programs and campaigns highlights in 2009

In 2009, Friends of the Earth International had six active international programs and campaigns. Within these we coordinated a wide range of actions at the international, regional, national and local levels, that improve the ability of peoples and communities around the world to secure sustainable livelihoods and protect our environment for generations to come.

climate justice and energy

Our Climate Justice and Energy (CJE) Program’s overall objective is to build a diverse, effective and global movement for climate justice. In 2009, FoEI continued our close collaboration with key social movements, especially La Via Campesina, and the World March of Women, and the new Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change in Central America (MOVIAC). New links with indigenous networks and movements were also fostered at key events during the year, and FoEI collaborated with many other networks including Climate Justice Now!, Asia Pacific Peoples’ Solidarity for Climate Justice, and Climate Justice Action.

The CJE Program’s goal is to ensure that rich industrialized Annex I countries had committed to needed emissions reductions, and to financing and transferring technology to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. We published a substantial number of policy proposals and analyses in the run-up to the COP-15 UNFCCC in Copenhagen, in December 2009. This included an ethical climate finance criteria matrix, which provided governments with a set of criteria for judging climate financing mechanisms proposed during negotiations.

FoEI took a team of 400 activists to Copenhagen, who variously engaged in lobbying and advocacy work, and organizing and participating in alternative events and daily mobilizations, including our hugely successful Flood for Climate Justice mobilization. The joint efforts of FoEI and key allies helped to ensure that a number of governments, including Bolivia, officially voiced their concerns about the potential negative impacts of UNFCCC, World Bank and national policies to finance Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).

Although the results of the Copenhagen summit were extremely disappointing, many FoEI member groups in the global North have been very effective in persuading their governments to introduce binding national climate change laws, which will help to reduce those countries’ carbon emissions. This was especially the case in Europe where France, Scotland and the UK passed climate change laws setting binding emissions reductions targets. It seems likely that similar laws will soon be passed in a number of other European countries including Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland and Slovenia.

During 2009 we also continued to monitor and conduct advocacy around the World Bank’s framework on ‘clean energy investment’ and the emissions trading schemes promoted by the international financial institutions (IFIs). In 2009, both the G-20 and the UN made agreements to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels, which will have a positive impact on the development and spread of renewable energy technologies.


food sovereignty

FoEI’s Food Sovereignty Program aims to halt the corporate control of food, and stop the spread of genetically modified organisms: it defends the right of people to determine and control their own food systems. In 2009, we attended the High-Level Meeting on Food Security in Madrid where Via Campesina and FoE Spain’s joint actions outside the conference got excellent coverage, and Henry Saragih from Via Campesina was eventually invited to speak on behalf of civil society in the final plenary session. The response from the conference was striking: the applause was deafening, and the meeting ended without consensus on a new 'Global Partnership', which was in line with civil society proposals (although the official website is less clear about this outcome).

The 17th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) also saw important progress on food sovereignty when proposals from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food included peoples’ right to access land and define their own food policies, and the need for governments to support the least protected people and implement food production models that do not contribute to climate change. This position strongly echoes the positions of Vía Campesina and FoEI, although it does not yet go far enough.

The struggle for a GM-free world remains a priority, and includes campaigns against soy monocultures, genetically modified (GM) food aid, and the dominant model of production. FoEI is campaigning to increase land available to family farmers and for rural agriculture. In 2009, we published our annual research report on GM crops, "Who Benefits from GM Crops? Feeding the biotech giants, not the world’s poor," which challenges the ability of GM crops to contribute to poverty reduction, global food security or sustainable farming.

Friends of the Earth groups and allies are also maintaining pressure on the GM industry at the national and regional levels. This has had a particularly marked impact in Europe, where European Commission efforts to allow two new varieties of genetically modified (GM) maize to be grown in Europe, and to force Greece, Hungary and France to drop their national bans on a similar GM maize, were overturned by member states. Civil society organizations were clearly instrumental in this. This resistance received a further boost in April, when Germany banned Monsanto's GM maize MON810. This was a huge success for FoE Germany and other environmental and agricultural organizations who have worked hard for this outcome for many years. There have also been strong FoE campaigns against GM crops in many countries, including Mexico, Nigeria and Paraguay.

FoEI is also starting to build a new global campaign challenging agribusiness, with Via Campesina and the World March of Women. In 2009, this included regional food sovereignty forums in Paraguay and Nigeria. Together with Food and Water Watch and the European Co-ordination of Via Campesina, we also produced a groundbreaking film, "Killing Fields: the battle to feed factory farms," which investigates the impacts of growing soy in South America to feed factory farms in Europe.



