Category Archives: nyusi

JA! speaks truth to TNC’s in Europe!

Lobby tour participants and organisers FoE Spain in Madrid

 

Over the past few weeks, JA! took part in a lobby tour organised in Europe, by Friends of the Earth Europe, where we met with current partners, made new allies, shared our anti-gas struggle and confronted the companies and banks who make up the liquid natural gas industry in northern Mozambique. This tour was imperative for the campaign, because so many of the companies and banks involved in the industry are based in Europe.

Lobby tour participants outside the EU Brussels

The tour, which went through Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels, was aimed at creating awareness about our struggle against the gas industry in Mozambique and demonstrating the critical need for a Binding Treaty on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations (TNCs) at the United Nations. Currently, there is no accountability mechanism at the UN, only guiding principles which companies do not abide by, as they see them as an impediment to their greed and profit.

 

Our partners had arranged for JA!, along with activists from the DRC and the Phillipines to meet with current and new partners and allies, as well as industry players and state authorities.
Panel discussion with lobby tour participants and parliamentarians in the Hague2

Our confrontations with the industry were often met with blatant hostility, when we tried to hold them accountable for their actions, and when we raised questions they didn’t like. We attended four annual general meetings (AGM’s), those of Shell, Natixis, Eni and Total.

Intervention at natixis AGM

Natixis, the French bank which arranged for the entrance of three major French banks to finance the Coral LNG Project1, was so hostile at their AGM that when JA! attempted to ask a question about their negligence and ineptness in the project, they turned off the microphone and refused to answer the question. Shareholders were shouting “go home!” as JA! and partner organisations walked out of the meeting.

 

At the Shell AGM in Amsterdam, we were part of a large contingent of civil society organisations, mostly Dutch but also some European. Shell has a sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with Mozambique LNG to buy 2 million tonnes of gas per year for 13 years.

 

JA! and an organisation from Nigeria were the only attendees from the global South. The response to our questions was, as expected, vague, but our voice had been heard and carried in the Dutch media. Shell had little respect for activists – when the Nigerian activist raised the impacts that Anadarko’s project was having on their community in the Niger Delta, the Charles Holliday, Shell’s Chairman, responded that he should approach the ‘helpdesk’ in the foyer for assistance.

Interview with online news outlet madrid2

The third AGM we attended was that of Total in Paris, which is the new owner of the Mozambique LNG Project2, since May when it purchased Anadarko’s Africa assets. Anadarko, however, is still operating the project, and plan to hand over the lead to Total at the end of the year. After Greenpeace disrupted the AGM last year, there was a large police presence, and for some reason that was not properly explained to us, even though dozens of activists had arranged for access to the AGM, only JA! and an activist from Greenpeace were allowed into the plenary. JA!’s question was met with a dismissive answer, with Total evading responsibility for the impacts of the gas industry on the ground, claiming that responsibility lies with Anadarko.

 

This was a theme that came up in all AGM’s that we attended, including the fourth one, that of Italian company Eni, in Rome. Eni, along with ExxonMobil has the biggest stake in operating the Coral South LNG Project in Mozambique. We found that all the companies that we confronted, including during the one-on-one meetings we had with industry financiers BNP Paribas and BPI (French Public Investment Bank) put all the blame for the impacts on Anadarko. When we pushed them for answers, it became clear that none of these companies had even looked at the Environmental Impact Assessment that Anadarko had made in 2014, and yet were blaming them for all the climate injustices that were taking place. They are conveniently ignorant.

 

JA!’s partners had arranged for us to hold meetings with several authoritative bodies, including Michel Forst, UN Rapporteur on HRD; French parliamentarians from the working group on human rights and TNC’s; the deputy director of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a parliamentarian from political party ally in Spain, Unidas Podemos; Belgian parliamentarians, and party representatives at the European Union.

 

We also met with other organisations, including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and Action Aid.

 

In each country we spoke at events, to full houses of activists, journalists and the general public, some meetings of over 100 people. Our partners organising the tour had built a media campaign around our visit. Here are links to some of the articles about our struggle in European media and blogs:

 

Publico (Spain)

 

Les Echos (France)

 

Basta (France)

 

Observatories de Multinationales

 

L’Humanite (France)

 

Banktrack

 

Foe Scotland

 

It was great to see the amount of interest in our campaign, once people were made aware of the issue, and on the flipside, frightening to see how little attention the industry had been given in European media. But we believe that this tour has taken us several steps forward in the following ways:

  •  We have made many new partners and allies in the campaign throughout Europe, strengthening our coalition
  • We have shared the campaign with people working on or interested in the issue of fossil fuels and climate justice, including activists, journalists, academics and students.
  • We have directly questioned industry players one on one, from which we received some crucial information
  • We raised the issue in large industry public platforms, AGM’s, leading to attention on written and social media, and making shareholders aware
  • We have brought the issue to the radar of high level individuals on an EU level, and on the level of political parties, parliament and ministries

Now that we have strengthened the foundation of the Campaign in Europe, we must continue to push for answers and accountability. Push for activists in Europe to take their power as European citizens to hold their companies to account, and push them to force their governments, at national and EU level, to take responsibility for those corporations from whom they receive their tax.

