Category Archives: Communication and Education

CORPORATE IMPUNITY: STRATEGIES OF STRUGGLE (PART II)

As we mentioned in last month’s article, corporate impunity – the crime that does pay off – is a complicated matter. At the moment, our chests are still filled with the breath of fresh air brought to us at the end of last month by the second session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT), where a panel of 8 jurors and almost 200 participants listened attentively to the complaints of communities and activists who suffer first hand the consequences of a system that favours and protects transnational corporations. Experts noted and reiterated what is no longer news to us: the criminal behaviour of these corporations reflects the field of impunity in which they operate. In addition to providing us with a (unpublished) report of deliberations that will help to expose the behaviour of these companies, this jury also made clear that the mobilization of peoples and the opening of spaces like this court are a fundamental part of the fight for justice.

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About PPT, we have little more to say right now. You can find more information on the cases presented here, or read the press release of Southern Africa’s Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power’s (of which we are part) here. This year, the visibility given to the different cases was notorious (like this article on ProSavana in the South African press), and there was also room for an update on the cases brought to the PPT last year in Swaziland. But this is not the time to slow down – after the PPT, more important moments regarding this issue are coming up.

Nowadays, there is a great legal asymmetry between, on the one hand, the endless regulations that protect and safeguard private investments (even shielding them from political decisions that may conflict with the companies’ financial expectations), and on the other, the non-existent coercive legislation which upholds human rights. Corporations rely on a wide range of international norms that act in their defence – from free trade agreements to investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms – but none that regulates their actions in the light of their impacts. Apparently, for years now we have been hoping that, by themselves, guiding principles or corporate social responsibility (voluntary, unilateral, and non-enforceable) become enough to prevent corporate human rights abuses by the corporations, but obviously, this has not happened and will not happen.04

The national laws of countries such as ours are very weak, not to mention the very limited capacity to enforce them and supervise them. That is one of the reasons why Shell remains unpunished despite the criminal spills it is responsible for in Nigeria, or why hundreds of people are being driven from their land to make way for palm plantations in Indonesia. This is why fighting for the enforcement of existing national legislation is an important step, but it can not be the only one if we really want to stop the impunity of these powerful corporations. It is necessary to think beyond. In today’s globalized world, corporations operate in different national jurisdictions, and take advantage of this to evade accountability. For us, expanding the limits of international law and demanding legal instruments that provide a path from where victims of such violations may demand justice seems to be as urgent or even more.

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The Intergovernmental Working Group mandated to draft a binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014, will meet for the third time in October of this year, then, the concrete terms of the text to be included in the Treaty will be discussed. This initiative, which started with the governments of Ecuador and South Africa, has been gaining strength and supporters. Numerous countries, mostly in the Global South, have already expressed their support for the Treaty, as is the case of Uruguay, which sees in this instrument an opportunity to protect its public policies that are being threatened by the interests of transnational corporations. Mozambique, unfortunately, remains completely out of this discussion and didn’t even show up at the two sessions of the Working Group in the recent years.

An alliance was formed by civil society organizations from around the world to support the drafting of this law, and has actively participated in the sessions of the Working Group to ensure that it will truly represent the needs of those affected. One of the requirements of this alliance is that this treaty contains solid provisions that prohibit corporate interference in the process of formulating and implementing laws and policies. According to Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), also part of the Treaty Alliance, it must establish the criminal and civil liability of transnational corporations in order to fill existing legal gaps in international law, and should apply also to all subsidiary companies and those that form part of its supply chain. Learn more about FoEI’s contributions to the Treaty here.

