Category Archives: Flight against corporate power

STATEMENT OF THE GLOBAL CAMPAIGN ON THE THIRD REVISED DRAFT OF THE BINDING TREATY ON TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

7th of September 2021

Re: Release of the “third revised draft” during the negotiation by the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises with regard to human rights

The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples’ Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign) notes the release of the third revised draft of the binding treaty, published on August 17, 2021. It is the result of the negotiation process started in 2014 with the adoption by the Human Rights Council of Resolution 26/9. This new draft emerges after the discussions held during the 6th negotiation session of October 2020 and the subsequent Matrix process of February 2021.

We are deeply concerned about the continuing hollowing out of key content, i.e., content that social organisations and affected communities view as critical. We hereby share our first impressions on the new draft and raise some procedural questions concerning the negotiation of successive “drafts”.

Although we note some positive changes in the third revised draft, these are mostly cosmetic, rhetorical and ineffectual. These superficial changes seek to increase the legitimacy of the proposed text, but, in reality, fail to solve the structural problems repeatedly highlighted by social movements and affected communities.


A change of direction in both content and procedure will thus be necessary to meet the objectives set out in Resolution 26/9 and to respond to communities subjected to human rights violations. It is unacceptable that the innumerable proposals for improving the draft presented throughout the negotiation sessions by representatives of the affected communities, social movements, as well as many experts and States to be omitted. The third revised draft is basically similar to the previous draft, despite the high number of concrete proposals that were made to improve it. This gives us the feeling of a lost year.


Moreover, the methodology used to revise the draft transparently considering the contributions of States and civil society organizations is a must. We appreciate the synthesis and mediation efforts of the Ecuadorian Chair Rapporteur. Nonetheless the negotiation has reached a point of maturity that requires a Member driven, open and transparent negotiation process facilitated by the Chair Rapporteur. This must ensure that the voices of civil society and affected communities are heard and taken into consideration by including the diverse text proposals in brackets during the session of negotiation. The objective of the session should be to achieve a new draft proposal of the IGWG and not just of the Chair. In short, to be true actors in the process, civil society must have both voice and influence.

In terms of content, we note once again that, following the approach presented in the previous drafts released by the Chair Rapporteur after the robust Elements Paper in 2017, and despite some positive elements, the new draft continues to present an ineffective and “toothless” instrument. We also note the use of vague, indeterminate and even non-legal concepts that may compromise the future interpretation and application of key articles.

As it stands, the draft instrument fails to meet the objectives established by Resolution 26/9, namely to regulate the activities of transnational corporations within the framework of international human rights law (in order to prevent human rights violations by TNCs and stop corporate impunity) and to ensure effective and comprehensive access to justice for affected peoples, individuals and communities. Furthermore, the current draft would not close the existing legal loopholes that allow and will allow TNCs to violate human rights with impunity and to escape liability for their actions. Without more innovative and ambitious provisions, the treaty risks becoming a new futile instrument aligned with voluntary frameworks that have already demonstrated their ineffectiveness.

Furthermore, the new text unacceptably continues a logic centered exclusively on States’ obligations, and fails to establish the direct obligations for transnational corporations, necessary to hold them directly accountable for the human rights violations they are responsible for. We are also concerned about the continued extension of the scope of the text to all business enterprises, including small and medium-sized enterprises. This dilutes the raison d’être of the binding treaty and the purpose set out in Resolution 26/9 (to address the particular obstacles to holding TNCs accountable), which clearly refers to transnational corporations and other business enterprises “with transnational character”.

Another element is the scope of prevention and legal liability of TNCs which focuses on weak provisions linked to due diligence, an inherently limiting concept. This risks a situation where TNCs escape liability as soon as they comply with due diligence processes.


We call attention to the lack of an unequivocal reaffirmation of the primacy of international human rights law over corporate, trade and investment law, the absence of a strong international enforcement and monitoring mechanisms (including an international tribunal) that would guarantee the effective implementation of the treaty, as well as the several remaining gaps in terms of inclusion and definition of global value chains, the piercing of the corporate veil, and addressing the bottom line of transnational corporate impunity.


At this stage, it seems clear that the Chair of the Working Group is steering the process towards the elaboration of a treaty emptied of its core content and focus on transnational corporations, with only generic provisions that rely on the capacity and political will of the States for their implementation and in line with corporate self-regulation. This confronts us with a text overly accommodating to the requests and interests of the corporate sector and their political allies.


This being said, the Global Campaign will continue its strong engagement in the negotiations with the unyielding intention to com up with a truly binding treaty worthy of its name and capable of becoming a bulwark against the power of transnational entities that lay claim to being the engines of our economies while they violate human rights and destroy our natural environment with impunity. In line with these commitments, the Global Campaign will, if necessary, oppose the adoption of a treaty whose content has been watered down and risks becoming a “normative trap” that closes the door on truly effective reforms in the coming years.


Contact:

Júlia García, facilitation@stopcorporateimpunity.org

Raffaele Morgantini, contact@cetim.ch

Erika Mendes, erikasmendes@gmail.com

Where is Ibrahimo?

7 September 2021

Today, the 7 September 2021 has been exactly 17 months since Mozambican journalist Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco disappeared in Cabo Delgado. His last message was to a colleague saying that the army was coming towards him.

Ibrahimo worked for Palma Community Radio and had been reporting on the violence in the area. Since then, what effort has the government put into finding him and bringing him back to his family? Absolutely nothing.

