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.

Life Compromised for Coal: Mozambique & the Importance of the IPCC report

Yesterday, JA celebrated the opening of our photo exhibition called “O Amanhã Comprometido: A Vida Por Carvão” which translates to ‘Tomorrow Jeopardized: Life for Coal’. This exhibition will run in the Associação Moçambicana de Fotografia in Maputo for a week until 1 October 2013. The exhibition features photos by Daniel Ribeiro, Mauro Pinto and Peter Steudtner.

(See the exhibition poster below)

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This hard-hitting photo exhibition comes as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release tomorrow yet another report about the dismal state of our atmosphere. The IPCC was constituted by the United Nations to study in depth the scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of climate change. They release their assessment reports every 5 years; this week world leaders are meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, to release the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of Working Group 1 of the IPCC. Other chapters of AR5 will be released at different times next year, and we will keep you all posted about it.

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(Photo of the IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri by Marshall Niles)

Due to of the very technical nature of the process and the scientists involved, the AR5 report is likely to be conservative in its conclusions. But still, the verdict from the report is so clear. Parts of the report have been leaked beforehand. The report will conclude that climate change is definitely happening and it is driven by increased emissions from humans. The report will stress that each of the last three decades have been warmer than all of the preceding decades going back to 1850 and the decade from 2000-2010 has been the warmest. The report will conclude that an average temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius is “as likely as not likely” by 2100. But this is just talking about global averages. The report is quite confident that the temperature increases over big land masses, including Africa and Asia, will be higher than the averages! Not just this, but the impacts faced by people will be worse that they originally predicted.

Already Mozambique is seeing elevated temperatures and huge variability in rainfall and river flows. In January 2013, over 150,000 people in Gaza district of Mozambique were temporarily forced out of their homes because of devastating floods. JA travelled to Chokwe to meet with communities and wrote about this in our February newsletter in Portuguese, available here: http://justicaambiental.org/index.php/en/resources/newsletter/2013

So what is the world doing about these dangerous scenarios? Dangerously little! The biggest and best way to reduce emissions today is to reduce the use of fossil fuels right now. Yet the world continues mining coal, drilling oil, fracking; all driving us closer to catastrophic climate change.

But what is worse, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence of human caused climate change due to emissions, the Northern governments and big business find all possible ways to develop and push false solutions such as carbon trading, CDM, REDD, offsets, geo-engineering, etc., instead of reducing emissions.

Actually these constantly emerging and totally flawed false solutions are not a mistake but are very intentional; they are meant to give a free pass to polluters to carry on polluting. We are now heading towards the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and in 19 years of trying to stop climate crisis, emissions have only gone up and false solutions are threatening more lives and livelihoods than ever before.

Of course, Mozambique has historically had a very small contribution to climate emissions. However, today Mozambique is aiming to be a major coal exporter, which is affecting communities locally and will put more carbon in the atmosphere than the world can bear. At this IPCC report’s release, we strongly say: Leave the coal in the hole! In Mozambique and everywhere in the world.

 For more information, see:

A GOVERNMENT WITHOUT SHAME, A PEOPLE WITHOUT HOPE

THE PROTEST NO ONE TALKED ABOUT

Late last month, on the 22nd and 23rd of July, a protest took place in Chirodzi area, Tete province, in central inland Mozambique.  The local communities had gathered there to protest in the concession area grated to Jindal, an Indian mining company. Jindal is extracting coal from an open pit mine in Tete province, without an environmental impact study and without ensuring the safety of the local communities. Till date the communities have not been resettled, but continue to live in the concession area.

The communities have been raising their voices, asking for their rights. On this day, the frustration and desperation of the communities mounted, and the protest turned violent. The communities attacked four Indian Jindal employees. Of the four Jindal people attacked, one was attacked in his office and the other three in their homes, all within the concession mining area. There was a security company, who usually secures the gates and the whole perimeter of the concession area, were also attacked, and with no place to hide from the public anger, they ran away. The police were also present, but were outnumbered by the irate people.

