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AFRICAN ORGANISATIONS PUSH FOR A LEGALLY BINDING TREATY ON TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT | 20 OCTOBER 2020

In June 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted resolution 26/9, by which it agreed to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group OE(IGWG), in order to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights.

The sixth session of the OEIGWG will take place from 26 to 30 October 2020 to discuss the Second Revised Draft of the Binding Treaty. In anticipation of the upcoming session, African civil society organisations are calling for a Treaty that reflects African perspectives and effectively addresses

African experiences.

Over the last few decades, the continent has witnessed an increase in foreign direct and local investments—which under the disguise of spurring economic development and in certain cases complicit with State agencies, have been at the helm of massive human rights abuses and violations. These investments, often by large and economically powerful Transnational Corporations, have a long history of profiting from human rights abuses and environmental destruction.

Unfortunately, it remains difficult to hold them accountable for their actions, due to the huge power imbalances that exist between states, corporations and communities. The few attempts to address this, like the U.N. Guiding Principles on business and human rights, are voluntary and ineffective. The current proposed Binding Treaty on TNCs and human rights has the potential to strengthen accountability mechanisms. Many African countries have expressed continuous support for the Treaty. This is an important step for gender justice, environmental rights and peoples’ movements struggles to curb corporate impunity.

The 2020 negotiating session presents an opportunity for African governments, who have often decried international instruments as tools of neocolonialism, to shape a strong framework that could put an end to corporate impunity and provide remedies for victims. We hope to help facilitate this and bolster regional collaboration on the Treaty. A strong, unified African position is a powerful message to the international community, to transnational corporations and importantly to those bearing the brunt of harmful corporate conduct.

As such, today, on 20 October, trade unions, civil society organisations and affected communities will be hosting an interactive workshop on the Second Revised Draft from 10:00 – 15:00 SAST. We will reflect on the key demands that have formed the African perspective on the treaty process and to what extent, if any, these demands have been articulated in the Second Revised Draft.

To Join

Meeting ID: 960 2379 5131

Passcode: 659146

Then, on Wednesday 21 October from 14:00 – 17:00 SAST , African state representatives and Human Rights Commissions are invited to join an online African consultation to discuss with affected people, civil society and experts, the impacts of transnational corporations’ activities in the region and how an effective UN treaty could improve access to justice.

To Register:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_E5H6b75MQ2G8EpGDmdGrrw

Issued jointly by:

African Coalition on Corporate Accountability (ACCA)

Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC)

Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)

Justiça Ambiental (JA!) – Friends of the Earth Mozambique

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)

Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA)

Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power

Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI)

Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA)

Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA)

#Africans4BindingTreaty #Feminists4BindingTreaty #BindingTreaty #UNForumBHR #StopCorporateImpunity

PRESS RELEASE

Condemnation of the oppression and violence against

journalists and activists in Mozambique

On Sunday night, 23rd of August, 2020, the office of the newspaper Canal de Moçambique was set on fire with homemade bombs (Molotov cocktail) by allegedly unidentified individuals.

Canal de Moçambique is a serious, professional and highly reputable newspaper that serves a fundamental role in our society, disseminating news and articles on various issues that are important to the country, including but not limited to governance, corruption, lack of transparency, human rights violations, and others. A free, open and inclusive dialogue is a fundamental condition in the construction of fairer and more equitable societies.

Mere hours before the destruction of Canal de Moçambique’s office, the journalist and activist Armando Nenane, who has been criticizing the structural corruption of the state and the private appropriation of funds granted by transnational gas companies, was arrested near his residence. Although the reason given for the arrest was allegedly violating the state of emergency, it is known that the regime has been trying to silence Armando Nenane for a long time, he was even beaten by the police and threatened with a legal process.

So a clear message has been sent: there cannot be space for critical voices in Mozambique. There cannot be space to stand against injustices, corruption schemes or even frauds. There cannot be space for debate – which is urgently necessary – about a better social project for the country. Anyone that tries to do this risks feeling the long and powerful tentacles of a system that governs through oppression and fear.

