Margarita Declaration from Venezuela calls for eradication of dirty energy

Activists from Friends of the Earth, including from Justiça Ambiental, were present at the preparatory meeting for the social pre-COP held in Venezuela in July 2014. We were among about 280 activists from 130 civil society organisations, from Venezuela and across the world. We met for 4 days at Isla Margarita, an island off the mainland of Venezuela, to move to defeat climate change.

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Activists at Isla Margarita for the social pre-COP

This social pre-COP was a unique event. There is a pre-COP held every year before the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COPs, which are the official UN climate change negotiations. However, civil society is usually never included in the pre-COP. This time, the Venezuelan government had a vision to involve civil society and make this a social pre-COP.

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Claudia Salerno. Photo credit: Zack Embree

In fact, the Venezuela government had to make a special effort to politely decline the meddling of the UNFCCC Secretariat in this July meeting that just happened. The pre-COP is being held in 2 parts, one in July and the other in early November. The Secretariat was discouraged from attending the July meeting because the space was for civil society to speak to one another freely. This was a very positive step and allowed rich exchange between civil society organisations and social movements from 6 continents. There was also a bit of freedom to deviate from the strict, alienating language of the UNFCCC space. Usually, the UNFCCC requires people to learn a whole new language to engage with the space. “Do you speak climate change?” asked Claudia Salerno, the Vice-Minister of Venezuela, while she was addressing a climate justice assembly. The July meeting allowed the space for the peoples’ demands in our own words.

The content discussions took place in 5 mesas (roundtables), namely: (1) Social Impacts of Climate Change, (2) Climate and Ethics: differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, (3) Social participation to combat climate change, (4) Social Action for transformation, (5) Empowering Actions in Developing Countries.

Each mesa debated issues under their topic and finalised the language they would like to contribute to the final declaration. It was very important that the declaration process was driven almost entirely by the people, not by governments or by bureaucrats. When the final Margarita declaration was read out by the Venezuela government officials late afternoon on Friday, 18 July, the words were of the participants.

The Margarita Declaration was quite an inspiring document, and included strong statements like calling for the eradication of dirty energy and talked about leaving 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to stop catastrophic climate change.

Vice-Minister Salerno acknowledged that Venezuela also needs to change, and that developing countries need a just transition away from dirty energy. This was a big step. At a time when other governments, from USA to Australia, India to Indonesia, Argentina to Mozambique all want to ignore climate science and increase dirty energy, this acknowledgement is a step in the right direction.

The declaration acknowledged the historical responsibility of developed countries in creating the crisis and demanded them to reduce emissions drastically, while also providing finance and technology to developing countries so we can provide our people with energy and a life of dignity without dirty and harmful energy.

Responding to the corporate capture of UN spaces and governments, the declaration rejected the interference of corporations in UN decisions.

The declaration unequivocally rejected false solutions to the climate crisis, including carbon markets, commodification of life; geo-engineering, agrofuels, agrotoxics, ‘green economy’, intellectual property rights; the mega-dams, monocultures and nuclear energy.

Notably, the declaration stated that fighting climate change needs a transformation of the economic, political, social and cultural systems at all levels. We need to transform the consumption model into Buen Vivir (Good Living) and global cooperative societies. We agree and, interestingly, JA hosted a seminar on Buen Vivir in Catembe last September.

It was interesting to reflect on Mozambique’s experience while watching Venezuela’s reaction to the declaration. Mozambique also has no historical responsibility for climate change. However, our country is going full steam ahead with dirty energy development, most of which is not even for our people, but rather it is being sold to the highest bidder and shipped out of the ports. We demand community-owned renewable energy to meet the needs of our people, not large-scale dirty energy for elites. You can find the Margarita declaration in English and Spanish.

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 Activists at pre-COP showing solidarity with Gaza. Photo credit: Jagoda Munic

Ramesh Agrawal: Fighting Jindal’s bullets with information and solidarity

As he hobbled up to the stage with a walking stick on one side, and supported by his son on the other, the crowd cheered loudly. Ramesh Agrawal was one of the amazing people who won the coveted Goldman Environmental Prize this year. He was honoured at a ceremony in San Francisco, where JA staff where present. We also met and interviewed him a few days before the prize was announced.

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Photo courtesy: Goldman Environmental Prize

Ramesh Agrawal, who is respectfully called Rameshji in India, is from an organisation called Jan Chetna Manch, meaning a platform to raise peoples’ consciousness.

