Nov 28, 2012
‘Our future is now’: Communities in Liberia meet this week to discuss options after large-scale land grab
Between 2009 and 2010 the Government of Liberia allocated more than a million acres of land to transnational palm oil producers Sime Darby and Golden Veroleum Liberia without consulting or securing the consent of those living on and using the land. Following the launch of a groundbreaking report from the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI)/ Friends of the Earth Liberia, Uncertain Futures, the affected communities are holding a major conference this week to demand that their voices be heard in decision making.
|The ‘Our future is now’ conference will take place in Bopolu City,
Gbarpolu County, Liberia, from 27-29 November, bringing together
communities affected by Sime Darby and Golden Veroleum Liberia.
The SDI report highlights how, as over a quarter of Liberia’s land area is now given over by the Government to rubber, oil palm and logging companies, Liberia risks becoming a land ‘lost in concessions’ with an uncertain future for the communities who are the original custodians and owners of the land.
Watch Environmental Crimes: Following the Palm Oil Trail (In English with French subtitles)
These concessions are part of Liberia’s attempt to attract Foreign Direct Investment in the natural resource sector. Large plantations are promoted as a means to create jobs, bring development, and increase the government’s budget. However, they also risk the entrenchment of systemic economic and social injustices against poor and marginalised communities.
Large-scale land allocation to foreign corporations can give transnational companies enormous political power which can subvert local democratic decision making. At the same time as corporate power silences communities, the associated dispossession of rural people from their land contributes to increased poverty in rural areas, widens the gap between the urban elites that benefit from these business transactions and the rural poor who suffer the impacts, and entrenches inequality across Liberian society.
Both the Sime Darby and Golden Veroleum Liberia plantations are clear examples of this. According to the SDI report, ‘the situation facing communities impacted by the expansion of Sime Darby’s plantation in Garwula District, western Liberia is dire: the plantation is on their doorsteps, and their farms and farmlands are being swallowed up by it. There are very few alternative livelihood options.’ According to locals interviewed for the report, Sime Darby did not pay compensation for farm lands taken by the company. They also claim that compensation paid for crops that had been destroyed was inadequate and that forest areas used for cultural practices had also been destroyed and planted with oil palm.
SDI campaigner Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor points out that ‘the situation on the Sime Darby or Golden Veroleum Liberia plantation is about much more than the impacts of a single company.’ He warns that ‘allocating large swathes of fertile agricultural land to foreign companies for several decades is dangerous because as these companies expand their plantations, communities’ ability to cope will be stretched to the limit. It will push people further into poverty, as their income generating activities are curtailed and earning capacities become limited.’
During the course of the three day conference community representatives will have the opportunity to discuss this issue. More than 150 delegates from the counties affected by Sime Darby and Golden Veroleum Liberia Sinoe, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, and Gbarpolu counties will be in attendance, along with a number of Monrovia-based civil society groups and international experts on agriculture, land, and community rights.
Led by local leaders, participants will be offered the opportunity to break into small groups to discuss their perspectives on the issue. At the end of the conference, community representatives will draft and adopt a document that details what they expect from palm oil concessionaires and the government.
For more information
Uncertain Futures (PDF)
By Bill McKibben founder of 350.org, Nnimmo Bassey Environmental Rights Action (Friends of the Earth Nigeria) & Coordinator of Oilwatch International, Pablo Solon Executive Director of Focus on the Global South, former Bolivian Ambassador to the UN and former chief negotiator for climate change
To really address climate change UNFCCC-COP18 should decide to leave under the soil more than 2/3 of the fossil reserves
Originally posted on 350.org
Young Friends of the Earth Europe: Over the last two days, much is happening in Doha and the youth are a huge part of it. On the second day of COP18, a group of young people from around the world sent an open letter to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, calling for fossil fuel corporations to be removed from the UNFCCC process due to their intentions being incompatible with a 2 degree world, and their long history of using their significant financial resources to undermine global climate policy.
The letter was signed by a variety of organisations including The Canadian Youth Delegation, Earth in Brackets, Young Friends of the Earth Europe, Push Europe, The UKYCC, PowerShift Belgium, and others. It was also endores by Bill McKibben from 350.org.