These events that unfolded in the last 24 hours, are not only bitter but also have a very familiar taste. Journalists, academics, activists and civil society organizations that do not echo the system’s mantra, have been systematically persecuted, threatened, repressed, silenced, beaten or murdered.

Here we remember Carlos Cardoso, a journalist murdered in 2000, while he was investigating the corruption linked to the privatization of Banco de Moçambique.

Here we remember António Siba-Siba Macuácua, an economist murdered in 2001, while he was investigating the corruption in Banco Austral.

Here we remember Gilles Cistac, constitutionalist and professor, a fierce critic of the state’s corruption, murdered in 2015. He was shot dead after making an argument in favour of a reform of decentraliation of the country.

Here we remember Anastácio Matavele, activist and election observer, murdered by the police in 2019, on the eve of our country’s presidential election.

We also remember hundreds of other cases of activists, journalists and academics, that individually or collectively, have been working on the consolidation of democracy, on the defense of human rights, of protection of nature, and are constantly persecuted, threatened, attacked or pursued due to their role and importance of what they share and debate.

Here we remember every Fátima Mimbire, Anabela Lemos, José Jaime Macuane, Izdine Achá, Estácio Valói, David Matsinhe, Matias Guente, Ericino de Salema, Jeremias Vunjanhe, Daniel Ribeiro, Amade Aboobacar, Omardine Omar and Ibrahimo Mbaruco (who is still missing!). And so many others.

And we also remember the thousands of people that are silenced and made to bow down daily due to fear, people who are oppressed by the system of structural violence that was imposed in our society, which robs more lives and rights every day.

Today we stand against the repeated attacks on the right to life and to the physical and moral integrity of so many Mozambicans, even though it is allegedly guaranteed by Article 40 of our Constitution. We stand in defence of our freedom of speech, press and right to information, allegedly protected by Article 48 of our Constitution. Today we stand against the repeated and systematic attacks on journalism and activism in Mozambique.

We demand that Ibrahimo Mbaruco be located, alive and well, and that those involved in his disappearance be held accountable!

We demand a deep investigation of who is responsible for the attack on the office of Canal de Moçambique, including those who aid and abet, and that the convicted are held accountable.

We reiterate our solidarity to everyone who raises their voice against injustice!

“It is forbidden to put handcuffs in words” _Carlos Cardoso

Maputo, 25th of August, 2020

Acção Académica para o Desenvolvimento das Comunidades Rurais (ADECRU)

ALTERNACTIVA pela Emancipação Social

Justiça Ambiental (JA!)

Kubecera – Tete

Observatório do Meio Rural (OMR)

Rede para Integração Social (RISC)

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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COVID-19: Civil Society Demands that the State of Emergency upholds Social, Environmental, Economic and Gender Justice

Press release

Maputo – 10. April. 2020

Social movements, unions, social activists, academics, artists, and other Mozambican civil society groups and organizations publish today, April 10, a positioning and analysis document on the possible implications of the State of Emergency for Mozambican citizens. This document not only outlines a number of short and medium-long term demands and proposals for Government action but also presents a plan of action for civil society in the coming months.

The response articulated by this collective intends to further a vigilant, critical and constructive attitude regarding the different actions of the government and other socioeconomic agents. It also aims to, whilst offering to collaborate with the government in the dissemination of useful information about COVID-19, also promoting actions and initiatives of solidarity, empathy and citizenship actively. Furthermore it seeks to contemplate this pandemic and consequent crises as an opportunity to strengthening our social fabric in an inclusive and participatory way.

Nzira de Deus, from Forum Mulher (FM), warns about the need for reinforcing mechanisms for assistance, monitoring and prompt action by the competent entities, in situations of domestic violence and sexual abuse during the State of Emergency, since these incidents tend to increase as a result of exacerbating social tensions.

