‘Address the voice of the 99%’: Rio+20 interview with Jaehyun Jang, Programme Specialist, Reshaping Development Institute, Republic of Korea
Jaehyun Jang is a Programme Specialist and Researcher at the Reshaping Development Institute (ReDI) in the Republic of Korea. ReDI is an independent think tank in the field of international development cooperation that aims to promote global development, study and research, and policy for the advancement of global knowledge cooperation. Here he tells us about his pessimism about the official Rio+20 process versus his hope in the People’s Summit, and the dangers in the current promotion of green growth and the green economy.
What are your hopes and aspirations for Rio+20?
I don’t have much expectation and hope for the forthcoming Rio+20. This is due to the fact that the main agenda of Rio+20 looks ‘zero ambitious’ compared to the original Rio summit, considering the seriousness and urgency of the multiple crises we and the earth face at the moment. By looking at the recent Rio+20 negotiations on the zero draft, it also seems that the recent failures in the UN climate change negotiations, caused by a growing tension between developed and major emerging developing economies, will lead the Rio+20 into another failure.
‘Chile has entirely privatised water, which means that theft is institutionalised’
Following a year marked by massive mobilisation on the climate emergency, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the main environmental challenges they face in their contexts and the actions they are taking. CIVICUS speaks with Rodrigo Mundaca, Agronomist and National Spokesperson of the Defence Movement for Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection (MODATIMA), an organisation established in 2010 in the Chilean province of Petorca, in the Valparaíso region, to defend the rights of farmers, workers and local people. Since the 1990s, the region has been affected by the massive appropriation of water by agribusiness in collusion with the political establishment.
What is the main environmental issue in your context?
The main problem is water. We live in a territory characterised mainly by the monoculture of avocado, the production of which requires huge amounts of water. Water is in the hands of large producers who have dried out our territory and compromised the lives of our communities. Ours is an extreme case: Chile has entirely privatised water, which means that theft is institutionalised. Chile has clearly prioritised extractive industries over the rights of communities to water.
The privatisation of water sources in Chile dates back to the Pinochet dictatorship of 1973 to 1990. The 1980 Constitution enshrined the private ownership of water. This was maintained, and even deepened, following the democratic transition, since sanitation was also privatised. The privatisation process of sanitation began in 1998, under the administration led by Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, a Christian Democrat. Nowadays, people in Chile pay the highest rates in Latin America for drinking water, which is owned by large transnational corporations. Overall, the Suez group, Aguas de Barcelona, Marubeni and the Ontario teachers’ pension fund administrator from Canada control 90 per cent of the drinking water supply.
Right now, President Sebastián Piñera's government is auctioning off rivers. Piñera came into government with a mission to underpin the legal certainty of water rights ownership, and his cabinet includes several ministers who own rights to water use, the most prominent of which is the Minister of Agriculture, Antonio Walker Prieto. This minister and his family own more than 29,000 litres per second, which is equivalent to the continuous water supply used by approximately 17 million people.
Is it as simple as someone owning the rivers and being able to prevent others from using the water?
Yes, the 1980 Chilean Constitution literally states that the rights of individuals over water, recognised or constituted in accordance with the law, grant their bearers ownership over it. In 1981, the Water Code established that water is a national good for public use but also an economic good. Water ownership was separated from land ownership, so that there are water owners who have no land and landowners who have no water. It is the state's prerogative to grant rights for water use. These rights fall into two categories: water rights for consumption use and water rights for non-consumptive use, for example for generating electricity. In the first category, 77 per cent of the rights are held by the agricultural and forestry sector, 13 per cent by the mining sector, seven per cent by the industrial sector and approximately three per cent by the health sector. As for the rights for the use of water that is not consumed, 81 per cent are in the hands of an Italian public-private company. The owners of exploitation rights can sell or lease water use in the marketplace.
In 2018, the Piñera administration proposed a bill aimed at providing legal certainty to perpetuity to private owners of water and introducing water auctions. Currently, 38 rivers in Chile are being auctioned off; basically, what the state does is auction off the litres per second that run through a river. While this occurs in some territories where there is still water, areas accounting for 67 per cent of the Chilean population – some 12 million people – have become water emergency areas. Our region, Valparaíso, is a zone of water catastrophe due to drought. This is unheard of: while such a large population has serious difficulties in accessing drinking water, the state is auctioning off rivers.
What kind of work do you do to promote the recognition of access to water as a right?
For more than 15 years we have made visible the conflict over water in our territory. Although we originated in the Valparaíso region, from 2016 onwards our organisation has worked nationwide. We fight at the national level for water to be regulated as a common good. The right to water is a fundamental human right.
Our original strategy was to kickstart the struggle for water, render the conflict visible and bring debate to parliament about the need to repeal private ownership of water, despite our lack of confidence in the political class that has the responsibility to make the law and watch over its implementation.
In 2016 we took an important step by putting forward an international strategy that made it known throughout the world that in our province the human right to water was being violated in order to grow avocados. We were featured in a German TV report, ‘Avocado: Superfood and Environmental Killer’, in several articles in The Guardian describing how Chileans are running out of water and in an RT report in Spanish, ‘Chile’s Dry Tears’, among others. Last year Netflix dedicated an episode of its Rotten show to the avocado business and the violation of the human right to water in Chile. We have had a positive reception. In 2019 alone, we received two international awards: the International Human Rights Prize awarded by the city of Nuremberg, Germany, in September, and the Danielle Mitterrand Prize, awarded by the France Libertés Foundation, in November.
Another thing we do is develop activists and leaders. We have long-term training programmes and do ongoing work to develop theoretical and political thinking. We also mobilise. In the context of the widespread protests that started in Chile on 18 October 2019, we have made our demands heard. Clearly, although at the national level the main demands concern the restitution of workers’ pension funds and improvements in education and health, in some regions further north and further south of the capital, the most important demand concerns the recovery of water as a common good and a human right.
In addition to mobilising, our work on the ground involves more radical actions such as roadblocks and occupations. Among direct actions carried out on the ground are the seizure of wells and the destruction of drains. Some local grassroots organisations seize wells owned by mining companies, resist as long as they can – sometimes for 60 or 70 days – and divert the water to their communities. In places where rivers no longer carry water, groundwater has been captured through drains, works of engineering that capture, channel and carry all groundwater away. Some communities destroy the drains that transport water for use by agribusiness such as forestry companies. Such actions of resistance have increased since the start of the social protests in October 2019.
The struggle for water is a radical one because it erodes the foundations of inequality. The origin of the major Chilean fortunes is the appropriation of common goods, basically water and land. President Piñera's fortune is no exception.
Have you faced reprisals because of your activism?
Yes, because of our strategy to give visibility to the conflict over water, several of our activists have been threatened with death. That is why in 2017 Amnesty International conducted a worldwide campaign that collected more than 50,000 signatures to demand protection for us.
Between 2012 and 2014, I was summoned 24 times by four different courts because I denounced a public official who had been Minister of the Interior under the first administration of President Michelle Bachelet (2006 to 2010). As well as being a leading Christian Democratic Party official, this person was a business owner who diverted water toward his properties to grow avocado and citrus. I reported this in 2012, during an interview with CNN, and that cost me 24 court appearances over two years. I was finally sentenced, first to five years in jail, which were then reduced to 540 days and then to 61, and finally our lawyers managed to put me on probation. I had to show up and sign on the first five days of each month. We also had to pay a fine.
We have been attacked and threatened with death many times. In November 2019, an investigation published on a news site revealed that we were being targeted by police intelligence surveillance. However, in response to an amparo appeal – a petition for basic rights – against the police, in February 2020 the Supreme Court issued a ruling that the surveillance to which we are subjected does not violate our constitutional rights. This is Chile in all of its filthy injustice.
Government behaviour has always been the same, regardless of the political colour of the incumbent government. All governments have reached agreements to keep the private water model because it is business, and one that is highly profitable for the political class. When they leave their positions in government, former public officials go on to occupy positions in the boards of the companies that appropriate the water.
Did you join the global climate mobilisations of 2019?
In Chile we have been mobilising since long before. In 2013 we had our first national march for the recovery of water and land, and from then on we have mobilised every year on 22 April, Earth Day. We also demonstrate to commemorate World Water Day on 22 March. We have been on the move for a long time. Chile is going through a social, environmental and humanity crisis. We face the need to safeguard human rights that are essential for the fulfilment of other rights. The human right to water is a basic precondition for people to be able to access all other rights.