You still have a chance to sign on the letter here!
Dear Christiana Figueres, (Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
As young people, we write today with both grave concern and powerful hope.
Unfortunately, our concerns are beginning to outweigh our hope more and more each day. We were raised in a world nearly 1 degree warmer than the pre-industrial average; where disruption of the climate system has become increasingly visible in the few years since we were young children.
In this strange new world, we have already witnessed unprecedented Arctic ice melt, rampant wildfire, droughts that have crippled farmers and consumers, flooding, hail storms, and most recently, a super- charged hurricane that has devastated communities from the Caribbean to New York City. Extreme weather is becoming the new normal.
The UNFCCC process which you oversee is designed to protect us from these harsh disruptions and to achieve the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”
Taking a hard look at climate politics today, it appears the UNFCCC is failing to meet that mission, therefore failing to live up to its mandate. The math just doesn’t add up.
The member states of the UNFCCC have not decided much, but they have been very clear that global average temperatures must not rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
At present, we are on target to hit this terrifying target by 2030 and to suffer upwards of six degrees of warming by the end of the century. Major international bodies, from the IEA to the World Bank, have warned that even over the medium-term, the costs of allowing emissions to rise at their present rates will come in the form of hundreds of millions of human lives and economic costs capable of driving the world economy into prolonged global depression.
According to the best science we have, there is room for 565 gigatonnes more CO2 in our atmosphere before we lose any chance of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees and preventing the enormous damage associated with such a rise.
All together, the global oil, coal and gas industries are planning to burn over five times that amount, roughly 2,795 gigatonnes of carbon. Indeed, their share prices depend on exploiting these reserves and you are surely aware of the enormous sums they have spent to prevent governments from protecting the habitability of our planet, thus reducing the value of their assets. Their business plan is incompatible with our survival.
Frighteningly, there are also states, parties to the convention, with the same plan. Canada, for example, has signed onto the Copenhagen Accord and committed to allowing no more than 2 degrees of warming. However, in direct conflict with this commitment, Canada has also publicly admitted that its position at the UN is to defend the oil sands industry whose projects alone would increase global emissions by three times the world’s carbon budget. States like this are blocking progress in the name of an industry with the potential to break the planet.
Ms. Figueres, we know that you are a person of conviction with a genuine desire to see the UNFCCC meet its mandate. We believe that you want to see a fair and ambitious global climate accord that keeps us below the 2 degree threshold. We know you’ve done the math. This is your climate legacy, and our generation’s inheritance.
You have the power to fix this process, to move us towards real climate progress, but it means being willing to call out those who stand in the way of a safe and prosperous future. The secretariat needs to acknowledge that there are groups at the UNFCCC whose goals undermine the mission and mandate of the convention. Observer organizations can be penalized, and even removed from the convention if we violate the protocols for participation. Perhaps there should be a similar process for observers and parties whose mandates fundamentally contradict the convention.
Simply put, we have a choice in front of us, we can have a healthy planet and safe climate, or the oil, coal and gas industry can have a healthy pocketbook. We can’t have both, and its time for you, and for the UNFCCC to decide what is more important; the lives and livelihoods of people, or the balance sheets of Exxon, Shell, and Chevron.
Nov 27, 2012
A delegation from Friends of the Earth International is participating in the 'World Social Forum Free Palestine', a set of conferences and seminars taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, November 28 – December 1, 2012.
Friends of the Earth International expresses its solidarity with Friends of the Earth Palestine -known as the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON)- and the Palestinian people after a week of Israeli bombardment of Gaza in November left over 140 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, including many children.
The Israeli attacks have caused an unacceptable humanitarian catastrophe, crippling essential services such as healthcare, food and fuel supplies and education centres.
Friends of the Earth International denounces all violence and demands that the ceasefire be obeyed and all Israeli blockades against Gaza and other Palestinian territories be lifted.
We also demand the dismantling of the apartheid walls built across Palestinian territories as these have created major social, environmental and human rights abuses.