The document also advocates for the need to rethink, in this context, the role and functions of the State in the Mozambican economy and society. According to João Mosca, from the Observatório do Meio Rural (OMR), neoclassical theories that argue for reducing the role of the State in the economy and the market must be abandoned. For him, the current context requires the strengthening of governance structures and active citizenship practice, which restores confidence in State institutions, an essential requisite to reduce the severe impacts of pandemics and other crises.

According to Anabela Lemos, from Justiça Ambiental (JA!), this crisis highlights the connections and disconnections of a deeply unfair society, and, considering that certainly this crisis will not be the last, we should take this opportunity to look at the future of the country, taking into account certain aspects, like the increasingly exacerbated inequality in our country and in the world, resulting from a socio-economic system of development and accumulation of capital that depends on the exploitation of workers and nature. She argues that there is a need to rethink the power and benefits given to companies in our country, in particular transnational companies.

For Luís Muchanga, of the National Union of Peasants (UNAC), this crisis also offers the opportunity to work towards ensuring food sovereignty in Mozambique, which implies the provision of support to and empowerment of small farmers and peasants, so that their productivity is increased through methods and practices that do not threaten public health, the environment or biodiversity.

The civil society declaration was endorsed by several civil society organisations, it remains open for further endorsements (both by organizations and individuals), and its full version can be read at this address: https://aliancac19.wordpress.com/

For further information:

Anabela Lemos: anabela.ja.mz@gmail.com (Justiça Ambiental)

Boaventura Monjane: boa.monjane@gmail.com (Alternactiva)

João Mosca: joao.mosca1953@gmail.com (Observatório do Meio Rural)

Luís Muchanga: lmuchanga@gmail.com (União Nacional de Camponeses)

Nzira de Deus: nzira.deus@hotmail.com (Fórum Mulher)

Justiça Ambiental (JA!) Celebrates Human Rights Day with the Launch of 2 Case Studies

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On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, commemorated on 10 December, the date marking the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, JA! launched two important case studies. These publications expose some of the continuing human rights abuses and violations that agricultural communities are subject to in Mozambique, as well as the difficulties that they face in claiming their right to information, land, food and demonstration. They illustrate the difficulty in the exercise of the right to say NO, and above all, the right to a dignified life.

These case studies also highlight the difficulties faced by civil society in their legitimate search for information – a right provided and safeguarded by law. Through these two examples, we intend to denounce the banality and regularity of violations of the law, and the weak capacity and political will to implement them, in our country.

One of the case studies “Jindal – An example of Corporate Impunity” concerns the Indian company Jindal’s open-pit coal mining project in Tete, which began exploration in 2013 without making the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and its respective environmental license duly available to the public. The company began operating without relocating the Cassoca community, which found itself surrounded overnight by a Jindal fence. Their territories were usurped to make way for coal exploitation, and families were thereafter forced to coexist with the constant explosions and resulting dust, and polluted waters. Even their freedom of mobility was restricted as they were required to pass through a gate controlled by Jindal, sometimes even during restricted hours. If these are not serious human rights crimes, what are they?

JA! appealed to the courts to have the rights of these families recognized. It all began with a letter to the National Directorate of Environmental Impact Assessment (DNAIA-MICOA) unsuccessfully requesting copies of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and its respective Environmental License. Numerous requests, complaints and letters to various agencies followed, and after nearly 4 years of legal battle, in June 2018 and in response to the appeal submitted by JA! to the First Section of Litigation of the Administrative Court, Jindal was ordered to relocate the Cassoca communities by December 2018. The resettlement process only began in March 2019, and the new homes are not yet in suitable condition.

This case highlights the numerous difficulties and challenges faced by both local communities and civil society organizations seeking to protect and promote human rights. It shows how justice is not within the reach of all Mozambicans, and especially those in the most disadvantaged and vulnerable social strata.

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The second case “Land and Conflict – Land-grabbing in the Cocomela irrigated area of ​​Namaacha Village” deals with land conflicts in the Cocomela irrigated area in ​​Namaacha village. JA! received a complaint and request for support to stop a peasant land-grabbing process being carried out by the Namaacha Municipality.

