You are here: Home / What we do / land grabbing / Latest news

Latest news

Oct 21, 2013

Scottish National Party responds to call on banning dirty gas

by Friends of the Earth Scotland — last modified Oct 21, 2013 11:17 AM
Filed Under:

Communities and environmental groups converged on the Scottish National Party (SNP) conference on Saturday, October 19, to call on the Scottish Government to be the first in the UK to ban unconventional gas. Demonstrators voiced their concerns about plans to drill for coalbed methane, explore for shale gas and experiment with underground coal gasification in Scotland, highlighting areas of the country under threat from gas companies. October 19 was the second ever Global Frackdown Day, and protests took place in 28 countries around the world.

At the event, the Scottish Government announced a significant strengthening of Scottish planning law, which will require buffer zones between unconventional gas developments and communities.

The rally heard from Scotland’s leading environmental organisations and community groups and was attended by conference goers and demonstrators.

Speakers included: Mary Church, Head of Campaigns for Friends of the Earth, Scotland; Maria Montinaro, Spokesperson for Concerned Communities of Falkirk; Miriam Dobson, People and Planet; and Maire McCormack from Women's Environmental Network.

A fringe meeting, held by Concerned Communities of Falkirk, also took place at the Salutation Hotel after the rally and speeches - this addressed concerns on unconventional gas extraction in Scotland.

Maria Montinaro, Spokesperson for Concerned Communities of Falkirk, said,

"Following much research and investigation, Concerned Communities of Falkirk have come to the conclusion that the risks of Unconventional Gas significantly outweigh the benefits. This is non-sustainable development which will primarily benefit private organisations at the expense of our communities, our environment and our existing industries. The Community Charter, a first for Scotland and the UK, sets out our rights and responsibilities to participate in planning processes that could affect our assets, and to have our views made a material consideration in all related decisions.

"Falkirk and the other informed communities who are opposing Unconventional Gas Developments are not NIMBYs. We are saying - Not In Anyone’s Back Yard.  Unconventional Gas must not be given the green light in Scotland. We ask our Scottish Government to take the lead on behalf of its people, to ban this industry, protecting and safeguarding its citizens."

Concerned residents of Canonbie were also present at the Global Frackdown Day rally. A spokesperson for Canonbie Residents Against Coal Developments, CRACD, said,

"Local People in Canonbie are only now beginning to realise the true extent of Buccleuch Estates Coal Development Plans for this area.

"Despite a recent Household Survey undertaken by CRACD, involving more than 360 local residents, which confirmed that more than 90% rejected the coal proposals, Buccleuch seem determined to proceed, and to ignore the community.

"At least until such times as Scottish Planning and other regulatory frameworks can be overhauled to ensure that public safety and environmental risks are addressed, the people of Canonbie call on the Scottish Government to protect their community, and impose an immediate moratorium on all drilling."

Mary Church, Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns, said,

"The SNP already know that unconventional gas is unnecessary here in Scotland, and it is clear from countries where the industry is more developed that it is unsafe. We attended the SNP conference on Global Frackdown Day, along with communities facing these developments on their doorsteps, to show the Government that it is also unwanted.

“While today’s announcement isn’t the ban we want, it is a firm step in the right direction and a huge problem for Dart Energy’s current plans for drilling for gas in Scotland.  Dart should just give up now.

"We welcome the Government's recognition that buffer zones are necessary to protect communities from the worst impacts of gas drilling and fracking, and urge them to go further and join France, Ireland, the Netherlands and others in putting a stop to all fracking and unconventional gas activity.  If Scotland is to play its part in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, we need to leave this fossil fuel in the ground."

A public inquiry is due to consider an application for commercial coalbed methane extraction at Airth, near Falkirk, next year, following over 2,500 objections. The project, by Australian company Dart Energy, is the most advanced unconventional gas project in the UK. If it goes ahead, it could open the door on thousands of gas wells across the central belt of Scotland.

Earlier this week it was announced that the British Geological Survey is going to map Scotland's shale gas potential while plans to experiment with unproven underground coal gasification techniques in the firth of Forth and in Dumfries and Galloway are also developing.

Friends of the Earth Scotland are calling for a ban on all unconventional gas extraction because of the climate and local environmental and health risks associated with the industry.

Image: PERTH, UK - 19th October 2013: Environmental protestors erect a giant drilling rig outside the SNP Party Conference at Perth Concert Hall to call for a ban on unconventional gas extraction. The demonstrators and members of the community in Scotland joined as part of Global Frackdown Day to show their opposition and voice their concerns to MSP's. Pictured MSP Paul Wheelhouse stands with demonstrators. (MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY)

Oct 17, 2013

Global month of action on energy

by admin — last modified Oct 17, 2013 05:47 PM

October 11 marks the beginning of a month of worldwide public protest and action to say no to dirty energy, and to support clean, renewable alternatives.


Clean, community-owned energy already exists and is a real solution to climate change. But it needs more momentum and political support. We'll be telling our decision-makers to put people at the heart of a clean energy future.


If you want to find an action near you or to start your own, this toolkit has been created to help you.


Recent reports from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency demonstrate the need for a revolution in how societies generate their power and that almost two thirds of known reserves of fossil fuels must remain underground if we wish to prevent catastrophic climate change.


This month gives people the opportunity to protest against the dirty energy of the past and to demand a clean energy future in the run up to the vital UN Climate Change Conference which begins in Warsaw on November 11th.


People can add any energy activity they are planning to the global map of actions. Each action, large or small, will contribute to strengthening the global movement for a world free of dirty energy projects, and for real community energy solutions.


The month of action is divided into the following theme weeks:

  • 11 October: annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank, we will call on these institutions to stop public subsidies for fossil fuel projects.
  • 19 October: Global Frackdown – global action day against hydraulic fracturing, one of the most extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction.
  • 20-27 October: People vs Coal – the dirtiest and most polluting industry is befriending governments to directly influence public decisions.
  • 28 October - 3 November: Shell, clean up your mess! Shell has failed to clean up decades of pollution in the Niger Delta, we need to stand with the most affected communities
  • 4-11 November: Community Power – communities across the world are building democratic renewable alternatives.

Friends of the Earth International is part of a worldwide initiative to help organise this month of action along with Greenpeace International,, Push Europe, La Via Campesina, Action Aid International and many more groups.

Take action for the second Global Frackdown!

by Denis Burke — last modified Oct 17, 2013 12:25 PM
Filed Under:

On October 19 2013, people around the world will gather to make their voices heard in unanimous rejection of fracking. The second annual Global Frackdown is an opportunity for people to learn and share their knowledge about hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and let policy makers know that the tide has turned: Fracking will not be tolerated.