FoEI’s Agrofuels Campaign aims to stop the production, trade and consumption of agrofuels, by raising public awareness about its negative impacts on local communities and globally. In 2009, the campaign focused on strengthening local communities’ defence of their territories, and exposing ‘false solutions’ to the climate and energy crisis. A prerequisite for this was compiling FoEI members’ research, reports, and national and regional positions.

The Agrofuels Campaign integrates FoEI’s ongoing campaign against deforestation caused by oil palm plantations. 2009 was particularly notable because of the World Bank’s suspension of its investments in oil palm plantation companies. A coalition of local and international NGOs, spearheaded by the UK organization Forest Peoples Program and including FoE Netherlands, had previously filed a complaint with the International Finance Corporation (IFC)'s internal watchdog, the Compliance Advisory Ombudsman office (CAO), about a series of loans to palm oil giant Wilmar International. A joint report by three NGOs (FoE Netherlands, Kontak Rakyat Borneo and Gemawan) had examined Wilmar's plantations in Sambas, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, and found that the company was working with dubious licenses, and was entangled in land rights conflicts and illegal logging activities. This complaint triggered an audit by the CAO, which concluded that the IFC had violated its own procedures, and that commercial interests had overruled the IFC's environmental and social standards.

FoEI groups from Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea also joined forces to develop and propose a mandatory code of conduct for Malaysian palm oil companies operating in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They received positive responses from Malaysia’s Human Rights Council and the Opposition Party, who accepted that Malaysian palm oil expansion has created adverse impacts. Friends of the Earth also filed a complaint with the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) against the Malaysian Palm Oil Council for falsely advertising that palm oil is the "only product able to sustainably and efficiently meet a larger portion of the world's increasing demand for oil crop-based consumer goods, foodstuffs and biofuels." The ASA ruled that this statement was misleading, as was the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s claim that palm oil contributes to alleviation of poverty. In November 2009, we also filed a grievance with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) against the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, for violating the members' Code of Conduct and continuing to mislead the public and make unsubstantiated claims about the production, procurement and use of palm oil.

A process of capacity-building on agrofuels, land rights and monoculture was also initiated in Central America. We helped to coordinate different groups and communities wanting to work together on agrofuels. A video on Monocultures, Land and Agrofuels in Central America was created by FoE El Salvador with communities’ support. FoEI also organized an international delegation to gather evidence on the impact of agrofuels in Colombia.

Friends of the Earth’s aim of reaching a broader public was also substantially achieved through the broadcasting of footage from our commissioned film, "Lost in Palm Oil."

Lobbying efforts in Europe remain focused on challenging the EU’s target of 10% of all road transport fuel coming from ‘renewable’ sources by 2020, with a majority likely to come from agrofuels. Key to this is increasing Europeans’ awareness of the impacts of agrofuels and about potential alternatives. This included the publication of "Biofuels: handle with care," an analysis of EU biofuels policy with recommendations for action, in November 2009.


forests and biodiversity

FoEI’s Forests and Biodiversity Program campaigns against illegal logging and deforestation, and works with communities and local people to uphold their rights to manage their forests. We also expose and oppose the negative impacts of monoculture plantations of crops such as sugar cane, palm oil and soy, planted to produce agrofuels.

The Forests and Biodiversity program’s focus on strengthening and promoting sustainable local initiatives means that some of its key activities and successes occur at the national level. For example, in Uruguay Friends of the Earth successfully halted construction of the controversial pulp and paper mill proposed by ENCE who had been planning to invest US$1,500 million. In Malaysia, Friends of the Earth filed a lawsuit to save a water-catchment forest on the Jerai mountain in Kedah from a quarry project that has been illegally approved by the state government. The Indonesian President identified illegal logging as a form of entrenched corruption, saying that he appreciated the efforts of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth which have been active in criticizing the forest management of his government.

The Forests and Biodiversity Program is also focused on challenging and changing intergovernmental policies that already or potentially could contribute to the destruction of forests and biodiversity, For example, it participated in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s High-level Working Group on the 2010 biodiversity target and post-2010 target(s), and successfully persuaded governments to incorporate a number of key paragraphs into the final 2010 Biodiversity Targets.

Collaborative side and parallel events during intergovernmental forums, including meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Copenhagen, and the World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires, were also successful in raising civil society’s concerns and challenging government perspectives. FoEI also produced a video about the performance of Finnish pulp and paper company Stora Enso in Uruguay, and created a photo exhibition on the impacts of cellulose/logging corporations in the Southern Cone of South America, which was exhibited at the World Forestry Congress.

The program also participated in the 2009 World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil, co-hosting a workshop on plantations, market mechanisms and false solutions, with the Global Forest Coalition; and published "Community-based Forest Governance: from resistance to proposals for sustainable use."

economic justice-resisting neoliberalism

The Economic Justice-Resisting Neoliberalism (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.

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. The UN has also 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 FoEI. The EU has also started research into improving protection for developing country citizens, against the negative impacts of EU-based business.