 

He lives in Chattisgarh state of eastern India, which is rich in mineral resources and because of this there has been a huge attack on the lands and resources of the local people by the state in conjunction with corporations. It is a state with a high percentage of tribal communities.

 

Through a small internet café which Rameshji runs, he organised local communities to use the right to information as a powerful tool to learn about and challenge ‘development’ projects planned in their areas. One of the main companies who he has been targeting is Jindal Steel & Power, the same company which is also currently mining coal in Tete province, Mozambique.

 

In July 2013, Jindal sent its goons who went into Rameshji’s internet café, shot at him and left him to die. They commented that he had been writing too much these days and needed to be taught a lesson. Somehow Rameshji managed to make a phone call and get help. But he has been severely harmed by the bullets that entered his body.

 

This wasn’t the first time Rameshji had been targeted by the state-corporate nexus. In May 2011, he was arrested on falsified charges of extortion and defamation. At 4am his house was surrounded and he was arrested and jailed for 72 days without bail. Surprisingly, the charges against him had been filed a year ago, in 2010. Yet he was arrested only a year later, making a mockery of the justice system.

 

Why was he being targeted? Rameshji was actively using information to organise people and to oppose irregularities in Jindal’s coal blocks in the state. They were doing construction on government land without proper land acquisition and without an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

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Photo courtesy: Goldman Environmental Prize

This is really striking because Jindal in Mozambique has been operating in similar ways. They have been mining coal without an EIA and with communities still living in the mining zone; they are having health problems and even their right to movement has even been severely hampered.

 

Rameshji told us that Jindal’s coal mining is causing pollution and coal ash in the air. This has impacted the lives of people. They are unable to make their traditional food badi anymore because they have no place to dry it without contamination from the coal ash. It is interesting that communities are facing such a similar situation in Mozambique where they have no place to dry their mandioca without coal contamination.

 

Of course the threats of Jindal are well known in Mozambique too. Rameshji explained that Jindal’s policy on those calling out for justice is clear: bribe them, threaten them to make them back down, or if that fails then remove them.

 

Jindal is politically well-connected and they run an active public relations to portray a ‘clean image’. This is also their weakness, that they are quite concerned about their image with banks, share markets, consortiums, etc.

 

Through talking to Rameshji, we learnt of the struggles of communities in India against Jindal which are so similar to the struggles of communities in Mozambique against the same company. We need to strengthen communities on both sides to gain information and to fight for their rights together.

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Photo: Justiça Ambiental

 

 

Press release: Mining…where are the rights of communities?

The Indian mining company, Jindal, tried for the third time in less than 1 year to derail the work of a Justiça Ambiental (JA!) team on the 4th of this month during the data collection of the research, monitoring, and advocacy in Changara district, Tete province. The JA team, composed of three members, were barred, intimidated, and threatened by certain Jindal officials when they tried to visit the community of Cassoca.

Jindal is operating one of the largest open pit coal mines running since 2013 whose total area includes communal lands and the communities themselves who have always lived in this area. They remain in the area with the mine in full operation and are victims of constant violation of their most basic rights and fundamental freedoms, including land rights and violation of their right to the environment due to air pollution caused by Jindal. The area of the mine was ceded by the Government of Mozambique and the mine went into operation without the Environmental Impact Study having been completed and approved in accordance with the law. No resettlement has occurred nor any other form of protecting the rights of communities affected by the mine.

The team of JA! intended to visit the community of Cassoca and upon reaching the gate that gives access to the company’s offices and the concession area of Jindal, the only means of access, they duly identified and informed the guards at the place where we intended to go as well as the work to be done. However, the team was immediately told they would have to obtain authorization from local superiors to allow the completion of the work in question. Moreover, the security team reported that the JA team should present themselves to the advisor of the company and the head of social affairs, resettlement, and corporate social responsibility. Indeed, we were received by a team of 6 people, including two local village leaders of Cassoca as well as employees of Jindal, who raised various issues, particularly regarding the interest of the JA team in that community and who suggested that instead of talking to community members the JA team should talk with the community leaders present there who, according to them, were the most suitable people to provide information. Our refusal of this proposal and insistence upon speaking directly with community members caused much discomfort and immediately brought an end to the little cordiality demonstrated, the atmosphere became heavy, with an intimidating discourse.