We have also been mobilised for a long time to denounce that Chile's development model is extremely polluting and deeply predatory. We have privatised marine resources: seven families own all of Chile’s marine resources. Our country has five areas of sacrifice, that is, areas that concentrate a large number of polluting industries. These are in Colonel, Huasco, Mussels, Quintero and Tocopilla. The areas of sacrifice are not only an environmental problem but also a social problem; they discriminate against the poorest and most vulnerable communities. They are overflowing with coal-fired thermoelectric plants and, in some cases, with copper smelters. The are 28 thermoelectric plants: 15 of these are US companies, eight are French, three are Italian and two are owned by domestic capital. The population in these areas has endured the emission of toxic gases and heavy metals for decades. We have been mobilising in these areas for years in defence of common natural assets.
Have you engaged in international forums on the environment and climate change?
Yes, I have been involved several times. In 2014, before I was convicted, I went to Paris, France by invitation of several European civil society organisations to attend a forum on human rights defenders, where I spoke about the private water and land model. In 2018 I was invited to a global meeting of human rights defenders at risk, held in Dublin, Ireland. That same year I was also invited to a regional meeting of human rights defenders that took place in Lima, Peru.
We have also been involved in intergovernmental forums such as the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In 2019, Chile was going to host the COP 25, and the global mobilisation for climate throughout the year had a tremendous echo in Chile. Obviously neither the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, planned for November, nor COP 25, scheduled for early December, could be held in Chile, because the government was completely overwhelmed by the popular mobilisation that began in late October, and because it responded to this with systematic human rights violations.
Several of our members were at COP 25 in Madrid, Spain, and were able to speak with the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón and with some officials of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Shortly after this meeting we had a meeting in Chile with Baltasar Garzón, the judge who prosecuted former dictator Pinochet and had him arrested in the UK. Garzón was very impressed with the water model and the stories our activists told him. Also recently we met with the delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) during their visit to Chile. We met with Soledad García Muñoz, the IACHR Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights, and presented an overview of the Chilean situation and what it means to live deprived of water.
Do you think that forums such as the COP offer space for civil society to speak up and exercise influence?
I have a critical opinion of the COP. I think that in general it is a fair of vanities attended by many presidents, and many ministers of environment and agriculture, to promise the world what they cannot fulfil in their own countries. The main greenhouse gas emitting countries have leaders who either deny climate change, or are talking the talk about climate change but don’t seem to have the intention to make any change in their country’s predatory economic behaviour. The countries that are most responsible for climate change and global warming are currently the main detractors of the COP.
However, the summits do offer a space for civil society, from where it is possible to challenge the powerful, speak up about the climate injustice that affects the entire planet and promote the construction of a new development model that is viable and economically competitive while also socially fairer and ecologically healthier. But for that we need new paradigms: we cannot continue to think that there are unlimited development prospects on a planet that has finite natural resources.
Civic space in Chile is classified as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
‘Solo un gobierno auténticamente democrático podrá enfrentar seriamente el problema del cambio climático’
CIVICUS conversa con Enrique de León, dirigente del Comité Nacional de Lucha Contra el Cambio Climático (CNLCC), unaorganización de la sociedad civil dominicana que lucha por la desaceleración del calentamiento global. La organización trabaja para diseminar información y educar a la ciudadanía sobre el cambio climático, monitorear y presionar para que el gobierno cumpla con los compromisos contraídos en la materia, y promover las energías renovables y la descarbonización de la economía nacional.
- ¿A qué se debió el fuerte impacto que tuvieron los recientes huracanes Irma y María sobre el Caribe? ¿Cabe considerarlos desastres solamente “naturales”, o tuvieron causas humanas y acaso hubiera podido hacerse algo para morigerar sus impactos?
En el Caribe siempre hemos tenido huracanes; los ha habido antes de que se iniciara el registro histórico. Pero han cambiado su intensidad, su frecuencia y su previsibilidad. Este año los ciclones fueron consecutivos y en línea, lo que no había pasado en mucho tiempo, por no decir nunca desde que se tenga registro. Y han tenido un comportamiento muy difícil de prever. Esto se debe al cambio climático, y más precisamente al aumento de la temperatura por efecto de la creciente concentración de partículas de dióxido de carbono. Sabemos que el enorme volumen de emisiones de dióxido de carbono en todo el planeta está creando las condiciones para que los huracanes en el Caribe sean más frecuentes, intensos y difíciles de prever.
Lo que se puede hacer para evitarlo lo sabemos hace mucho, aunque algunos lo nieguen: tenemos que disminuir las emisiones de dióxido de carbono. Es difícil, porque nuestra civilización está basada en la quema de combustibles fósiles – carbón, gas natural, petróleo - que emiten gases de efecto invernadero, causantes del calentamiento global. Pero la solución al problema está en manos de la humanidad, y en particular de la parte de la humanidad que es responsable de la mayor parte de la emisión de gases, es decir de los países altamente industrializados – aunque también los países menos industrializados tenemos un alto nivel de emisiones en términos relativos.
Las emisiones de dióxido de carbono y el consiguiente calentamiento global constituyen una amenaza particularmente grave para los países insulares, vulnerables a la elevación del nivel del mar. Tal es nuestro caso, que además vivimos de nuestras playas. Más del 80% de nuestra población vive en las costas, y estamos perdiendo territorio. La elevación de la temperatura está afectando también la biodiversidad en nuestros arrecifes y, por consiguiente, la viabilidad de la pesca. De modo que también está en juego nuestra seguridad alimentaria.
Los huracanes están provocando fenómenos extremos: en 2014-2015 tuvimos una gran sequía, mientras que a fines de 2016 tuvimos un diluvio en una época inhabitual, que fue un verdadero desastre. En 2017 tuvimos tres huracanes que vinieron en fila india, y si bien la isla de Santo Domingo – que la República Dominicana comparte con Haití – se libró por poco de su impacto directo, Puerto Rico fue atravesado por el huracán María, y todavía no consigue recuperar ni siquiera la energía eléctrica.
En suma, se puede hacer algo para modificar la intensidad y el comportamiento de los huracanes en el Caribe: disminuir las emisiones de dióxido de carbono tal como lo establecen los Acuerdos de París de noviembre de 2015. Pero es difícil, porque ello depende de la introducción de cambios profundos en el sistema económico global.
- Más allá de lo que pase a nivel global, ¿hay algo que los países más afectados por estos fenómenos puedan hacer para protegerse?
Ante todo, podemos y debemos emprender una acción política, consistente en apelar a la comunidad internacional, y en particular a los países con mayor responsabilidad en la emisión de dióxido de carbono, para que reduzcan sus emisiones. Y nosotros también debemos hacer lo mismo, dado que si bien son bajas en términos absolutos, las emisiones per cápita de la República Dominicana son muy altas (3,8 toneladas anuales). De modo que somos corresponsables, y no podemos demandar que otros reduzcan sus emisiones si nosotros no hacemos lo mismo.
Por lo menos es necesario cumplir con las metas fijadas por el Acuerdo de París, aunque habría que fijar metas más ambiciosas, ya que está comprobado que con aquellas no será suficiente para llevar el calentamiento global a niveles aceptables. El Comité Nacional de Lucha Contra el Cambio Climático (CNLCC), al igual que todo el movimiento ambientalista latinoamericano y mundial, sostiene que los países más vulnerables, que son los estados insulares del mundo en desarrollo, deben exigir que los mayores responsables por un lado reduzcan las emisiones, y por el otro ayuden a mitigar los efectos del cambio climático y a establecer un sistema económico más sostenible.
Este tiene que ser un movimiento político. Hemos hecho una apuesta fuerte en la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático (COP 23) que tuvo lugar en Noviembre de 2017. Con el liderazgo de los compañeros peruanos, que han resultado muy golpeados por el cambio climático, hemos formado una coalición latinoamericana con apoyos europeos que presiona para que se alcancen acuerdos puntuales, tales como la eliminación para 2020 del uso del carbón para generar electricidad. Aunque la eliminación de la minería de carbón pueda llevar más tiempo, al menos no deben seguir construyéndose nuevas plantas eléctricas de carbón. También hemos planteado, sobre todo con los compañeros bolivianos y brasileños, que para 2030 se mantenga por lo menos el 80-85% de las reservas mundiales de hidrocarburos bajo tierra. Como contrapartida, deben usarse energías renovables tanto para la generación de energía eléctrica como para el transporte y otras necesidades.
Lamentablemente, dependemos de la voluntad de los gobiernos y de los políticos, que en muchas partes del mundo responden a intereses económicos muy mezquinos. El mejor ejemplo de esto es el presidente de los Estados Unidos, que es realmente un energúmeno, pero no uno cualquiera sino uno que representa a otros energúmenos cuyos intereses y fortunas están vinculados a la reproducción de una economía basada en la quema de combustibles fósiles. El hecho de que Estados Unidos se haya retirado de los Acuerdos de París es un retroceso catastrófico, así como la expresión de que la cúpula dominante de ese país está dispuesta a arriesgar un holocausto global con tal de conservar sus tasas de ganancia.
