEI congratulated the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, whilst agreeing with him that the “international community is still in the early stages of adapting the human rights regime to provide more effective protection to individuals and communities against corporate-related human rights harms.” The Human Rights Council must now broaden the focus beyond the elaboration of the ‘protect, respect, and remedy’ framework, to include an explicit capacity to examine situations of corporate abuse.

The EJRN Program was also very successful in strengthening the impact of hundreds of community individuals and activists across the world, including through:

  • Friends of the Earth's Third Annual Latin American Sustainability School, which trained 40 activists from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala,  Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.   
  • The Asia Pacific Workshop on Economic Justice and Strategic Planning for Campaigns, which trained 25 activists from Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Timor Leste. 
  • Community exchanges between communities in Central America affected by climate change (120 individuals attended), between communities throughout Latin America affected by agribusiness (150 individuals), and between communities in Africa affected by Arcelor-Mittal's mining operations. 
  • Supporting FoEI representatives to attend EU conferences on corporate social responsibility, transparency with respect to lobbying, and meetings with members of the European Parliament. This included a delegation of FoEI representatives from Central American to the European Parliament, to testify to the behavior of European companies in Latin America.
  • On-going technical assistance for civil society organizations in the South campaigning against harmful corporate practices. This assistance has facilitated joint North-South work on many European companies including Stora Enso, Shell, Arcelor Mittal, Monsanto, ENI, and Wilmar. 

Many other publications and other communications materials have been published including:

  • "Global Europe: The tyranny of ‘free trade’ the European Way," which examined the negative consequences of Europe's shift away from a social-liberal foreign policy discourse to an approach that puts economic motivations front and center.  
  • "Poison Fire," a video documentary exposing oil and gas abuses in Nigeria and featuring FoE Nigeria volunteers.
  • "Would you Bank on Them?" a report on the biased composition of La Rosiere group, that advised the EU on policies to address the financial crisis, which was published in collaboration with SpinWatch, Corporate Europe Observatory and Lobby Control. 
  • "A Captive Commission, the role of the financial industry in shaping EU regulation," a report on the biased composition of EU advisory groups in the financial sector. The findings of the report formed the substance of a FoE complaint to the EU Ombudsman. 
  • "Public money for fossil fuels in the EU and in three EU member states," by Friends of the Earth, Oil Change International and PLATFORM.
  • In the US, a written presentation was submitted to the Obama Administration committee reviewing Investor Protection Agreements, at the beginning of 2009.
  • In addition, research and preparation of the upcoming publication "Calling the EU’s Bluff: Who are the real champions of biodiversity and traditional knowledge in the EU-Central American and EU-Community of Andean Nations Association Agreements?" was completed.

The EJRN Program working areas are:

  • Global Europe. The objective is to expose the negative impacts and the corporate bias of the European Union’s ‘Global Europe’ agenda, and to counter trade and investment agreements that are likely to harm men and women and the environment. The ATALC region is very much involved in the Global Europe campaign, as is Friends of the Earth Europe, which has called on the EU to suspend trade negotiations with Peru and Honduras, especially after the killings of Indigenous People in Peru, and the military coup in Honduras. These violent events are indicative of the harmful effects that the EU’s Global Europe agenda can have on indigenous and local communities.
  • Corporate Power: The objective is to expose and counter corporate crimes and their social, environmental and human rights impacts, specifically on women and men’s productive and reproductive activities. This campaign also aims to counter corporate influence over governments and institutions including international financial institutions, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). In particular, it seeks to develop and advocate for legal measures that give rights to women, men and communities, to protect themselves against corporate power. 

The EJRN Program is very much engaged in collaborative work with the other FoEI Programs. Cross-cutting areas, include the following:

  • With the Forests and Biodiversity Program, EJRN is driving the Campaign against Plantations, currently focused on ATALC and some FoE Europe groups, and soon to include the African and APac regions. EJRN’s contribution is to contribute to the Plantations campaign by exposing and countering the role of relevant corporations, trade and investments; and to foster activities that enable communities to resist. 
  • With the Resisting Mining Program, the EJRN is supporting concrete campaigns to stop the mining activities of certain companies such as Shell, Holcim and Arcelor Mittal.
  • With the Climate Justice and Energy Program, EJRN is focusing on Climate and Finance, particularly building a common position at the federation level, including on carbon markets and the Clean Development Mechanism. EJRN is also involved in efforts to build the Movement of Victims and People Affected by Climate Change in Latin America (MOVIAC); and exposing and rejecting World Bank involvement in climate change, including through policies and programs to promote Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) and its Climate Investment Funds (CIFs).
  • With the Food Sovereignty Program, EJRN is working to create a joint campaign against agribusiness companies worldwide. 
  • Similarly, the EJRN Programme is contributing to the Agrofuels Campaign by exposing and countering the role of corporations, trade and investments.


Coordinators and participants

Co-coordinator: Sebastián Valdomir, FoE Uruguay, 

Co-coordinator: Anne van Schaik, FoE Netherlands, (until Sept 2009)
Corporates Campaign Coordinator: Paul de Clerck, FoE Netherlands,


The EJRN Steering Group includes:


  • For ATALC: Grace García (FoE Costa Rica), Mario Godínez (FoE Guatemala) as alternate; 
  • For Africa: Bobby Peek (FoE South Africa); 
  • For Europe: Asad Rehman (FoE EWNI), Charly Poppe (FoE Europe) as alternate; 
  • For the US: Karen Orenstein (FoE US); 
  • For Asia Pacific: Hemantha Withanage (FoE Sri Lanka)

Groups that participated actively in the EJRN Program during 2009 included Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, EWNI, FoE Europe, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, México, Mozambique, Netherlands, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leona, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Uruguay and the United States.

Photo: FoEI's Angry Mermaid Award targeted the worst corporate lobbyists around climate change in Copenhagen, December 2009. Naomi Klein and FoEI's Nnimmo Bassey helped to deliver the award at the ceremony.

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