The advisor of Jindal and the head of social affairs and inter-industrial relations unfairly accused the JA team of being responsible for and instigating the protests carried out by the communities against Jindal as well as instigating violence. This interrogation lasted about two hours and in the end, the team was told in a threatening tone that they could go to Cassoca but that Jindal was not to blame for what might come to pass to the JA team as a result of the visit.
Therefore, the attitude of Jindal consisted once more of illegally impeding, through threats, intimidation, and restriction of the right to freedom of movement, the contact of JA with the communities that lie within the concession area.

Jindal does not want Mozambican society and the international community to be aware of the impacts of their activities on communities. Given these attitudes of Jindal which has been recurring, why does the Government remain silent in face of the various irregularities of the company and in the few situations in which it professes to do so in defense of these? And who defends the interests of the communities?

Maputo, 16 June 2014

JA! JUSTIÇA AMBIENTAL
Av.Mao Tsé Tung Nº 549, 1º Andar Direito, Maputo
Contact: 82 3061275 / 21 496668
E-mail: jamoz2010@gmail.com

 

 

A Socially-Dangerous, Environmentally-Careless, Unclear and Far-from-Transparent Development Path

Is this what you call development?

A few weeks ago, in a meeting held in Maputo about the controversial Anadarko and Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos natural gas project in Palma, Cabo Delgado, we heard the ENH representative say in a pleading tone that we all have a part to play in Palma, since we all have in common the desire to see the country develop and grow.

Well, right… and wrong.

Right, because we truly do want to see the country develop and we are perfectly aware that for the sake of that development sacrifices must be made, but if the idea is to sacrifice the local communities’ right to a good standard of living, then definitely wrong.

What if, as a result of that sacrifice, Mozambique and Mozambicans in general get huge benefits?

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Photo: Communities that will be affected by the proposed destructive Mphanda Nkuwa dam on the Zambezi river.

Well, if the investment is really going to bring benefits to Mozambique and all Mozambicans, we believe that those directly affected by the project should be the first to be properly rewarded by it, rather than just compensated. They have to be the project’s main beneficiaries. If that is not possible and, like some of the megaprojects which have been implemented in our country in recent years, it turns out that that questionable development only helps the poor get even poorer, then the answer to the question above must be “thanks, but no thanks”. We are not going to throw someone into a volcano so that the rest can have prosperity.

Public consultation? What for?

The blatant proof of how dangerous is the development path we are being dragged into (and we say path and not plan because we do not believe there is any plan at all) is the way the purpose of public consultations has been wickedly subverted by the system. Public consultation processes, as they exist today, are nothing but sheer formalities; bureaucratic exercises for the sake of appearances that despite having been created to safeguard the rights and interests of the people, are nothing but propagandist meetings where the government officials place themselves on the side of the project proponents. These meetings are of an informative nature and only exist to validate the idea that the communities have been consulted and agreed on the project, when most of the times they do not understand its possible consequences and repercussions, nor the potential gains they could or should demand in return. Oblivious of their rights and made vulnerable due to the lack of reliable support and advice from a government that, truth be said, seems to be more worried about making money than defending the future and the interests of the Mozambican people, some communities end up becoming easy prey.

“What are we supposed to do then? Sit on top of our wealth and keep starving?”

Well, we would be lying if we said that it would not please us to see the country change its investment policies: stop investing in extractive industries and mining, abandon the idea of building dams and thermoelectric centrals to feed those industries, support agricultural projects for peasants – no agribusiness, no monocultures and no agrichemicals, stop allowing the wood industry to destroy our forests, etc.

Basically, as we have stated in previous occasions, our notion of progress and development is completely different to our government’s, but we are not as naïve or as radical as we are often conveniently portrayed, and, as we have mentioned earlier, we understand perfectly that sometimes sacrifices must be made for the common good. Nevertheless, in our humble opinion, justifying those sacrifices with a vague “fight against absolute poverty” speech, without explaining how, is, in the best of chances, an insult to our intelligence. That, we believe, is one of the biggest flaws of our actual government.

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Photo: Coal-mining affected communities learn about their Constitution and rights in Tete province

What is the plan?

If our government promised us an honest answer to a single question only, that question would be: What is the long-term plan you have for the country? We honestly cannot figure it out.