A number of significant victories have been scored against the practice of fracking since the last Global Frackdown. Even in the last few weeks, France's highest legal body upheld a ban on fracking and European Union lawmakers voted to force energy companies to carry out in-depth environmental audits prior to any procedure involving fracking. Bulgaria also banned fracking and moratoriums are in place in Ireland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Opposition to fracking is also growing in Africa and the Americas. But there is still a long way to go and much, much more work to do. Join us!



What can you do?


Join an event in your country


Or set up your own event


Help spread the word


Join the event on facebook

Oct 16, 2013

Punishing peaceful protest: environmental activists need more protection from human rights violations

by Denis Burke — last modified Oct 16, 2013 11:50 AM
Filed Under:

Working to make the world a cleaner, fairer place can be a dangerous and thankless task. Occasionally, voices for justice and equality, like Mandela or the Dalai Lama XIV, are praised internationally. But most of the people who make great personal sacrifices to protect our collective wellbeing are people you and I have never heard of – and some of them are in danger all the time.

Turkish people in Chicago protesting Turkish government and police brutality in Turkey.

On September 19, 2013, thirty Greenpeace activists were arrested following an attempt to stage a peaceful protest on board a Russian oil rig. One month later, the activists are still being detained in Russia while the security services 'investigate' charges of piracy. Unfortunately, the use of such absurd charges against environmental activists, who are manifestly innocent, is not unusual at all: Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan's characterization of the Gezi Park protesters as 'looters' is a similar example.

From Honduras to Russia to Turkey, activists and community leaders are being harassed and intimidated for standing up for environmental or social causes. We can't say with confidence that environmental activists are suffering more persecution now than in the past  – there simply isn't enough current or historical data to be sure – but as international organizations pay more attention to the overlap between human rights violations and environmental activism, the severity of this global trend is slowly becoming apparent.

ITN report on Greenpeace case


Explanations for this pattern vary, but the following factors certainly contribute.

Increased competition for natural resources and tighter environmental regulations in most rich countries have caused a race to exploit the cheaper resources of under-regulated, cash-hungry southern countries, creating more possibilities for conflict over land and other resources.

International human rights standards do not currently go nearly far enough towards ensuring that transnational companies respect social and environmental standards abroad. This combination of inadequate international standards with weak or greedy national systems creates conditions where, for example, Chinese factory workers make goods for western markets under dangerous, exhausting,  or exploitative conditions that would no longer be accepted in the West. Their government won't take steps to ensure their wellbeing and the international community can't agree on workable solutions to insist that governments protect their citizens. But these are also the legally nebulous circumstances that see opponents of dams or palm oil plantations being harassed, kidnapped, threatened or killed with almost total impunity in a number of countries.


The 2008 credit crunch and subsequent financial crises have created an appetite among investment banks and large pension funds for new ventures outside of the rich world's battered economies. Even some supposedly environmental programs, such as tree plantations, deserve their share of the blame, as they cause more problems than they solve. Clearing land to construct a dam or plant a monoculture plantation often leads to people being pushed off their land and protesters being threatened. Environmental activists, like most activists, are also a lot more vulnerable because they tend to get in the way of the plans of powerful people. Friends of the Earth groups around the world have been working hard to bring attention to these cases.

Front Line Defenders interview with Berta Cáceres

In the same week that the Greenpeace incident was reported, an activist called Berta Cáceres was sentenced to serve a jail sentence in Honduras and has since had to go into hiding. Friends of the Earth believes that her life is in danger if she goes to prison. She is a long term advocate for environmental and human rights justice in her region of Honduras. Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, could just as easily have been talking about Berta Cáceres when he described the Russian court's treatment of the Greenpeace campaigners as 'Nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest'. Rulers have understood and largely respected the immunity of diplomats since antiquity. Peaceful protest needs the same respect. As the environmental crisis  we face becomes more severe by the day, the need for governments to respect and protect the human rights of environmental protesters is more urgent than ever.


Related stories

Human rights crisis in Honduras
Friends of the Earth International calls for the immediate release of the crew of the Arctic Sunrise



This blog post was written by Denis Burke for Blog Action Day 2013. The views expressed are the author's and do not strictly reflect the position of Friends of the Earth International.

Top image: Turkish people in Chicago protesting Turkish government and police brutality in Turkey. June 15th 2013 (CC)

Oct 15, 2013

Pinocchio Awards 2013: cast your ballots!

by Les Amis de la Terre France — last modified Oct 15, 2013 11:06 AM

Les Amis de la Terre/Friends of the Earth France, in partnership with CRID (Centre de Recherche et d’Information pour le Développement /Research and Information Centre for Development) and Peuples Solidaires – Action Aid France, have opened public voting for the Pinocchio Awards 2013.

Les Amis de la Terre/Friends of the Earth France, in partnership with CRID (Centre de Recherche et d’Information pour le Développement  /Research and Information Centre for Development) and Peuples Solidaires – Action Aid France, have opened public voting for the Pinocchio Awards 2013. By highlighting specific cases of social and environmental rights violations committed by multinational companies, these Awards are an opportunity to report the gap between the speeches about “sustainable development” and the actual practices on the ground. Through the Pinocchio Awards, these organizations are fighting for a binding legal framework for multinationals’ activities.


Six years after the first edition of the Sustainable Development Pinocchio Awards,  Les Amis de la Terre France, in partnership with CRID and Peuples Solidaires, are launching the 2013 edition and opening polls at Nine companies have been nominated in three categories (1):



  • Greener than green: awarded to the company which has led the most abusive and misleading communication campaign in regard to its actual activities.
      • Areva and its mining museum Urêka
      • Air France and carbon offsetting in Madagascar
      • BNP Paribas and research against climate change


  • Dirty hands, full wallet: awarded to the company which has the most opaque policy at the financial level (tax evasion, corruption, etc), in terms of lobbying or in its supply chain.
      • Auchan and the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh
      • Apple and the Bangka tin mine in Indonesia
      • Alstom and the big dams of Belo Monte and Rio Madeira in Brazil


  • One for all and all for me!: awarded to the company which has the most aggressive policy in terms of appropriation, exploitation or destruction of natural resources.
      • Total and shale gas in Argentina
      • Veolia and the privatization of water in India
      • Société Générale and the coal mine Alpha Coal in Australia

According to Nathalie Peré-Marzano, director of CRID, “Private actors, especially multinational companies, are  entrusted a major role in ‘development’ that States still reduce to economic growth. This vision is being challenged by many today since these multinationals are at the heart of the system that aggravates inequities all over the world, abusively exploits natural resources, and affects the basic rights of populations.”