In August 2012 Friends of the Earth International undertook a solidarity mission to occupied Palestine.
The solidarity mission witnessed the environmental impact of the Israeli occupation throughout the West Bank, where untreated Israeli sewage and industrial waste contaminates Palestinian land.
Water from the West Bank is denied to Palestinians so that Israeli settlers can live on Palestinian land. The solidarity mission also recorded accounts of the use of military force to destroy Palestinian cisterns and wells.
The solidarity mission denounced the denial of fundamental human rights to the Palestinian people including the persecution of environmental activists.
Friends of the Earth International appeals for solidarity and peace, and calls on governments around the world to do everything in their powers to bring about a just and lasting peace.
Nov 26, 2012
The undersigned organizations reject the arrest that we qualify as arbitrary of Dolores López, Felipe Balmori, María Fani Olmedo Paredes, Juan Carlos Tillería, Arnaldo Quintana Paredes, Adalberto Castro Benítez, Lucía Agüero, Alcides Ramírez, Luis Olmedo, and Nery Urbina, in the penitentiary of Coronel Oviedo, Department of Caaguazú, from Paraguay. These people have been on hunger strike for almost 2 months, in protest at the lack of response from the authorities responsible from the so-called government of Federico Franco.
These people, who we consider political prisoners, are victims of the slaughter that occurred on June 15th in the ill-gotten lands of Marina Cué, Department of Canindeyú, which took the lives of 11 farmers and 6 policemen. In its preliminary report, the International Mission held last September from the 5th-11th, concluded that the search warrant by the prosecutor of the city of Curuguaty, José Benítez, was inappropriate and provoked a de facto eviction, that failed to comply with all applicable human rights standards, and the killing of innocent peasants who sought access to state land to guarantee their right and their families' right to food.
The ten political prisoners of Marina Cué are part of a group of 54 people who have been arbitrarily charged with seven criminal charges including murder, attempted murder, serious injury, criminal association, grave coercion, coercion and invasion. However, according to the aforementioned International Mission “there is not sufficient evidence to minimally suspect the responsibility of them in the facts attributed to them. There has even been included in the list of persons charged, some who were not even present at the scene of the conflict, based on an old list of families living in the place”.ii
The undersigned organizations oppose the appointment of Jalil Amir Rachid as the prosecutor handling the case, for the lack of objectivity and bias in his actions, which goes against the interests of the peasants imputed. According to the report of the Platform for Peasants Conflict Studies and Research (PEICC), the role of the prosecutor is questioned by the refusal to investigate the role of the prosecutor Ninfa Aguilar in the facto-eviction occurred on June 15th, the lack of property titles of the agribusiness man Blas Riquelme and his requirements to the authorities without legal foundation, the torture and arbitrary arrests to the peasants victims, the actions of the police after the shooting, among others.iii
According to the report, the prosecutor took statements from the defendants violating judicial guarantees required by the Criminal Code, when there is no translation guaranteed and by making the accused sign statements that were not read in Guaraní, not complying with the right of due process of the accused.
In accordance with the minimum standards of due process, the prosecutor mentioned should be disqualified from attending this specific case, because of a clear conflict of interest. Indeed Jalil Amir Rachid is the son of former senator and former president of the Colorado Party, Bader Rachid, intimate friend of Blas N. Riquelme, also former senator and president of the same partyiv who also was a big landlord and owner of the agro-business "Campos Morombí", beneficiary of ill-gotten lands, and also disputed with the state the land of Marina Cué. To keep the prosecutor in charge of the case in these conditions is contrary to the minimum obligations of international law, assumed by the Paraguayan State.
Marina Cué Defendants have 5 months in preventive imprisonment despite the fact that the prosecutor has not produced any evidence whatsoever that may be noted that these defendants could be "authors" of the actions. This contravenes Article 242 of the Procedural Code that establishes as a requirement for preventive detention that "there exist sufficient facts to sustain reasonably who is author or participant in an offense."