The protest involved four communities: Chirodzi / Cahora Bassa, Chirodzi / Changara, Cassoca and Nyantsanga. These last two communities are located within the concession area of ​​the mine, while the first two are on the periphery. But it is very important to note all these communities have communal lands which have now been taken by the company.

According to community testimonies, the protest erupted because of Jindal’s failure to fulfil the promises they made to the communities when their settled here in 2008.

  • They promised they would not extract coal before resettlement of the communities, yet they have been doing exactly that for over eight months;
  • They promised not to occupy lands, specifically the fields of local communities, without first negotiating with their legitimate owners;
  • They assured the communities that there would provide a water supply;
  • They also promised jobs for community members.

The communities and Cassoca and Nyantsanga stated that in December Jindal usurped part of their farms with standing crops, without any warning, thereby seriously undermining their food sovereignty. As for resettlement, it is not happening but the coal is being mined. On 9th of May 2013, Macauhub news reported that a ship left from Beira port, heading for India, carrying 36,000 tons of coal mined by Jindal Mozambique Minerals.

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The communities constantly face respiratory and other serious problems, from being so close to the open pit mining. Air pollution resulting from mining activity is visibly hanging in the air; the black dust settles on everything. How will the lungs of people cope with this? How much longer will children continue to have their classes in this atmosphere?

Their frustration is what led to this protest. The communities also promised that if their rights continue to be ignored and trampled, and if the company does not fulfil the promises made to them, there will be more protests. This protest revealed how bad the relationship is between Jindal and these four surrounding communities.

The relationship between employees and employers in Jindal is also bad. According to company officials who agreed to talk to us, there are many quarrels about alleged discrepancies in pay and subsidies to employees. Even the workers who operate the mine say they do not have the protective equipment that is required.

But Jindal reportedly seems to have a excellent relationship with the government. This is substantiated by the fact that some people even said that the government collects “taxes” from the company.

At the end of the day, according to the laws in force in the Republic of Mozambique and international conventions, Jindal is in the wrong, but the government is partly responsible for this, because of their passivity and permissiveness (or should we say say collusion).

Jindal declined to provide any information to us, but they summoned a meeting with community leaders and “informed” them not to provide any information to civil society organisations, and they threatened not to renew contracts with those who did communicate.

The silence of the media is also shocking. It is extremely sad that, even though we know that there were several teams of national media in the middle of all this circus in Chirodzi, but other than the Diário de Moçambique, nobody published this story.

Less than a month after this transpired in Chirodzi, the communities still continue to wait for their rights to be recognised. But meanwhile, the complicity of the government was proved. While the communities were protesting the way this company is operating and protesting against unfulfilled promises, the Mozambican President, Armando Guebuza, visited Chirodzi to officially inaugurate the project, and doing so, legitimized what Jindal is doing. Basically, he gave his approval to what was happening, to mining being carried out without an Environmental Impact Study, to mining being carried out while communities are still living there, with about 563 families still waiting to be resettled. Adults and children. All living in an environment extremely dangerous and harmful to their health, not to mention that their livelihoods and futures are being silently trampled on. They have been forgotten and made invisible by those who should protect them. A shameless government leading a hopeless people. This is our Mozambique.

Meanwhile, protests against Jindal are not new. In their home country of India too, Jindal has been exploiting local communities with impunity. In the Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, which are states with large populations of tribal people, Jindal has been devastating farms, villages and lives for many years now. But, same as in Mozambique, the communities have not been silent. In Asanbani village in Jharkhand, the houses are marked with signs in Hindi such as “Naveen Jindal go back! We will give our lives but we will not give our lands” (see photo below). This is the Visthapan Virodhi Samiti (Committee against Displacement).

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Photo credit: Panos South Asia, Alchemy of Iniquity: Resistance and Repression in India’s Mines. A Photographic enquiry.

We are moving towards building bridges between these communities fighting again a common enemy, Jindal, across India and Mozambique.

A recent book called ‘A New Scramble For Africa?: Imperialism, Investment And Development’, carried a great quote of Gandhi to help us contextualise why the presence of Indian company Jindal in Africa is so problematic.