For Fanny Gallois, campaign manager at Peuples Solidaires, “From the exploitation of workers to the appropriation of populations’ natural resources, in addition to environmental damages, the activities of multinationals, especially the French ones, sometimes have catastrophic consequences. The Pinocchio Awards are here to question their responsibility and to remind the elected officials and the government that it is time to regulate the activities of these companies.”

Juliette Renaud, Corporate Accountability campaigner at Les Amis de la Terre France, concludes: “Current government ministers, including Nicole Bricq, have admitted the need to recognize the legal responsibility of the  multinational parent companies regarding the damages caused by their subsidiaries and sub-contractors. Action has now to be taken by setting up a binding legal framework and putting an end to their impunity. Citizens from every continent are affected by the nominated companies for the Pinocchio Awards and they should all be able to enjoy the same rights and access to justice.”

Mobilization around the Pinocchio Awards will take place from 15th October to 19th November, date of the public award ceremony (2). Bi-weekly focuses will be realized in order to enlighten each case. Local groups from  Les Amis de la Terre France and Peuples Solidaires will organize regional events. A stand is expected in Paris during the  Week of International Solidarity.

To learn more, visit our website:

Press Contacts:
Caroline Prak, Les Amis de la Terre – Friends of the Earth France – 01 48 51 18 96 / 06 86 41 53 43 –
Fanny Gallois, Peuples Solidaires – Action Aid France – 01 48 58 21 85 / 06 19 89 53 07
Camille Champeaux, CRID – 01 44 72 89 74 –,
[1] The detailed  presentation of the Pinocchio Awards and the nine 2013 nominees is available in French, English, and Spanish on the following website:
[2] The Pinocchio Awards are  given on the basis of thousands of internet users’ votes across the world. The ceremony will take place 19th November 2013 with Peuples Solidaires and CRID, at La Java, Paris. Registration is open here

Follow the Pinocchio Awards and Les Amis de la Terre France updates on Twitter @amisdelaterre

The 2013 Sustainable Development Pinocchio Awards  are organized in partnership with Basta, the Multinational Observatory and Real World Radio

Oct 14, 2013

Blog: Friends of the Earth International solidarity mission to Palestine - Part 1

by Jagoda Munic — last modified Oct 14, 2013 04:10 PM

Chair of Friends of the Earth International Jagoda Munic reflects on the international solidarity mission to Palestine

Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Here we are, past the passport control at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. A group of friends meeting together in Jersulam and, more officially, Friends of the Earth International's delegation on a solidarity trip to Palestine, where we are going to learn more about and support PENGON / FoE Palestine's work. Our group includes ExCom members Daniel Ribeiro from Mozambique and Elaine Gilligan from the UK, along with Real World Radio Coordinator José Elósegui from Uruguay, International Coordinator Dave Hirsch and International Membership Development Coordinator Erick Burke, both from the USA. And me, of course, Jagoda Munic, from Croatia, the chairperson of FoEI. It is night and by the time we reach Jerusalem, there is nowhere open to eat dinner, so we had to go for a quick drink to catch up with each other and share information about the mission.

Friends of the Earth International solidarity mission

Thursday, October 10
It took some time to get to Ramallah from Jerusalem, although they are not so far apart, indeed they seem to be part of the same city. But one check point was closed, so we had to turn around and find another on the heavily congested road. This is normal here. The check points are at the entrances to all cities in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers check everyone who passes.

For an outsider, it may seem that the West Bank is under the control of the Palestinians, but very soon one finds out it is not. Indeed, only 17.7% of the area – all in the cities – is under Palestinian control, while the rest is controlled by the Israeli army. This is based on the Oslo Interim accords from the 1990s, which divided the West Bank into three areas of control, giving the Palestinian Authority control over 17.7% (Area A) and partial administrative control of a further 18.3% (Area B). The remaining land (60.9% Area C and 3% nature reserve) is under Israeli military and administrative control, as is the entire border.

Read the Friends of the Earth International report on the environmental consequences of the Israeli occupation

Because of the road blockade, we had to rush to our meeting in the office of the Palestinian Hydrology Group, one of the 15 member groups of PENGON or Friends of the Earth Palestine.

Here we had a presentation by Dr. Abed EL Rahman Tamimi about the Palestinian Environment, describing the main environmental problems like land grabbing, water shortages and cut offs, uprooting trees, toxic waste-dumping and air pollution, all linked to the Israeli occupation as the root cause of these problems.

Perhaps the biggest problem is water shortage and accessibility. Dr. Tamimi points out that the water is under the domain of the Israeli Ministry of defense and that the main reason that Israel has built a Wall in the West Bank is to strategically shift the border get access to the West Bank's mountains where water can be drilled from aquifers. The separation wall has largely been built on Palestinian land along the Western aquifer, which is the richest strategic groundwater basin. The barrier includes a strip of land called the ‘seam zone’ between the Green Line and the actual wall, effectively constituting a further land loss of around 8.5%.

After that, Mr. Omar Barghouthi  gave a presentation on the BDS campaign (boycotts, divestment and sanctions), which was founded in 2005 by Palestinian civil society. The campaign mobilises individuals, groups and organisations to boycott Israeli institutions that support the apartheid politics of Israeli Government, until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. The campaign is inspired by the civil rights movement in the US against segregation and  discrimination and with the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. It is base on three basic pillars or principles:


  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights and full equality of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

All these demands have a basis in UN resolutions on Palestine and they are simply requesting implementation of international law. Many prominent people, including Stephen Hawking, have supported the campaign. Among other supporters, this campaign has many Israeli intellectuals and organisations on its side. See more details at

After these introductions, which set up the context for our mission, we hit the road and went to a small village named Jobet Adeeb, near Bethlehem. Here we saw a Palestinian village from 1925 with no electricity or water sewage system, and a school existing in poverty, while just a few hundred meters away there are Israeli settlements with all needed modern facilities including a compost plant. While one wonders how it is possible that the settlement from 1997 can have all these services, while a village from 1925 has none and they live next to each other, the answer  exposes the double standards of the Israeli government, which declares any construction, including, electricity lines or solar collectors in Palestinian village illegal, simply refusing to issue permits. If anything is built without the permit (which you cannot get in the first place) the Israeli army is there to pull the construction down with sheer force.