We have been working constantly with land-grabbing issues in rural areas, mostly related to foreign investment, and often with government sponsorship. But this case struck us as unusual – why was the Municipal Council grabbing land from its own citizens? When we started investigating the issue, we found that the complaints were indeed well-founded, and the case deserved seriousness and support.

In 2010/2011, JA! in conjunction with UNAC (National Peasant Union), made a preliminary analysis of the land-grabbing landscape in some provinces of Mozambique, and launched the study “The Owners of the Land”. This study confirmed several illegalities in the processes of peasant land-grabbing, as the Mozambican Constitution and Land Law provide the necessary tools to protect customary land rights. We believe that in addition to the huge difficulties in implementing the law, there is also a poor understanding of the law itself, especially at government level. Time and again we have heard that the land belongs to the State, and as such belongs to the Government. This is wrong: the State is the Mozambican people, not the Government. This false but surprisingly convincing premise is the starting point for many of the land conflicts in Mozambique today.

Human rights violations like these happen routinely in our country. We believe that we can only truly combat poverty and so many other problems that plague the country by reflecting on these conflicts, and seeking inclusive, effective and real ways to solve them. Our government denies that there are cases of land-grabbing in Mozambique. If we continue to turn a blind eye to serious human rights violations such as those described in these two cases, we will continue to foster an enabling environment for increasing inequality, violence and crime, unemployment, and environmental destruction. If we continue to deprive most Mozambicans of access to comprehensive and impartial justice, the promotion and protection of human rights in Mozambique will remain a mirage.

To access the studies email: jamoz2010@gmail.com

JA! is taking on Sasol

Over the last month, JA! has been confronting South African energy company Sasol in several ways, interrogating them on what they’re really getting up to in Mozambique.

Most recently, last week JA! attended the Sasol 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Johannesburg, along with four other civil society organisations, to question the board and inform shareholders about what the company is currently doing, and planning to do, in Mozambique.PHOTO-2019-11-27-09-12-09

Leading up to the AGM, JA! sent the company questions to understand the technicalities of their present and future projects, followed by a meeting with five vice presidents at their headquarters in Johannesburg, with the support of a fellow activist from partner organisation groundWork.

JA! raised two issues at the AGM:

The first was about the Pande and Temane gas fields in Inhambane that Sasol has been operating since 2006 after removing many community members from their homes and creating only 300 permanent jobs. Sasol has been accused of transfer pricing in this operation – Sasol Petroleum International (now Sasol Africa) is the sole purchaser of the gas extracted here by its wholly-owned subsidiary Sasol Petroleum Temane, which it buys at a tiny percentage of the market value.

The second question was about Sasol’s planned shallow-water drilling off the coast of Vilankulos, also in Inhambane. The drilling will destructively affect fishing communities, endangered species of animals and plants, and the tourism industry, a huge income generator for the province. Accompanying JA! Was a member of the Protect Bazaruto Campaign, which is working to stop the project.

Here are the questions asked by JA!:

1. The first subject is the Pande and Temane project in Inhambane.

To give context, Sasol has regularly insisted that the fields have brought benefits to the surrounding communities since operations began in 2006. However, setting aside schools and soccer fields, the rate of literacy and employment has increased only in line with the rest of the country, including those provinces without extractive industries. Furthermore, 12 years later, according to the World Bank, only 25% of the population of Inhambane has access to electricity, which is less than the country as a whole, at 27%.

When communities were relocated from their homes in 2006, they were given once- off compensation of R 12 000. I emphasise, R 12 000. However, Sasol signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the government which promises annual benefits to the people. Note that this amount is a mere 2.75% of the 6% production tax that the company pays to the government.

JA! questions are:

  • Why has Sasol not paid the annual benefits to the communities as per the PPA for the last four years?