Since 2017 Cabo Delgado has been ravaged by a fatal conflict between insurgents, the Mozambican military, Russian and South African mercenaries and now the Rwandan and South African armies as well, that has created 800 000 refugees. This violence is deeply linked to the gas industry that has exploded over the last few years. The industry is headed by Total (France), Eni (Italy) and ExxonMobil (US), and is one industry filled with a great amount of treachery in the Mozambican and other states involved, which forms part of the corruption trial currently in the Mozambican courts.

Over the last few months several media outlets have arrived in Cabo Delgado, after at least three years of the area being closed to international journalists.

It is a good thing that Mozambican and international media has finally been allowed there, since free media is a crucial part of any democracy. However, journalists who actually live in Cabo Delgado and were the first to report on the happenings since 2017, have not been allowed to work in the conflict areas, unless they are from state-owned media outlets.

In an article in O Pais 26 August, Cabo Delgado-based journalist Hizidine Acha wrote that journalists from the area are being humiliated by having to report on the topic from a distance, even though they are the ones who know the terrain and the local language. They fear that the lack of reporting in local languages might lead to disinformation among the communities. The article quotes journalist Emanuel Muthemba as saying, “Journalists from here have to be on the front line, because we have basic knowledge about the reality of the province, the people and the languages spoken by the population, which is very important,”; and journalist Assane Issa says “speculation grows that we are not capable of doing this type of coverage – that only those from the country’s capital are. But this is not true, because we are the ones who have been reporting on the daily life of the province.”

In fact, the article continues saying that recently 20 local journalists were invited to cover the conflict, but for reasons they were never told, were never actually able to leave Cabo Delgado’s capital and largest city, Pemba.

But even if they were able to report, the government has made it clear that they will not make it easy. On 11 April, on the ‘Day of the Mozambican Journalist’, even though his general rhetoric has been about free press, President Felipe Nyusi sent a document to O Pais, saying, journalists must report with “rigour, professionalism and patriotism”. He said “the Mozambican journalist should not be a reproducer of wishes contrary to our unity.” And he followed this in May saying that journalists have to be “disciplined”: “To have discipline is to report only the truth, to combat fake news and not to incite violence and hatred.”

This is not freedom. This is a threat. This is saying that journalists have the ‘freedom’ to write or to film or to record for radio, as long as this is in aligned with the state’s narrative. Or else.

The public media and many international journalists are reporting on the violence in the province as only a humanitarian issue created by violence caused by insurgents, and not on how many of these refugees were actually already displaced from their villages, and had lost everything, because of the Afungi Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Park that Total is building to house the support facilities for the industry. Reporting in this way allows the gas industry off the hook for the part they have played in this humanitarian crisis and conflict, including how Total has left the displaced communities who were relying on them for compensation and aid with nothing as they pulled out of the country when claiming force majeure.

International journalists are protected by having foreign passports. But who is protecting local journalists from non-state outlets, like Ibrahimo, or like Amade Abubacar from the Nacedje Community Radio who was arrested, tortured and held without charge for 3 months in 2019 after interviewing a group of displaced people? Or the journalists of Canal de Moçambique whose office was bombed in 2020 after exposing corruption between the government and gas companies?

In April 2020, Reporters Without Borders and 16 other press freedom organisations wrote an open letter to President Filipe Nyusi, who ignored it, just like the military and relevant government officials did not even bother to respond, and the police treated it like a joke. On 8 June 2020, Ibrahimo’s brother contacted the local police to inform them that he had called Ibrahimo’s phone and it rang. He reported it to the public investigators responsible for finding him, the National Agency for Criminal Investigations. They promised they would look into it, but since then there has been silence.

But we must not stop fighting!

In January, the African Union (AU) launched the Digital Platform for Safety of Journalists in Africa. At the launch, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was AU chairperson at the time said: Media freedom “requires that we rigorously defend the right of journalists to do their work, to write, to publish, and to also broadcast what they like, even if we disagree with some or all of it.. The digital platform for the safety of journalists in Africa is an important tool in promoting the safety of journalists and other media workers across Africa.”

Now they must put their money where their mouth is, by holding the Mozambican government accountable for its violent media oppression and pressurise it to stop, and they must recognise how part of this oppression is to protect the gas industry. The platform was supported by the United Nations, and both they and the AU have the responsibility to find out what has happened to Ibrahimo, and must use their power to do so.

It is clear that Mozambican journalists cannot rely on their state for their protection – the very people who are obliged to protect them, but sadly are reliant rather on non-governmental organisations and media groups – both international, and local, who themselves are putting their safety on the line just by speaking out. When journalists are told they need to report with “patriotism” and “discipline”, it is clear that, just as history has shown, they cannot know that they are safe. They cannot know their colleagues will not be arrested and tortured or that their offices won’t be attacked. They cannot know that they, too, will not disappear and be another Ibrahimo.

We must not stop pushing to find out, where is Ibrahimo?

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JA! at the AGMs, 2021

Our Say No to Gas! In Mozambique Campaign has many elements, but one of the crucial ones is confronting fossil fuel criminals involved in Mozambique’s gas industry, about the destruction, violence and devastation they have caused in Cabo Delgado province.

One way of challenging them and making demands for them to leave and stop their involvement in Mozambique gas, is attending Annual General Meetings (AGM) of several large international players in the Mozambique gas industry, which this year we did for the fourth year running. Attending these AGMs is a way to force the highest level decision-makers in these companies to hear our voices and the voices of the people whose lives they are devastating, to demand information and call them out on their crimes against the climate and peoples in a large public forum that includes their shareholders and employees. It is a way to prevent them from saying “we didn’t know” about the impacts – even though taking active measures to identify potential risks of human rights violations is part of their responsibilities. There is often media at the AGMs of the large companies, giving us another opportunity to bring to the international public the issue of Mozambique gas and the violence and destruction being perpetrated by those who profit from it tremendously.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging, most of the AGMs were held online.