Back in the van, we head towards Hebron and a village next to the famous wall, built on Palestinian land. The wall separates the village from their agricultural land and now they cannot survive on agriculture. As a consequence they have to find a job either in Israel or abroad, which means people slowly but surely emigrate from the area. Living next to the “fence” also often brings noise pollution from military training during the night.

Water shortage is another issue. Harvesting rain water provides non-drinkable water that lasts three months. For drinking water and all the water needed during the rest of the year, the villagers buy water from a private Israeli company, which absorbs about 20% of their income.

Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International, at the wall

Friday, October 11

Early morning and we are heading north, to the city of Tulkarem, where we meet representatives from the Palestinian trade union. Our guide for the day is Dr. Kefaya Abu Al Huda, an expert in hazardous waste. The trade union has been fighting over the years to improve the working conditions in the chemical, plastic and pesticide industry, which they have succeeded by organising several general strikes over the years. However, there is still a big problem of children that work in the factories and  frequent accidents including explosions and open fires.  When I asked a question about the position of the trade union about the closing down of the factories, the answer is – yes we want to close them down, as workers can work in less polluting industries or in agriculture. It has to be pointed out that the the Geshuri factories that produce pesticides and fertilisers,  have been moved from the vicinity of Israeli towns and settlements twice in the 1970s, as the Court ordered them to close down due to high level of pollution and non-compliance with Israeli environmental and safety regulations.  However, they've reopened in the Palestinian territory on a high quality agricultural land and above water aquifer, just next to the town in the 1980s.  “Since then, the level of cancer in the area increased significantly and it is much higher than in other areas of Palestine”,  declares Dr. Abu Al Huda. “I can prove this with data from my research” she said.

Indeed, when we came close to the factories, we could see for ourselves – the smell was so awful that it was difficult to breathe. Just across the road there was a local town, with wind blowing the fumes directly to the buildings. The factories are built in a manner that Palestinian villages are downwind most of the time.  Workers passed us on their way to the factory, there was a shift change. They greeted the union representative, but refused to speak with us or to give a statement. “Look, there is a 13 or 14 year old boy,” said Elaine.

It was easy for us to run away from the pollution to the next point of our visit, but I sincerely do not know how anyone can live in such proximity to the chemical industry. It is more than a nuisance, it is a health hazard.

The  next stop is the famous wall in the town of Qalqelia. Here we can walk right next to it. “This is definitely not a fence”, some graffiti says, which is indeed true of a 7 meter high concrete wall with barb wire on the top. “This is apartheid”, we read, but also: “this wall will never stop our voices”. Indeed,  the voices of Palestine have to be heard!


Part two of Jagoda Munic's blog from Palestine

Part three of Jagoda Munic's blog from Palestine

Part four of Jagoda Munic's blog from Palestine

Press release from the solidarity mission

Real World Radio's coverage of the mission

Oct 11, 2013

Biofuels Industry strong arm Governments at UN Food Security conference

by Friends of the Earth Europe — last modified Oct 11, 2013 05:20 PM

Civil Society movements blamed Governments negotiating on biofuels at the Committee on World Food Security [1, 2] for defending the interests of the biofuels industry rather than the interests of people pushed into hunger by biofuel policies. Ignoring expert evidence from the High Level Panel of Experts showing that biofuels targets aggravate food price volatility and hunger, Governments led by North America, Australia and the EU systematically deleted any references to Human Rights, links with food price spikes and land grabbing.

Governments acknowledged that biofuels crops compete with food crops and influence food prices but did not have the courage to recommend any action to stop this. The domination of pro biofuel countries in talks, spearheaded by the EU, has resulted in decisions heavily favorable for biofuels expansion. Governments including Egypt, Jordan and China who spoke expressing strong misgivings have largely been ignored.


Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said:

"Experts agree that burning food for biofuels is not a 'green' solution. It fuels hunger, land grabs and climate change. Yet, under intense pressure from a subsidy-hungry biofuel industry, the UN Committee on World Food Security has today ignored the obvious: that to reduce pressure on land and food we must stop using food for fuel for the rich."


Kirtana Chandrasekaran, food sovereignty coordinator for Friends of the Earth International, said:

"Small scale food producers have spoken powerfully here about the reality they are confronted with every day: that biofuels crops compete with their food production, for the land they till and for the water that sustains them. They called on this assembly to take action to defend the right to food from the impacts of biofuels; instead the recommendations overwhelmingly defend the interests of the biofuels industry and legitimise violations of the right to food."


In June the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE), on the request of the CFS, released its report on biofuels policies to inform the negotiations [3]. The report clearly concluded that there is a link between the energy policy and food insecurity and that biofuels have been a key driver behind steep food price spikes and food price volatility in recent years.  It said: “Everything else being equal, the introduction of a rigid biofuel demand does affect food commodity prices. […]  In the last few years (since 2004) of short-term commodity food price increase, biofuels did play an important role.” Other independent research such as by the European Commission has confirmed similar findings [4]. And the OECD, World Bank, IMF, WTO and FAO in 2011 called on ministers of G20 countries “to remove provisions of current national policies that subsidize (or mandate) biofuels production or consumption” [5].  All this advice was discounted.


Estimates suggest about six million hectares of land in sub-Saharan Africa is already controlled by European biofuel companies and about 293 land grabs covering more than 17 million hectares worldwide have been reported due to biofuels.


On Monday more than 80 civil society organizations sent a letter to CFS members warning that the current recommendations would fail to uphold the Right to Food or stop hunger caused by biofuels.



[1] The CFS serves as a forum in the UN System for review and follow-up of policies concerning world food security.  Civil Society participates at the CFS through the largest international mechanism of civil society organizations seeking to influence agriculture, food security and nutrition policies and actions.


[2] The mandate and spirit of the reformed CFS is to create a body that includes all countries and stakeholders. A Global Strategic Framework rooted in the Right to Food is at the heart of the reformed CFS and provides clear guidance to coordinate actions on food security and nutrition.


[3] The HLPE provides scientific and knowledge-based analysis to inform governments on priority issues. It’s report on biofuels is:






[6] Open Letter on Biofuels in the CFS


[7] Civil Society intervention after the CFS Biofuels Decision Box is adopted

Oct 09, 2013

Global Frackdown 2013: Take action to ban fracking in your community and around the globe

by admin — last modified Oct 09, 2013 11:14 AM

The Global Frackdown will unite concerned citizens everywhere for a day of action on October 19, 2013 to send a message to elected officials in our communities and across the globe that we want a future powered by clean, renewable energy, not dirty, polluting fossil fuels. The journey to a renewable energy future will not be fueled by shale gas. Climate scientists warn that continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels will lead to catastrophic climate change.