Esta es una batalla política que no puede ser de unos pocos, y que como todas las luchas cruciales debe librarse en las calles. Tenemos que sacar a la humanidad a la calle, como lo hicimos en 2015, para dejar en claro que no está dispuesta a sacrificarse en aras de las ganancias de una minoría, y exigir que los yacimientos de hidrocarburos permanezcan bajo tierra y que se impulsen con fuerza las energías renovables en todas sus expresiones. En las islas del trópico, por ejemplo, debe promocionarse la energía solar y eólica.
- Internamente, en la República Dominicana, ¿libran ustedes en tanto que sociedad civil una lucha similar con su propio gobierno, o acaso el gobierno dominicano está alineado con estas posturas?
Efectivamente libramos una lucha similar. El nuestro es un gobierno canalla: de un modo ilegal y corrupto hasta un grado nunca visto en nuestra historia, desde 2013 construye dos plantas de carbón de 770 megavatios en Punta Catalina, a 50 kilómetros de la capital. Al mismo tiempo, en noviembre de 2015 nuestro presidente fue a París a liderar a los estados insulares más amenazados en el planteo de la demanda de reducción de la huella de carbono, y a prometer una disminución del las emisiones de 25% para 2030. Cosa que será imposible de cumplir si se pone a funcionar unas plantas de carbón que por sí solas generarán 6,34 millones de toneladas anuales de dióxido de carbono, lo cual supone un incremento de más de 20% en las emisiones totales del país.
Así, mientras construye estas plantas de carbón que van a disparar nuestras emisiones de carbono, que ya son altas en términos relativos, el gobierno se compromete con la comunidad internacional a reducirlas sustancialmente. Frente a esto, desde principios de 2016 el CNLCC, junto con otras veintitantas OSC, sobre todo del movimiento ambientalista, desarrolló una campaña intensa para que nuestro país ratificara los Acuerdos de París. Una vez que, gracias a la campaña, logramos que el Congreso de la República ratificara los acuerdos, y que lo hiciera de manera rápida, unánime y en una sola lectura, tuvimos que esperar tres meses para que del despacho de la Cancillería se dignaran a informárselo a la Secretaría de la Convención sobre el Cambio Climático de las Naciones Unidas. Para que eso sucediera tuvimos que movilizarnos; el gobierno se resistía a la ratificación porque sabía que con las nuevas plantas de carbón le sería imposible cumplir con las metas, más allá de su plan de sembrar un millón de árboles de caoba, con los cuales en 50 años con suerte lograrían absorber la cuarta parte del dióxido de carbono que esas plantas van a emitir.
Nuestro país tiene una gran necesidad de energía eléctrica porque, aún bajo un modelo de gran desigualdad y exclusión, la economía está creciendo. Actualmente tenemos déficit energético, con producción de energía cara e ineficiente, y por eso tenemos grandes apagones. O sea que sí necesitamos producir más y mejor energía, pero lo que no necesitamos es que esa energía salga del carbón, cuando nosotros ni siquiera somos productores de carbón. Gracias a la lucha de la sociedad civil dominicana, en 2012 fue aprobada la ley de la Estrategia Nacional de Desarrollo, que en su artículo 27 estableció la meta de reemplazar antes de 2030 los combustibles fósiles importados por energías renovables, y así descarbonizar la economía. Pero desde que llegó al poder en 2013, el gobierno de Danilo Medina ha hecho todo lo contrario, con acuerdos muy redituables para establecer nuevas plantas eléctricas de carbón.
- ¿Por qué el gobierno dominicano optó por el carbón en vez de energías renovables? ¿A qué intereses representa?
La opción por el carbón, así como la elección de la empresa Odebrecht, que encabeza el consorcio que construye Punta Catalina, fue una decisión de financiamiento político. El gobierno de Danilo Medina necesitaba reelegirse, y la reelección estaba prohibida, de modo que tuvo que financiar primero la reforma electoral y luego la campaña para la reelección. Ese financiamiento lo facilitó la planta de carbón construida junto con Odebrecht. Está plenamente documentado que la licitación fue amañada: Odebrecht compró ese contrato, tal como lo confesó en diciembre de 2016 en Nueva York. En tanto que forma de financiamiento político corrupto, la obra incluyó desde el principio una sobrevaluación de mil millones de dólares. De los 2945 millones de dólares que iba a costar la obra, mil eran sobreprecios. Esto lo denunciamos, pero no hubo forma de que se abriera un proceso de investigación serio, porque nuestro Poder Judicial es extremadamente dependiente del Ejecutivo.
De hecho, esas plantas van a terminar costando mucho más caras, porque recientemente se develó que hay un sobrecosto de 708 millones más, ya que no se habían hecho los estudios correspondientes y para hacerlos le están pasando la factura al gobierno. Además, una de las socias de Odebrecht en la construcción de la planta ha hecho una reclamación por 720 millones por montos adeudados a proveedores y por la reposición de un generador dañado por la empresa estatal cuando quiso montar a toda velocidad la primera unidad para hacer una demostración. Nosotros denunciamos que la planta no estaba lista, y efectivamente tiene una enorme demora, pero para demostrar que no era así el gobierno se apuró y dañó un generador. En cuanto a los pagos adeudados, los retrasos se deben a la campaña que hicimos con el apoyo de aliados europeos para que los bancos europeos que estaban financiando las obras detuvieran el desembolso por razones de corrupción.
- ¿Cómo reaccionó la ciudadanía dominicana a medida que se develaron estos hechos de megacorrupción?
Desde el 22 de enero de 2017 ha habido todos los meses manifestaciones multitudinarias inéditas en nuestra historia, en reclamo del fin de la corrupción y la impunidad. Y el corazón de esa demanda es Punta Catalina, que es realmente la prueba del delito. Estos reclamos expresados en las calles obligaron al gobierno a montar una ópera cómica: al fin y al cabo procesó a todo el mundo menos a los principales culpables. Odebrecht ha comprado contratos desde 2001 hasta 2015, y el gobierno procesó a gran parte de los presuntos implicados hasta 2012, pero a ninguno desde 2012 para acá. Es decir, no rozó siquiera a los involucrados en Punta Catalina, entre ellos el propio Presidente de la República. Además, ni uno solo de los procesados está en prisión.
El país no solo está indignado: está frustrado y harto, y se siente violentado. Para contener posibles reacciones ciudadanas, el Ministerio Público apeló la liberación de dos de los imputados: el empresario Ángel Rondón, intermediario a cargo del reparto del dinero de los sobornos y las ganancias ilícitas, y Víctor Díaz Rúa, ministro de Obras Públicas del gobierno anterior. Sin embargo, la Suprema Corte mantuvo la libertad de ambos. Esto realmente no sorprendió a nadie.
El pueblo dominicano hizo uso del medio más democrático que tenía a su disposición: la manifestación callejera. El gobierno se mantuvo indiferente y apostó al desgaste del movimiento: lo dejó gritar y patalear hasta cansarse. Pero ya hay una parte importante de la población que piensa que este gobierno es el principal obstáculo para impartir justicia y acabar con la impunidad, y que hay que terminar con él. Hace poco se comprobó que en las elecciones de 2016, en las que fue reelecto el presidente Danilo Medina, la empresa que proveyó los escáneres también programó el conteo de los votos. La ciudadanía lo tomó con calma, porque de hecho ya lo sabía, pero desde entonces se está buscando alguna forma de acortar esta presidencia.
El 16 de julio de 2017 el movimiento anticorrupción Marcha Verde hizo la manifestación más grande en la historia del país, y allí se lanzó la idea de procesar al presidente. El pueblo dominicano ha hecho todo lo que ha estado a su alcance para encontrar una salida, y hasta ahora no la ha encontrado porque el Poder Ejecutivo tiene secuestrada a toda la institucionalidad democrática. Ni el Legislativo ni el Judicial son poderes independientes, de modo que ¿quién va a procesar al presidente?
Más recientemente, sectores de la Marcha Verde y diversas agrupaciones políticas están haciendo el planteo de que el año próximo se busque un gran acuerdo de todos los sectores para ponerle fin al mandato presidencial y buscar una solución institucional mediante una Constituyente que establezca un Poder Judicial y un Poder Legislativo realmente independientes y provea garantías de pulcritud electoral, de modo de preparar las condiciones para la elección de un nuevo gobierno en 2020.
- ¿Hay alguna chance de que nuevas elecciones lleven al poder a alguien que represente intereses más amplios, y que esté en condiciones de enfrentar seriamente el problema del cambio climático?