The AGMs we attended were of Eni (Italy) which is co-leading the Coral Liquid Natural gas project with ExxonMobil; Total (France) which is leading the Mozambique LNG Project; Shell (Netherlands), who was previously involved; Standard Bank (South Africa), one of the major financiers; and HSBC (UK), another massive financier. While there are some questions specific to each company, many of them are standard. This is because, while Eni, Total and ExxonMobil may be the companies leading the actual gas extraction and responsible for constructing the offshore and onshore facilities, every player involved in the Mozambique gas industry is to some degree responsible for the negative human rights, climate, environmental and socio-economic violations and impacts it has created. Companies and governments involved often try to wriggle out of their responsibilities and accountability by claiming that they are not ‘directly’ responsible for the impacts. This is utter nonsense – without financiers, contractors or confirmed purchasers, the Mozambique gas industry would not exist.

We demand to know why they continue to invest or operate in Cabo Delgado considering the horrific violence and conflict that has been taking place for years between insurgents, the military and private security companies, in which thousands of civilians have been killed and over 800 000 people displaced. We want them to recognise that they have directly created suffering and deeper impoverishment for the communities affected by the project, who have lost their homes and livelihoods, and received no decent jobs; and we ask what is their plan to make reparations. We want them to provide transparent information, something lacking in an industry which is so opaque and secretive.

Eni insists they are ‘providing support to the basic needs of local populations’, even when we tell them that the only jobs Mozambicans have received have been menial and unskilled. They say that a mere 370 permanent jobs will be available in total over the life cycle of the Coral LNG project, although they don’t say if these will actually go to Mozambicans.

All companies refuse to see a link between the gas industry and the violence, with Eni even saying they see no risk whatsoever, and denying any human rights violation by the military, even though this had been exposed in mainstream media and international human rights organisations’ reports.

Total, which claimed force majeure in April 2021 due to the violence, putting the Mozambique LNG project on hold indefinitely, made the contradictory remark that the safety and well-being of communities was a priority, but at the same time, “our mission is to protect the interests of Total’s shareholders and our partners”. These are obviously mutually exclusive, as continuing with the project will only continue the violence and dispossession that communities are facing. While they insist that the Mozambique LNG project has not been “abandoned”, they put the responsibility of the impacts on communities solely on the Mozambican government.

Standard Bank also believes that their investments are not at risk because of the violence. Even as people in Cabo Delgado are being killed every week, they carry on with business as usual, as though the militarisation and its accompanying human rights violations creating refugees and forcing displacement, do not matter to them at all. Clearly, even though they use an undisclosed “consortium” of civil society organisations in Cabo Delgado to do “monitoring”, the lives of the rural affected peoples means nothing to them.

HSBC on the other hand, just refused to answer the questions, except to say they cannot talk about private clients and very few jobs will go to Mozambicans because of the project’s “advanced technical requirements”.

Company AGMs can be very frustrating events. Directors often dodge questions or answer them insufficiently on purpose, or just pretend they didn’t hear them at all. But this year, as with most, these experiences and actions are more than confronting fossil fuel companies and financiers, they also strengthen civil society’s collective struggle against fossil fuels and the impunity of transnational corporations.

We use these as opportunities to work with other regional and international organisations and movements who are fighting against the same company or projects for crimes they are committing in the different countries. As partners, we support each other in asking questions, gaining access, publicising on social media and holding protests, and use the opportunity to exchange with each other about the different ways we are campaigning against the same culprits. When we attend as a group, our presence is powerful. As a team, we have more numbers and confidence in our actions inside and outside AGMs, more access to media and more impact if we choose to cause any disruption. If these companies do not want to take the time to talk to us and our comrades, this is a way for us to force them to listen. The strongest outcome of attending AGMs is that we are saying clearly, with a collective voice ‘we are watching you and we are not going away’, while we demand that they leave and stop their profit-mongering activities that are killing peoples and the planet.

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The Despair of the people of Cabo Delgado

A week after the insurgents attacked the district headquarters of Palma, the people of that district continue to arrive in Pemba city, with faces full of fear, sadness and, above all, uncertainty. Although about 9000 displaced people have been accounted for so far, there is information coming from those same displaced people, and also confirmed by the Ministry of National Defense, that there are still people hiding in the fields.

The displaced persons tell how it was on 24 March, a date that will never be erased from their memories. Reports say that rumours had been circulating since the morning of that Wednesday that the Al-Shabaab were going to attack the district. But it was not taken into account because of previous rumours circulating in that district two weeks before the attack, which said that the insurgents were in the fields near the village preparing for an attack. The frequent shootings that already characterised the daily life in the village of Palma, also contributed to these rumours falling into disregard on the part of some people. On the other hand, people placed trust in the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) of Mozambique that seemed to have a heavy presence in Palma.

However, according to reports from the displaced people who actually experienced the attack, at around 4pm the attack began in the village of Maʼguna, 800 meters from the village of Palma, when most of the population of that village fleeing the armed confrontation in Ma’guna, came into Palma. Two shoot-outs started simultaneously in the Quibuidi neighborhood, via Nhica do Rovuma and at the Aerodrome of Palma. At that time, everyone abandoned their homes and possessions and ran for their lives in an uncontrolled way. The insurgents appeared from different parts, and since they use a uniform identical to that worn by our Defense and Security Forces, the only thing that differentiates them are the scarves tied to their heads and their bare feet. It was clearly noted that their initial intention was to destroy the government infrastructure. The only safe area to escape was to the sides of Palma beach but at some point, certain points on the beach also became unsafe.

