Tag Archives: climate change

JA! causes a ruckus at the Eni AGM

On Wednesday 14 May, JA! Attended the AGM of Italian oil and gas giant Eni, in Rome, where we put CEO, Claudio Descalzi, Chairperson Emma Marcegaglia and the board of executives on the spot in front of about 50 shareholders, by asking them questions about their work on gas in Mozambique and oil in South Africa that they really did not want to deal with. This was the first time we had been at the Eni AGM and we were able to go with the help of our Italian partners, Re:Common.

The meeting started at 10am and went on till 9pm, unusually late. After submitting written questions two weeks ago, we received the written answers, in Italian, literally as we walked into the meeting, and had to study them while the meeting was already in session, to see what they had or had not answered sufficiently before we were given a chance to speak.

JA! was given 10 minutes for an intervention. We first gave the context of the way Enis Coral Liquid Natural Gas Project was destroying endangered flora and fauna, and forcing people off their land before operations had even started, as well as their oil exploration in Block ER236, off the South Coast of Durban, affecting the livelihoods of at least 20 fishing communities and followed this with a barrage of questions about both of these issues, none of which were properly answered by CEO Descalzi.

While we asked many questions covering a range of topics, the main issues we raised were:

– Why did Eni begin operations in Mozambique in 2006, when they only received their license in 2015, and only completed their environmental impact assessment (EIA) in 2014? (This EIA was done in conjunction with Anadarko)

– Why is Enis gas project in Mozambique releasing greenhouse gases that will increase the whole of Mozambiques carbon emissions by 9.4% by 2022, when their main focus for the next ten years is decarbonisation?

– Why did Eni ignore the poor and marginilised communities of the South Coast of Durban, while only engaging with the wealthy communities at country clubs and upmarket hotels, to do their EIA?

Descalzi was extremely patronising in his responses, saying that Eni had not done any drillingin South Africa, so he is not sure about the forced removals of fishing communities that you (Ilham) are talking about.

He also interrupted JA, to say that Eni is not involved in Area 1 so the EIA for Mozambique But this is a lie, as Enis logo is on the front page of the EIA.

He did not answer the questions about them beginning operations in Mozambique before they received their license. He also claimed that the resettlement process of what we know to be forcefully-removed communities in Mozambique was in line with the EIA.

He said that the answers to the other questions were in the document of written responses, which will be released next month.

After the end of the AGM, Descalzi sought out JA !representative, and thanked JA! for the questions, to which JA! responded that none of the questions had actually been sufficiently answered, and that his so-called responses were offensiveas they contradicted what JA! Has seen on the ground, and which we are told by affected communities. He is basically, JA! said, saying that we are either ignorant or lying.

It was clear that we, and our partners Re:Common had an impact on Descalzi as he was answering our questions, he stumbled, saying Im well-cooked, an Italian saying meaning that he was extremely tired. That he sought Ilham out before anybody else was quite telling, offering her his personal contact details. Now lets see what happens

JA! will publish a more detailed post, the questions asked, and the verbal responses from Descalzi, as well as an analysis. Its important to note that Eni, and Descalzi, along with Shell, are currently defendants in a court case, charged with one of the worlds biggest corruption scandals, allegedly paying $ 1.3 billion in bribes, to Nigerian politicians for the purchase of an oil field in Nigeria. Lets see now, if he keeps his word by responding fully and personally to the questions he has offered to personally answer, while also remembering, Can we trust one of the most corrupt men in the world?

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JA! Visit finds confusion and distrust in Cabo Delgado gas region

DSCF2153When JA! team visited Pemba at the end of February, 2019, the biggest city in Cabo Delgado province, to learn about the current situation of the ‘gas rush’ in northern Mozambique, it quickly became apparent to us that there is very little clarity and transparency about what is actually happening in the gas industry. Attacks on communities, land grabs, the stage of the companies’ operations, and even which companies are involved, have left people uncertain and confused.

 

The industry is constantly changing, with one example at the time being the pending takeover of US company Anadarko, which is the leader of one of the two major projects since it first ‘discovered’ gas in the Rovuma Basin in 2010. Just two weeks ago, Chevron put in a bit to purchase Anadarko for $ 33 billion, and a mere few days later, Occidental Petroleum tried to outbid them with $ 38 billion.

This has huge implications – communities who have been in communication with Anadarko about resettlement and compensation, or already signed agreements with them, the government’s financial agreements with Anadarko and investments in the project – these will all need to change, and more frighteningly, nobody knows how they will change.