The EJRN Program 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 so far). FoE also convinced the European Commission that the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) had falsified its lobby expenditure report, and the Commission temporarily suspended CEFIC as a result. Additionally, FoE won a case with the European Ombudsman concerning EU officials that accepted gifts from companies they were supervizing. The EU is now preparing new rules on conflicts of interest.

In 2009, FoE’s ‘Global Europe’ campaign called 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 negotiations have not yet been suspended, this collaborative campaign has so far resulted in a commitment from the European Commission that the 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 to improve its business practices continues to be a priority for FoEI. This has included support to FoE Nigeria in its campaign to expose the harmful nature of gas flaring, which contributed to the Nigerian foreign minister publicly committing to enforcing the ban on gas flaring as of January 2010. 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.

In the US, the ShellGuilty campaign launched by FoEI, Oil Change and Platform London, finally saw justice done when Shell was forced to pay a US$15.5 million 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.

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.

The EJRN Program was also very successful in strengthening hundreds of community individuals and activists across the world, including through the Third Annual Latin American Sustainability School, and community exchanges in Latin America. Many other publications and communications materials were published during the year.

resisting mining oil and gas

FoEI’s Resisting Mining, Oil and Gas Program is a new FoEI program, and groups are concentrating on planning joint campaign work and mapping FoEI’s current work with communities. Some international activities are also underway however, and these included a number of actions against Canadian open-pit mines on 22 July, in countries including Australia, Canada, Mexico and Thailand, to mark the Global Day of Action Against Open Pit Mining. Another important event was the "Conference on Extractive Industries: Blessing or Curse? Impacts of the Oil and Gas Industry," held by FoE Europe in Brussels in October.

Some FoEI groups already have established campaigns on mining, oil and gas, resulting in some important national developments and successes. In December 2009, for example, FoE Hungary celebrated the introduction of a landmark ban on the use of cyanide in mining. FoE Philippines has filed an Alternative Mining Bill, intended to introduce a new mining policy to regulate the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources. Many FoE groups, including in Indonesia, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ghana, Hungary and Costa Rica, are also working on an on-going basis with local communities affected by mining.

Testimonies from mining communities also feature strongly in FoEI’s new media projects, as do videos on tin mining in Indonesia, and oil pollution in Nigeria, both of which can be seen on YouTube. FoEI also embarked on an ambitious project to create a series of video testimonies by women affected by large-scale metal mining.

Friends of the Earth member groups continue to work on issues related to water, defending water territories for the benefit of communities and biodiversity. We work together with local communities in protecting the right to water, and opposing privatization of water and ‘development’ projects that pollute rivers and that use large quantities of water. Finally, we mobilize the public to vote for new laws and regulations that keep water in the public domain and uphold water as a human right.



FoEI’s gender program focuses on deepening our understanding of why the feminist perspective is critical to the FoEI federation. Such an understanding can shed light on the ways in which the current neoliberal economic model affects men and women differently, both in terms of its social and environmental impacts. It also reveals the self-perpetuating nature of the patriarchal society. For FoEI, a fuller comprehension of the harsh realities faced by women in different countries and regions across the world will help us construct better and more effective campaign strategies, and change the way we ourselves act. A document on how to work from a gender perspective has already been completed and circulated internally.


Together with allied social movements including La Via Campesina (LVC) and the World March of Women (WMW), we aim to support women to resist, transform and mobilize, both at the local and international levels, to bring about the world they want to live in.


In 2009, we focused on integrating a gender analysis into our programs on Food Sovereignty and Economic Justice-Resisting Neoliberalism (EJRN), and to support the inclusion of a feminist perspective into the EJRN Program’s analysis of the global financial crisis. FoEI was also invited to participate in WMW’s Second Regional Encounter in the Americas, in August 2009, in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Gender campaigners also supported the production of video testimonies from ‘Women Re-sisters’, women resisting mining, some of which can currently be viewed on the FoEI YouTube channel.  Friends of the Earth also participated in La Escuela de Formación de Dirigentas (a school for future women leaders) organized by the Coordinadora de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC) and Via Campesina del Cono Sur, in Paraguay, in July 2009.


Friends of the Earth Uruguay/REDES has been particularly active in promoting FoEI’s focus on gender, in terms of supporting the international coordination of this complex and cross-cutting issue, providing conceptual contributions, and engaging actively at the national level. In June 2009, this included publication of a book that considers the impacts of forest monocultures and soya on the displacement of rural populations, with a special emphasis on the consequences for human rights and gender relations. FoE Uruguay also drafted numerous papers on food sovereignty and gender concerns including a report on the role of rural women in the defense of food sovereignty, based on investigation and interviews with women from la Red de Grupos de Mujeres Rurales (the Network of Rural Women).

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