Aug 22, 2013
An Open Letter from Friends of the Earth Africa, signed by many NGO's and other groups from Africa and other parts of the World, which is being handed over to several Danish Embassies all over Africa.
To: The Honorable Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark
In light of the interview given by your Minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, on the 9th of this month to the Danish newspaper Politiken, and taking into account that the presence of Danish cooperations on the African continent dates long before the independence of most countries where they still operate today through various organizations that develop various projects and activities in various spheres of the political system, civil society and the business sector, we cannot refrain from expressing our deepest distaste for the disrespectful and peculiar ideological content of the above-mentioned interview.
Truth be told, Minister Christian Friis Bach said exactly what many politicians and leaders of developed countries think but cleverly would never dare say. Frankly, we prefer Christian Friis Bach to those other dodgy individuals. Petulant or reckless, your Minister of Development Cooperation said just what he thinks, giving us a chance to rebut, to contest and tell him that his notion of development is obsolete, that what he says he is willing to do is ethically despicable and offensive, that those who he claims would be the main beneficiaries of the policies he intends to impose will for sure become its main victims, and that even though unfortunately he may have the power to influence the decisions taken by the state apparatuses of some African countries, he definitely does not have the right to do so. We believe that he ought to know it. We Africans assure Christian Friis Bach and all who think like him, that even though we are already being pillaged, we will never allow Africa to be economically recolonized. Never.
It is instructive to remember that contrary to what Minister Friis Bach said in his interview, we Africans do have capacity to feed and sustain our people. African agriculture and food needs have been met over time through sustainable and multi-dimensional approaches, keeping to a minimum such externalities as artificial fertilizers, imported pesticides and herbicides, as well as practices that are alien to the socio-cultural settings of our people.
The support Africa needs right now is a decisive stand to maintain seed as well as cultural diversities and defend staple crops which are targeted by biotech even when there is no need for their engineered varieties or GM crops.
To you, as the highest elected representative of the Danish people, we would like to ask if you share the opinions of your Minister for Development Cooperation. If you do, please be kind enough to answer the following questions:
Do you think it is fair that the African continent should be held accountable "today" for the bad decisions rich countries such as yours made “yesterday”, and which led to over-exploitation of nature, animals and human beings by introducing unhealthy and destructive diets as well as excess energy consumption?
Do you consider it acceptable that countries like yours should impose their failed development models on Africa as if they were models of success and the only guaranteed path towards development?
Would you imagine a world in which Africa adopts your ideas of production, consumption, development and progress?
Do you think it right that we Africans must accept without question the responsibility of using our resources to support those who were obviously unable to manage theirs?
It honours us greatly that the world is turning to Africa and its leaders say they are counting on us. We Africans are hospitable and supportive and for long we have been wanting to contribute more and better to a development path that supports sustainable livelihoods. However, we do not have to sacrifice ourselves to accommodate the whims of those who think it is a mark of progress to destroy the planet. We want to rely on the support of all who are well intended, but such support must not trample on our sovereignty and dignity.
In this context, we, African organizations, movements and associations who hereby signed this letter, reiterate that we continue to consider much welcome the support of those who wish to walk with us towards a development path:
- That adequately serves our needs and those of our future generations;
- That is fair and just and not predicated on exploitation, resource grabs and denigration;
- That is logical and thoughtful and does not necessarily have to be traversed in pursuit of anything or anyone;
- In which we may not be sole beneficiaries, but we must not be denied our due;
- That not only respects the sovereignty of each African country, but also our diversity as a people, as well as the diversity of our cultures and traditions;
- That is guided by principles of honesty, transparency and inclusion, fundamental to the democratic exercise of any territory.
- That respects our Food sovereignty, which is built upon the inalienable rights of peoples to maintain their cultural as well as seed diversities. Cultural diversity permits peoples to maintain and enlarge their stock of local knowledge; produce, save and use their seeds and have control over farming practices developed over centuries of experimentation and experience. Food sovereignty ensures that farmers stay in business and that peoples are not forced to alter their diets.
Naturally, we consider that any development project that ignores or disregards any of these principles is not in the best interest of Africa or Africans, and we reject and denounce the position taken by your government through your Minister of Development Cooperation.
For the sake of the good relations we wish to maintain with you, we would appreciate you would be so kind as to respond to this letter.
Once upon a time in Galicia, a group of people decided to make a dream come true: to build a hostel where, combining environmental education and practical sustainable initiatives, they could demonstrate that another world is possible.
As Corcerizas (the name of this dream) is not a fairy tale but the real world realisation of Amigos da Terra (FoE Galicia), and their strong belief that, if we want change in the world, we must be this change and we have to demonstrate it.