 

Furthermore, the stages of the gas projects are constantly changing, new contractors come in and new deals are signed in the blink of eye. The official information out there is that In 2006, 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was discovered in the Rovuma Basin off the coast of northern Mozambique. There are two concession areas that the Mozambique government has already given the rights away to:

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Area 1, the location of the Mozambique LNG Project, which was led by Anadarko, but will now be led by Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, and Area 4, the location of the Coral LNG Project that is lead by Eni and Exxon.*

And both projects have secured purchasers which ultimately has given them the financial green light to operate.

 

Over the last year, there have been many violent attacks on villages in the gas region, and there are different theories about who is responsible and who benefits from them. Due to these attacks, on this trip the JA! Team was unable to travel to the communities with which we work near Palma.

Instead, our focal point that we work with closely, arranged to bring two community members to meet us in Pemba instead.

 

Even though we were unable to travel to Palma during this visit, just meeting with people in Pemba – NGOs, activists and journalists – pointed us to an increasing number of issues arising. Basically, the more people we spoke to, the more people we realized we needed to speak to.

Two people from communities being affected by the industry, Crisanto Silva from Senga, and Burahani Adinane from Milamba, traveled six hours to tell us about the situation they are facing now.

 

Mr Burahani told us how his community left Milamba in February and are staying with family in Palma because they felt very unsafe, in constant fear of being attacked. He says that at the end of last year, Anadarko made an agreement with the community telling them what they would receive as compensation. They have not yet signed that agreement with the government, and Anadarko has not returned that agreement document to them as they said they would, so they are in a constant state of uncertainty and limbo.

 

He says that the compensation assessment process has been ridiculous – one way the company assesses someone’s land is by counting their belongings and compensating them financially for those goods.

 

People with 5 hectares (ha) of land are going to get only 1.5 ha in compensation,” he says. “I have 64 ha but will only get 1.5 ha!  The company did the measurement by counting the number of trees in the plot. I had 583 trees, but how do I fit that in 1 hectare?”

 

The fishing community is being moved 10 km inland, away from the sea, where it will be very difficult for them to get to their fishing grounds, which will also be the location of a new port construction project. And actually, people have lost access to the sea even before the process has been completed.

 

Now we will be resettled from the sea,” says Mr Burahani,and personally, i don’t know how to do anything but fish”.

 

Crisanto Silva, from Senga, which is the village that the removed communities will be resettled in, told us about the problem of the military in the area. Following the violent attacks on villages, mainly those around or in the gas region,  that have been taking place since October 2017, the government has brought the military, allegedly to protect the communities from the attackers. Nobody is sure about who is responsible for the attacks, but there are many theories going around. The official government line is that they are carried out by Muslim extremists, but many others believe that gas companies, or powerful people in government are responsible themselves.

 

However, Mr Crisanto says that the military who is supposed to be protecting them, instill fear in the community instead. They stand around drinking beer, says Mr Crisanto, and give the people of Senga a curfew of 8pm, and then beat up people who are out after that. “But the army is only in the village till midnight,” Mr Crisanto says, “which I don’t understand… We are too afraid to go to the fields but the army refuses to escort us, so we are left without food.”

 

Mr Crisanto also says that he knows the ecosystem will be completely destroyed, and the Anadarko and Exxon factories are right next to the port that will be built. The port will go 2km into the sea, and the excavation is disturbing the sea bed. This is really affecting fishing patterns and the amount of fish in the area.

 

After speaking with the community members, we held several other meetings that provided important information. One of the other urgent issues is that of media oppression – two community journalists from Cabo Delgado were imprisoned for a long time, with one, Amade Abubacar, detained from 5 January to 23 April 2019. While the official reason for his arrest is unclear, Amnesty International says the he was arrested for documenting deadly attacks by armed groups against civilians.

 

This has left the few journalists who are not following the mainstream government rhetoric in constant fear of their lives or of losing their credibility if they write or say anything which does not align with it. The journalists we spoke with insisted on speaking to us in our hotel room because even being seen with us would put them in danger.

 

We spoke with a few NGO’s, some of whom provided us with very interesting information. We learnt about the vast current issues with the resettlement process. For example, the areas where Anadarko plans to give people machambas (farmlands) is at high risk of attacks, and it is very difficult for civil society to physically go there to protect people from these attacks. Communities feel that monetary compensation is not enough, as it is their ancestral land that is being taken from them. When they have meetings with companies about the process, they are not given the space to ask questions, and when they hold meetings with civil society, the military appears to disrupt the meeting. Anadarko is also known to hold resettlement meetings with individual families, which is divisive, and there is growing hostility over who gets which machambas.