1 Area 4 is operated by MRV, a joint venture company comprising ExxonMobil, Eni and CNPC, which holds a 70% interest in the concession for prospection and production in that area. Galp, KOGAS and Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos de Moçambique each hold 10% interest. ExxonMobil will lead the construction and operation of liquefied natural gas production facilities and related infrastructure on behalf of MRV, and Eni will lead the construction and operation of upstream infrastructure, extracting gas from offshore deposits and piping it to the plant.

2 The Area 1 block is operated by Anadarko Mozambique Area 1, Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Anadarko Petroleum group, with a 26.5% stake, ENH Rovuma Area One, a subsidiary of state-owned Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, with 15%, Mitsui E&P Mozambique Area1 Ltd.(20%), ONGC Videsh Ltd. (10%), Beas Rovuma Energy Mozambique Limited (10%), BPRL Ventures Mozambique BV (10%), and PTTEP Mozambique Area 1 Limited (8.5%).

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Petitions to government institutions fall into oblivion

On the 21st of September 2016, Justiça Ambiental, in partnership with the World Rainforest Movement, submitted to the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development, to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, to Green Resources and to Portucel a petition signed by 12332 people exposing the numerous conflicts and social, environmental and economic impacts – especially in the local communities directly affected. The petition stated the following:

“On September 21st, on the occasion of the International Day of Struggle Against Tree Monocultures, we, the undersigned organizations, groups, movements and individuals, expressed our solidarity and support to the communities that are fighting against the expansion of these large plantations. We demand that Green Resources, Portucel and all other companies and financial capital investors who are usurping land or planning to support the capture of fertile agricultural land for tree monocultures in eastern and southern Africa return it to the communities. By doing so, they can help prevent new conflicts between plantation companies and governments and contribute to solve the many that already exist across the region. We demand that the Government of Mozambique maintain its Land Law and ensure that the rights of communities to land, water and food are duly respected.”

The conflicts and impacts of monoculture plantations are not exclusive to rural communities in Mozambique. In fact, they are a characteristic of this type of investment and can be found everywhere where plantations of this type are promoted.

The petition was submitted to the aforementioned bodies with the knowledge of:

The Office of the President of the Republic

The Parliament

The Attorney General’s Office

The Governor of the Province of Zambézia

The Governor of the Province of Niassa

The Governor of the Province of Nampula

However, to date, after more than 2 years, none of the institutions above deigned to respond…

These public institutions, that we are told exist to serve and defend the interests of the people, are the ones who systematically ignore their concerns, demands and petitions…

In August 2018, Justiça Ambiental, ADECRU (Academic Action for the Development of Rural Communities) and Nampula’s UPC (Provincial Peasants Union) facilitated the process of drafting and submitting a petition on behalf of the communities affected by Green Resources, which contained some 3406 signatures from members of affected communities. The petition exposed in detail the innumerable situations these communities were subjected to and the various attempts at conflict resolution that have had no results at all. This last petition was submitted to the following institutions:

Ministry of Agriculture and Food Safety, addressed to the Minister;

Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development, addressed to the Minister;

The Parliament’s 5th Committee – Committee on Agriculture, Economy and the Environment;

Green Resources Mozambique;

Mozambican Bar Association;

Norfund;

Embassy of Norway in Mozambique; and

National Commission on Human Rights

Of these institutions, only the National Human Rights Commission responded and was showed interest in investigating the matter, however, so far nothing else has happened.

Land conflicts persist, communities affected and deceived with promises of better living and employment are still waiting for a response, they continue to wait for a solution to their many complaints, and to believe that there will be answers to their many appeals !!!

More frightening than our government’s silence and inaction over these petitions and complaints regarding this type of investment, is that it continues to promote the monoculture plantations business, it continues to invite investors and distribute land that is not vacant, nor is it infertile or marginal – as they claim in order to defend their investments.

The latest versions of the Forestry Policy and Implementation Strategy, of the 2035 Forest Agenda and of the National Forestry Program, which are allegedly still under public discussion, clearly demonstrate that our government, particularly the environment and forest sectors, is far from realizing the scale of the social, environmental and even economic impacts of this investment.