No perdemos las esperanzas de que así sea. El pueblo dominicano nunca se ha cansado de luchar por una auténtica democracia. El 22 de enero de 2017, un pueblo al que muchos creíamos derrotado se levantó con fuerza en rechazo de la corrupción. No lo hizo por aumentos de salarios ni por rebajas en los precios de los alimentos, ambas causas legítimas, sino por simple indignación en relación con las implicaciones que las confesiones de Odebrecht tenían para nuestro país.
El Estado dominicano está atravesado de punta a punta por la corrupción y la impunidad, y ello limita fuertemente su capacidad para luchar contra el cambio climático. Hoy por hoy, a las autoridades no les importa en lo más mínimo mentirle a la comunidad internacional, prometiendo una cosa que saben que no van a cumplir.
Nosotros abogamos por que una parte del Fondo Verde establecido por la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático se utilice para mitigar los daños que sufre la República Dominicana a causa del calentamiento global. Es decir, que una parte de esos 100 mil millones de dólares anuales que los países desarrollados, los mayores emisores de gases causantes del cambio climático, aportarán para materializar acciones de mitigación y adaptación en las naciones en desarrollo, financie la adaptación tecnológica, cultural y productiva de nuestro país. Para mitigar desastres y volver a reconstruir se necesita mucho dinero: por ejemplo, el huracán Georges, que en 1998 nos pegó de lleno, provocó en República Dominicana pérdidas que representaron el 14% del PIB (de 1997). La lluvia de finales de 2016 nos costó 9478 millones. Con el huracán María, nuevamente, hemos tenido entre 9 mil y 10 mil millones de dólares en pérdidas, pese a que no nos pegó directamente sino que solamente pasó cerca.
El problema es que si ese dinero llega hasta aquí, corre el riesgo de perderse, ya que los desastres y la posterior reconstrucción son ocasiones perfectas para la corrupción. Así, por ejemplo, los fondos destinados a la mitigación de los efectos de las lluvias de 2016 nunca llegaron a los territorios. La gente de Marcha Verde en las regiones más afectadas reclamó una y otra vez que el dinero no había llegado. De modo que enfrentamos un dilema muy duro: al mismo tiempo que reclamamos a la comunidad internacional apoyo para enfrentar las consecuencias y combatir las causas del cambio climático, nos sometemos a la rapacidad de nuestros propios gobiernos. Evitar que ese dinero se pierda y lograr que llegue a su destino es un problema que compartimos con otros países de la región. Solo un gobierno auténticamente democrático, que represente los intereses de la mayoría de la ciudadanía en vez de los intereses concentrados de los empresarios y los políticos aunados por la corrupción, podrá enfrentar seriamente el problema del cambio climático.
- El espacio cívico en República Dominicana recibe la calificación de ‘obstruido’ en elCIVICUS Monitor, lo cual indica la existencia de restricciones serias de las libertades cívicas.
- Visite el perfil deFacebook delCNLCC o siga en Twitter a @CNLCC2016
‘Young women are a vital part of shaping the future’ – Rio+20 interview
A Rio+20 interview with Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is the General Secretary of the World YWCA, a global federation in 125 countries, and a human rights lawyer with extensive experience in CSO governance and transition management. She is also the Vice Chair of CIVICUS. She is active in trying to ensure that young women are able to help shape the future sustainable development agenda, and that the women's human rights impacts of climate change and sustainability challenges are taken into account. She talks to CIVICUS about her hopes for Rio+20 and the work of the World YWCA.
How is the World YWCA planning to advance women's issues, and participation at Rio+20?
The World YWCA will have a small delegation of YWCA representatives at Rio+20 with two clear goals – to ensure young people, and particularly young women, play a role in shaping the sustainable development agenda, and to ensure the agenda coming out of Rio+20 is inextricably linked with advancing gender equality and women's human rights. It is also essential that commitments are adequately resourced and that we continue to strengthen accountability mechanisms.
6. Fighting from the frontlines of the Pacific’s climate crisis
Pacific Island countries are suffering the devastating effects of climate change. But as CIVICUS Youth Action Team’sBetty Barkha stresses, they are amazingly resilient.
“The sea is coming closer to home, we don’t have to walk to the lagoon anymore.” The haunting words of a four-year-old playing with his friends near Bonriki village, on the main island of Tarawa in Kiribati, still gives me chills. Little did he know that the ocean that gives him and his friends so much happiness was out to claim their home.
A clean and safe environment is a human right
Joint statement by Earthjustice, Greenpeace, AIDA, Amnesty Internationa, CIEL, CIVICUS, CRIN, Human Rights Watch, The Global Initiative
We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report which usefully identifies a wealth of governmental good practices in recognizing and implementing a right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
The report highlights that 80% of UN member states have recognized this human right. It also shows that at least 90% UN member states have reported at least some good practices that reflect procedural and/or the substantive elements of this right. The report therefore shows that “environmental progress and the protection of human rights from environmental harm are possible”. While the report is clear that all states must urgently step up their action at all levels to adequately address the present “daunting and unprecedented global environmental crisis”, it also shows that global recognition of the right to a healthy environment is an essential ingredient of such efforts.
Our organizations therefore call on the Human Rights Council to promptly adopt a resolution recognizing the right to a healthy environment. At a time when people from around the world, and particularly children, are increasingly concerned and mobilized by the environmental crisis, and environmental human rights defenders continue to face violence, states need to make this important move signaling their unequivocal intention to work towards the fulfillment of this right for all.
Activists call on elite at World Economic Forum to declare climate emergency
Open Letter from Activist Leaders World Economic Forum Delegates
‘Activist Leaders Call on World Economic Forum Delegates to Declare Climate Emergency’
We #StandTogether with hundreds of millions of people around the world committed to climate justice, economic transformation, equality, human rights, the environment, gender justice, and the rights of workers, children, refugees, Indigenous peoples and faith-based communities.
To limit global warming to 1.5°C we must halve global emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.
We believe it’s time for decision-makers attending the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos to declare a Climate Emergency in their own countries and companies and urgently take the measures necessary to protect humanity and our planet.
Governments, businesses, investors and civil society must collaborate rapidly to transform our economic system by the end of the decade, to stop climate chaos while tackling inequality and upholding human and labor rights.
To deliver a just transition for workers and communities we must:
- End Fossil Fuel Exploration and Extraction – Rapidly phase out exploration, extraction and use, with high-income countries making the fastest reductions and investors divesting from fossil fuels.
- End Fossil Fuel Subsidies – Redistribute the 5.2 USD Trillion in subsidies for fossil fuels to support renewable energy and bolster social protection systems.
- Make Polluters Pay – Put a meaningful price on pollution and make emitters pay for the true cost of their activities on human health and the environment.
We believe it’s time to build a thriving, regenerative and more equal future that delivers gender justice and leaves no one behind. This will require companies to comply with laws that respect human rights and the environment, work in a transparent and accountable manner to get transformative policies in place and implement due diligence to identify, disclose and address negative impacts.
Without such leadership, the focus of this 50th World Economic Forum in Davos on ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’ will ring hollow and we will be unable to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
As we begin this decisive decade, it's time for governments and companies meeting at Davos to decide whether they stand with humanity for our common future.
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Global Call to Action Against Poverty
Africa to Address Post- 2015 Disaster Resilience Agenda
Governments from over 50 countries in Africa will meet in Arusha, Tanzania from 13-15 February for the Fourth Africa Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction (ARP) to address the challenges of building a disaster resilient society.
The Africa region is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is projecting economic growth of 5.25% for sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, a rate that places the region second only to Asia's booming economies and well above a world forecast of 3.6%.
As the countries in this blossoming region continue to develop, this impressive growth could be undermined by exposure to disaster risks and a changing climate. A recent statement "Raising the African Voice" at the Eighth Annual Meeting of the African Science Academies, claims that climate change will impact Africa more severely than any other region in the world and that severe weather events such as droughts and floods are on the increase.
Read more at reliefweb
As global tensions rise, the UN stands on the sidelines
By Mandeep Tiwana
It’s tempting to lay the blame for unresolved conflicts at the UN’s door but the reality is that the UN can only deliver when it has the support of member states and the buy-in of citizens.
Read on: Jerusalem Post
As the climate crisis intensifies, so does the crackdown on environmental activism, finds new report
New research brief from the CIVICUS Monitor examines the crackdown of environmental activism and profiles important victories civil society has scored in the fight for climate justice.
- Environmental protests are being criminalised and met with repression on all continents
- State authorities and private companies are common perpetrators of violations to civic freedoms
- Despite the risks and restrictions, activist groups continue to score important victories to advance climate justice.