 

We also learnt that many areas in Cabo Delgado, including areas where people are given machambas, are actually not arable, because Portuguese colonizers used them to grow cotton plantations which utilized many chemicals and degraded the soils.

 

Another rather disturbing piece of information is that while we met several NGOs doing interesting work, there are very few in Cabo Delgado working on the gas issue that do not receive funding for some or other service from Anadarko. It raises questions of independence and transparency for us when NGOs receive money from the very companies they are supposed to be challenging.

 

After those few days we spent in Pemba, it became clear that things are changing very quickly – the presence of the companies and private security is growing, fear of attacks and military is increasing and people are already losing their homes and livelihoods. There is a sense of unease in the air – many people don’t want to talk, or if they do, are afraid to say anything openly against the government or industry.

 

There is no doubt that the need to stop the industry is urgent, as the devastation we are already seeing may be irreversible. We will continue to work closely with the affected communities, as part of a campaign that uses different approaches – local and international to stop gas in Mozambique!

Broken Lives,Stolen Futures. A short documentary made by JA! of the sad situation of the communities in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, affected by the gas exploration..

 

Of Coral FLNG, ExxonMobil owns a 35.7 percent interest in Eni East Africa S.p.A. (to be renamed Mozambique Rovuma Venture S.p.A.), which holds a 70 percent interest in Area 4, and is co-owned with Eni (35.7 percent) and CNPC (28.6 percent). The remaining interests in Area 4 are held by Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos E.P. (10 percent), Kogas (10 percent) and Galp Energia (10 percent).


In Mozambique LNG, Anadarko (soon to be taken over by Chevron or Occidental Petroleum or?) leads the LNG project with a 26.5 percent ownership stake. Other owners include the Mozambique state energy company, 15 percent; Japan’s Mitsui Group, 20 percent; India’s ONGC Videsh, 16 percent; India’s Bharat, 10 percent; Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production, 8.5 percent; and Oil India Ltd., 4 percent.

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The “ A, B , C “ of Large and Mega Dams

 What is a Dam, large and Mega?

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It is a big cement hall, that stop the course of the river. The word seems to be related to the Greek word taphos, meaning “grave” or “grave hill”, in reality it is a tombstone for the river.

By the International Commission of Large Dams (ICOLD), a large dam is higher than 15m while a Mega dam is over 100m. Most Mega dams worldwide are used for energy production.

Mega dams have been the center of many debates, research and studies for the last decade.

Between 1930 and 1970, the boom of Mega dams was seen to be synonymous with “economic development” and a symbol of human ability to assert control over nature. But then the truth of their negative impacts started to arise, and it become the center of many debates and arguments around costs-versus-benefits, ecological impacts, social impacts, etc.

From one side the proponents claim dams as a source of energy and as such a tool for development, from another side the opponents state that those benefits are far outweighed by disadvantages such as loss of communities livelihoods and rivers ecosystems to name just some.

The late 1980s and 1990s era, were marked by large protests, and controversial debates about mega dams. Pressure and huge campaigns from civil society, social movements and communities affected by dams to stop financing mega-dams. Same financed institutions, with the pressure and information about crimes against human rights, by mega dams financed by the world bank, funds were decrease to the world Bank Dams projects. Due to such an outcry, an independent commission under the chairmanship of Kader Asmal, the South African water minister, was created in April 1997, the “World Commission on Dams (WCD)”, to research the environmental, social and economic impacts of mega Dams globally. The WCD was composed of members of civil society, academia, private sector, professional associations and government representatives. The report findings and recommendations were launched under the patronage of Nelson Mandela in November 2000. The WCD found that while “ dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development, and benefits derived from them have been considerable… in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by people displaced, by communities downstream, by taxpayers and by the natural environment.” The study also made recommendations and provided guidelines which all dam projects should follow, including five core values and seven priorities detailed below:

Values

Equity,

Sustainability,

Efficiency,

Participatory decision-making and

Accountability.

Priorities

Gaining public acceptance,
comprehensive options assessment,

Addressing existing dams,

Sustaining Rivers and Livelihoods
Recognising entitlements and sharing benefits,
Ensuring compliance and

Sharing rivers for peace, development and security.