Even more serious than the complete absence of current knowledge about the negative impacts of large monoculture plantations on the environment, in particular on maintaining the ecological balance on which we all depend, is the arrogance with which they refuse to learn from the many examples that exist throughout the world. It is completely unacceptable and absurd to hear a forestry technician effusively defend that monoculture plantations are forests and then insist by asking “are those not trees?”! It is equally unacceptable that the definition of forests can be altered to accommodate the interests of many false solutions such as REDD and the commodification of nature. Yet, this is precisely what is happening in the sector.

Important instruments such as the 2035 Forest Agenda and the National Forestry Program are being developed under the leadership of government’s “strategic partners”, with tremendous economic interests in the sector, such as the World Bank that has poured millions and millions of dollars in these “make-believe” processes. Yet we, the Mozambican organizations that stand our ground against the complete pillage of our resources, are the ones who are constantly accused of serving foreign interests. The influence and power enjoyed by these “strategic partners” who finance and direct these processes is visible and frightening. Who rules our country? Are we really sovereign? Or is that speech valid only when your “strategic partners” and our eternal “financiers” are angry with your crazy adventures with public money? Are we only sovereign then?

Public participation is still a huge challenge, and it does not seem to us that there is a real desire to improve, since this way it is much easier to conduct the processes without much resistance. Mozambican civil society barely participates in public discussion processes, whether about environmental aspects or other issues. The participants of these meetings are mostly representatives of civil society organizations and other organizations and sometimes some students. This weak participation also tells us a great deal about the way citizens feel about these processes and, above all, what can be expected of them.

In the case of the above-mentioned instruments, it should be noted that technical committees have been set up for the elaboration and discussion of these, but the space attributed to civil society organizations is always very small and it is not clear how organizations are “chosen” to participate . JA! participated in the technical committee and despite the numerous comments on the various versions of the document, nothing was really considered and properly analyzed. Our natural resources, our forests and ecosystems are only treated as profit-making resources, we do not consider their biological importance and the fact that we are part of this planet and depend on the biological services that these ecosystems provide us and that allow life on Earth.

It seems childish to remember that we do not own Planet Earth and nature, we are part of it. We are the most stupid and destructive part of it…

Our stupidity is demonstrated over and over again by the state of our planet, by the state of our forests, rivers and other ecosystems… We don’t see the other animals – the ones we call irrational – destroying their habitat as humans do… for profit!

The Selfish…

My brother died.

He died because he grew up in a rural area where there were no schools, therefore he did not study. And because he did not study, when the local administrator appeared with some gentlemen who offered him money and a job in exchange for his land, he believed their word and signed some papers unaware of what he was doing. When he realized he was conned, he complained but no one helped him out.

He died because when the miserable six-month contract and the money they paid him ran out, he had to go live in the city to escape starvation. He ended up starving in the city.

He died because he could not afford the minibus taxis and, in the city, there are not enough buses, so on his way to work he jumped on the back of a truck full of people that rolled over in a tight turn because it was too full. The tire blew up. The accident happened shortly after the truck was stopped by the police to pay their “toll”.

He died because the only running ambulance in the district was on its way to another place, so they took too long to get him to the nearest health centre.

He died because in the health centre they did not have the means to save his life.

I wish I could invite the heads of our government to the funeral. It seems fitting to me that one of them should bang the last nail in my brother’s coffin, since, directly or indirectly, it was them who hammered all the others.

In most Mozambican schools, there are not enough tables, chairs, manuals, notebooks, pencils, pens and even teachers. There are schools without a roof, schools without windows and even schools without walls.

In most hospitals and health centres in Mozambique, a lot is needed and lacking. For example, Maputo’s Hospital Central, due to lack of equipment, refers critically ill patients to private hospitals that very few can afford, thus condemning those who cannot to their fate.

On Mozambique’s modest roads, twice a day, millions of men, women, and children commute in crammed up minibuses or in the back of trucks that do not even meet the minimum safety requirements to transport cattle.

Mozambique lacks A LOT of basic stuff.

However, the selfish do not mind. They do not hide. They could not care less. They have no shame.

gbbb

Shamelessly, they use the public treasury to lead palatial lives, totally out of step with our humble reality, robbing the people of their right to live with a minimum of dignity.

And as if that was not enough, without any decorum, – as if asking: “What are you going to do about it?”– they rub their shameless opulence in the face of the insulted. In the face of parents whose children study sitting on the floor. In the face of the elderly who have to endure standing for hours, crammed in the back of crowded trucks, in the rain or in the blazing sun. In the face of the helpless mothers, whose children die everyday in the corridors of our hospitals.