In 35-40 years time, when the coal, the natural gas, the oil and the wood are finished, when the agribusiness and its tools have severely debilitated the fertility of our soils and our biodiversity has been depleted by all these actors, what use will we have for an infrastructure build to attend the needs of today’s companies and their labour? What are we doing to guarantee that in the future, cities like Tete and Nacala will not become white elephants? Ghost towns deserted and abandoned like many that exist today in the world. Orphans of yesterday’s development… Are we thinking about it? What are we doing for the future of national tourism? For the thousands of tourist operators in the country who today, due to the political and military tension we are going through, have barely any costumers and are faced with the possibility or having to close their businesses? Are we giving them tax exemptions and incentives so that they can survive? Other than the gigantic parcels of land we are giving to foreign corporations (always at the expense of coercively moving thousands of Mozambicans) so that they can grow corn, soya beans and rice for export, what are we doing to significantly increase Mozambique’s food production?

2014 Message from JA!

Dear comrades,

As 2013 ends, we are forced to consider that the year saw the situation in Mozambique deteriorating quite a bit.  Already in 2012, there was a marked decrease in the civil society space and a lack of openness for serious and transparent dialogue with the government. We entered 2013 with hope, convinced that things certainly could not get worse. Today, we don’t know how to evaluate the year that ended yesterday, nor what to expect from what’s coming up. Across the country, human rights crimes and violations only increased, along with land grabbing, conflicts between communities and investors, and the destruction of our natural resources by corporations in the name of ‘development’. The denounces by civil society increased, but somehow we kept being ignored by our legal system, which should be sorting out the many injustices resulting from the investment boom, but instead is busy with other issues.

We needed to have a huge imagination to predict that 2013 could be worse than 2012. Who could have imagined that the military and political tension would bring us back to arms. This came along with the wave of kidnappings and total sense of public insecurity for the people

But despite the hostile climate, civil society in Mozambique continued its work. With all the threats, constraints and usual total disregard for our work, JA and other allied NGOs remained united in the fight against the large land-grabbing of ProSavana and support to subsistence farmers, support to communities displaced by coal mining in Tete province, in fighting the implementation of REDD projects in Africa, combating land-grabbing by Wambao agriculture and all over the country, in short, the usual fights.

Although for the worst reasons, but 2013 saw an emotional, exciting and prominent event in Mozambique. On 31 October, more than 30,000 Mozambicans citizens took to the streets to participate in a vibrant peace march.

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We protested peacefully with chants of ‘No to war!’ ‘No to corruption!’ ‘No to kidnaping abductions and insecurity!’ And, the big one, ‘Down with the government!’ was shouted in unison through the streets of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, but also in other cities such as Beira, Pemba, Quelimane, Nampula and certainly to a lesser extent in many other parts of the country. It was a perfect demonstration of how the Mozambican people are tired of false promises and hollow speeches. The people took to the streets to say ‘BASTA!’ (Enough)

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But the year was not over yet…

In November we had local-level elections and all the problems that arise repeatedly in our country (with an absurd normalcy) of what should be a simple democratic exercise including deaths, fraud, assault and more. It was sad and shameful indeed. Attacks on civil society continued.

To close the year, the cherry on the cake was that in early December, Mozambican academic Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco was summoned by the Attorney General & criminal proceedings were brought against him and the media outlets, Canal de Moçambique and Mediafax. All this was because he wrote a harsh open letter to the President, Armando Guebuza criticizing his governance and the two media outlets published it.

Mediafax has explained that the two newspapers are accused of abuse of press freedom for publishing Castel-Branco’s letter. Once again the government has used imagination and creativity to shrink the space. Abuse of freedom! Are journalists no longer free to publish opinions of individuals? Worse, do citizens still have the right to give their opinions? Or are we about to lose one of our most fundamental rights?

Critical thinking and opinion are fundamental to the development of a society. If wrong, absurd and/ or radical, the ideas expressed should be challenged in the same way: BY WORDS.

Across the world, every day, governments and rulers are subject to criticism and always will be! Especially when they forget who they represent… Who does like being criticized, should not enter into politics.

“If the process moves forward and ends in conviction, our freedoms will be threatened,” wrote Dr Alice Mabote of Mozambican Human Rights League in an open solidarity letter to Castel-Branco, challenging the Prosecutor to also add to the prosecution list her and all other Mozambicans who criticize the “mis-governance” of Armando Guebuza.