As Corcerizas is one of the most interesting initiatives in the field of education (and hostelling). As well as acting as a hostel, it hosts events that aim to build networks of like-minded people who campaign for environmental and social justice - like the Young Friends of the Earth Summer Camp and Get Moving Too.
Moreover, the center also demonstrates that there are working alternatives to how we manage waste, energy, water and food. For example, the natural water-treatment system use plants and ponds, instead of chemicals to treat water. The buildings and equipment have all been built using bio-climatic construction techniques, with the help of volunteers making As Corcerizas a participatory project.
But As Corcerizas is mostly an Environmental Education center that believes in popular and environmental education as the way to shift people’s behaviour towards more sustainable patterns. For more than 20 years the venue has run, hosted and coordinated workshops, international and national events, camps, courses, etc...
So, what can you do to help? The people of As Corcerizas need your support. The Centre is one of the finalists of the sustainable youth hostel contest organised by the Hostelling international Sustainability Fund. The award could go towards new equipment (and the refurbishment of buildings) to help keep As Corcerizas alive. We need your vote to win! So please, sign the petition
Aug 20, 2013
Friends of the Earth Australia calls for transparency on climate aid and recognition of customary land rights in Indonesia
Friends of the Earth Australia has called on the Australian government to initiate an open review of its failed experiment in climate aid in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, citing a lack of transparency and a lack of effective engagement with issues surrounding customary forest rights as key failings of the government’s approach.
Photo Credit: naturemandala via Compfight cc
In an open letter supported by Indonesian partners WALHI / Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Yayasan Petak Danum Kalimantan Tengah (Land and Water Foundation Central Kalimantan) and Friends of the Earth International, Friends of the Earth Australia has called on AusAID and the Australian government to break its silence on the controversial program.
The Kalimantan Forest Carbon Partnership (KFCP) was originally slated to protect 70,000 hectares of peat forests, re-flood 200,000 hectares of dried peatlands and plant of 100 million trees, projected to lead to 700 million tonnes of greenhouse gas reductions over 30 years. It was championed by both Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd as an important test case for initiating climate action through the UN’s Reduced Emmissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program. The KFCP was quietly shelved on June 30 this year, having failed to achieve any of these targets, and having caused sustained conflict among local communities who were supposed be at the heart of the project's efforts.
‘With such ambitious targets announced by successive Coalition and Labor governments, the Australian government should now front up to the public in an open and honest way, and conduct a thorough review of the KFCP’ said Nick McClean, Climate Justice Coordinator with Friends of the Earth Australia.
‘Walking away from a $47 million dollar investment without accounting for how the money was spent and what the outcomes are is unacceptable in any situation. But with a major increase in Australian foreign aid on the cards, and lasting change in the forested lands of the developing world a crucial part of climate action, learning the lessons from this REDD trial is crucial for any future conservation efforts. A reported gag on project staff and the continued protests from a number of customary landholders in this case are particularly alarming aspects of the project. It begs the question as to what really happened in the KFCP’
Isaac Rojas from Friends of the Earth International echoed these concerns:
‘REDD has so far been problematic in many parts of the world, and the unwillingness of REDD partners to help secure the rights of customary landholders is proving a key problem with this approach. Getting to the bottom of why these problems keep occurring will help in developing partnerships with local communities that can lead to effective conservation programs,’ he said.
Deddy Ratih, Bioregion and Climate Campaigner with WALHI / Friends of the Earth Indonesia said: ‘Throughout Indonesia, local communities have an intimate knowledge of their forests and a willingness to engage that can be a major asset in halting deforestation and managing forests sustainably. But if the international community are unwilling to support these communities in securing their rights to land ownership as the basis of a positive collaboration, it’s hard to see how conservation schemes like REDD will be successful in the long run. Simply paying communities to stay out of their forests so foreign polluters can offset their emissions won’t work. Supporting the recognition of the active custodial relationships with traditional lands these communities maintain an important part of the long term solution to deforestation’ he said.
Currently between 50 and 80 million people live in Indonesia’s forested areas, many of whom are customary land holders who receive little recognition of their rights from the Indonesian government. While a recent constitutional court case established the validity of these land rights in the Indonesian constitution, the Indonesian government is yet to act on this development and legislate for widespread recognition of these rights.
Nick McClean from Friends of the Earth Australia said : ‘Customary landholders deserve a better deal than what they are currently getting, being the unfortunate victims of the widespread landgrabbing and deforestation that occurs in Indonesian Borneo. Supporting recognition of their rights is a way of countering these destructive industries and investing long term in the conservation estate. We hope that a review of this project will contribute to mapping out a positive path forward on this challenging issue’
Aug 08, 2013
Thirty year old Noé Vazquez Ortiz was stoned to death while preparing for the opening ceremony of the 10th meeting of the Mexican Movement of People Affected by Dams and For Rivers (MAPDER) on Friday, August 2, in Veracruz, Mexico.