We heard moving and frightening stories from those who lived that Wednesday under fire and the days that followed. There were several kilometres walked on foot and under fire, with fear, hunger and thirst. Mothers ran carrying their young children on their backs. One of these children was hit by a stray bullet, but luckily it entered the buttock and lodged in the leg. That is the little one, Cadir Fazil, 1 year and 2 months old, born on February 21, 2020.

On Monday, 29 March, due to the fact that the baby was wounded, his mother and aunt were given priority on one of UNHCR’s humanitarian flights and were treated urgently at the provincial hospital in Pemba. There have been situations of despair of men refusing to board humanitarian flights and ships because they were unable to locate their wives and children or any other member of their family; children begging for their parents’ lives and yet, being forced to witness their cruel murders. In spite of all this climate of terror, the class difference did not cease to prevail among the victims of Palma. At the Amarula hotel, where government officials and some foreigners took refuge, a helicopter landed twice, the first time to evacuate the district administrator and the second time to evacuate the owner of the Hotel, leaving behind the various people who only had the option of joining the caravan, which was unfortunately ambushed along the way.

The Quiwia and Quirinde forests are still home to people who struggle for their lives because of hunger and thirst. Every day we received unclear information about events in Palma, as the total break in communications remains in that district still, and it may remain so until the crossfire between insurgents and the military ceases.

After several complaints about the silence of the President of the Republic, he took the opportunity to comment on the matter, at the launch of one of the headquarters of the National Social Security Institute (INSS) in the southern district of Matutuíne, Maputo province, where he made a brief mention of what happened in Palma in a simplistic way, and minimised what happened. From the speech made by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, two questions arose. Firstly, for having stated that there have been worse attacks to Palma and that it was not even very intense, the following two questions remain:

– What was the worst attack that has occurred from 2017 until today?

– Why after the worst attack took place, were there not measures taken to prevent a new attack from occurring?

Another statement by the President that drew attention was when he said that we should not lose focus, that Mozambicans should not be “disturbed”. However, it is revolting to hear this when, in one week, about 9000 people were evacuated from Palma by land, air and sea, many of whom do not know how they will survive, since they have abandoned everything they had in their village of Palma.

– What should these people now be focusing on?

– Is it wrong for these displaced people to be disturbed, after having to focus only on surviving?

We must not forget that there are already about 300,000 displaced people living in transition reception centres and resettlement centres so far.

The first displaced persons of this war are being resettled practically permanently in the surrounding districts of the city of Pemba and now with the attack on Vila de Palma, many more arrive, although proper conditions are still not created for the displaced people of Macomia, Quissanga, Mocimboa da Praia and Muidumbe. Should we not be disturbed when we have no answers for the hundreds of people who arrive in Pemba and other parts of the country, coming from the attacked districts without even knowing if they will ever be able to return?

Should we be undaunted and serene in the face of the massacres that we have been experiencing since 2017?

So, Mr. President, since 2017, we have been ‘disturbed’, since 2017 we have howled and called for an end to the attacks and demanded that concrete measures must be taken, but because perhaps Mr. president has a different focus than ours, so tell us, in desperate situations like this, what should we do to not lose focus?

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PRESS RELEASE

Historic process continues at the UN: States resume substantive negotiations on the text for a binding treaty on transnational corporations with respect to human rights

28 October 2020, Geneva:

Amidst the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Nations (UN) Open Ended Inter-governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) enters its sixth round of negotiations on a treaty on “transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights,”1 from 26 -30 October. UN member states will negotiate a second revised draft of this groundbreaking treaty, which aims to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations.

Interest in the process continues to grow as evidenced by the significant presence of UN member state delegates taking part in negotiations.

The Global Interparliamentarian Network (GIN) has issued a statement in support of the UN Binding Treaty urging “states to actively engage in this UN process and to work towards an effective and legally binding instrument, to ensure that people´s dignity enshrined by universal political, economic, social and cultural rights, is prioritised and guaranteed worldwide over private profits.”2

Mayors and City Council Members of cities including Barcelona, Strasbourg and, Paris have issued a call to local authorities around the world to support the UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights.3

The continued presence each year since 2015 – the start of this process – of hundreds of representatives from affected communities, civil society organisations, trade unions and social movements makes it one of the most strongly supported in the story of the OEIGWG. This year, however, due to COVID19 restrictions, physical presence in Geneva is limited, although remote participation has been enabled through various online platforms. In this context, the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign)4 together with the GIN hosted a virtual Press Conference (full recording here) with high level political and civil society actors.

Leïla Chaibi, Member of the European Parliament, France insoumise (GUE/NGL) remarked :

“Today there is no Binding International Treaty that protects people, but there are treaties that protect the investments of large corporations. Thanks to initiatives such as the Toxic Tour, I was able to see how these companies destroy health and communities in Mexico. The EU has had no problem signing free trade agreements with third countries and this is deeply unfair. Along with many of my deputies, we continue to ask that we cannot put ourselves in the sidelines in the face of these human rights violations by transnational corporations.”

Charles Santiago. Member of the Malaysian Parliament. Chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights stated:

“At present, 43 million people have been infected by the Corona virus and more than one million have died. It is a catastrophe. Developing a Covid-19 vaccine is critical and has to be a global public good. Prices and profits need to be regulated. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) provisions in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement need to be suspended to allow patent production of generic and bio similar products.

Transnational corporations (TNCs) and rich countries are refusing to suspend IPR provisions because, they claim, it would undermine patent protection. A global mechanism must be developed to regulate big pharmaceuticals on prices, profits and IPR. Transnational corporations’ ‘business as usual approach’ which prioritises profit during a global pandemic is not politically sustainable. The UN Binding Treaty is the best place to reset and enhance accountability of TNCs.”