For a while, the understanding of the large costs of Mega dams started to become a reality, but suddenly with the climate crises, they came back with the tag of “Solution for Climate change”. But it is not a solution. It is riddled with problems and earns our tag of “false solution”.

At JA’s last year climate justice meeting “Seeding Climate justice II”, held in Maputo, JA invited Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Director of International Rivers (IR), who presented the impacts of dams on the climate, and debunked the myth that mega dams are one of the energy sources to address our climate crises. Without going into the known social and environmental impacts, the presenter began her presentation by asking “Hydro dams, do they provide CLEAN energy? NO, THEY DON’T, ITS NOT TRUE! They exacerbate climate change instead”. Dams especially tropical dams can often produce a huge amount of methane and carbon dioxide from rotting biomass in the reservoir. Then there are huge impacts of droughts and floods on the energy production, and dependency of hydroelectric on a changing climate is questionable.

Rudo spoke about the breakthrough research done in 2012, “ A Risky Climate for Southern African Hydro”, there was a lot of opposition, attacked by politicians, statements that IR ‘’was scaring people, and that was not going to happen’’. But it is real, 4 years after, we see that is happen, this year, Lake Kariba never went above 20% capacity, Lesotho Katse dam was 63%, Zambia that was 80% dependent of Hydro, due to a 2 years drought is turning into solar. This is real , Zambezi Basin countries will have a decrease in stream flow, as many studies estimate and a decrease of run-off to be between 26% to 40% by 2050. No one is trying to scare people, but it is already happen and is going to only become worse.

We recall back in 2012, when Rudo come to Maputo to present the finding of this study, we were attacked by most of the government participants at the launch meeting, to the point of becoming quite an ugly and unproductive meeting.

We raised the question again, how can Mozambique build a dam as risky as it is Mphanda Nkuwa is to the environmental and communities, seismic risk, and now adding the economic and climate change risk? Those risks exist, due to extreme climate changes, and they must be included in any evaluation and decision to build or not a dam.

But as the researcher stated on their study, that government, dam builders and decisions makers, are not taking into consideration the economic risks associated to climate change, in his wordsThere is been a neglect of climate risks in hydropower planning – in an approach that might be called either ‘wait and see’ or ‘head in the sand’ ”.

But it still amazes me how difficult is for people to understand and see mega dams for what they really are: a monstrosity that destroys lives, livelihoods and rivers ecosystem, to say some. In a way I can understand if you look into a coal power station, you see ugliness, you see smoke, pollution and a landscape that no one wants to live there if they have a choose. At the other end, a mega dam is an huge infrastructure that makes any engineers proud of it, a lake, and an enormous hall that splits water in amazing speed, and a sound that make you feel small in this world… for sure looks much better then a coal power station. But it is just that, a facade. Because it is not synonymous with development, just ask the 40-80 million people displaced by dams, how their lives and livelihoods have been destroyed. Neither is it a solution for climate change as it often emits methane (more in tropical areas), destroys forests for the reservoir. Neither it is good for the environmental as it block rivers and inundates forests and agricultural land , and deny downstream enough water for wetlands to operate accordingly. Neither they protect us, from flood if they are not build to do so, or a way to keep water during drought.

Why they do not protect us from floods…. Well, if they are build just for that, yes, but you do not need a Mega dam for that, a mega dam is either for energy production, irrigation or water supply. To produce energy, you need to keep as much water as possible, and then when a big flood comes, there is no space to keep all the water in, same for irrigation, and to protect us from floods we do not need mega dams, small dams are the ideal, and system that can divert water when is too much, same for drought.

JA released in 2009 a study about renewable energy sources for Mozambique, another study that was attacked by the government participants in such a way that the author had difficulties to do his presentation without being constantly interrupted, simply because that study showed that we do not need Mphanda Nkuwa, and there are other ways forward to have energy for everyone with less impacts. The magic potion is not that difficult, we need to start with decentralized energy systems, clean energy, solar, wind, even mini to small hydro dams, a mix of energy sources, which must be affordable by all people.

We can do, and we should think more on solutions to tackle and minimize climate change impacts, instead to follow a path that put us where we are…. In a crises, can we be more smart and take decisions that are smarter, at least we live in a era that we have many options, and we know what mistakes where made, that we can avoid them.

So why build mega dams, to destroy rivers systems, communities livelihoods, increase climate impacts adding the economic risk , is really a mega dam worthwhile? It is not a solution for the climate crises we are hurtling towards. Climate change will affect rivers flow, and worsen extreme and intense floods and droughts that will put a risk on the economic benefit, so why ????