Regrettably, in a country that is growing increasingly devoid of values ​​and examples, it is only natural that the deplorable behavior of the selfish can easily find fertile soil in the most manured heads. Their dishonesty and the example of impunity that they set, has repercussions at all levels of our society. From top to bottom, their totally unethical and immoral posture, – which they ironically call “wise and didactic leadership” – spreads like a social plague and becomes a code of conduct. “Every man for himself and screw the rest” is the rule. Everything else is bogus. Social justice is a mirage.

And it’s mostly our fault. Not only because of what we let the selfish do, but also because of what we allow them not to.

We are so used to not relying on the State, that we bypass it. We ignore it. We replace it taking on its obligations. Those who can, in addition to their taxes, pay for security, for sanitation, for health, for energy, for education. The State says thank you and leans on us. Hangs on to us. Washes its hands of the responsibility and buys another Mercedes.

And once again, it is those who have no one and nowhere to turn to who get screwed. The rest continues to live quietly in their bubble. Until the day the bubble bursts…

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.

03

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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Supports who?

Another mega agricultural project launched in Mozambique

We received the news about its launching ceremony with skepticism. For many of us, it was the first time we were hearing about the project. Another mega project loaded with ambitious and (some) noble goals, like so many others that preceded it and vanquished without achieving half of what they set out to do.

“This mega project of my Government, whose objective is to gradually take rural families out of poverty, is the embodiment of the investment in Mozambican families as the main mechanism to promote sustainable, integrated and inclusive development and reduce regional and local asymmetries”, said Filipe Nyusi.

It is premature to make major considerations or comments on the subject because still very little is known. We have not yet had access to any document on the project, and the little information that exists is circulating in the mainstream media. However, the simple fact that a project this big (judging by the amounts involved and by the 125 thousand families of alleged beneficiaries) is launched in this manner, leads us to ask: Where did this project come from?

Once again, this is a top to bottom approach. The project was designed, discussed and launched, without giving the alleged beneficiaries or other interested parties and/or affected people, the chance to participate in its construction!

Surely there are more than enough reasons to justify the urgency to launch this project. To justify why there was no time to perform appropriate public consultations; to involve the many actors who deal with agricultural issues such as research institutions, academics, civil society, grassroots organizations and peasants in discussions on priorities for the development of peasant agriculture; and to design the project on the basis of a truly open and transparent process.

To justify their hurry, the noblest of reasons will be invoked, such as the urgent need to support the development of the peasantry, given their evident poverty and vulnerability. Obviously, old and less noble arguments – which, truth be said, are nothing but mere distractions – will also come back, like accusing those who question the project of being against development and/or unpatriotic.

Interestingly enough, the World Bank and other similar agencies are far more influential in deciding what may or may not happen in Mozambique than the Mozambican people. And although, as we have said earlier, we know nothing about this project yet, we risk guessing that the role of the World Bank is not limited to financing it. They have certainly been involved in the project’s conception, ensuring that their altruistic support goes mainly to what interests them most: agro-business and forest plantations – monocultures of exotic species – they call reforestation.

“More than 5,000 jobs will be created by forest plantations, through the reforestation of more than 1600 hectares of degraded lands.”

According to information in the media, this project was conceived by MITADER and will be supported by the World Bank! The perfect wedding!

In other words, we owe a great debt to our government (and no, it is not that hidden and illegal debt we talking about)! We are deeply grateful to them for granting us another ready-made project to reduce poverty. Free from burdens such as having to think about development issues, about inclusive and participatory strategies, about how to ensure that the priorities of the peasantry are properly included, and even about how we want to manage our resources and how we want to see our country in the coming years.

For now, let’s wait for the enthusiasm to fade so we can then try to understand how this mega project is supposed to work and, above all, how will it – unlike the many others in the past just like it (loaded with the same promises and the same rivers of money to implement) – finally get Mozambicans out of poverty?

Who has left poverty behind thanks to the fantastic green revolution? Who has left poverty behind growing jatropha or other biofuels? Who will benefit from Prosavana? Someone always profits, but who? And at what cost? How many hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans’ well being will these ready made projects with incognito beneficiaries “cost”?

And while misunderstandings and failures in communication are, unfortunately, too often invoked to justify civil society’s opposition to so many mega-projects, – even though they are never the main reason – people insist on doing things behind closed curtains. Where is the official information about the project? It has already been inaugurated; it is already being advertised in the media; but it is not available on the websites of the entities involved and all we know about it is what is being reported by the media.

We would also like to believe and share their enthusiasm, but skepticism has taken over us long ago. Now we prefer a “seeing is believing” approach, and we have not seen anything yet …

 

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