Dr. Manoela Carneiro Roland. HOMA’s Coordinator (Human Rights and Business Center) Prof Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil stated:

“We must regulate transnational corporations. This implies establishing direct obligations for them. Transnational companies already have rights established in the 3,000 plus signed investment agreements. We need to transform the paradigm of due diligence because it is a framework that erroneously leaves the task of self-monitoring to companies. We must establish effective control mechanisms, such as an International Court that has competence to judge transnational companies.”

Keamogetswe Seipato. Coordinator of the Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. Alternative Information & Development Center (AIDC), South Africa. claimed:

“We have to reduce or limit the power of companies. The African continent is a breeding ground for human rights violations. The primacy of human rights must be respected. It is a question of underlining the need for companies to be accountable because they cannot come to our countries to expand and neglect the main Human Rights Conventions. We must remember that the UN Binding Treaty must be a mechanism to help communities access redress for human rights violations – one that provides both the assistance and support affected people need.”

(1) This mandate is a result of resolution 26/9 adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2014. Official page: https://www.ohchr.org/en/

(2) Global Interparliamentarian Network in support of the UN Binding Treaty is formed by more than 300 members of parliaments from all over the world. https://bindingtreaty.org

(3) https://bindingtreaty.org/

Galp Must Fall!

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JA!’s friends in Portugal contest the AGM of Galp Energia, part of the destructive gas industry in Cabo Delgado

Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique is being ripped apart by the gas industry. Companies like Galp, who are part of the industry are taking homes, land and livelihoods from people who have lived, farmed and fished there for generations. And now, the gas industry has brought the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic to Cabo Delgado province, in Mozambique, and it is the people, and surrounding communities who will suffer.

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Last week, Portuguese company Galp Energia held its Annual General Meeting (AGM), and JA!’s friends in Portugal created a tremendous online direct action that brought over 400 people together. This is just the beginning of what will clearly be a fierce and powerful fight: Galp Must Fall!

 

JA! is part of the No to Gas campaign! in Mozambique campaign that is targeting Galp as one of the companies involved in the devastating liquid natural gas industry in Cabo Delgado in the north of Mozambique, where multinational fossil fuel giants like Eni, Exxon and Total are committing human rights and environmental violations, and irreversibly damaging the climate to extract gas. Galp owns 10% of Coral LNG, one of these projects.

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The action was created by Climaximo, a Lisbon-based organisation working on climate justice, just transition  and energy democracy; 2degrees artivism, a Lisbon-based artivist collective; and Greve Climática Estudantil, Portugal’s Fridays for Future hub. JA! Has been working closely with Climaximo leading up to this action.

As part of Galp Must Fall, three Climaximo activists took part in the AGM and asked questions directly to the board of executives. And while this was happening, more than 400 people were watching a live show with real-time concerts, talks and an online demonstration.

Sinan Eden, a Climaximo activist and one organiser of the action, said “Galp Must Fall is an action that had various elements. It was online and offline, inside and outside the AGM, in connection with national and international struggles, with activist and artivist elements.

We consider Galp’s AGM as a crime scene and the global fossil fuel industry as international organized crime against humanity. So our approach was to denounce the social and climate injustices of Galp in all spaces available.”

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This year, like most AGM’s around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown meant that the AGM was virtual, and shareholders had to stream in. This meant that the CEO or Chairman could cut off a shareholder with a click of a button, so the activists had to ask very succinct questions. The three activists who attended had to submit questions in writing, which the board then screened before asking it to the CEO.

Sinan points out that, “In Portugal, the tactics of entering in AGMs was nonexistent so far in the social movements in general. Climáximo’s theory of change informs us that a dialogue with the industry would not produce real solutions, so our approach inside the AGM was more contesting and denouncing than debating.”

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Activists inside the AGM:

The Climaximo activists asked questions (they should have been four, but Galp blocked the fourth at the last minute claiming some administrative issues). They submitted 15 questions, mostly about Mozambique, which JA! Had worked with them on. They received 5 responses from the board, which were very evasive and vague, repeating the usual rhetoric about Galp’s commitment to economic development in Mozambique, as they claim to do in every country in the global South where they have projects.

One of the activists who was part of the AGM, Manuel Araujo, described his experience at the AGM: “We asked about the ongoing climate crisis and their criminal business model of resource and social extractivism, which they answered by repeating their commitment to natural gas as a transition fuel, even though it is known to be a major source of GHG emissions. Predictably, they had no comment on the compatibility of their planned 50% increase in fossil fuel extraction over the next ten years with the emissions goals set in the Paris agreement.”

Manuel says the CEO, Carlos Gomes da Silva, made a particularly absurd argument, comparing the hypothetical emissions cuts obtained by replacing every car by an electric car (3.5%) with those obtained by replacing coal with gas in electricity generation (15%), as if these were the only two alternatives on the table.

They also asked what is usually the most uncomfortable question for executives – Why does the board and other top level executives earn absurdly high salaries and why do shareholders receive a ridiculous € 580 million, when this money could be better spent on a program of just transition for the company’s workers.

In 2019, da Silva received € 1.8 million in remuneration. The salaries to the board in total was € 6.6 million, half of which were bonuses.

Manuel says: “We got only evasive answers, but it was worth it to hear the President of the GM Board ask the Company Secretary what makes it legitimate for the CEO of Galp to earn 197 times the minimum wage.”