As the oil and gas industry escalates its public relations offensive, it is critical that our elected officials hear the truth from their constituents. Fracking is an inherently dangerous technology and shale gas is not a bridge fuel to a low-carbon economy. It’s time to expose the oil and gas industry’s desire to profit at the expense of our communities and our environment. It’s time to hold our elected officials accountable. It’s time for another Global Frackdown.


Participants in the Global Frackdown will organize events in their communities to challenge decision makers to oppose fracking, united around a common mission statement calling for a ban on fracking and investment in a clean energy future.


The first-ever Global Frackdown in September 2012 brought together 200 community actions from over 20 countries to challenge hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—a risky technique that uses millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to break open shale rock deep underground to release previously unrecoverable deposits of oil and gas. The oil and gas industry has spent millions of dollars on slick PR campaigns and high-profile lobbying efforts to buy the ability to extract fossil fuels from our communities with as little government oversight as possible, all while destroying our water resources and our climate.


While the industry is working hard to protect its profits and drown out the worldwide demand for clean, renewable fuels, there is a tremendous movement afoot around the world to protect our global resources from fracking.


Together as a movement, since the first-ever Global Frackdown, we have:

  • Passed more than 336 measures against fracking, wastewater injection and frack sand mining in communities across the United States
  • Passed a moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Basin Commission
  • Banned fracking in Longmont, Colorado
  • Passed an indefinite moratorium on fracking in Vermont
  • Upheld bans on fracking in Bulgaria and France, despite intensive pressure from industry
  • Pushed for moratoria in multiple regions in Europe
  • Obtained local referenda on fracking in Romania, which rejected fracking by more than 90 percent
  • Pushed for a ban on fracking in areas for drinking water provision in Germany
  • Passed moratoria on fracking in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic
  • Organized to oppose fracking in communities in Argentina, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt
  • Spurred the introduction of new laws for assessing unconventional gas impacts in Australia
  • Delayed fracking in South Africa and the Republic of Ireland
  • Forced the European Union to start analyzing the risks of fracking in Europe
  • Persuaded 262 Members of the European Parliament – more than a third – to vote in favor of an immediate moratorium on shale gas

More information and resources for events and promotion at the Global Frackdown website

Oct 07, 2013

The environmental education center for Friends of the Earth has been honored by Hostelling International

by admin — last modified Oct 07, 2013 06:00 PM

As Corcerizas wins an international award for sustainability

The environmental education center for Friends of the Earth, As Corcerizas, has been one of the international winners of the Hostelling International Award for projects aimed at improving natural heritage through reducing carbon emissions. The prize of 24,800 pounds (about 30,000 euros) will make As Corcerizas an energy island through the winter months.

As Corcerizas has been chosen as a winner, taking second prize, from a selection of hostels from all around the world belonging to the international network of youth hostels. The final vote was between 15 finalists from participating countries such as the U.S. , Brazil and China. The three initiatives with the most votes were the winners of the prizes from the network, enabling them to improve the sustainability of its facilities and surroundings: Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States [1 ] .

The award endorses the implementation of a project presented by Friends of the Earth  which proposes the installation of a wind turbine and the construction of a heated cob wall as radiation system. A program for schools to minimise their carbon footprint in order to tackle climate will also be developed.

At the Friends of the Earth hostel all energy production comes exclusively from renewable energy, and so it is able to operate outside the conventional electricity grid, forming what is known as an "energy island" in virtually every month of the year. The problem was that in winter the sun and the flow of water coming from the small reservoir in the Sierra de San Mamede would sometimes not be enough to cover the entire building's electrical demand. Thanks to this award As Corcerizas will be entirely solidified as an energy island, serving as an example of sustainability not only in Spain, but also at a worldwide level.

" This award recognizes the work of all workers and volunteers and for their professionalism, effort and motivation which has managed to push through a project which is 100% renewable and democratic. This is how we are proving the viability of a center that operates outside of the electricity grid. We want to thank all the people who have supported As Corcerizas and have made utopia a reality," stresses Analia Moares,  responsible for the center.

Promotional video: ( English)

Más información:

FoE Europe: EU-US Trade talks on hold, but risks remain

by Friends of the Earth Europe — last modified Oct 07, 2013 03:52 PM

The delay to trade talks between the EU and US, which were due to start in Brussels today, must be used to address the risks a deal represents to people and the environment, says Friends of the Earth Europe.

The negotiations were put on hold on Friday evening when it was announced that the US delegation would not be travelling to Europe due to the current shutdown of parts of the US administration.

Friends of the Earth Europe is highly concerned about the threat the EU-US trade deal – known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – poses to environmental, social and consumer standards and safeguards. The group is calling on negotiators to use this delay as 'thinking time' to make sure the interests of people and the environment are given priority over business interests.

Many corporations are already lobbying for a deal that is in their private interests, for example, against measures to prevent the import of dirty tar sands from the US and Canada to Europe, and against EU food protection measures which make it harder for US companies to export GMOs.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Decision-makers on both sides of the Atlantic now have extra thinking time and they need to realise that an EU-US trade deal can only help get us out of the economic and climate crises if it has the interests of people and the planet at its heart. Big corporations will undoubtedly be using this delay to continue lobbying for weaker standards, especially on issues related to food, agriculture, chemicals and energy. Our health and safety must not be traded away for an agreement that would mainly profit big corporations or limit states’ ability to regulate."

Friends of the Earth Europe insists that, as part of the deal, companies and investors should not receive excessive rights to legally challenge democratically adopted measures through a so-called ‘investor state dispute settlement’. It says a partnership should only be agreed if it results in higher standards for the environment, safety and consumer protection and if the ability of governments to make new legislation is not weakened.

The group is also concerned about the lack of transparency of the negotiations so far and is calling for the public to be given access to negotiation documents.



The following briefings on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have been published today by Friends of the Earth Europe:

'Trading away our future?' briefing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
'How fair and sustainable food and farming could be permanently damaged by a transatlantic trade deal' briefing:
'The risks of including an investor-to-state dispute settlement in transatlantic trade talks' briefing:

Oct 02, 2013

A victory in Norway!

by Silje Lundberg — last modified Oct 02, 2013 10:05 AM

Young Friends of the Earth Norway has been instrumental in facing down the country's imposing oil industry and protecting a delicate, precious environment. The story below is from Silje Lundberg's blog.

Last night we got the news we’ve been waiting for for years: vulnerable areas in the extreme north of Norway, the Lofoten islands, are to be kept closed from the oil industry for the next four years. This is a major victory for the local fishermen who’ve been fighting this for more then two decades and for us, the people.