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When existing legislation does not address all of society’s problems and needs, new legislation must be created. It was like that with the implementation of universal suffrage, with the abolition of slavery, and in so many other historical moments. We believe that we are about to reach an important milestone in the struggle for the sovereignty of peoples and against corporate impunity, and as the poet once said, there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

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Corporate Impunity: Strategies of struggle (Part I)

2016 was an important year in our continent’s struggle against corporate impunity: the first session of the Southern African Peoples Permanent Tribunal (PPT) took place in Swaziland. This Court, which was founded more than 30 years ago in Italy, is an independent body that examines situations of systemic human rights violations – especially in cases where existing legislation (both national and international) is not capable of safeguarding the rights of populations. Although it does not have the power to issue an obligatory sentence for the company (which, by the way, is very important and is one of the reasons we are working for – but let’s talk about it later on), the PPT is strategically very important: On the one hand, it allows victims to be heard and advised by a panel of experts from various areas and to establish partnerships; and on the other, it is a moment of complaint and visibility for the cases, and therefore, of exposure to infringing companies. And although in our country this criminal impunity is often seen as a synonym of cleverness and of the perpetrators degree of influence, on the international level things are not quite like that. Being labelled as a human rights violator is a matter of great concern to these corporations, and therefore it can lead to a change of attitude – not because their ethical principles and values are very important to them, but simply because a bad reputation affects the only thing that truly matters to corporations: their profits.

Ten cases from Swaziland, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique were presented in last year’s PPT, most of them related to the extractive industry. From our country, for the serious impacts that their activities have on the communities around them and for the noncompliance with the promises they made to those communities before settling in the region (to the point that one of them actually started its mining activities without resettling those living within the concession area – as we have denounced through various channels including this one), we took to the court VALE and JINDAL. A Panel of Jurors listened attentively to the communities’ grievances and to a contextualization made by invited experts, and then released its deliberations.

This year the process is repeated: in August, seven cases from the Southern Africa region will be presented by the affected communities themselves and by the civil society organizations who work with them. This time, the general theme of the cases is Land, Food and Agriculture. In addition to cases presented by Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mauritius – who will denounce large corporations such as Parmalat and Monsanto – this session of the PPT will also hear the denunciation of two Mozambican cases: the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam on the already strangled Zambezi River; and ProSavana, the Mozambican, Brazilian and Japanese governments’ triangular partnership program that aims to develop agribusiness in the Nacala Corridor. These two Mozambican cases have the same particularity: they are not yet implemented. However, and this is what made us chose these two cases for this year’s PPT (because, let’s face it, what we are not lacking in our country are examples of human rights violations by private initiatives), despite not being implemented yet, its impacts are not less significant.

In Mphanda Nkuwa, for example, local communities were visited for the first time in 2000 by representatives of the companies responsible for the construction of the dam. They ere warned that they could not build new houses in that region because they would not be compensated for them. Since then, these people live in total uncertainty and can no longer make any long-term plans, at the risk of losing their assets when they start construction. ProSavana, on the other hand, has been characterized by the secrecy, manipulation and misrepresentation of information with the aim of promoting a false idea that the project will promote agricultural development in the northern region of the country, while in fact it is an initiative that will serve to facilitate large scale encroachment of peasant lands. This program will also destroy the livelihoods of local populations and exacerbate their already grave poverty. There are already reports of manipulation and intimidation of leaders of local peasant organizations.

The mobilization of civil society (Mozambican, Japanese and Brazilian) in opposition to ProSavana was fundamental to halt to the initial plans of this program and postpone the conclusion of its Master Plan. The purpose of taking these two cases to the PPT is to bring together even more elements that may help stop these projects.

Spaces such as the PPT are also crucial for perceiving trends, identifying development models, and analyzing common practices of transnational corporations – as well as their strategies to escape responsibility. Thus, by moving these experiences to a more global scale, it is easy to see that these violations of fundamental human rights are not perpetrated by one or another transnational corporation in isolation. That is, these are not a couple of rotten apples in a sack full of beautiful apples. Rather, it is a generalized behavior that is enabled by an architecture of impunity, characteristic of our extractive capitalist development system. This architecture of impunity puts corporate rights above human rights, and makes way for an abundant number of examples of very lucrative corporate crimes.

The architecture of impunity consists of several elements and actors:

We have the economic power of corporations – on the basis of which these establish their relations with one another and with states – and of international financial institutions;

We have political power, which in turn is responsible for capturing policies and politicians that fail to regulate the collective interests of society to serve private interests;

Trade architecture, embodied by numerous trade and investment agreements, facilitates profit and allows corporations to file lawsuits against governments should they make decisions that affect their anticipated profits;

Legal power is represented by the financial capacity to hire and dispose of influential lawyers who defend corporations in endless processes, as well as by inadequate and insufficient legal instruments that regulate their actions; and finally

Social power, which is exercised in all spheres of our lives through the influence that corporations have in the media, academic spaces, civil society organizations, among others.