Ines Teles, who also asked a question, took this away from her experience: “During the AGM, the management of Galp revealed once again their profound disregard for questions related to climate and social justice. They are unable to see past the profits they reap from the sea of destruction they cause, proudly distributing their dividends amongst themselves.”

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Galp Must Fall Live

While this was happening, “outside” the AGM, 400 people took part in the other component of the Galp Must Fall direct action, which included a twitter storm, live interviews with activists, including from JA!, an online demonstration, and the shareholder questions also streamed live.

Part of this action was Galp Must Fall Live – a live show, via instagram, convening emergent artists and long-standing activists from countries that Galp is co2lonizing: Mozambique, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.

The organization of this live event was made possible by 2degrees artivism, and Greve Climática Estudantil.

Diogo Silva, one of the organisers of the action from 2degrees artivism, and believes that art is crucial for revolution says: “This event marked a lot of firsts in Portugal: the first time Portuguese activists stormed Galp shareholder meeting; the first direct action involving mostly online means; the first fully-online live artivist action; and the first online demonstration.”

From here on, our goal as an artivist community based in Portugal is to build stronger links, to empower each-other and to mobilize a new generation of artivism for climate justice. Another world is possible and it’s not our revolution if art is not involved”.

This action and this year’s AGM was the first that the No to Gas! Campaign and JA! Has confronted Galp and built awareness specifically about this company. The amount of attention and support that Galp Must Fall received was very inspiring, the social media following was great, this was is a strong beginning to what is clearly going to be a powerful collective campaign. Next year will be even stronger.

We will certainly be updating all of you, our friends on what comes next in the Galp Must Fall campaign.

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Sinan says: “I’d like to be clear about one thing: We must dismantle Galp, because if it instead collapses, we all will be underneath its ruins. Galp must be dismantled by a democratic, planned and deliberate process. A rapid and just transition and climate justice based on global solidarity are only possible through a publicly owned, democratically controlled, 100% renewable energy sector.”

And lastly, some words from Daniel Ribeiro, of JA!:

Galp is planning to make millions in Mozambique, at the cost of grabbing land from peasant communities and sea access of fisherfolk, loss of their livelihoods, human rights abuses and conflict. Galp’s investment is also serving as an amplifier of the country’s corruption, injustices and even assassinations of activists and journalists. Galp must stop, Galp must fall, if they do not want the blood of those crimes on their hands. They must start putting people before profits.”

For more info on the Galp Must Fall campaign:

https://galpmustfall.climaximo.pt/galp-tem-de-cair/galp-must-fall/

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Justiça Ambiental entrevista a Organização de Trabalhadores de MoçambiqueCentral Sindical, por ocasião do 1 de Maio, Dia Internacional do Trabalhador

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Entrevista a Damião Simango, membro do secretariado, responsável pelas relações internacionais e porta-voz da OTM-CS

Justiça Ambiental (JA!):

Caro Damião, obrigada por esta oportunidade de conversa. Sabemos que a Organização dos Trabalhadores de Moçambique – Central Sindical (OTM-CS) é a maior entidade representativa dos trabalhadores no país. Pode nos falar um pouco do que é a OTM e como se estrutura?

Damião Simango (DS):

A OTM é a central sindical mais antiga e mais representativa de Moçambique. Estamos em todas as províncias e em alguns distritos. Congregamos diversos sindicatos nacionais (15) que incluem o sindicato dos funcionários do estado, e também a associação dos trabalhadores da economia informal. No total, e pelas estatísticas de 2018, somos cerca de 145 a 150 mil membros. Na sua estrutura, a OTM também tem uma estrutura representativa das mulheres e outra dos jovens.

Existem outros sindicatos independentes, como o dos professores e jornalistas. Outra importante federação sindical é a CONSILMO, a Confederação Nacional de Sindicatos Independentes e Livres de Moçambique.

JA!:

Qual é a vossa missão?

Damião Simango (DS):

A OTM é uma congregação que dá a voz aos trabalhadores em Moçambique. Lutamos pela defesa e promoção dos nossos direitos e interesses sócio-profissionais, junto às entidades empregadoras e através do contacto permanente com organizações do Estado e outros actores sócio-profissionais e económicos.

JA!:

Indo directo ao assunto, aproximamo-nos do dia do trabalhador, 1 de Maio. Na situação em que vivemos actualmente, devido à pandemia do COVID-19 e as medidas tomadas para tentar contê-la, de que forma o trabalho da OTM é afectado por esta situação?

Damião Simango (DS):

Esta situação impacta-nos de muitas formas. Por exemplo, em condições normais, nesta altura provavelmente estaríamos nas negociações em torno do salário mínimo, mas estas foram suspensas por causa do COVID-19. Estas negociações estão previstas por lei, que prevê que anualmente deve haver um reajuste nos salários mínimos.

Claro que, por um lado, podemos compreender a fragilidade das empresas neste momento devido à pandemia, no entanto, a nossa preocupação é o trabalhador. Gostaríamos de, em contrapartida, particularmente durante a pandemia, ter a garantia da manutenção dos postos de trabalho e pagamento dos salários.

Devemos notar que, apesar de não se aumentarem os salários, a pressão sobre os salários já baixos dos trabalhadores aumentou – não só devido ao incremento dos preços dos produtos essenciais, como também pelo surgimento de novas demandas e despesas extraordinárias, como as máscaras, materiais de limpeza e higiene, etc.

JA!:

E quais são as vossas principais preocupações face ao cenário actual?