These proceedings are absurd. JA joins civil society in denouncing them and we extend our full solidarity to Professor Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco, Canal de Moçambique and Mediafax and calls for civil society and the Mozambican media to not be intimidated.

We will continue the struggle for environmental justice, social justice, for a better future for future generations and for a better world where differences are resolved by exchanging ideas and not bullets. Our words are our weapons, and because we are right, sooner or later we will win with them!

“In the pursuit of truth, it is forbidden to put words in handcuffs,” said Carlos Cardoso, Mozambican journalist assassinated in 2000.

A luta continua!

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The JA team wishes everyone a justice-filled 2014.

All photo credits: JA

NEW REPORT ON INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY EXPOSES HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN MOZAMBIQUE; BUT THE UN RAPPORTEUR REFUSES TO ANSWER US

On the 10th of December, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, a new report was released titled Dirty Profits 2: Report on Companies and Financial Institutions Benefiting from Violations of Human Rights.

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The report was released by the Facing Finance campaign, which “calls on investors not to invest in companies profiting from violations of human rights, environmental pollution, corruption or the production of controversial weapons.” Justiça Ambiental (JA, Friends of the Earth Mozambique) is also a part of the campaign, along with Urgewald, Earthlink, SODI, etc.

The report puts a spotlight of shame on almost 40 companies and financial institutions that are building profits on the backs of human rights violations and environmental destruction all over the globe, from Mozambique to Indonesia, Nigeria to Colombia, Chile, India and West Virginia (USA).

JA provided information to expose the human rights violations being caused by dirty energy companies, Vale SA and Jindal Steel & Power, both of which are mining coal in Mozambique’s Tete province.

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This report confirms human rights violations in coal mining in Mozambique, just as 7 months have passed since JA wrote to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Professor Raquel Rolnik, who is Brazilian and is based in São Paulo. In April 2013, JA submitted to her office a Letter of Allegation regarding Human Rights Abuses in Cateme, Mozambique. Cateme is where the Brazilian company, Vale has resettled some of its mining-displaced families. We requested confirmation that her office had received the complaint, and they confirmed so. However, despite 7 months having passed, and despite many reminders, we are still yet to hear back about Ms. Rolnik’s process of verification, responses from Vale or the Mozambican government. We have received no information till date, no indication that she intends to do anything at all with the complaint. Her silence is shocking.

WATER FINANCIALIZATION EXPOSED IN NEW REPORT ON EVE OF WTO MEETING; INCLUDES CRITIQUE OF PROPOSED MPHANDA NKUWA DAM IN MOZAMBIQUE

Tomorrow, December 3, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks are to begin in Bali. More information about the WTO talks in Bali can be found here. Today, on the eve of these talks, Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) launched a new report exposing how trade and investment strategies, including WTO negotiations, act as economic drivers of water financialization. The report is available online here.

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Justiça Ambiental (JA, FoE Mozambique) provided a case study, and was joined by cases from Argentina, Australia, Colombia, El Salvador, England, Mexico, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, United States, and Uruguay.

The cases show the crimes of many corporations, financial institutions, trade agreements and cooperation strategies which are paving the way for water privatisation and financialisation.

A shocking case study in this report exposes the major water injustices faced by Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip). Highly unequal distribution of water and structural barriers to water was also witnessed by Daniel of JA who joined a solidarity trip to the West bank last month. Most water resources are concentrated in the hands of Israel and this is leading to structural environmental racism.

JA’s case study called “Do not damage our life” exposes how the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam will further devastate the Zambezi valley. The beautiful Zambezi River, one of Africa’s most important rivers, has been dammed in 2 places already: the Kariba dam in Zimbabwe/ Zambia and the colonial day Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique. Now the Mozambican government wants to build a new dam just 70kms downstream from Cahora Bassa. This dam will further devastate the Zambezi delta ecology and will displace communities from their homes, villages and livelihoods. JA has been opposing this dam for over 12 years now.

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Senhor Morais and his family, which will be affected by the proposed dam. Photo credit: Anabela Lemos

But yet this destructive dam continues to be planned. Recently it was revealed that there are significant conflicts of interest and involvement at the highest levels: with the Presidents of South Africa (Zuma) and Mozambique (Guebuza). A recent article by Oxford scholar and JA member, James Morrissey in the Mail and Guardian exposes how personal self-interest and corporate interest are outweighing lives and livelihoods in the Zambezi valley.