For whom and what. That’s the million dollar question. Because is not for us the people, is not a solution for our climate crises, is not for the environment…. who is it for? And what is it for?

Some info on dams, from the article of 12 dams that change the world from: https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/227-3

Chixoy: the grave on the Rio Negro

Dam-affected communities have often suffered repression and human rights abuses. In 1982, more than 400 indigenous men, women and children were massacred to make way for the World Bank’s Chixoy Dam in Guatemala. In a historic breakthrough, the country’s government in 2014 signed a $154m reparations agreement with the affected communities.

Banqiao: the dam that washed away

When dams are not properly built or maintained, they can break. In the world’s biggest dam disaster, the failure of China’s Banqiao Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people in 1975. In more than 100 cases, scientists have also linked dam building to earthquakes. Strong evidence suggests that China’s Sichuan earthquake, which killed 80,000 people in 2008, may have been triggered by the Zipingpu Dam.

Yacyretá: the monument to corruption

Large dams are often pet projects of dictators. Lacking accountability leads to massive corruption and cost overruns. On average, large dams experience cost overruns of 96% and are not economic. The cost of Argentina’s Yacyretá Dam has mushroomed from $2.5bn to $15bn. A former president called Yacyretá “a monument to corruption”.

Merowe: when Chinese dam builders went global

In 2003, the Chinese government decided to fund the Merowe Dam in Sudan as its first big overseas hydropower project. The dam displaced more than 50,000 people and caused serious human rights violations. Chinese banks and companies are by now involved in some 330 dams in 74 countries, leading an unprecedented global dam building boom.

Glines Canyon: the dam that came down

Dams have serious environmental impacts, and their benefits dwindle as they age. Since the 1930s, the United States has removed more than 1,150 dams to restore river ecosystems and particularly fish habitats. In 2014, the 64 meters high Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River in the Pacific northwest was breached in the world’s biggest dam removal so far.

Patagonia: the dams that were never built

Recent years, solar and wind energy have seen their commercial breakthrough. These renewable energy sources are cleaner than coal or hydropower and can be built were people need electricity, even far away from the electric grid. In 2014, Chile cancelled five dams in the Patagonia region under strong public pressure and approved 700 megawatts of new solar and wind farms.

Kariba: the dam that ended poverty in Southern Africa (or did it?)

The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi was built in the 1950s to power Zambia’s copper belt, as the first large dam funded by the World Bank. Kariba was considered the symbol of a “brave new world”, in which controlling nature would bring quick economic development. Yet the 57,000 people who were displaced by the dam suffered famine and are still impoverished

climate_graphic2

References on WCD and more info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams

https://energypedia.info/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams_(WCD)_Report

http://www.unep.org/dams/documents/Default.asp?DocumentID=663

https://www.internationalrivers.org/campaigns/the-world-commission-on-dams

http://www.unep.org/dams/WCD/report/WCD_DAMS%20report.pdf

more https://www.internationalrivers.org/questions-and-answers-about-large-dams

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Under Water

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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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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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The world should remember: Lima talks did nothing to stop the climate crisis

The UN climate change talks in Lima are over. Instead of finishing on Friday afternoon, they went on till 4am on Sunday. It came close to a few break-downs because developing countries were really pushing back at the way at which developed countries were trying to control the situation. But finally there was a so-called ‘consensus’. But make no mistake, what was agreed in Lima did not and will not do anything to stop climate change.

The final approved text was driven by the interests of rich developed countries and corporations. This contrasted sharply with the real leadership and inspiration demonstrated in Lima by social movements, organisations and the communities on the frontline, who are already suffering the impacts of climate change.

Rich developed countries came to Lima determined to ensure that the outcome reflected their short term economic interests, as if the climate crisis really does not matter. The outcome lacks courage, justice and solidarity with the billions of people affected by climate change.

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Activists chanting “no justice, no deal” 2 hours before the final terrible text was approved. Photo credit: Yumi Sato
At the same time as the negotiations, again this year the Philippines endured more extreme weather and communities around the world are paying for the carbon excess of others with their lives and livelihoods. The Lima outcome failed people and the planet at a time when real solutions are needed more urgently than ever before.