Damião Simango (DS):

Neste momento da pandemia, o que mais nos preocupa é o futuro dos trabalhadores. Em Moçambique não temos, por exemplo, um subsídio de desemprego ou uma segurança de rendimento para estas situações, principalmente para os grupos mais vulneráveis. Apenas o subsídio de emergencia básico previsto pelo INSS (Instituto Nacional de Segurança Social), e o subsídio de acção social previsto pelo INAS (Instituto Nacional de Acção Social), que varia entre Mts 540 e Mts 1050. Portanto se esta situação se prolongar por mais 3-4 meses, o que isto vai significar para os trabalhadores? Isto preocupa-nos muito, devido ao impacto que provavelmente terá nos trabalhadores e, consequentemente, na sociedade. Alguns impactos disto poderão ser um intensificar da pobreza, desigualdade, violência doméstica, criminalidade, entre outros.

JA!:

Recentemente, um grande número de organizações e indivíduos da sociedade civil, incluindo a OTM-CS, publicou um documento de posicionamento a respeito do Estado de Emergência. Este documento contém algumas propostas concretas para o governo, incluindo na área de emprego e protecção social. Quais são as vossas demandas neste momento? (Este posicionamento pode ser consultado em: https://aliancac19.wordpress.com/)

Damião Simango (DS):

De forma ampla, nós exigimos que o governo desempenhe o seu devido papel de protector social, que se torna mais urgente que nunca devido à situação de crise. Queremos que não sejam tomadas nenhumas medidas sem que se pense concretamente como é que os grupos sociais irão implementá-las, em particular as camadas mais vulneráveis.

O INSS tem evoluído bastante nos últimos tempos. Por exemplo há alguns anos, para se registar no INSS, teria que ser através da entidade empregadora. Isso já evoluiu, agora o trabalhador informal pode se registar no INSS de forma independente. Mas é preciso continuar a evoluir, principalmente no sentido de ampliar a abrangência da protecção social, que alcança ainda poucas pessoas, e adoptar medidas concretas para lidar com esta crise.

Sabemos que os empresários tudo farão para proteger as suas empresas, e alguns poderão até mesmo aproveitar-se desta crise para lograrem outros intentos que em condições normais não poderiam. Temos noção que a CTA (Confederação das Associações Económicas de Moçambique) tem um grande poder de influência sobre o governo, e já há tempos que temos observado uma pressão por medidas que contribuem para a precarização do trabalho e do trabalhador. No entanto, temos que perceber que as medidas propostas pelas empresas e demais entidades empregadoras não serão suficientes para lidar com esta crise, é fundamental que o governo intervenha com medidas de protecção social. O que nós exigimos, portanto, é que o governo possa dar uma resposta concreta a estas questões, e que as medidas negociadas não sejam em qualquer circunstância em detrimento dos direitos dos trabalhadores e da sua protecção social.

JA!:

Esta crise causada pela pandemia COVID-19 vem evidenciar também uma série de outras crises, de desigualdade, pobreza, precariedade do trabalho, etc, tanto a nível de Moçambique como a nível global. Como é que vê a interligação destas crises com o sistema sócio-económico predominante, o capitalismo neoliberal?

Damião Simango (DS):

As crises são oportunidades – isto pode até soar mal, mas é verdade. As oportunidades apresentam-se de diversas formas, e esta é uma delas. Temos a oportunidade de repensar o papel do Estado e, de forma mais ampla, o modelo de desenvolvimento que seguimos. Antes, a maioria das pessoas estava convencida que este modelo, por ser o mais praticado actualmente, é o que responde às nossas necessidades. Agora é hora de despertarmos, e percebermos que este modelo não nos serve. E foi, neste caso, o sector da saúde que evidenciou isto – vemos milhares de mortes nos Estados Unidos, principalmente da população mais pobre, porque têm um sistema de saúde privado.

Precisamos de resgatar um papel fundamental do Estado, que é o seu papel protector da sociedade, garantindo a sobrevivência do seu povo. Este papel, que tem sido fragilizado devido ao modelo económico vigente, não se pode perder. É agora o momento ideal para o Estado desempenhar o seu papel protector, independentemente das pressões impostas pelo sistema de mercado.

Sabemos que o sector empresarial conta com forte apoio, fundos e especialistas para defender as suas posições. Nós não contamos com o mesmo apoio – mas sabemos o que queremos! Queremos a sociedade e os trabalhadores protegidos pelo Estado. Não haverá qualquer saída viável, justa e produtiva desta crise sem os trabalhadores.

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Muito obrigada pela vossa disponibilidade para conversar conosco, e estamos em solidariedade com a vossa luta!

 

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Why should Africa lead the fight against corporate power?

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After a brutal colonialism that lasted for tens of centuries, in recent decades Africa has become a stage for an intense land and resource grabbing carried out by the lethal alliance between large transnational corporations (TNC’s) and the political elites of the continent.

Thanks to it’s economic power – anchored in the political power of governments, elites, and financial institutions of the global North – TNCs have been able to shape markets, governments, communications and legislation to suit their interests. These corporations are already more powerful than many States and, in fact, out of the 100 largest economies on the planet, 69 are companies and only 31 are States!

Discussing the power and the impunity of large corporations is particularly important to our African context due to a number of factors:

First, because the corporate capture (or should we call it recolonisation?) of our governments by large TNCs of the global north is currently one of the main threats to our sovereignty. Often made possible by the policies of institutions such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (and their structural adjustment programs, austerity measures, and other neoliberal packages), this promiscuity between African rulers and TNCs results in very high costs for the environment, for the majority of the population and for our young and fragile democracies. A neo-colonialist dynamic prevails in Africa, as we continue to observe the same mechanisms of dependence on foreign capital, exportation of raw materials and importation of manufactured goods between African countries and industrialized countries + new emerging powers. Understanding the ways and means used by TNCs to interfere with and undermine the political agenda of African countries is, therefore, critical to understanding the broad phenomenon that is the corporate capture of our decision-making spaces.