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Traditional boat-making in the Zambezi valley. Photo credit: Daniel Ribeiro

CIVIL SOCIETY WALKS OUT OF WARSAW CLIMATE TALKS, SAYS HOPE LIES WITH BUILDING PEOPLES’ POWER

Yesterday was a fantastic day in Warsaw, where the Friends of the Earth International delegation including Justiça Ambiental (JA!, FoE Mozambique), joined 800 people from social movements, NGOs and Trade Unions in a massive walk-out of the COP19 climate talks.

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Photo credit: Luka Tomac

Following an ad-hoc press conference with representatives of some of the groups who were joining the walk-out, we filled the corridors of the conference centre walking in a calm and dignified way. Our T-shirts carried the message “polluters talk, we walk” and #volveremos – which means “we will be back” in Spanish, as we build up to COP20 in Peru next year.

“Developed nations governments have been hijacked by corporate polluters and their positions prevented even a minimal progress of the talks. Developed country governments actions in Warsaw demonstrate that they are listening to polluters such as Shell and ArcelorMittal instead of their own people, said Dipti Bhatnagar, Climate Justice and Energy coordinator of Friends of the Earth International and JA!

After the walkout, at the convergence space managed by Polish youth across the river from the COP venue, we gathered to hear moving, empowering and challenging reflections from some of the people who had organsied and participated in the walk-out. We will be meeting again today afternoon with some of these groups to discuss some next steps in building a movement for climate justice.

Warsaw COP19 is one of the most corporate-captured COPs ever, where the Polish hosts officially listed their corporate partners at the COP, including corporations pushing destructive dirty energy across the globe. It is in this context that several southern movements called for ‘redlines’: to cut emissionsprovide real finance and help impacted people. These are absolute basics that we need to get out of COP19. Now the moment has come that it is clear these ‘redlines’ are very far away from being realised by the COP presidency and the world leaders.

We agreed with the movements and NGOs to leave this COP and call for governments to prepare a serious just and binding agreement in the next couple of years. We didn’t walk out of the UNFCCC process. At least, the UN is a supposedly democratic international space for getting a desperately-needed legally-binding, equitable and ambitious treaty. But it has been captured and hence has not been delivering much-needed ambition and finance.

The support we have felt has been fantastic. FoE groups around the world have been taking action together, on social media and on the streets.

Here are some of the media statements produced:

FoEI press release:
http://www.foei.org/en/latest-news

FoEE press release:
http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/news/media_statement_on_ngos_walk_out_from_cop19.pdf

YFoEE press release:
https://www.foeeurope.org/yfoee/press-release-polluters-talk-we-walk-21112013

Images:
Polluters talk album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/foeeurope/sets/72157637908817256
Full COP19 album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/foeeurope/sets/72157637776415645
Young FoEE album:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/youngfoee/sets/72157637906549166/

Social media:
https://www.facebook.com/FoEEurope
https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/volveremos
https://www.facebook.com/YoungFoEE

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/foeeurope
https://twitter.com/youngfoee

#volveremos
#COP19

REDD Alert

JA & NRAN Film Screening

Recently, JA and the No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN) held an event on REDD. The event was to commemorate the Week of Action Against False Solutions which was within the Reclaim Power: Global Month of Action on Energy. The Month of Action ended on Monday, with the opening day of COP19 in Warsaw, Poland, where once again world leaders will get together to postpone urgent action on climate and ignore the fact that we’re hurtling towards climate disaster.

For our REDD event, we gathered together in the Museum of Natural History in Maputo with a small but spirited group. Samuel Mondlane moderated the meeting. JA’s Director, Anabela Lemos introduced the debate around REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), calling it a false solution for the climate crisis.

We showed a few films criticising carbon trading, offsetting and REDD, calling them dangerous distractions that were avoiding the real solutions from being applied to stop catastrophic climate change, such as reducing fossil fuel use.

After the films, we opened up for a discussion on what people had seen in the films. This discussion is very important, because, in Mozambique, the debate of whether or not REDD is good for the country, had not taken place. It was only assumed that since money was coming in, Mozambique should take it, without any discussion of the dangers and perverse incentives behind it. See below our flyer for the event.

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JA had sparked these discussions a few months ago, with the REDD workshop that we held in Maputo in August 2013. We were able to bring some key international people to Maputo, and facilitate their connections and information-sharing with Mozambican community people and NGOs.