Gandhi said, “The commerce between India and Africa will be the commerce of ideas, not manufactured goods against raw materials after the fashion of western exploiters.”

Africa is Sovereign and WILL NOT ACCEPT being Re-colonized

In response to Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach recent controversial interview, Friends of the Earth Africa elaborated an Open Letter to be handed over to every Embassy of Denmark in African countries where FoEA is present. Based on that Open Letter and with the purpose of empowering it by allowing all of us, concerned citizens of the world to sign it,  we are now starting a petition with the same motto.  You can read the Open Letter bellow and if you share our concern, please sign our petition and add your voice to the struggle against the development models of capitalist neocolonialism.

Open Letter from the African Civil Society To The Representatives of Denmark in Africa

Subject: Africa is Sovereign and WILL NOT ACCEPT being Re-colonized

In light of the interview given by your Minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, on the 9th of this month to the Danish newspaper Politiken, and taking into account that the presence of Danish cooperations on the African continent dates long before the independence of most countries where they still operate today through various organizations that develop various projects and activities in various spheres of the political system, civil society and the business sector, we cannot refrain from expressing our deepest distaste for the disrespectful and peculiar ideological content of the above-mentioned interview.

Truth be told, Minister Christian Friis Bach said exactly what many politicians and leaders of developed countries think but cleverly would never dare say. Frankly, we prefer Christian Friis Bach to those other dodgy individuals. Petulant or reckless, your Minister of Development Cooperation said just what he thinks, giving us a chance to rebut, to contest and tell him that his notion of development is obsolete, that what he says he is willing to do is ethically despicable and offensive, that those who he claims would be the main beneficiaries of the policies he intends to impose will for sure become its main victims, and that even though unfortunately he may have the power to influence the decisions taken by the state apparatuses of some African countries, he definitely does not have the right to do so. We believe that he ought to know it. We Africans assure Christian Friis Bach and all who think like him, that even though we are already being pillaged, we will never allow Africa to be economically recolonized. Never.

It is instructive to remember that contrary to what Minister Friis Bach said in his interview, we Africans do have capacity to feed and sustain our people. African agriculture and food needs have been met over time through sustainable and multi-dimensional approaches, keeping to a minimum such externalities as artificial fertilizers, imported pesticides and herbicides, as well as practices that are alien to the socio-cultural settings of our people.

The support Africa needs right now is a decisive stand to maintain seed as well as cultural diversities and defend staple crops which are targeted by biotech even when there is no need for their engineered varieties or GM crops.

To you, as the highest representative of the Danish people in our territory, we would like to ask if you share the opinions of your Minister for Development Cooperation. If you do, please be kind enough to answer the following questions:

Do you think it is fair that the African continent should be held accountable “today” for the bad decisions rich countries such as yours made “yesterday”, and which led to over-exploitation of nature, animals and human beings by introducing unhealthy and destructive diets as well as excess energy consumption?

Do you consider it acceptable that countries like yours should impose their failed development models on Africa as if they were models of success and the only guaranteed path towards development?

Would you imagine a world in which Africa adopts your ideas of production, consumption, development and progress?

Do you think it right that we Africans must accept without question the responsibility of using our resources to support those who were obviously unable to manage theirs?

It honours us greatly that the world is turning to Africa and its leaders say they are counting on us. We Africans are hospitable and supportive and for long we have been wanting to contribute more and better to a development path that supports sustainable livelihoods. However, we do not have to sacrifice ourselves to accommodate the whims of those who think it is a mark of progress to destroy the planet. We want to rely on the support of all who are well intended, but such support must not trample on our sovereignty and dignity.