Secondly, Africa’s historical, social, cultural and economic contexts make the impacts of corporate power in the continent particularly acute. In a continent where the vast majority of the population is rural (about 70%), and where small-scale farmers produce up to 80% of all the food, the land and resource grabbing by TNCs is a threat to our food sovereignty, to our traditional and millennial knowledge and customs, and a severe attack on the human dignity of millions of people already in vulnerable situations. Africa’s traditional rural populations are both mutually dependent and protective of nature. Numerous studies show that traditional practices and knowledge are most effective for protecting and restoring the environment while, in contrast, industrialized agriculture and extractivism are having an overwhelming impact on our rivers, forests and ecosystems. In the agricultural sector, foreign donors are exerting enormous pressure to try to convert Africa’s predominant family farming model into profit opportunities for the global agri-business sector.

Furthermore, as we examine the continent’s circumstances, it is essential to take a close look at the intrinsic dynamics of oppression and exploitation of certain social groups by others. In particular, patriarchy and gender oppression, which are well rooted in the social dynamics of most African countries, are a constant impediment to achieving a just and egalitarian society. It is in patriarchy that neoliberal capitalism finds fertile ground to proliferate as it feeds on and depends on these power imbalances within a society. A gender-based division of labor that makes women –particularly those of lower class – free providers of a variety of care services (for children, the elderly and the sick), is a convenient tool for the extractive economy.

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Thirdly, the climate crisis we are experiencing reminds us that in order to solve the greatest challenges of our time we need to address the structural and systemic causes behind these crises. It was the northern industrialized countries that, in their race for development, emitted the most CO2 into the atmosphere – the great catalyst for climate change. However, this crisis’ greatest injustice lies in the fact that the peoples of the global South (therefore those who have contributed the least to it) are the first to suffer its impacts, and those who will be hit the hardest.

In Africa, the climate crisis is not a problem of the future – it is happening now, in a brutal, oppressive and highly unequal manner. It is therefore crucial that African civil society demand that their governments be aligned with the real needs of their people, not with the unlimited greed of corporations profiting from the exploitation and burning of fossil fuels. This greed is fundamentally incompatible with the search for real, fair and inclusive solutions to this crisis.

And fourthly, we urgently need to deconstruct the narrative that Africa is a poor continent in need of help – a narrative that greatly benefits the maintenance of a North-South dependency status quo. This dangerous, long repeated and commonly accepted premise both inside and outside the continent, paves the way for all sorts of “market solutions” as corporations are seen as the major promoters of progress and development. Africa is not poor – it is a rich continent whose wealth has been historically assaulted by the great imperialist and colonialist powers, century after century. Recent studies indicate that illicit financial outflows from the continent total US$50 billion each year, a figure that has been growing since the beginning of the century. This is far more than the total of foreign aid that the continent received during that same period!

This capital flight can take many forms, from product or human trafficking, to tax evasion or price transfer, among others. This means that an absurd amount of wealth generated in Africa is being diverted off the continent without a trace and, therefore, without being subject to taxation that could be used to improve social infrastructure and the living conditions of the population.

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In general, the expansion of capitalism, especially in its neoliberal form, brought about an exacerbation of social inequalities and the deepened exploitation of certain social classes by others. Despite claims that globalization and free trade would be the solution to all problems, we are witnessing the exact opposite: the architecture of free trade is intrinsically contradictory to human rights legislation as it seeks to erode and weaken the role of the State – which by definition is primarily responsible for the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights.

However, important movements have emerged as a counteroffensive to the supremacy of corporate power on the global stage, in a more or less articulate manner. Several organisations and social movements around the world have been denouncing and exposing the impacts of corporate encroachment on their territories, bringing criminal corporations to court, resisting free trade agreements, creating more just and egalitarian cities and societies, defending the right to say NO to destructive projects, and showing that the solutions to the crises we are experiencing cannot be built using the same logic of the market – they must come from collective constructions based on respect for human rights and nature.

An interesting response to this threat, posed by the power of capital, is the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. The Global Campaign – a network of organisations, movements and people affected by TNCs – has mobilized itself massively to take part in the process of drafting an international treaty to regulate the activities of TNCs and hold them accountable for human rights violations and environmental destruction. This process has been taking place at the United Nations (UN) and we have already written about it in various occasions.1

At this point, what is worth noting is that, at the last negotiating session over the text of this binding instrument, in October 2019, the African region has established itself even more sturdily as a driving force in this process. In addition to expressing itself as a regional union in support of the treaty (the declaration of the region was read by Angola, which chairs the African group this year), numerous African States have individually contributed with concrete and substantial proposals to improve the treaty and strengthen the instrument.

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For all the reasons explained above and many more, the African continent should be more than keen to push for a normative instrument such as this, aimed at ending the impunity of TNCs. One thing is certain, the message that African countries have been reverberating year after year at the UN in Geneva is clear: this binding international instrument must address the enormous asymmetries of power between TNCs and the people affected by their activities. In order for the materialization of this process to meet the needs of Southern countries – those most affected by corporate impunity – it is crucial that these countries take the reins of this intergovernmental process in order to establish the necessary legislation and mechanisms to reverse the current scenario, and that they do so in close cooperation with civil society and the populations affected by corporate crimes. In this last session, perhaps even more so than in previous ones, several African countries showed they were up to the task and willing to face the challenge.

Are the so-called developed countries prepared to provide the “foreign aid” that Africa really needs, and to punish their corporations for human rights violations worldwide?

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