Discussing some of these elements and developing the cases that will be presented in the PPT next month, were the objectives that motivated the Workshop on the Architecture of Impunity, held in the context of the Southern Africa Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. Since it is the affected communities themselves who present the cases to the Panel of Jurors in the PPT, this enabled them to get the support of several resource people, to appeal, discuss and deepen the specificities of their denunciations and also to identify common ground with the other cases.

But the struggle to end corporate impunity is not only fought in the field of opinion sentences, nor is the important opinion of a panel of judges our only weapon to demand a different behavior from transnational corporations. Another battle is being waged to develop a legal instrument that will ultimately have the power to condemn and punish corporations – since the absence of such an instrument is currently one of the biggest gaps in international law. We are talking about the UN Intergovernmental Working Group, created in 2014 with the mandate to develop a binding treaty for transnational corporations on human rights issues, which will meet in October this year for its third session. At this time, transnational corporations simply have to follow voluntary standards and guiding principles that “advise” best practices on human rights issues. There is no doubt that this blind faith in corporate goodwill has had grave and irreparable consequences, both on people and on the planet. In next month’s article, we will look into this issue more carefully, getting deeper into the debate about the urgency of a legal mechanism that is accessible to any community affected by the operations of a transnational corporation. For now, we continue to look closely at next month’s PPT, certain that this will be another important moment regarding the convergence of struggles for a fairer, healthier and more common-good oriented world.

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DENUNCIATION OF THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN WWF AND PROSAVANA

nao ao prosavana

For over three years social movements, peasant families, civil society organisations, religious organisations, scholars and concerned citizens that are part of the No to ProSavana Campaign have been resisting the implementation of ProSavana in the Nacala Corridor of Mozambique.[1] This project is the result of a partnership among the governments of Mozambique, Brazil and Japan, to promote agribusiness development in the Nacala Corridor, resulting in the violation of human rights and negative impacts on peasant agriculture and the environment.

Alliances among Mozambican, Brazilian and Japanese civil society organisations, among other actors, forced the postponement of Part II of ProSavana (the Master Plan) [2] as well as the organisation of public hearings with communities affected by ProSavana between April and June of 2015.[3] However, these hearings violated national and international laws,[4] including International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 169, which guarantees the right to free, prior and informed consent.[5]

We, organisations of civil society and social movements articulated in the No to ProSavana Campaign, denounce the current involvement of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in ProSavana. We identified an alliance between WWF and MAJOL, the consultancy company hired by ProSavana’s promoters (in this case, JICA), to facilitate the dialogue between ProSavana and civil society.

It is unusual that the main facilitator of the dialogue, Mr. Peter Bechtel,[6] who today presents himself as a MAJOL consultant, had been a WWF manager for the Northern Region, where he managed the conservation areas of the Quirimbas Archipelago, Lake Niassa, and Primeiras e Segundas Archipelago.[7] During this period, Peter Bechtel and WWF funded and worked directly with civil society platforms and representatives that are currently involved in the partnership with ProSavana.

As members of the No to ProSavana Campaign, we condemn WWF’s use of its donor status to encourage civil society representatives to establish partnerships with ProSavana and the business sector, especially when it results in the violation of national and international laws that protect community rights. We also condemn the use of platforms, which have been an important tool for the exercise of citizenship, to impose international (individual and organisational) interests and agendas. Let us consider the following:

First, it is strange that Mr. Peter Bechtel, former WWF employee and currently the main mediator of the dialogue between ProSavana and civil society, has direct links with agribusiness in Mozambique, whether through the World Bank[8] or USAID.[9] These links are in breach of universal principles of mediation, such as the impartiality of the mediator and the parties’ free will, which create a conflict of interests.