The fight against oil drilling off the coast of the Lofoten-islands has been a fight between local fishermen, environmentalists, and young people on the one side, and major oil companies and politicians blinded by the wealth from oil on the opposite side. Today we won. Yet again. Since 2001 this is the fifth time we’ve kept the oil industry’s dirty paws away from the Lofoten islands, and for each victory the oil lobby will have a harder time convincing parliament to open the areas. Because the public don’t support them, science doesn’t support them and youth don’t support them. We believe in a different future for our country and for the northern region.


I grew up not far from these precious islands, and ever since I joined Young Friends of the Earth Norway, more then thirteen years ago, I’ve been fighting for their future. The oil industry and the petroholic politicians argue that we need to open these areas to secure jobs in the north. That this is the only way for young people to move back to the region. That’s bullshit. This is my region, and I have faith in it and the people here. We cannot continue to build our country on an industry that produces a product that threatens millions of people all over the world. There has to be some boundaries, also for the Norwegian oil industry. We need to leave the oil in the soil, and the most obvious place to start is to keep the areas outside the Lofoten-islands free from the oil industry.


The area holds unique cold-water reefs, pods of sperm whales and killer whales, some of the largest seabird colonies in Europe as well as being the spawning grounds of the largest remaining cod stock in the world. Why on earth would any one even consider drilling for oil here?


It’s been a long fight. In 1994 the Government opened parts of the areas for the oil industry. In 2001 Young Friends of the Earth Norway and the Bellona Foundation stopped one of the exploration rigs headed towards Lofoten. The pressure from the public on the Government was huge, and they had no other option but to order the rig to turn and go back, without succeeding in their mission. Since then we’ve secured the areas at every cross road, first in 2002, then in 2006, in 2011 and then again this year. In 2013. This year will go down in the history books as yet another year when the people stood up, against major oil companies and one of the most powerful lobby groups in Norway, and the people won. We managed to get the new minority Government, consisting of two parties who both want to open the areas for oil exploration to preserve the areas. And to put the considerations to future generations and to renewable and everlasting fisheries over the short term profit that the oil industry might give us.


In 2017 the fight continues. But I’m certain that for every time we’ve won this, it gets harder and harder for the oil industry to win. And therefore I am certain that when the time comes, we’ll win again. There is no other option.


Original story


Young Friends of the Earth Norway

Oct 01, 2013

Leader of community resistance to hydro project abducted and arrested

by Real World Radio — last modified Oct 01, 2013 05:50 PM

In the morning of Friday September 27, government agents abducted community leader Maynor Lopez in his home town, the municipality of Santa Cruz Barillas, department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Mr Lopez is a well-known activist and leader of local resistance to the hydroelectric project Santa Cruz, managed by the Spanish company Hidralia SA through its subsidiary Hidro Santa Cruz.

Held at gun point, Maynor was taken into a van, which villagers say they recognized as one of the hydro company vehicles, and subsequently transferred into a helicopter that took him to Guatemala City. There he was reportedly arrested and detained by the national police.

Commenting on the abduction, Basilio Tzoy, Advocacy Coordinator with Friends of the Earth Guatemala (Asociación CEIBA) calls it an 'act of aggression' that is part of an ongoing campaign of harassment of communities as they resist megaprojects that are forced upon them by transnational companies and the government. The situation 'revives the memories of internal armed conflict in Guatemala during the 36 years of civil war' Mr Tzoy adds in an interview with Real World Radio.

Years of repression

Resistance to the hydroelectric project in Santa Cruz Barillas started in 2007, when, in a round of popular consultations, communities overwhelmingly rejected the development of megaprojects on their territories. The conflict was further aggravated when, on May 1, 2012, gunmen ambushed and killed community leader Andres Francisco Miguel and severely injured his neighbors Pablo Antonio Pablo and Esteban Barnabas.

On the same day, the government of Otto Perez Molina declared a state of siege in the community of Santa Cruz Barillas, resulting in numerous arbitrary arrests of villagers and human rights violations. Eight human rights defenders were imprisoned for more than eight months before being released earlier this year.

Abducted twice

This is the second time that Maynor Lopez has been abducted. In May this year, he was captured and tortured under circumstances that are very similar to these. This time, he is reportedly charged with "escape, aggravated robbery, and aggravated assault with specific intent to incite crime" according to local and national newspapers.

However, behind these formal accusations looms the fact that Maynor is one of the most prominent opponents of community negotiations with the hydro company on the basis of 'restricted participation' as proposed by President Otto Peréz Molina on September 3. In addition to Maynor's sequestration, Basilio Tzoy estimates that there are about 22 arrest warrants against community advocates from Santa Cruz Barillas, and 700 police officers have been sent to the municipality to carry these out.

Resistance increases

"Santa Cruz Barillas has been in a near permanent state of assembly, with about 5000-8000 people participating in the meetings," says Basilio in reference to the scope of the resistance to the hydro project.

He also adds that eight other municipalities in the department of Huehuetenango have joined the resistance, along with communities in the department of Quiché that are fighting against other hydroelectric projects.

Finally, Basilio points out that, although the company Hidro Santa Cruz has suspended work in the region, "they have infiltrators in the communities who are organizing meetings, paying off leaders, and even threatening their own personnel."

Sep 27, 2013

Human rights crisis in Honduras

by Friends of the Earth International — last modified Sep 27, 2013 03:37 PM

September 25 was the deadline for an important defense appeal: Berta Caceres has been sentenced to serve time in prison and her colleagues' freedom of movement has been curtailed. And why? Because they stood up for a local community, the Lenca people, who were not consulted about the construction of a hydroelectric project on their lands. Let the Honduran authorities know that this violation of human rights is not acceptable. We firmly believe that Berta Cáceres's life is in danger if she is sent to prison.

Act now for human rights in Honduras!



We demand that the Honduran authorities


  1. Immediately suspend the arrest warrant against Berta Caceres

  2. Stop all judicial persecution of Aureliano Molina, Tomas Gomez and Victor Fernandez

  3. Suspend the eviction order of the Lenca people in Rio Blanco




The four activists have been working with the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to protest a planned hydroelectric project, a joint operation involving the Honduran government and a national company called Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA), in the Rio Blanco territory of the country. The population of Rio Blanco has strongly objected to the project since its inception. International human rights instruments, such as ILO Convention 169, compel the Honduran state to meaningfully consult with the local population and protect indigenous lands.


The local Lenca people, working with COPINH, have been protesting against the continued efforts by the government and DESA to push ahead with the project. The government has used the ongoing protests as a pretext to militarize the area.