As world leaders meet in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Negotiations (COP26), peaceful environmental activists are being threatened, silenced and criminalised around the world. The host of this year's meeting is one of many countries where activists are regularly facing rights violations.
New research from the CIVICUS Monitor looks at the common tactics and restrictions being used by governments and private companies to suppress environmental movements. The research brief “Defenders of our planet: Resilience in the face of restrictions” focuses on three worrying trends: Bans and restrictions on protests; Judicial harassment and legal persecution; and the use of violence, including targeted killings.
As the climate crisis intensifies, activists and civil society groups continue to mobilise to hold policymakers and corporate leaders to account. From Brazil to South Africa, activists are putting their lives on the line to protect lands and to halt the activities of high-polluting industries. The most severe rights abuses are often experienced by civil society groups that are standing up to the logging, mining and energy giants who are exploiting natural resources and fueling global warming.
As people take to the streets, governments have been instituting bans that criminalise environmental protests. Recently governments have used COVID-19 as a pretext to disrupt and break up demonstrations. Data from the CIVICUS Monitor indicates that the detention of protesters and the use of excessive force by authorities are becoming more prevalent.
In Cambodia in May 2021, three environmental defenders were sentenced to 18 to 20 months in prison for planning a protest against the filling of a lake in the capital. While in Finland this past June, over 100 activists were arrested for participating in a protest calling for the government to take urgent action on climate change. From authoritarian countries to mature democracies, the research also profiles those who have been put behind bars for peacefully protesting.
“Silencing activists and denying them of their fundamental civic rights is another tactic being used by leaders to evade and delay action on climate change” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Research Lead for the CIVICUS Monitor. “Criminalising nonviolent protests has become a troubling indicator that governments are not committed to saving the planet .”
The report shows that many of the measures being deployed by governments to restrict rights are not compatible with international law. Examples of courts and legislative bodies reversing attempts to criminalise nonviolent climate protests are few and far between.
Despite the increased risks and restrictions facing environmental campaigners, the report also shows that a wide range of campaigns have scored important victories, including the closure of mines and numerous hazardous construction projects. Equally significant has been the rise of climate litigation by activist groups. Ironically, as authorities take activists to court for exercising their fundamental right to protest, activist groups have successfully filed lawsuits against governments and companies in over 25 countries for failing to act on climate change.
AUSTRALIA: ‘Repressive laws have been introduced to limit people’s ability to protest against climate injustice’
CIVICUS speaks about the challenges faced by climate activists in Australia with Nelli Stevenson, head of communications and investigations at Greenpeace Australia Pacific.
Greenpeace is a global environment campaigning network that comprises 26 independent national and regional organisations in over 55 countries across all continents as well as a co-ordinating body, Greenpeace International, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
BANGLADESH: ‘Civil society made a lot of efforts to stop Japan financing the Matarbari project’
CIVICUS speaks about the cancellation of the Matarbari 2 coal-fired power plant project in Bangladesh with Sharif Jamil, General Secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA), a platform that organises civil society movements against environmental degradation. Since 2009 Sharif has been involved with the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global network aimed at ensuring every community’s right to clean water. He is currently the Coordinator of Waterkeepers Bangladesh and Council Member of Waterkeeper Alliance.
What is the significance of the cancellation of the Matarbari 2 project in Bangladesh?
The cancellation of the Matarbari 2 coal plant project is very significant because it shows global leaders living up to their commitment to fight climate change. Last year G7 countries reached an agreement to stop building coal plants and funding coal-related projects. If Japan continued to support this coal project, it would have undermined the global effort being made to tackle climate change.
We were happy to see a few contractors also pulling out of the project. Sumitomo Corporation, one of the biggest ones, decided to back out of the project on the basis that it contradicts their new climate policy. The Japanese-owned company decided to stop building and supporting coal plants. We believe this was a major step towards the cancellation of the project.
People living in the area where Matarbari 1 and 2 were implemented were affected by pollution caused by the projects. If it continued, people living near the coal plant would have been affected by air pollution. The coal plant also threatened to pollute water in surrounding areas, which would have also put people in danger.
How has civil society been involved?
Civil society made a lot of efforts to stop Japan financing the Matarbari coal project, and hard advocacy work finally paid off. We made sure to talk to community members in surrounding areas to get their views on the project. Because we listened to their concerns about the health issues the project might cause it was easier to carry out advocacy work in the communities. Environmental civil society organisations (CSOs) were able to put pressure on key stakeholders with the help of research institutions that studied and tracked global finance and investments.
It is encouraging to see G7 countries living up to their commitments. Japan taking a position against coal financing is a huge step towards protecting the environment in Bangladesh and the rest of world. Coal-fired power plants are the biggest contributors of carbon emissions and therefore one of the biggest obstacles to climate change mitigation efforts. As civil society we are happy to see that it is possible to hold governments and multinational corporations accountable.
However, while it is good news to see Japan backing away from coal plant projects in Bangladesh, it is also quite frustrating to see it headed towards liquefied natural gas, which is also a fossil fuel. It would be good if Japan could help Bangladesh move towards clean and renewable energies. They have the necessary technology to do so and sharing it with us would help us overcome the climate crisis we are all going through.
What role did your organisation play?
As an organisation we found it important to talk to scientists to understand the scientific impacts this project would have had on our environment. We also analysed the environmental impact assessment study provided by organisations that were monitoring the project. We communicated with the plant company and the government to understand their position on the fight against climate change and environmental issues in Bangladesh. Fortunately, they were willing to listen to our concerns and even invited us to their stakeholder meetings.
The problem we noticed with this project is that the parties involved did not consider the data provided by environmental organisations. It was understood that power plants would boost industrial activity, but our argument was that these projects had to be sustainable. Doing an environmental impact assessment was therefore key. Any project that is implemented should be carried out comprehensively, inclusively and on the basis of science so that it does not harm our environment. It was frustrating that the environmental impact assessment of Matarbari 1 did not do any modelling for harmful pollutants such as fine particles (PM 2.5) or mercury, letting the plant continue functioning subjecting it to scientific scrutiny.
In advocating against the Matarbari project we tried to let people be part of the development activities happening around them. It was important to make them understand that every development project happening in their communities had to be sustainable and promote their wellbeing, which was not the case with Matarbari 1 and 2.
What other actions are needed to combat climate change and environmental degradation?
Japan is a trusted partner of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has long received Japanese investment and development collaboration. We have worked for a long time with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which has done a lot of good. We would like to see collaboration for development continue, but it should be of the sustainable and green kind.
The Matarbari plant project was detrimental to our environment and its activities would have polluted both our water and air. This caused unrest and protests. We want multinational corporations and governments to consider the environmental impacts of any project they intend to introduce. They should consider the long-term effects of every project as well as the country’s energy security.
Did you receive any support from international CSOs and activists?
Several environmental organisations in Japan and other countries helped us raise awareness about the negative impacts of the Matarbari project. Some of these organisations conducted studies and came up with recommendations on how projects could be made green and sustainable.
But we still need support to ensure that upcoming projects aim to promote the use of clean energy and live up to environmental standards. Our country also needs resources to help it transition to clean energies. Therefore, there is further need for collaboration with governments that can help us move in that direction.
Civic space in Bangladesh is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
BANGLADESH: ‘Protecting water amounts to protecting basic human rights in all nations’
Following a year marked by massive mobilisation on the climate emergency, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the main environmental challenges they face in their contexts and the actions they are taking. CIVICUS speaks with Sharif Jamil, an environmental activist and the General Secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA), a platform that organises civil society movements against environmental degradation. Since 2009 Sharif has been involved with the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global network aimed at ensuring every community’s right to clean water, and he is currently the Coordinator of Waterkeepers Bangladesh.
What is the key environmental issue that you work on?
The Waterkeeper Alliance is a global platform and network that now includes over 400 organisations in 40 countries across the globe. We protect the water bodies that we all need and use, but that cannot speak for themselves. We call for people to respect water bodies and defend their rights, so when a waterkeeper speaks it is as if a water body spoke.
We focus on water, but we don’t work only on water, because if there is no rainforest there is no water, if there are no mountains there is no water: if you don’t preserve the environment and ecology as a whole, then the water is also in trouble. So our water protection movement is not limited to protecting water bodies.
We have launched a global campaign because water does not respect borders, so it needs to be protected globally. Climate change and global warming are threatening the entire planet, and we need the planet to come out of this crisis as a whole.
While thinking globally, you are also acting locally. Can you tell us about the work you are doing in Bangladesh?