The international key people that came together for the meeting were:

  • Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network
  • Nnimmo Bassey, Environmental Rights Action & Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria
  • Isaac Rojas, Coordinator, Forests & Biodiversity program, Friends of the Earth International
  • Winnie Overbeek, World Rainforest Movement
  • Cassandra Smithies, fierce anti-REDDs activist from the US
  • Blessing Karumbidza, Timberwatch, South Africa
  • Odey Oyama, Rainforest Resource and Development Centre, Cross River state, Nigeria
  • Jonas Aparecido, Landless Peoples’ Movement and community person, Brazil
  • Augusto Juncal, Landless Peoples’ Movement & Via Campesina Brazil
  • Diwirgui Anastacio Martinez Jimenez, community person from Kuna tribe, Panama
  • Makoma Lekalakala, earthlife Africa Johannesburg
  • Blessol Wambui, The Rules, Nairobi
  • Khadija Sharife, Center for Civil Society, South Africa
  • Abdullah Vawda, Forum of African Investigative Reporters, South Africa

It was also very important for JA to invite community people and farmers. We managed to bring farmers from 8 out of 10 provinces of Mozambique, including Niassa, Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Zambezia, Tete, Sofala, Gaza, and Maputo. There were multiple community people from some of these provinces. JA’s close partner, União Nacional de Camponeses (UNAC, National Farmers Union) allied with this process and sent many of their community members.

This was important because we felt it was crucial to open up a dialogue not just with people in Maputo, but people in the provinces who will be directly confronted and affected by REDD or REDD-type projects. The involvement of community people in decision-making is crucial to good governance structures and justice. We also invited NGOs and government people from Maputo, so that there could be a good, healthy discussion, which had not happened before.

The 1st day of the workshop – lots of information sharing and debate

The first day of the workshop provided a lot of information on REDD. Isaac and Winnie introduced REDD. Tom gave an emotive presentation about REDD in North America. Cassandra spoke about the opposition to REDD in many parts of Latin America, and explained the connections between the California Climate Change Bill trying to offset emissions by pushing REDD in Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil. Diwirgui and Jonas talked about the REDD opposition in their communities.

After this global perspective, we then starting talking about REDD in Africa. Odey of Nigeria and Blessing of South Africa provided perspectives of fierce REDD opposition in their contexts. The final case was presented by Boaventura of Via Campesina Mozambique, talking about a problematic REDD project right here in the country.

Main themes from the 1st day

The first day’s presentations and discussions were incredibly rich and detailed. We heard about climate change and what it means for our people. It increases droughts and floods; it increases temperatures especially here in Africa. It affects our lands, water and, more importantly, the farmers. Climate change impacts rivers and rain and weather patterns, that’s how it affects farmers. The crops start to fail, the land starts to get drier and more barren.

We heard from Tom about the links between dirty energy burning in the northern countries and these REDD projects in the south. We heard that those who created the climate problem to begin with, are continuing to make it worse. They are continuing to burn dirtier forms of coal, oil and gas, such as the tar sands.

Then they come to the southern countries, trying to ‘offset’ their emissions from burning the dirty energy. As JA Director Anabela Lemos explained, the carbon credits come from the Kyoto Protocol, it is abstract, and it doesn’t exist. So they come to the southern countries to ‘offset’ their emissions. In Africa, Asia, Latin America, where we still have forests left, they engage in large land grabs under the excuse that they will save the forests. We heard from Blessing regarding REDD in Tanzania. We heard from Odey regarding REDD in Nigeria and from Diwirgui about the struggle of the Kuna people against REDD in Panama. The story is the same everywhere in the world.

We heard some strong phrases about REDD and land grab and what it’s doing to this continent of Africa. We heard the phrase ‘green-grabbing’. We also heard the phrase ‘second colonialism’. Many countries in the south went through colonialism. They want the land, the resources under our land, and this is why people are calling it a ‘second colonialism’. Will we fight it again or not? We also heard the phrase ‘green masks’ that the big international conservation organisations are wearing and pretending as if REDD can save the forests. In reality, REDD is about buying the forests, cutting them down and turning them into plantations which are just green deserts.

The 2nd day of the workshop

For the 2nd day, we heard from Jonas and from Manito Lopes, a community member from Zambezia province, Mozambique, about community forest management providing much better options than REDD to safeguard forests.