Also this violates the principle of presumption of innocence enshrined in Article 17 of the National Constitution of Paraguay. We emphasize that in this specific case, the recent amendment of Article 245 of the Criminal Procedure Code which precludes the application of home arrest does not apply, since this rule cannot be applied retroactively to the act that occurred before the reform.
In this situation the undersigned organizations express the need for the international community to express to Paraguay´s so called government, to require that the authorities comply with the right to due process, through the following measures:
• Remove Jalil Amir Rachid as the prosecutor of the Marina Cué case and ensure objectivity and impartiality in the investigation, avoiding the pressure that the political events that occurred in Paraguay in June of this could have on the investigation;
• In compliance with Article 242 of the Procedural Code and Article 17 of the National Constitution on the presumption of innocence, dictate freedom and the acquittal of the arbitrarily accused peasants; Dolores López, Felipe Balmori, María Fani Olmedo Paredes, Juan Carlos Tillería, Arnaldo Quintana Paredes, Adalberto Castro Benítez, Lucía Agüero, Alcides Ramírez, Luis Olmedo, Nery Urbina, in the Marina Cué case, therefore decoupling them definitely from the criminal proceedings against them.
• Establish, in coordination with the Ombudsman's Office in Paraguay, an International Monitoring Commission to accompany the investigation of all crimes and violations of human rights of the peasants, committed in the Marina Cué case, to ensure compliance with international human rights obligations of the Paraguayan State;
• To ensure the implementation of the right to food for the communities affected, by urgently demanding the return of the Marina Cué land to the families affected by the conflict, and the provision of a fair and adequate compensation to the families of the victims according to their actual needs.
November, 26th, 2012
CLOC/Vía Campesina Paraguay
Cátedra Unesco de Derechos Humanos, Universidad Politécnica Cataluña, España
Campaña Global por la Reforma Agraria
Radio Mundo Real (Friends of the Earth International)
Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indígena MNCI – Vía Campesina Argentina
CLOC/Vía Campesina Chile
Equipo de Educación Popular Pañuelos en Rebeldía
Observatorio por el Cierre de la Escuela de las Américas – SOAW
Red de Coordinación en Biodiversidad Costa Rica
Asociación Sol de Paz Pachakuti
Base Investigaciones Sociales
COECOEIBA – Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica
Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo – PIDHDD
Red Asociación de Instituciones de Promoción y Educación – AIPE
Plataforma de Alianza por la Soberanía y Seguridad Alimentaria Nutricional – Bolivia
Grain América Latina
Centro de Estudios para el Campo Mexicano – CECCAM
Red de Investigación - Acción sobre la Tierra – LRAN Internacional
Fundación Mundubat – Centroamérica
Unidad de la Fuerza Indígena Campesina – UFIC
Consejo Internacional de Tratados Indios – CITI
Friends of the Earth International (FOEI)
Amigos de la Tierra de América Latina y el Caribe (ATALC)
Sobrevivencia – Amigos de la Tierra Paraguay
REDES – Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay
NAPE – Friends of the Earth Uganda
GLOBAL 2000 – Friends of the Earth Austria
NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark
NAT – Amigos de la Tierra Brasil
Friends of the Earth Australia
SOLIFONDS Fondo de Solidaridad – Suiza
El Jannat en Transición Espacio para la Sostenibilidad – España
Movimento de Mulheres Camponesas/Vía Campesina – Brasil
Plataforma Rural Alianzas por un Mundo Rural Vivo – España
Frente Nacional por la Salud de los Pueblos FNSPE – Ecuador
Solidaridad Sueca América Latina SAL
Friends of the Landless – Finlandia
Grito de los Excluidos/as Continental
i FIAN International, Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform (La Vía Campesina Central America), The Research Group of Human Rights and Sustaintability from the Cátedra Unesco of the Cataluña Politecnic University, Radio Mundo Real (Amigos de la Tierra Internacional), ANAMURI (La Vía Campesina South America). In alliance with national organizations from Paraguay members of La Vía Campesina: MCNOC, OLT, CONAMURI, MAP, MCP, and ONAI.
ii Preliminary Report of the Investigation Mission of the Marina Cué Case, September 5th-11th 2012, Paraguay, page 6.
iii Curuguaty Slaughter Report, Study and Investigation Platform of Peasant Conflicts (PEICC), page. 173-174.
iv Curuguaty Slaughter Report, Study and Investigation Platform of Peasant Conflicts (PEICC), page. 154-155.