The outcome says nothing about the drastic emissions reductions needed before 2020, without which we are at risk of an even greater temperature rise and climate breakdown. The outcome undermines historical responsibility. The urgent obligation of developed countries to provide climate finance is glaringly missing. This text creates an architecture that will set us up for a doomed deal in Paris. This is completely unacceptable. Governments of developed countries need to urgently find the necessary courage and political will to deal with the scale of this planetary emergency.

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Protest inside COP 20 demanding an end to dirty energy. Photo credit: Luka Tomac

But away from the negotiating halls, people continue to mobilize and build an enduring movement to implement the real solutions to the climate crisis. Justiça Ambiental was there observing and building alliances with movements and organisations. The Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change (Cumbre de los Pueblos/ Cupula dos Povos) – which ran parallel to the UN talks – gathered together social movements and organisations from Peru, Latin America and all over the world. They exchanged experiences and continued to build momentum for the transformation needed to address the roots of the climate crisis and create a better, cleaner and more just world.

Almost 20,000 people marched in a huge protest (the March in Defense of Mother Earth) on December 10 — international human rights day.

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Thousands marching into the historic Plaza San Martin in central Lima, demanding climate justice. Photo credit: Luka Tomac

From farmers to miners to environmentalists to students… Marchers called for justice and real solutions to the climate crisis, including steep and immediate reductions in carbon emissions, stopping fossil fuels and deforestation, building renewable community-owned energy solutions, and protecting our agroecological food sovereignty systems.

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No false solutions! No REDD! Demands from the Dec 10 Human Rights Day march in Lima. Photo credit: Babawale Obayanju

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Stop Damming the Zambezi

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This past week saw the release of a significant study that has deep repercussions for energy planning and water solutions in Mozambique.

International Rivers released this in-depth study by renowned hydrologist, Dr Richard Beilfuss, detailing the major risks of hydropower dams on the Zambezi River. The report, titled: ‘A Risky Climate for South African Hydro’ warns that southern Africa’s over-reliance on dams could spell doom as the climate worsens.

The Zambezi River, which is Africa’s fourth-largest river, will experience more conference2012_1130extreme floods as well as droughts. The report warns that;

“Dams being proposed and built now will be negatively affected, yet energy planning in the basin is not taking serious steps to address these huge hydrological uncertainties. The result could be dams that are uneconomic, disruptive to the energy sector, and possibly even dangerous.”

Even in the face of such damning information, the Mozambican government persists with its ill-conceived idea of building conference2012_1131yet another gigantic dam on the Zambezi, called the Mphanda Nkuwa dam, planned to be built about 60kms downstream from the existing Cahora Bassa dam.

JA has been challenging the Mphanda Nkuwa dam for over 10 years now, by constantly exposing the risks, injustices and inadequacies, such as the weak EIAs (Environmental Impact Assessments), inadequate rehabilitation plans, and lack of transparency and participation. But the government continues to ignore the glaring problems and keeps pushing it ahead.

As Dr. Beilfuss’ study reveals, dams conference2012_1132are not climate resilient, actually they are very climate prone. Mozambique is already 80% dependent on hydropower and will be negatively affected by climate change. In this time of a rapidly-changing climate, it is shocking that large dams are being pushed as a solution, whereas they are a damaging false solution instead.

Earlier this month, JA’s opposition of more dams on the Zambezi was supported by Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI), which consists of 230 local groups including 100,000 individual activist members across Britain!conference2012_1136

EWNI invited JA to speak at their annual conference, held in London from 14th to 16th September, 2012. Sadly, JA’s Program and Research Officer was unable to travel to the UK since the authorities took an unreasonable 3 weeks to let him know whether or not they were going to give him a visa. JA is enraged with this and we plan to take up this matter with both the Mozambican and British authorities along with EWNI and challenge the difficulties in travel faced by southern activists who are critical of their government’s incorrect policies.

EWNI held a solidarity action in conference2012_1137support of JA’s campaign against the Mphanda Nkuwa dam. They joined their voices with ours to demand, “No more dams on the Zambezi. We want renewable energy options for Mozambique instead!”

Mozambican people need energy, but they need true solutions, not false ones like dams. JA commissioned an independent expert report in 2009 on the renewables potential in Mozambique. The results are very positive but of course there are huge political barriers to that but this is what we are supporting.

Read our Alternative Energy report here: http://www.internationalrivers.org/africa/zambezi-river/mphanda-nkuwa-dam-mozambique/building-mozambique%E2%80%99s-power-sector-through-investm

To read the International Rivers report on the Zambezi, see this link: http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/a-risky-climate-for-southern-african-hydro-7673

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