Second, WWF attempted on multiple occasions to create civil society platforms without clear objectives, most of which were challenged by civil society. Without ever having been engaged in advocacy for ProSavana during the last three years, in only two months WWF strangely provided funds for the establishment of the ProSavana dialogue architecture. Further, Mr. Bechtel established questionable alliances with some of the representatives on the platforms, and became the coordinator of the dialogue mechanism mentioned above, as can be verified in the press release of the mechanism’s creation[10]—completely ignoring the work of national organisations involved in challenging ProSavana.

Third, the financial resources to set up the dialogue mechanism will be allocated by JICA (a proponent of ProSavana), including payments to experts that will be hired by the Rural Environment Observatory (OMR) to review the Master Plan.[11] Many independent studies argue that the current Master Plan does not meet the needs of peasant productive systems and pluriactive livelihoods, and demand that it be restructured. So it is strange that the OMR should review the plan (but in a non-structural and non-functional way, as outlined in the term of reference), eventually proposing an approach of “coexistence” between peasant agriculture and agribusiness.

Fourth, because they receive financial resources from JICA, both the dialogue mechanism and the OMR will be accountable to JICA.[12] This situation makes it impossible to ensure the impartiality and independence of these bodies.

Over the last few years, we have been following the ambiguous and disguised actions of WWF in Mozambique. With regard to its relationship with Mozambican civil society organisations, WWF has been imposing processes and the co-opting discussion spaces, such as the Agrofuels Platform and, more recently, the Alliance of Platforms, as well as the Dialogue Mechanism for ProSavana.

In 2009, UNAC and JA! published a study on jatropha and agrofuels in Mozambique, opening space for broad civil society debate, which resulted in a position document of many organisations committed to working on this topic. After a couple of months, WWF took over the discussion process, organising a meeting where it proposed to support the establishment of an agrofuels’ platform, that WWF would host and coordinate. On this occasion, WWF took many unilateral decisions without consulting the other member organisations of the platform—including the decision on the government’s involvement in internal discussions and deliberations. As a result, the majority of the members, including JA!, distanced themselves from the platform and from the collective struggle against biofuels.

In 2014, when WWF proposed the creation of the Alliance of Platforms, most of the civil society organisations present at the meeting agreed with the idea of an alliance, but argued that it should be coordinated by a Mozambican organisation instead of a foreign one. WWF ignored this request. The platform was established and is now coordinated by WWF, in its characteristic way of controlling decision-making and using its influence as a funder of many of the organisations that comprise this platform.

We do not agree with nor do we accept this sort of practice. The platforms should only exist if they are genuine representatives of the organisations they are composed of, based on open, transparent and democratic processes. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to exist. Moreover, they should not try to replace other civil society organisations that are not part of the platforms.

WWF is an international organisation that both implements its own projects and acts as a donor.  It co-opts spaces for debate, using its power and influence to manipulate discussion processes related to national concerns, such as ProSavana. As a result, it creates division among national organisations. And yet, curiously, it is the No to ProSavana Campaign that is being accused of defending outside interests. Shouldn’t we be questioning the interests of WWF?

Maputo, 7 March 2016.

logo UNAC   logo ADECRU   JA logo small  FoE Moz logo small

logo livaningo   logo liga   logo forum mulher   logo WMW

 

logo AAAJC

 

[1] http://www.dw.com/pt/sociedade-civil-lança-campanha-contra-o-prosavana-em-moçambique/a-17677729

[2] http://www.prosavana.gov.mz/prosavana-pd/?lang=pt-pt

[3] http://www.prosavana.gov.mz/auscultacao-publica-a-volta-da-versao-inicial-do-plano-director-do-prosavana/?lang=pt-pt

[4] https://adecru.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/chamada-dos-povos-para-invalidacao-imediata-da-auscultacao-publica-do-plano-director-do-prosavana/

[5] http://pro169.org/ilo-169/

[6] Minutes of the meeting on 11 and 12 January, https://adecru.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/acta-worshop-11-e-12-janeiro-final.pdf

[7] http://clarke.dickinson.edu/devel-mozambique/

[8] http://agtech.partneringforinnovation.org/docs/DOC-1589

[9] http://www.speed-program.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2013-SPEED-Report-009-How-USAID-can-Assist-Mozambique-to-Cope-with-the-Impending-Resource-Boom-EN.pdf

[10] https://adecru.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/comunicado-de-imprensa-do-prosavana-sobre-o-alegado-mecanismo-de-dialogo/

[11]  https://adecru.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/acta-do-dia-18-19.pdf

[12] https://adecru.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/acta-do-dia-18-19.pdf

 

Children are the stars as JA Celebrates International Forests Day

As we had announced, this year our celebration of the Forests Day on 21 March was different, as it was dedicated to the children, not adults!!