DESA, a Honduran company, working with a large team of lawyers, has been engaged in legal harthrassment of the COPINH leaders for months. The activists have faced a variety of spurious charges, including, most recently, coercion, theft and damages against the company. On September 20, Judge Knight Lisseth Lissien handed down a jail sentence to Berta Caceres, and punitive measures for her colleagues – including ordering them to stay away from Rio Blanco and report every 15 days to court.

These events are taking place in the context of a widening crackdown on peaceful dissent in Honduras. Since this government seized power in a coup, opponents of the government and its interests have been intimidated, persecuted and even murdered. COPINH is one of a number of Honduran organizations who have spoken up in defense of human rights and land rights and who have faced this persecution. This cannot continue.

We demand an end to the judicial harassment of the COPINH leaders, immediate suspension of the arrest warrant for Berta Caceres, an end to the criminalization of social movements in Honduras, and respect for the right of Peoples to be consulted on projects affecting their territories.

Sep 23, 2013

Friends of the Earth International calls for the immediate release of the crew of the Arctic Sunrise.

by Friends of the Earth International — last modified Sep 23, 2013 08:45 PM

Friends of the Earth International is calling for the immediate release of the crew of the Greenpeace vessel the Arctic Sunrise.

The ship was peacefully protesting at an oil rig in the Russian Economic Exclusion Zone in international waters. The Russian coastguard attacked activists as they prepared to stage their protest, slashing inflatable dingies, firing warning shots and threatening the protesters with guns and knives. The following day, September 19, the ship was boarded by the Federal Security Bureau (FSB). It has since been towed to the Russian port of Murmansk in a move that has been widely described as illegal under international law. Following a short stint in court, the activists have been remanded in custody for the next two months, pending an investigation.


The peaceful protest targeted the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, operated by Gazprom, which is due to be the first rig to begin oil production in the delicate environment of the Arctic seas. Arctic drilling is particularly dangerous. Given the extreme weather conditions and the great distances from emergency help, the possibility of a disaster is very likely. Royal Dutch Shell, having recently been banned from drilling in the American Arctic, has partnered with Gazprom to exploit Russia's Arctic shelf.


This high profile case is taking place in the context of a broader crackdown on civil society organizations in Russia. Friends of the Earth International wishes to take this opportunity to also express its solidarity with Russian environmental and human rights organizations working in this difficult context and supports this statement regarding the Arctic Sunrise. Peaceful protests help to protect our shared environment and are fundamental to any free thinking society.

Jagoda Munic, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, said:
“It is scandalous that Greenpeace activists are facing these criminal charges in Russia following a peaceful protest to highlight the very real dangers of drilling in the Arctic - we fully support the call for their immediate release. The real crime is the continued exploitation of the Arctic – in the face of catastrophic climate change we should be leaving dirty fossil fuels in the ground.

“These activists were standing up for the millions of people who are already facing droughts, floods and a loss of their livelihoods because of climate change impacts - it's the dirty energy companies risking the lives of millions who should be answering for their activities.”


Learn more and take action on the website of Greenpeace International

Letter from Russian social and ecological organizations to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

by admin — last modified Sep 23, 2013 05:40 PM

The Russian Federal Security Bureau Border Service has detained the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise while it was situated in international waters in the vicinity of the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation, and is now escorting the ship to the port of Murmansk.

The aim of the Arctic Sunrise expedition was to draw public attention to environmentally unsound drilling in the Arctic, in particular the Gazprom Neft Shell project in the Prirazlomnoe field.

It should be noted that Gazprom Neft Shell, whose draft plan has been strongly criticized by leading Russian experts in the field of oil and gas security of production in 2012, has not fulfilled its promises to establish a dialogue with civil society and to submit project materials for public discussion.

The detention of environmental activists is particularly cynical in the Year of the Environment and on the eve of the International Arctic Forum in Salekhard, the main theme of which should be the environmental security of the Arctic.

Given the extremely high social importance of environmental security in the Arctic, as well as the exclusively peaceful nature of the actions of the protesters, public organizations of Russia and the CIS urge you to release the crew of the "Arctic Sunrise" and the activists that are on it.

Signed by more then forty Russian human rights and environmental organizations. Read the original letter in Russian here.

Update: Honduran court calls for the imprisonment of activist Bertha Cáceres

by Denis Burke — last modified Sep 23, 2013 01:45 PM

Honduran and international social movements have spoken out against the sentencing of Bertha Cáceres , Aureliano Molina and Thomas Gomez, members of COPINH members (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) last Friday, September 20. They were charged with theft, coercion and damage to DESA , a company implementing a hydroelectric project in the ancestral lands of the indigenous Lenca.

The decision, taken by Judge Reyes Lissien Knight (who did not appear in court), as requested by the Public Ministry and the company, included prison for COPINH coordinator, Berta Caceres and punitive measures for her fellow activists.


The charges are a government response to the activists' peaceful efforts to defend community lands, indigenous knowledge, and local ecosystems.


Friends of the Earth International is urgently consulting with local partners and hopes to provide further updates in the near future. Spanish speakers can listen to interviews and updates on Radio Mundo Real.


We are very grateful for all of your support so far.

Sep 20, 2013

The financial sector's hostile take over of nature

by Isaac Rojas and Lúcia Ortiz — last modified Sep 20, 2013 03:00 PM

Surprising as it may seem, many environmentalists are opposed to large-scale tree plantations.

September 21 is the International Day against Tree Plantations:  industrial-scale tree monocultures that produce pulp for paper, wood, oils and agrofuels.

There has been a massive finance-driven increase in large-scale plantations over the last few years.

As part of efforts to counter climate change, large-scale tree plantations have also been increasingly posited as "carbon sinks" and have started to "generate" tradeable carbon credits in financial markets.

Several financial institutions, large corporations and investment banks are 'financialising' nature: a process whereby financial markets create new "financial assets" and new ownership rights.

But continuing to 'financialise' nature will surely lead to  disaster, considering the abundance of financial crises-in-the-making dotting the landscape. [1]

Financialisation reduces the value of everything traded to its financial utility -- or a derivative of this -- whose future price, in the case of nature, is proportionate to its scarcity. With the ongoing destruction of the environment, this scarcity is likely to become increasingly lucrative.

Financialisation allows large corporations and industrialised countries to continue releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere guilt-free while buying hollow carbon credits.

But nature, biodiversity and forests need to be protected and not subjected to speculation on irresponsible financial markets.

Moreover, positing tree plantations as 'carbon sinks' is a patently false solution, which utterly fails to compensate for the loss of native forests.