  • Does Sasol recognise that the amount it offers as benefits is too little to maintain the livelihood of a family?

  • And will Sasol renegotiate the terms of the PPA to increase the amount of the benefit, by using total revenue as a basis as opposed to production tax, now that it has the option to do so?

2. The second subject regards Sasol’s planned seismic testing and drilling for gas in the shallow waters off the coast of Vilankulos

Sasol plans to do seismic testing and drilling in ocean shallow water ocean blocks 16 and 19 in Bazaruto, a national park and IUCN Important marine mammal area. Block 16 is home to the only viable dugong species in the Western Indian Ocean as well as two important reefs for commercial and subsistence fishing for many communities.

The best case scenario for this drilling is impacting critically endangered species such as dugong; Fish stocks and livelihoods of fishing communities; sustainable tourism which is central to the economy and can outlast oil and gas.

While Sasol maintains that it is taking all necessary actions to avoid environmental damage, it has been well documented that mitigation of the impacts of gas drilling and seismic testing is impossible. Communities, too, have shown strong resistance to the project.

JA! question is:

  • As it is scientifically certain that seismic testing and drilling will diminish the last viable population of dugong in the Western Indian Ocean, why does Sasol believe it has the right to contribute to the extinction of an iconic species, violate national laws protecting national parks, and detrimentally affecting the livelihood of fishing communities?”

Responses:

At the end of the round of questions, we received a verbal response from Jon Harris, Executive Vice President: Upstream, who JA! has engaged with on previous occasions.

His response was vague, a public relations exercise and in it he repeated the same story of the great benefits that the company had allegedly brought, and that we need to look at smaller sections of the population of Inhambane, those in the immediate vicinity of the plant, and not the province as a whole. He said he was not aware of whether people had been receiving benefits or not, and did not answer whether they would renegotiate their PPA with the government, which would enable the people to receive more benefits.

Regarding Vilankulos, he said that seismic drilling has no impact on the environment, and that they are putting the utmost care into avoiding any impact on animals.

There are several aims of JA! Attending an AGM like this – to confront the board, to inform shareholders, to ask questions, to receive information and to alert the media. There is always the risk that the responses will not be helpful, or even relevant, but our presence there was imperative – were it not for JA!’s presence few people would have known about Sasol’s crimes in Mozambique.

Outside protesters, against Sasol, and same are about to hand over the memorandum to Sasol Vice President Marcel Mitchelson

PHOTO-2019-11-27-11-44-47

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?

This speech was given by a young Mozambican student, who has been participating in the climate strikes.

discurso 20.09.2019

Thank you for bringing yourself to the street!

Millions of people have taken to the streets today to show that we are paying attention to the climate science, and that we will not stand for the destruction of the natural world and the heart-breaking consequences that it will continue to have on our human civilisation. Everything that we have built, everything that we take for granted, including democracy, is at stake if we don’t take a hard look at ourselves and move away from the material greed that has led to this unprecedented environmental challenge in the first place. We need to do this while acknowledging the toxic system that we live in and how difficult these lifestyle changes are, especially for those less privileged, without a recognition and genuine initiative from government. But we can’t wait for that to get started, and I think we know that. In fact, I think that is why we are all here. We need to put pressure on our governments, and we need to reject business as usual! History has shown us that for this to happen we need mass mobilisation. We need civil disobedience.

We are here because we recognise the unfortunate reality that has led young activists to resort to school strikes in order to make their concerns about the state of the climate and the natural world heard. We also recognise the NECESSITY for young people to make their message heard across the world. They have the most to lose. We have to rise above our material obsession and engage in the democratic exercise of reforming our economies and public policies.