In this context, we, African organizations, movements and associations who hereby signed this letter, reiterate that we continue to consider much welcome the support of those who wish to walk with us towards a development path:

  1. That adequately serves our needs and those of our future generations;
  2. That is fair and just and not predicated on exploitation, resource grabs and denigration;
  3. That is logical and thoughtful and does not necessarily have to be traversed in pursuit of anything or anyone;
  4. In which we may not be sole beneficiaries, but we must not be denied our due;
  5. That not only respects the sovereignty of each African country, but also our diversity as a people, as well as the diversity of our cultures and traditions;
  6. That is guided by principles of honesty, transparency and inclusion, fundamental to the democratic exercise of any territory.
  7. That respects our Food sovereignty, which is built upon the inalienable rights of peoples to maintain their cultural as well as seed diversities. Cultural diversity permits peoples to maintain and enlarge their stock of local knowledge; produce, save and use their seeds and have control over farming practices developed over centuries of experimentation and experience. Food sovereignty ensures that farmers stay in business and that peoples are not forced to alter their diets.Naturally, we consider that any development project that ignores or disregards any of these principles is not in the best interest of Africa or Africans, and we reject and denounce the position taken by your government through your Minister of Development Cooperation.

For the sake of the good relations we wish to maintain with you, we would appreciate you would be so kind as to respond to this letter.

Signed by

African Organizations,

Friends of the Earth Africa

Justiça Ambiental/FOE Mozambique

ATPNE / Friends of the Earth Tunisia

Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement / Friends of the Earth Cameroon

Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria

Friends of the Earth Ghana

Friends of the Earth Sierra Leone

GroundWork / Friends of the Earth South Africa

Guamina / Friends of the Earth Mali

Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team / Friends of the Earth Tanzania

Les Amis de la Terre / Friends of the Earth Togo

Maudesco / Friends of the Earth Mauritius

National Association of Professional Environmentalists / Friends of the Earth Uganda

Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) / Friends of the Earth Liberia

Yonge Nawe Environmental Action Group / Friends of the Earth Swaziland

Alliance For Food Sovereignty  In Africa (AFSA)

African Biodiversity Network (ABN)

Coalition for the Protection of African Genetic Heritage (COPAGEN)

Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development (COMPAS) Africa

Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC)

Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Association

Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESSAFF)

La Via Campesina Africa

FAHAMU, World Neighbours

Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organizations of West Africa (ROPPA)

Community Knowledge Systems (CKS)

Plateforme Sous Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique Centrale (PROPAC)

Laurent Alex Badji COPAGEN Senegal

The Green Belt Movement Kenya

Health of Mother Earth Foundation, ((HOMEF) Nigeria

Committee on Vital Environmental Resources (COVER) Nigeria

The Young Environment Network (TYEN) Nigeria

Institute for Research and Promotion of Alternatives in Development (IRPAD/Afrque)

Mali Coalition pour la Protection du Patrimoine Génétique Africain Mali (COPAGEN-Mali)

Actions Pour le Développement Durable, Republic of Benin

Kenya Debt Relief Network(KENDREN) Kenya

African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) South Africa

The Rescope Programme Malawi

Host Communities Network Of Nigeria (HoCoN, Nation Wide) Nigeria

Students Environment Assembly Nigeria (SEAN Nation Wide) Nigeria

Community Forest Watch Group Nigeria

Green Alliance Nigeria (Nation wide) Nigeria

Abibiman Foundation Ghana

Oilwatch Ghana

Oilwatch Nigeria

Improving Livelihoods Through Agriculture (ILTA) Ghana

Acção Académica para o Desenvolvimento das Comunidades Rurais (ADECRU), Mozambique

Associação de Apoio e Assistência Jurídica às Comunidades (AAAJC), Mozambique

Fórum Mulher, Mozambique

Liga Moçambicana dos Direitos Humanos (LDH), Mozambique

Kulima, Mozambique

Non African Organizations:

Amigos da Terra América Latina e Caribas TALC

Amigu di Tera (FoE Curaçao), Curação

NOAH Denmark, Dinamarca

COECOCEIBA / FoE Costa Rica

Community Alliance for Global Justice Denmark, Dinamarca

Amigos de la Tierra México, México

Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería (REMA) México

Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo Extractivo Minero (M4) México

The Rescope Programme

Community Alliance for Global Justice

PLANT (Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples)

Various African Organizations and Movements are still signing in and several Non African movements and organizations are also subscribing to this letter.

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