I started my activism 20 years ago. BAPA was formed in 2000 at an international conference on the environment in Bangladesh. The conference was held to discuss what we could do for the environment from the civil society level. It was agreed that civil organisations were doing good work but a platform was still needed for all of them to act as a unified pressure group, to bring the conflict to the table and apply pressure to come up with a solution. When BAPA started, we prioritised the issues directly affecting the environment in Bangladesh, but as rivers do not follow political boundaries, we realised that protecting water amounts to protecting basic human rights in all nations. That is why I also got involved with human rights organisations and members of a human rights group based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and we are now tracking human rights violations related to ecological degradation.
Specifically in Bangladesh, in recent times, we are focusing our work on the conflict between fossil fuels, the energy system and environmental degradation. In 2010 the government updated a power system master plan required for the country to grow economically. The government decided to focus on industrialisation, so it formed a special economy zone authority and declared more than 100 special economic zones across the country. These were meant to attract investment from foreign investors and to facilitate the establishment of multinational companies in the country. Industry requires energy, so to foster industrialisation the government came up with a plan to produce the power that it estimated would be required up to 2030. In order to meet the requirement, it decided to increase dramatically the share of energy produced from coal, from 2.5 per cent of total electricity to over 50 per cent. The government made this decision just as the world was shifting away from coal because of global warming.
At this point there were civil society reactions, but initially we did not know enough. We lacked information, expertise and funding. But we worked hard to understand how much this master plan would impact on water and climate. With the collaboration of the Waterkeeper Alliance, in 2015 we organised an international conference in Dhaka, ‘Coal energy in Bangladesh: impact on water and climate’, and we came to understand that coal is more of a problem than a solution. The government’s plan identified three major hubs to establish coal-based power plants in the coastal region, and each of those hubs is threatening a unique ecological treasure.
One of them is the Sundarbans, a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers in the Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans, a World Heritage Site, is the largest remaining mangrove forest in the world. It covers an area of about 10,000 square kilometres in both Bangladesh (60 per cent) and India (40 per cent) and it is the last habitat of the endangered Bengal tiger. The Sundarbans protects the entire nation from cyclone and storm surges because Bangladesh is a densely populated country and is highly vulnerable to global warming, climate change and extreme weather hitting the land from the Indian Ocean. Bangladesh is almost a flat country and is therefore affected by floods. The Sundarbans is a lot more than just a huge forest – it is also a barrier that protects all of our country’s land.
So we started protesting against the Rampal and Orion coal power-plant projects, located only around four kilometres away from the Ecologically Critical Area of the Sundarbans. We first started protesting against the coal-based power developments that were closest to home and then found out that on the other side of the Sundarbans, there were also huge numbers of coal-based power production plants going on in and around Payra, which were also threatening the Sundarbans as well as one of the rarest sea beaches where you can see the sunrise and sunset. And more importantly, thinking about the food security of our nation, the pollution that it causes threatens our national fish, hilsa. This is a fish that migrates from sea to freshwater and from freshwater to sea. The region is one of the major landing stations for this migratory fish and would be entirely destroyed by the coal plants.
What we are trying to do is to reach a balance and understand what we should do and how we can protect this environment while keeping development moving onwards, that is, how we can make development sustainable. But the most urgent thing to do is protecting our water and air from this kind of pollution. We have been organising people’s movements. We are trying to convince our government, doing research and presenting global data and studies to our policy-makers. We are also inviting global investors like China, Japan and the UK to review their strategies. Some of the biggest investors are phasing out coal in their own countries while funding its use in this poor, overpopulated nation. We want the global community to influence and engage global investors to keep development progressing while ensuring that it is done with renewable energy. The global community should understand that producing 5,000 megawatts in Australia is not the same as producing 5,000 megawatts in Bangladesh. We are an overpopulated deltaic country, with more than 1,084 people per square kilometre.
Have you participated in global climate mobilisations?
I was the national coordinator of the climate march in Bangladesh in 2015, when the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) was held in Paris, France. We took people out on the street and had a very good turnout. We held a procession together with other civil society organisations in the capital, Dhaka, and more than 30,000 people participated in the march.
More recently, in September 2019, we mobilised in the context of the global climate strike called by Greta Thunberg. Waterkeepers Bangladesh, Waterkeepers Nepal, the Nepal River Conservation Trust and BAPA jointly organised a series of events and activities in solidarity, including a mobilisation to protect the Himalayas by the banks of the Sunkoshi River in Nepal, near the source of the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers, on 23 September, and another focused on protecting the Sundarbans, held at Katka Beach in the Bay of Bengal, near the source of the sea, on 29 September.
I also took part in COP 25 in Madrid, Spain, and joined the European Union’s 21st EU-NGO Human Rights Forum in Brussels, Belgium, both in December 2019. Discussions there revolved around building a fair environmental future.
So yes, Bangladeshi people are the victims of climate change, which they face every day, but they are also protecting themselves with their own knowledge and capacity, and reaching out to the global community.
A big problem is that many in the global community are ready to help people with adaptation, but no one is putting enough attention on mitigation. So we request help for Bangladesh not only regarding adaptation to climate change, but also for mitigation, to keep our forest, to protect the Sundarbans, to protect the water bodies. The truth is that if you don’t keep this place alive, the entire region will be in trouble.
The situation is urgent because water is depleting and there are no shared protocols. So we have started efforts within civil society, with people-to-people communication. We are working on the five countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India and Nepal – to manage the entire Brahmaputra, Ganges and Meghna basins together on the basis of equity and trust. These countries should come up with a treaty or some form of consensus to deal with the problem of melting Himalayan glaciers. Bangladesh is a water-scarce country as we get only 20 per cent of total water over half of the year from upstream during the lean period. When a neighbouring country blocks all the water, water bodies die, agriculture collapses and the economy is destroyed.
Do you think international climate forums provide a useful space for civil society?
I have participated in many global talks; in September 2018 I was even invited as a speaker to the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, USA. The problem with these forums is that sometimes good things are said, but actions do not match words. The government of California was one of the organisers of the summit in San Francisco, but California’s policies are all about protecting themselves while exporting fossil fuels to other countries. It’s irrational to think that you can save yourself alone. What you have to do to protect the planet from climate change is to keep fossil fuel underground. You cannot exploit mines in poor nations and then organise a nice summit to come up with recommendations to solve the problem you have created and that you do not have any intention to implement.
Still, we are invited to these forums and we attend. The former BAPA general secretary was a member of the Bangladeshi government team for the climate negotiations at three successive sessions of the COP. We try to help our government in the negotiations, for instance by providing data and analysis. True, our government still needs to change its mindset and understand that economic growth needs to be sustainable. Our government needs to conduct itself diplomatically while being firm in searching for funding for sustainable development.
But we support our government in international negotiations because Bangladesh is a poor nation and there are many things that our government is not in a position to do or decide by itself; we depend on developed nations in many respects. We understand that responsibility falls on our government when it comes to changing its mindset and becoming more inclusive in its decision-making processes, but it is the responsibility of the global community to come up with a holistic approach to deal with a global problem.
BOLIVIA: ‘We empower young people so they can lead the climate movement’
Following a year marked by massive mobilisation on the climate emergency, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the main environmental challenges they face in their contexts and the actions they are taking. CIVICUS speaks with Rodrigo Meruvia, general coordinator and researcher of the Gaia Pacha Foundation, a civil society organisation (CSO) dedicated to environmental protection and conservation. Based in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Gaia Pacha undertakes research, extension and development initiatives on the basis of cooperation with other CSOs, universities, research centres, government agencies and private companies.
What is the main environmental problem in the context where you work?
The central issue is climate change, a planetary phenomenon that is having impacts at all levels, on populations and their productive and food systems, and that exceeds local and institutional capacities. Among other things, this phenomenon is reflected in an increase in the frequency and magnitude of climatic events and the depth of their impacts.
We work with the aim of increasing the resilience of rural communities in the face of climate change, as well as building awareness among the urban population regarding the ways in which their consumption patterns affect the development prospects of many communities in rural areas. First of all we work to show how climate change impacts on areas of small family subsistence production and create mechanisms to help increase their resilience to climate change. We also work to empower young people both in rural communities and cities. We train them in technical issues as well as in matters of strategy and leadership, so that they can produce initiatives and generate alternatives on topics such as deforestation or greenhouse gas emission. We encourage them to generate projects applicable to their immediate surroundings and we foster networks and bridges with other civil society and academic organisations to support the implementation of their initiatives.
For example, at the moment we are working with universities in Cochabamba on the subject of alternative transportation, with the aim of establishing bike paths between the various university campuses within the city, so that young people can use bicycles as an emission-free and safe means of transportation. With that aim in mind, mobile phone apps are being developed that will indicate the safest routes, and parking lots for bicycles are being established, among other things. Work is also being done to educate car drivers, in partnership with the university and in a joint initiative with the municipality and some private companies that are interested in this issue.