21 de Marco - dia das florestas

It was a fun day with lots of playful activities and joy, with many opportunities to introduce and discuss with kids the importance of our forests, the importance of conserving these ecosystems and of the environment in general, always highlighting that people and communities are a part of it.

A boa disposicao do nosso pessoal

We were all touched by the happiness of the children!! And our staff & volunteers enjoyed too!!

The event took place at the Parque dos Professores (Teachers Park), starting at 10am until 4 pm, and was organized in partnership with the Livro Aberto (Open Book) Association and supported by the participation and dedication of AMOR (Mozambican Recycling Association), Kosmoz, Mr. Rafo Diaz, the boys from the orphanage Casa do Gaiato and several tireless volunteers.

Mesa Amor e o Vai e VemCasa do Gaiato no dia das Florestas

The objective of this initiative was to use fun activities to raise awareness among children, Mozambique’s future generation, about the importance of our forests, and the conservation of our environment in general.

The activities for children included:

1. Making Bracelets with re-used plastic water bottles and strips of bright capulana (much-loved traditional Mozambican cloth)

Pulseiras com garrafas plásticas e recortes de capulana

2. Drawing trees and decorating them using motifs from old magazines;

Desenhando árvores - recorte e colagem

Making snakes by re-using the cardboard tube of toilet rolls;

Drawing a beautiful forest on canvas, elements of which were painted by many different children throughout the day at their choice and in the end, it illustrated the immense biodiversity and creativity;

O inicio da nossa floresta A nosso floresta 1

Face painting, which did take some courage as none of our staff had any previous experience with this, but it also gave us the opportunity to test the creativity of our colleagues and volunteers;

Reiki 4

In addition to these activities, we had several colouring pages available for the younger children, all with environmental themes;

Uma das muitas criancas que estiveram conosco colorindo!!!

We had a message board which was also a success; many children left their messages each on small cardboard leaves, which together made the tree;

A nossa árvore das mensagens

In addition to the activities that JA and Livro Aberto had organized we also had activities from important partners, who clearly contributed for a rich programme for the day, such as AMOR and Kosmoz.

AMOR is promoting recycling in Mozambique and was present with their great mood, inviting children to learn how to build fun toys from recycled material, such as the “Vai e vem” (literally ‘come & go’ – a toy) with recycled plastic bottles, which was a huge hit with the kids whilst at the same time their volunteers were talking about important environmental concepts.

Amor - ensinando com amor

The Kosmoz (Holistic Platform for Integral Human Development) was well represented, bringing elements of physical and mental well-being of communities.

Demosntração da energia vital- chi da natureza aplicado as artes marciais - kosmoz Demosntração da energia vital- chi da natureza aplicado as artes marciais 2

They had a very rich program that included dances, reiki, yoga exercises in group, educational games with emphasis to nutrition, massage parlour only for children (although the adults really wanted it too!), demonstration of aero yoga and hip hop dance, demonstration of theatre games, demonstration of a chess match, among other activities. The therapists from Kosmoz were present during most of the day providing advice and appointments for children and parents also.

Meditacao em grupo 2 - Kosmoz

We cannot forget the story telling moment in which Mr. Rafo Diaz charmed our children with his magical storytelling talent! Thank you very much Rafo!

Rafo Diaz - Encantando com as suas histórias

We are immensely grateful for the commitment and dedication of our new partners Livro Aberto Association, Amor and Kosmoz, because they believed in the cause and helped us make this day a day to remember!

Meditacao em grupo - Kosmoz

This day was a great example of Mozambican organisations working together for children of all socio-economic backgrounds, who rarely if ever have a chance to come together.

(All photos by Justiça Ambiental)

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