Nov 23, 2012
Leading brand smartphones almost certainly contain tin from an island in Indonesia where tin mining is destroying forests and farmland, choking coral reefs and devastating many communities.
Leading brand smartphones almost certainly contain tin from an island in Indonesia where tin mining is destroying forests and farmland, choking coral reefs and devastating many communities, according to a new Friends of the Earth investigation released today: ‘Mining for Smartphones: the True Cost of Tin’
The research by Friends of the Earth in the UK and Indonesia shows
that Samsung and Apple deal with companies that use tin mined on
Bangka island. It’s almost certain that this tin ends up in their
products although the companies may not have known this or the
devastating effect of mining on the island.
Watch the trailer for Mining For Smartphones, a new three-part documentary series produced by Friends of the Earth.
The films highlight the devastating impact of tin mining on the paradise
islands of Bangka in Indonesia.
Devastation on Bangka
Image: Ulet Ifansasti/Friends of the Earth
Nov 22, 2012
Update: Guatemalan Government colludes with Spanish company Hidralia in intimidating community members after protest against dam building. Arbitrary arrests followed.
Eleven people were arrested without charge on May 2, 2012 in a flagrant violation of their rights. Several of those arrested had protested the killing of a community member by private security guards working for Spanish company Hidralia SA. Others were simply randomly picked up. The date for their hearing has been pushed back to December 4.
Eleven people were arrested without charge on May 2, 2012 in a flagrant violation of their rights. Several of those arrested had protested the killing of a community member by private security guards working for Spanish company Hidralia SA. Others were simply randomly picked up.
Hidralia SA is building the Santa Cruz hydroelectric dam. Over 90% of local community members are opposed to and voted against the implementation of hydroelectric and mining projects in Barillas in a 2007 consultation.
Eight people remain in prison over seven months after the arrests, as verified by Friends of the Earth International's Solidarity Mission in November this year.
The prisoners are also concerned for the wellbeing of their wives and children who have been deprived of their main household income. Many struggle with heavy debt burdens. The bus journey from their home communities to the prison takes twelve hours, making it difficult for families to visit.
The prisoners were labeled as terrorists, despite the fact that they were either peacefully defending their communities or not involved at all.
The prisoners have since been released.
The arbitrary nature of the detention of the political prisoners of Barillas can be neither denied nor concealed, it appears in the reports of several human rights groups, as well as in the file of the case and in the legal actions brought by the lawyers of the detainees.
For more information on this case:
Nov 06, 2012
SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR, 5-6 November 2012 - Environmental and social justice activists from around the globe gathered here for two days of passionate presentations calling for solidarity, resistance to transnational corporations and for increased sovereignty for local communities.
The 'Climate change, Territories and Social Movements Conference' brought together activists and community leaders affected by climate change, with delegates coming not only from Central America, but also as far away as Africa and Asia.
Ricardo Navarro, of host country El Salvador, opened the presentations with a discussion of the global context and local responses. He gave a daunting overview of the effects of climate change, how we got here and the consequences we face in the future if we do not take urgent action.
On the first day discussions focused on the themes of transformation of the existing economic system as a step towards mitigating climate change and rebalancing the injustices of the current global order.
Delegates expressed outrage at the ill affects of the extractive industries, at the dangers posed by privatization of water and energy, and at the shifting of Southern wealth to the global North.
The second day culminated in a march through San Salvador, with hundreds of people from civil society organisations from Latin America and all over the world.
The conference was organised by Friends of the Earth El Salvador / Cesta and The Movement of the Victims and Peoples Affected by Climate Change (MOVIAC), a peoples’ movement which aims to increase the power of communities to defend their territories and to demand climate justice.
Watch the video 'Testimonios del Cambio Climatico', a compilation of interviews with participants of the MOVIAC conference (in Spanish).