Were there climate mobilisations in Bolivia during 2019?
Yes, in September, when the global climate mobilisations were held, major Bolivian cities joined as well. In Cochabamba, we provide support to the youth movement, providing them with resources so that they can lead the climate movement. We provide them with logistical and institutional support, which is needed because there is still a lack of trust in young people in our cities. We propel them without becoming the spokespeople for the movement. We provide training on a variety of topics and transmit the fundamentals and basic concepts to them so that they can account for the reasons for their mobilisation rather than just go to a march armed with a single slogan. The idea is for them to become the disseminators of accurate information regarding both the causes and local effects of global climate change.
With that aim we held several workshops targeted at young people. We trained about 100 young people directly, and indirectly we have reached around 1,400.
Did climate mobilisations in Bolivia echo global demands, or did demands have specific local components?
Demonstrations in Bolivia expressed demands related mainly to the forest fires that come hand in hand with the expansion of the agricultural frontier. Their main demand was the repeal of domestic laws that benefit agribusiness and neglect the protection of forests.
Bolivian laws do not protect forests, but rather the opposite. In mid-2019, just a few months before 2019’s great forest fires, the government enacted decree 3973, which authorised clearance for agricultural activities in private and community lands in the departments of Beni and Santa Cruz, and allowed controlled fires. In other words, the law gives free rein to any owner interested in expanding their production space, whether for livestock or agriculture. Unfortunately, this has been the position of the state so far, and in our experience whether there were leftist or right-wing governments in place has not made any difference. Beyond the party ideology of the incumbent government, there’s the interests of the agribusiness sector, which are much more permanent and broader, since they involve not only local actors but also transnational companies.
We believe that the cause of the fires is primarily human in origin, since they are started to expand the agricultural frontier. This is how about five and a half million hectares have already been burned. To give an idea ofthe dimensions of the disaster: the area that has been burned in the lowlands of Bolivia is almost the same size as Guatemala. And not only the forest is lost, but also the entire habitat is degraded, the water sources of some communities disappear and the effects of this extend beyond Bolivia, as bioclimates and rainfall change.
We understand that the phenomenon that affects us is part of a bigger problem, which this year had several expressions in the form of fires in the Brazilian Amazon, in African countries and in Australia. As there is insufficient rainfall due to climate change, forests are much more prone to burning. In addition to agricultural expansion policies, especially those aimed at growing soybeans – which in addition are genetically modified – this makes these places much more vulnerable. The consequences of this are suffered not only by the population living in the territories where these incidents occur, which is directly affected, but also by the general population.
At the same time, we also put forward the issue of urban deforestation. In Cochabamba there are around 200 deaths per year due to respiratory problems. It is one of the cities with the most polluted air in Latin America, so this was also one of the specific demands of our mobilisations, as well as the fact that we adhere to the global call for definitive and effective action by governments.
Have you had participated in international processes related to climate change?
We have participated from the local level, training young people to take part in the international negotiation processes, mainly at the COP – Conference of the Signatory Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – series of meetings.
We started by recruiting in various institutions that work with young people, and making a diagnosis to identify who were the ones who were ready and committed to addressing the issue of climate change, and then we made selections based on the issues we were working on. We gave workshops on topics ranging from the conceptual and technical approach to the issue of climate change, to the management of environmental projects, the characteristics of the negotiation process and strategies to participate, as well as workshops to improve people’s ability to express themselves adequately at these events. It was a long process, but it yielded very good results, because we already have leaders in the country’s nine departments who are trained to go participate in discussions and show the world the initiatives and projects that are being developed in Bolivia.
Unfortunately, the last-minute change of the venue for COP 25 to Spain – because it could not take place in Santiago de Chile due to the context of protests and repression – deflated us, because we were well prepared and had a firm position that in the end we could not contribute to the event. This was the case not just for us in Bolivia, but more generally for Latin America, where something very big was being prepared to share in Chile. The change of location and the short notice with which it was decided created a big complication for us, financially and logistically. On top of this, for us in Bolivia the consequences of recent socio-political conflicts also were an obstacle that prevented us from implementing our strategy before COP 25.
But we do not want to throw away the existing motivation and the accumulated work that we have done over approximately one and a half years, so we have continued to work to train young leaders. Our goal is to underpin the ability of young people to generate proposals and initiatives, both technically and politically, not only in their regions but also in international spaces.
Do you think that the disappointing outcomes of COP 25 had something to do with the absence of many people who were ready to influence the agenda but could not participate?
Yes, I think so. Without detracting from the work done by the countries and organisations that did participate, I think it ended up being a very improvised event, and if it had been held in Chile as planned, the results could have been a bit more significant and positive thanks to the presence and the participation of young people. For the first time, Bolivia was going to count on the participation of a group of young people recognised by the state, who were to carry out the mandate of a collective process developed in Bolivia’s nine departments through four or five prior forums.
However, we are trying to have a constructive attitude in the face of this setback, and we are taking advantage of the extra time we have to get ready. We already have these young people who are in a position to formulate demands and proposals wherever it might be necessary to do so – be it in the UK, where COP 26 will be held, or in any other international event if the opportunity arises.
Civic space in Bolivia is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
BRAZIL: ‘If Bolsonaro continues as president, it is a threat to the Amazon and therefore to humanity’
CIVICUS discusses the state of environmental activism in Brazil with Daniela Silva, a socio-environmental educator and co-founder of the Aldeias Project, an education, art, culture and environment project for children and young people in the municipality of Altamira, in the Brazilian state of Pará.
What inspired you to become an environmental activist?
I live in a territory that has suffered great social and environmental impacts following the establishment of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant on the Xingu River. And like thousands of people, including riverbank dwellers, fishers, Indigenous people, farmers, boat people, women and young people, my family and I also had our lives strongly impacted on by the project.
We lived in a neighbourhood called Aparecida, in a community where neighbours supported each other and children and young people played in the streets without fear. When a mother went out, she would leave her children in the custody of her neighbour. One of my best memories is our backyard. It looked like a farm: we had many fruit trees. We didn’t need to spend money to eat fruit. Solidarity was strengthened by a sense of community, which I think was intrinsically linked to the sense of belonging to a territory. All this was destroyed by a ‘development’ approach that disregards the subjectivity of peoples and populations.
The displacement caused by the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant pushed families far away from the Xingu River and separated communities that had lived together for decades. It fragmented community ties. A negative consequence of these impacts on the territory and people’s sense of self was their disconnection from nature and the loss of the Amazonian sense of belonging. Not feeling part of the Amazon is dangerous, because generally speaking, people only defend what they love, what they know and what they feel a part of.
Before the construction of the dam, my father worked as a potter. Together with my mother, who worked as a civil servant, they raised eight children. This was all over when the dam was built. My father became unemployed and so did my brothers. My father began to fight for the right to a ridiculously small pension. My brothers were forced to look for odd jobs around town. It was a difficult time! I realised that adapting to an imposed reality is one of the worst forms of violence against human dignity.
I am an activist for socio-environmental rights and against racism. Since adolescence I haven’t had much choice but to fight. We are one with nature, so we need to fight for nature to ensure a better present and future for ourselves and our children.
How is Brazilian civil society mobilising on behalf of the environment and what challenges does it face?
There are many environmental movements in the Amazon mobilising to denounce the environmental crimes of the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, but unfortunately our country’s judicial institutions have not been functioning according to the law, and have left us in a vulnerable position.
There are many civil society organisations that have been working for a long time in the Amazon and other areas that face great challenges to sustain themselves since there is little availability of financial resources. Most of those that manage to survive do so with international funding, since there is little incentive in Brazil to mobilise resources for civil society. Financial suffocation is one of the tactics used by the current government. In addition, we live in a very unstable and negative economic context, with high inflation and a fall in real wages. The fact that Brazil is a country lacking a culture of giving makes it even more complicated. It all results in a shortage of resources for the sustainability of organisations and the security of environmental defenders.
Even so, new groups and collectives – including the one I lead, Aldeias Project – continue emerging to defend the Amazon. There are many young people in leadership positions in the movements to defend their territories.
Our challenge is to create a safe space, since we are under constant threat. To be able to carry out our work, we have established partnerships with more experienced organisations that are able to advise us on best practices for taking care of our staff, partners and the communities we serve. Networking helps us see the big picture and build powerful links.
What do you think about the recent verdict by the Brazilian Supreme Court to recognise the Paris Agreement as a human rights treaty?
The Paris Agreement is undoubtedly an important legal instrument, and it is good that, as a human rights treaty signed by the Brazilian state, it has acquired constitutional status. But like all of Brazil’s legal documents, including the Federal Constitution, it must be fully implemented, especially by public managers who keep on violating human and environmental rights regardless of what is stated in the Brazilian Constitution.
