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CORPORATE IMPUNITY: STRATEGIES OF STRUGGLE (PART II)

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 In addition to providing us with a (unpublished) report of deliberations that will help to expose the behaviour of these companies, this jury also made clear that the mobilization of peoples and the opening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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Justiça Ambiental/FOE Mozambique’s Position on the Prosavana Program

The Prosavana program is inspired by Prodecer, a Japanese-Brazilian agricultural development program developed in the Brazilian Cerrado since the 70’s.  Referred to by Brazilian, Japanese, and Mozambican governments as a success, the Prodecer program promoted the distribution and possession of land to foreigners and turned ​​Brazil into an avid promoter of land usurpation practices abroad.

By way of Prosavana, Brazil plans to export an agro-industrial development model to Mozambique that failed in Brazil where more than 65 million Brazilians are in a situation of food insecurity and millions of people struggle for access to land for food production a means of ensuring livelihood.  Experience shows that the benefits of the Brazilian model have been insignificant compared to the devastating impacts on the lives of peasants, forests, and the biodiversity of the country.

The Prosavana program was skilfully and conveniently wrapped in elegant “green” language and has been presented to Mozambicans and the international community as a program of “sustainable agricultural development”, completely leaving out its potential social and environmental impacts.  However, in a program of this size which requires the resettlement of communities, it is disturbing to realize that they know little or nothing about it.  It is another program designed and decided upon at the highest level without any involvement of farmers, local communities, or the public.

Through Prosavana Japan intends to ensure, in addition to borders, a new source of agricultural goods at low costs the purpose of which is for export to the Asian market particularly Japan and China.
Brazil sees in Prosavana an opportunity for expansion, technical cooperation, and a good investment for their producers and supply companies.
What are the benefits for Mozambique?

A major problem for the promoters of this program is that almost all of the Nacala corridor lands are occupied by peasants.  This is the most populated region of the country, whose fertile soil and abundant rain allows millions of peasants to work and produce food in abundance.  The Nacala corridor is considered the bread basket of the region providing food to the inhabitants of the Northern provinces and allowing the survival of millions of families. The rationale and purpose of Prosavana promotes the usurpation of land and the expulsion of thousands of local farmers who depend on it.  The Prosavana program has been questioned and challenged by civil society organizations among them the National Union of Peasants (UNAC).  UNAC is a peasant movement of the family sector founded in 1987 and recognized by the Government as a partner and by Mozambican peasants as its representative at a national level.  Over the past 25 years UNAC has been playing a crucial role in strengthening farmers’ organizations in the fight for their rights to land and natural resources and the discussion of public policy for the agricultural sector.  It has more than 86,000 individual members grouped into 2200 associations and cooperatives, 83 district unions, 7 unions and 4 provincial unions.  Justiça Ambiental corroborates the statement of UNAC on the Prosavana Program.

Justiça Ambiental / FOE Mozambique strongly condemn the whole process of preparing and implementing ProSavana because:

  1. It is based on the import of top-down policy and so far the circulating information is incomplete and unclear;
  2. The program is connoted as “sustainable agricultural development” and has as main targets peasant families and cooperatives of farmers, however, provides for the resettlement of communities and the expropriation of land;
  3. Promotes the influx of Brazilian farmers turning Mozambican farmers into cheap labour;
  4. Requires millions of hectares of land that is not actually available due to the system of leaving land fallow;
  5. This ignores the benefits of the program for the peasants;
  6. The program is structured to promote the expropriation of land to the peasants and local communities in general;
  7. Promotes the violation of the rights of peasants given the insecurity of land tenure, regarding DUAT (Right to Land Use);
  8. Promotes worsened corruption and conflict of interest given the enormous interests involved;
  9. Will aggravate the already precarious living conditions of many communities completely dependent on agricultural production for their livelihoods which could lead to a massive rural exodus;
  10. The program provides a high mechanization and excessive use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides leading to contamination of the soil and water courses;
  11. There is a convenient lack of clarity over the use or otherwise of genetically modified organisms which given Embrapa’s connection to Monsanto is probably expected.

 

We demand that the Mozambican state, as stipulated by Article 11 of the Constitution of the Republic of Mozambique, assume its sovereignty and its leading role in defending the interests of its people.
We demand also that the Mozambican government reassess the ProSavana program taking into account the aspirations, concerns, and needs of Mozambicans, particularly farmers who are most affected by the program and who constitute the vast majority of the Mozambican people.  ProSavana, in terms of what it proposes, will threaten food sovereignty, access to land, water, and the entire social structure of families of thousands of Mozambicans thus crippling the nation’s future.

 

 

 

 

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