The REDD workshop was a huge success. We had great participation from international, Mozambican community members as well as Maputo-based NGOs. We raised awareness about the very real dangers of REDD. We together released a Maputo Declaration on REDD, available here.

The 3rd day’s meeting was a closed NRAN strategy meeting. JA is committed to continuing the No REDD struggles in Mozambique, Africa and beyond.

What Lies Beyond?

Last week, JA co-hosted an International Seminar called ‘Beyond Development, Extractivism, Globalization and Capitalism: Alternatives for Economic Justice’.

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The seminar was organised jointly by JA along with Friends of the Earth International, Transnational Institute and Center for Civil Society (CCS). The 3-day workshop pulled together diverse people, from grassroots struggles against coal in Tete province Mozambique to academics from South Korea. For three days, we discussed the main drivers of the extractive, neoliberal ‘development model’, the struggles for rights and for the commons and especially the concept of ‘development’ and what lies beyond it.

 Gloria Chicaiza from Acción Ecologica, an eco-feminist organisation from Ecuador shared the important concepts of Sumak Kawsay. Sumak kawsay is a Quechua term, from an indigenous language of the Andean region. Sumak Kawsay translates to Good Living in English, Buen Vivir in Spanish and Bem Viver in Portuguese. But this is not Good Living in the way the world understands it currently. The entire paradigm of Sumak Kawsay is different from today’s dominant capitalist culture, so totally consumed by, well, consumption. Instead of unlimited economic growth, sumak kawsay embodies a balance with nature and taking only what is needed. In Southern Africa, we call it ‘ubuntu’.

 So what does this mean? What is the definition of Good Living? What does it include and what doesn’t it include? Does it include CAT scans? And computers? And ARVs for AIDS? And Universities? If Buen Vivir includes these things, then we need to get the material inputs to make these things. Again, the paradigm is important; are we using aluminium for military hardware, or for making cooking pots. This is an important conversation that needs to continue.

 The dominant paradigm is to move everyone to a first world type of existence; but the simple question is whether it is feasible given our energy and planetary limitations.

We heard this staggering example from Tristen Taylor of Earthlife Africa:

Swedish energy use is not extravagant by First World standards and 45% of it comes from renewable energy. So, if we were to have everyone who is currently denied energy (1.4 billion people) living like the Swedes, we would need 5 times more oil than what Saudi Arabia currently produces, and in only 25 years we would exhaust the carbon budget that corresponds to a 2ºC temperature rise. We can’t all live like Swedes, so the fundamental issue is redistribution of wealth and power.

So, what lies beyond?

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Well, Beyond Development: Alternative Visions from Latin America, the title of a book (written by The Permanent Working Group on Alternatives to Development and published by Rosa Luxemburg Foundation) released during the seminar, might be good reading material if you are curious.

 During the seminar, there was an interesting discussion on the need to deconstruct ‘development’. Some said the idea of development had to be scrapped. It couldn’t be modified with adjectives like sustainable, popular etc., because those are just reformist. We need to abandon the very idea of development, including exports, extractivism, everything about the way it exists now.

But is it a semantic dilemma? i.e., a problem with the word ‘development’? Because development also implies meeting people’s needs and basic necessities like water, sanitation, basic electricity, a simple house, a health clinic a school. So it’s hard to abandon the word, when it represents basic needs aspirations, as distinguished from hedonistic overconsumption.

But it was argued that it’s not just semantic – it is a problem of who gives meaning to the word, but it goes beyond. There is power associated with the word development; it is used to control territories and people on the basis of a certain dominant idea of development. That’s why the concept of Sumak Kawsay and Buen Vivir is being discussed by movements; the idea of a ‘dignified life’ not one based on the dominant notion of ‘development’.

On the other hand, others felt that saying, ‘we don’t want development’, might be extreme, perhaps what is needed is to investigate the question of ‘development for whom?’

These are the newer, ever newer strategies of capital, as it tries to reinvent and re-legitimise itself, while also generating more and more profits. After many decades of this ‘development’, we see that it doesn’t work and hasn’t worked; extraction and pollution continue; and now we are tottering on a cliff of ecological collapse and runaway climate change. And the re-legitimising tactics just continue. Carbon markets are just the latest tactics.

So what does this all mean? This blog doesn’t aim to provide answers, just to raise more important questions.

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