The event was due to open with a ceremony giving thanks to the soil and water – two key life-giving elements – to welcome attendees with an illustration of the local love for nature.
Noé was a craftsman who promoted culture through his work. He worked to raise awareness about the degradation of nature in the high mountains of Veracruz with Colectivo Defensa Verde and MAPDER.
The conference organizers immediately took steps to protect the safety of the participants. Tensions have been running high in host state Veracruz because of the construction of dams and concessions granted by the state authorities. Resistance to the dams has been strong in Amatlan de los Reyes where the meeting is taking place.
MAPDER's press release following the murder highlighted that hydroelectric dam projects have increased since 2010 in Veracruz. Attempts have been made to install 112 private dams so far. Protests opposing hydroelectric and mining projects have been met with an atmosphere of intimidation.
Gustavo Castro, member of Otros Mundos Chiapas/ Friends of the Earth México is one of the 200 participants who were already in Amatlan de los Reyes when the activist was killed. He told Real World Radio that he was very worried about the State’s role in the incidents because the municipal, state and federal governments, as well as human rights authorities were told about the event and were still unable to provide adequate security. This concern is even stronger considering that nowadays “the government is criminalizing any mobilization against mining, dams and other megaprojects”.
The two murderers of Vazquez Ortiz were caught and, despite the tension in Amatlan de los Reyes, organizers decided not to cancel the meeting, but to dedicate this 10th Meeting of MAPDER to the memory of Noe Vazquez Ortiz.
Aug 05, 2013
Since this post was originally published earlier this month, the Dipped Products Glove factory, which had been the target of protests, has been ordered to relocate and may close pending further government invesitations.
The events are starkly reminiscent of the final stages of the demonstration in Cochabamba in Bolivia in the year 2000, when Victor Hugo Daza was killed. That protest was also against the privatization of public water.
The incident in Sri Lanka is a warning to the people of the terrible consequences of protesting against neoliberal and corporate interests. It is shameful how some politicians are painting a misleading picture of this incident, while media footage and eye witness testimonies clearly tell a different story.
The World Socialist Website reported:
“About 1,000 soldiers wearing flak jackets and armed with T-56 assault rifles were deployed to the area. Members of the army’s motorcycle brigade arrived in Belummahara at about 2 p.m. and immediately began harassing demonstrators, demanding they disperse.
About two hours later another group of soldiers were mobilized to Weliweriya to break up the demonstration. While the protesters eventually agreed to a directive from an army brigadier to disperse within five minutes, in the ensuing commotion, commandos suddenly started firing live rounds. Protesters were also attacked with long batons, tear gas and water cannon.”
On the surface, the protest is a water conflict. People were simply demanding clean water for their daily consumption and for the factory to be closed. However, on closer inspection, it is an issue of exploitation of a common good by a corporate giant and a business tycoon for corporate interest. The military was indirectly serving the businesses against the public interest.
A peaceful protest in Welivariya, Sri Lanka demanding clean water, ended with the killing of three people including a 17 year old school boy, Akila Dinesh (who was the only child in his family) and many others wounded. They were demonstrating against the Venigross Gloves Factory, located in Rathupaswela (about 17 km from Colombo, Sri Lanka), which has caused water contamination in a more than 3 km radius, affecting twelve villages.
The affected people are living in rural villages, which depend entirely on wells for their water. There are no pipe water facilities and no monthly bills. The factory has released acidic effluent and given the untreated sludge as manure to local people, which, in turn, makes the groundwater acidic.
Farming families now cannot go to the paddy fields due to the pollution from the factory. They cannot even drink their own well water. Therefore, those people who have set up this polluting factory in such a pristine place should be held responsible for destroying lives and traditional livelihoods.
Affected people have a legitimate right to oppose this polluting factory. They also have a right to demand clean water, which is a basic need and a human right. They face the risk of contaminated food, even when they grow it on their own land. The water table will not be recovered in the next two to three decades. The factory, which was presented as a much needed source of local jobs, will instead be a burden on these communities for the foreseeable future.
Two years ago, the UN's Environment Programme (UNEP) handed Shell a report detailing the devastation caused by the oil company's operations in Ogoniland and listing measures it should take to clean up this mess. Guess what? Two years later not one of these recommended measures has been implemented. Ask Shell to clean up its mess in Ogoniland. Send a message to Shell CEO Peter Voser through the form below.