Serious doubts exist about the quantity of carbon these plantations really absorb and the length of time that it remains absorbed.

Plantations are not forests. Plantations do not possess the rich biological and social diversity that characterizes forests. On the contrary, they have serious negative consequences: displacement of entire communities, violations of peoples' rights, damage to local culture, widespread violence, pesticide pollution, loss of biological diversity and disturbance of hydrological cycles.

All of which has enormous consequences for nature and the communities who depend on it, with women being particularly affected. Unfortunately, there are many examples of the destruction of cultures, and historical and communal rights as a result of large-scale plantations.

What we need is more forests managed by local communities and fewer plantations managed and financed by large corporations.  

Unfortunately, the interests of large corporations drive reforms in national and international politics, which helps them to take control of biodiversity and forests.

Contrary to common sense and the demands of civil society organisations, financial markets are infiltrating the economy and society more and more under the guise of the "natural resource economics".

Financial markets, institutions and elites are continuing to increase not just profits but also an enormous influence over economic policy. The state is increasingly serving the interests of the financial markets and elites.

At the same time, this process translates into greater social, workplace and environmental exploitation. Similarly it overturns the rights won by Indigenous People and the role of the state in securing those rights.

Financialisation harms biodiversity and nature, by subjecting them to ownership and control as financial assets.

But we can still stop the financialisation of nature. This significant step would defend forests, communities and Indigenous People, as well as help to halt corporate control of nature.


[1] The Economist, September 7, 2013 : 'Where's the next Lehman?' Editorial, page 12.

Sep 19, 2013

September 21: International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations

by Denis Burke — last modified Sep 19, 2013 03:35 PM

You don't just build forest

Monoculture tree plantations have been posited as solutions to a wide array of environmental problems, notably as a contributing solution to climate change. We define monoculture tree plantations as industrial-scale tree monocultures that produce pulp for paper, wood, oils and agrofuels. Unfortunately the logic informing these assertions is fundamentally flawed – you don't just build forest. The video below from Radio Mundo Real explains...


Silent Occupation from Radio Mundo Real on Vimeo.



But more worrying still, is that the practice of throwing up these artificial forests around the world has led to some deeply disturbing practices. People have lost their land, animal habitats have been destroyed, and irreparable damage has been done to natural and historical heritage.

Hand in hand with this phenomenon is the financialisation of nature, a process whereby financial markets create new "financial assets" and new ownership rights for all things in nature.

You can read more about Friends of the Earth International's commentary on this year's International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations.


Friends of the Earth International's commentary on this year's International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations


More on Financialisation of Nature


Even more (this one is very detailed but well worth the read!)

The dangers of standing up for human rights and the environment in Honduras

by Denis Burke — last modified Sep 19, 2013 03:20 PM

Three activists from Honduras will go to court tomorrow (September 20) on trumped-up charges brought by the government. The false charges are a government response to their organization's peaceful efforts to defend community lands, indigenous knowledge, and the local ecosystem. The Honduran government has often proven sensitive to international pressure. Let's put the pressure on again. Please sign and SHARE this petition far and wide!

Civil society organisations welcome Ecuador's call for greater international oversight of TNCs

by Denis Burke — last modified Sep 19, 2013 03:20 PM

Ecuador led a call to the UN Human Rights Council to create more binding, enforceable, international human rights obligations for transnational corporations (TNCs), on Friday September 13. Ecuador's petition is supported by nine other nations, mostly from the South , and hundreds of civil society organizations worldwide, including Friends of the Earth International. TNCs continue to bear a large share of the blame for environmental, social and labor abuses around the world. Too often, unsafe or inhumane working conditions and environmental degradation lie in the dark shadows cast by giant TNCs .

The Ecuador petition is a sign of growing impatience with an ongoing process, which has been personified in the figure of Professor John Rugge, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). To (over) simplify, the principles are a set of voluntary guidelines, obliging signatories (including businesses) to take responsibility for their operations and to do 'due diligence' on the human rights contexts in their spheres of operation. The principles, though still in a relatively early phase of development, have been popularly slammed for not going far enough. This latest Ecuadoran initiative is welcomed by over one hundred social movements and civil society organizations, including Friends of the Earth International. They argue that the voluntary framework is symptomatic of a CSR-led approach that facilitates corporate impunity by allowing TNCs to appear to remedy the ill consequences of their operations, without taking any meaningful action at all.


Looking at the events of recent years reveals many instances of the persistence of corporate impunity and government failure to take action. The workers killed and injured in the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, the slaughter of miners in the Lonmin Plcs platinum mine in South Africa, or Ecuador's failure to comply with the decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding the Sarayaku indigenous people are just some of the many examples of the failure of businesses and governments to meet their obligations.


“There is no doubt that transnational corporations have the obligation to respect the law, and if they do not, they must suffer the civil and penal sanctions,” said Lucia Ortiz, Coordinator of the Economic Justice Program of Friends of the Earth International. And face the consequences they must, but questions persist about how best to do this. However, characterizing the Ecuadoran initiative as new is to forget that it is just one in a series of (often far more elaborate and detailed) proposals such as the 2003 'Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights', which have, like their voluntary counterparts, failed to introduce meaningful, binding mechanisms.


Problems to the implementation of a working set of human rights laws that would hold TNCs and their mother governments responsible for their actions are manifold. TNCs often fight hard to resist regulation. Existing approaches, whether products of the UN Human Rights Council, the International Labour Organization, or a regional human rights body, are all largely unenforceable. More worrying still is that national laws and regulations covering workplace safety, environmental responsibilities, etc. are often comprehensive, robust and utterly ignored in many 'competitive' countries around the world where human rights abuses are rife. Meanwhile, countries that are home to some of the world's largest corporations, such as Canada, the USA, China, Brazil and many EU countries, are unwilling to fully implement the oversights necessary to ensure that companies with a home within their borders respect human rights in their operations.


The trouble with voluntary principles is that many parties view them as an almighty standard of correct human rights behavior; a rubber stamp to be flaunted for its apparent merit, but sorely lacking in real meaning and consequence. While due diligence and other aspects of any voluntary principles are only to be commended, they certainly are not enough to ensure fair treatment for people around the world or the minimization of the environmental violence perpetrated by so many TNCs, so in critiquing the damaging elements of the UNGPs and other CSR strategies we would be unwise to ditch the baby with the bath water. Likewise, if the Ecuador led proposal is to stand out from earlier, similar incarnations, further thinking is needed on how to ensure compliance and the cooperation of governments and businesses.

Document Actions