We are going to need a massive global collective effort. And that starts here. Why? Because we are here. We have to inspire by example and build bridges to those who have lost hope. We need governments to set clear goals that are realistic, and to legislate accordingly. We need international colaboration because climate change doesn’t know borders, and we can’t really call ourselves civilised if we don’t recognise the impacts we have on other countries. Even if our streets are clean and we have a diploma. We are here today with the deepest respect for our habitable planet: the host of our adventures, and with a relentless drive to preserve our civilisation, and protect our lifeline: the natural environment. We have to protect the beautiful living species of this planet that are now have to face the consequences of our polluting and destructive habits. On average, an area of tree cover the size of the United Kingdom was lost every year between 2014 and 2018.1 Forests, mangroves, marshes, peatbogs, seabeds, coral reefs, kelp forests, swamps, all work as natural climate solutions.2 They are carbon sinks; and so we have to invest in, protect, and restore, these wild habitats!

We must restrict global warming to below 1.5 C (post-industrial levels) to avoid setting off runaway climate change. If we continue the way we are now, by 2030 we will set off a chain reaction and then it will be too late!3 We need policies that allow life to flourish on Earth and facilitate a just and urgent transition away from fossil fuels and greenhouse gases, and into renewable energy. We can still fix this! The solutions are here. At the end of Extinction Rebellion’s April Rebellion, a mural emerged in Marble Arch, and this is what it said: “From this moment despair ends, and tactics begin”. Change is due. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY.

Fabio Mendes 20.09.2019

3IPCC

Denounce Corporate impunity

 

We call to mobilise worldwide on 12th October to

, on the occasion of the Week of Peoples Mobilisation in Geneva

 

JOIN IN TO RECLAIM PEOPLES RIGHTS OVER INVESTORS AND CORPORATE PROFITS AND IMPUNITY

 

Neoliberal globalization has opened the doors for the savage exploitation of the world by the big economic powers. Megaprojects, agribusiness and militarization, among other processes, express a patriarchal, neoliberal and racist system that amounts to an assault  on life as such. As a result, peoples’ rights have been systematically violated, the Earth and its resources destroyed, pillaged and contaminated, while corporations continue committing economic and ecological crimes with total impunity. They also throw us into an environmental and climate crisis of unknown proportions, for which they do not take responsibility.

 

Driven by their imperative to maximize profits, transnational corporations (TNCs) seek to pit workers from different regions against one another throughout the entire supply chain. The systematic violations of human rights that affect millions of people, who were forcibly expelled by extractive industries, free trade or the business of war and forced to long migratory routes, constitute new markets and profits for civilian and military companies.

 

Communities and peoples are resisting the advance of this offensive that implies, in most cases, the combination of the institutional action of far-right governments with actions that violate the collective rights of peoples driven by actors such as transnational corporations. The evidence on the violation of human rights at the hands of these companies is widely documented and on the ground translates into environmental disasters, the death of activists, leaders of communities and peoples.

 

The signing of new international trade and investment treaties gives more rights to “the investors” than to the affected people and communities. Worse, through the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (known as ISDS), corporate interests are shielded to the detriment of the public interest.

 

In order to challenge corporate power and the system that protects and benefits it, it is necessary and urgent to give a systematic response. We must unite our experiences, struggles, collectively learn from our victories and our failures, share strategies and analysis in order to curb the impunity of the transnationals. The United Nations Binding Treaty process on transnational corporations and human rights constitutes a space, within the framework of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, from where we can force corporations to respect human rights, creating a mechanism so that affected states and peoples can sue transnational corporations.

 

The 5th Session of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) in Geneva will take place from October 14 to 18. The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity will be there again, as every year since 2014, to continue to pressure governments and prevent them from derailing the process.

 

In that context:

  • We join the call of the European Campaign “Rights for people, rules for corporations – Stop ISDS” that will mobilize between October 11 and 18 in Europe denouncing corporate power.
  • We convene the Week of Peoples Mobilisation in Geneva (Switzerland) from 12 to 19 October   
  • We call to mobilise in protest against corporate power on October 12 across the planet and to pressure governments to advance the Binding Treaty. It is an important day that reminds the “discovery” of America initiating a colonial process that has a continuity with the current economic policies imposed by the most powerful countries to the Global South.

 

 

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