For the Paris Agreement to be implemented and make an impact on the daily life of Brazilians, it must be disseminated among the people who suffer the climate crisis the most: Indigenous populations, riverside dwellers and Black communities in city outskirts. It is also important for the international community to take decisive action and put pressure on the Brazilian government for it actually to fulfil the agreement.
Will the result of the upcoming election make any difference to your struggles?
The October elections are perhaps one of the most important in Brazil's history. There is a lot at stake when it comes to the Amazon region. Bolsonaro, the incumbent, has unleashed uncontrolled deforestation, land grabs and illegal mining on Indigenous lands. He is also encouraging violence against human and environmental rights defenders in the Amazon.
With Bolsonaro there is no possibility of dialogue or engagement of organised civil society in decision-making on environmental matters. If Bolsonaro continues as president of Brazil, it is a threat to the Amazon and its peoples, and therefore to humanity. We are experiencing a global climate crisis and we need world leaders focusing on working alongside civil society, scientists and the international community to put together short, medium and long-term solutions to tackle it.
The advances of deforestation in the Amazon should be a key factor driving a Bolsonaro defeat in this election, but unfortunately it is not. Brazilian society remains very oblivious to the reality of the Amazon. Brazil’s large urban centres do not recognise the everyday reality of the forest and its peoples. The consequence of their ignorance is their lack of active concern about the current ecocide being committed by the Bolsonaro government. Fortunately, many Amazonian environmental movements are trying hard to pierce their bubble so Brazilian society gets to know what is happening and takes a stand.
Now, while acknowledging the utmost importance of defeating Bolsonaro in the upcoming election, we also have strong criticism of his main rival, the Workers’ Party (PT). Like right-wing governments, PT governments, led by the current PT candidate, Lula da Silva, and his successor as president, Dilma Rousseff, also pushed initiatives that were environmentally destructive: the Belo Monte project was built under PT administrations, without any respect for the law and international agreements on human and environmental rights.
However, we believe that with Lula we would be able to have a dialogue and there could be more space for civil society engagement in environmental decision making.
What do you think should happen at the forthcoming COP27 climate summit, and what do you think will happen?
Firstly, I think it is very important that COP27 is taking place in Africa, because African nations are among those that are suffering the most due to a climate crisis that has been caused by a small powerful group of white millionaires. They now have the opportunity to have a greater involvement at COP27 and demand more assistance from the richer nations that have caused the climate crisis. I hope that this edition of COP27 will enable the implementation of the promises and targets already agreed upon. And that women, children and adolescents will play an active role in this struggle for social and environmental justice.
Although that is what I hope for, we all know that COPs are a space where difficult conversations must take place and the governments of big nations lack the will to face the reality of climate change, especially when it comes to financial investments and taking it upon themselves to counter the damage their developmentalist approach continues to cause. So we will be closely watching the negotiations and agreements. We are at a critical point regarding climate, and there is no time to lose.
What kind of support do Brazilian environmental activists need from the international community?
The international community is our ally in our struggle for climate, social and racial justice. One way to help is by shedding light on activists’ work and directly and indirectly supporting their struggles. Another is to put pressure on genocidal and ecocidal governments such as Bolsonaro’s so that they respect human and environmental rights. Be aware of our struggles and listen to the voices of those on the ground in the countryside, on the peripheries of cities and on the forefront of this war we wage on a daily basis.
Civic space in Brazil is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
CAMBODIA: ‘This is a textbook case of organised crime with links to the state’
CIVICUS speaks with Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, a Spanish national and co-founder of Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC), a civil society organisation (CSO) that advocates and campaigns locally and internationally for the preservation, promotion and protection of Cambodia’s natural environment. Due to their work, the authorities have systematically intimidated and criminalised MNC activists. Gonzalez-Davidson has been convicted in absentia for his activism and currentlyfaces further charges.
What were the origins of MNC?
We founded MNC in 2013, and the most important factor leading to its founding was that the environment in Cambodia, and especially the forest, was being decimated so fast. Because I could speak Khmer, I was a translator and was reading about it in the news and eventually also seeing it happen.
This senseless destruction was being disguised as development, but in reality it was organised crime sponsored by the state, including the army, the police, politicians at all levels and local authorities. It was painful to see. Local Indigenous people were being cheated and this got me fired up.
I also came to the realisation that civil society, and especially international organisations that were allegedly protecting the environment, were not doing anything that was effective enough. Local groups were not able to do much, and some international groups were doing greenwashing: misleading the public with initiatives that were presented as environmentally friendly or sustainable, but were not addressing the real causes of the problems.
A small group of friends and I started a campaign to stop a senseless hydroelectric dam project, which we knew was never about electricity but about exploiting natural resources and allowing logging and poaching. I was deported a year and a half after we started MNC. Over time, we have had to evolve to try and expose environmental crimes by the state on a large scale.
What have been the main activities and tactics of MNC?
They have changed over time. Back in 2013 to 2015, we could still do community empowerment and hold peaceful protests. We could bring people from cities to remote areas. In 2015, the harassing and jailing of activists started. We realised peaceful protests could not happen anymore because protesters would be criminalised. We continued to do community empowerment until 2017, but then had to stop that too.
One of our biggest tactics is going to a location, recording short videos and presenting them to the public so that Cambodians can understand, click, share and comment. We have received millions of views. We also did shows on Facebook live and lobbied opposition parties in parliament. From 2019 onwards, activists could no longer appear in the videos and we had to blur their faces and distort their voices. Now we can’t even do that because it is too risky.
What is the state of civic space in Cambodia?
The regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen has destroyed democratic institutions, including active and independent civil society, independent media and opposition parties. It has dismantled all these as it realised people were ready and hungry for democracy.
There is a lot for the regime to lose if the status quo changes, mainly because of money. The regime is mostly organised crime. They don’t want pesky independent journalists, activists organising protests or CSOs doing community empowerment. They don’t want to lose power and be held accountable. This is why now there is very little space compared to five years ago, and the situation is still going downhill.
Most civil society groups have retreated and are not pushing the boundaries. They are afraid of their organisation being shut down, funding being cut, or their activists and staff being thrown in jail. Indeed, working in Cambodia is difficult but it’s not acceptable to have a very small number of CSOs and activists speaking up.
What gives me hope is that conversations and engagement among citizens about democracy are still happening, and that repression cannot go on forever.
Why has MNC been criminalised, and what impact has this had and what is impact of the court cases?
Cambodia doesn’t really have any other group like us. We are a civil society group, but we are made up of activists rather than professional staff. Other activists used to do forest patrols in the Prey Lang forest, but the government forced them to stop. There are also Indigenous communities and environmental activists trying to do some work, but what happened to MNC is also a message to them.
In 2015, three MNC activists were charged and subsequently convicted for their activities in a direct-action campaign against companies mining sand in Koh Kong province. In September 2017, two MNC activists were arrested for filming vessels we suspected were illegally exporting dredged sand on behalf of a firm linked to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. In January 2018, the two activists were fined and sentenced to a year in jail.
In September 2020, three activists affiliated with MNC were arbitrarily detained while planning a peaceful protest as part of a campaign against the planned privatisation and reclamation of Boeung Tamok lake in the capital, Phnom Penh. They were sentenced to 18 months in prison for ‘incitement’.
Most recently, in June 2021, four environmental activists affiliated with MNC were charged for investigating river pollution in the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh. They have been charged with ‘plotting’ and ‘insulting the King’. There are currently six MNC activists in detention.
We have been charged with threatening to cause destruction, incitement, violating peoples’ privacy – just for filming at sea – and the latest additions to the list are ‘plotting’ to violently overthrow institutions – just for recording sewage going into the Mekong river – and insulting the King. The government is no longer even pretending that this is about law enforcement and is now just picking crimes to charge us with.
As we become more effective in what we do, the state’s rhetoric against us has become more aggressive. The authorities have vilified us, calling us traitors and terrorists. Repression starts from the very bottom, with the local police, the mayor, the military police and their civilian friends who are in the business of poaching, logging and so on. They follow you, threaten you and even try to bribe you. They also control the media narrative and have trolls on social media. Even if all you do is a media interview, they will threaten you online.
This has created a climate of fear among activists. As in any other dictatorship, Cambodia has always been ruled by fear. This percolates down to young people, who make up the vast majority of our activists. Their families and friends get really worried too. When people feel there is less of a risk in getting involved, the state hits activists and civil society again with more arbitrary and trumped-up charges, as a way to instil further fear in people’s minds.
The impact of the court cases against MNC has been strong. At first we were able to put up with them by diversifying our tactics and putting new strategies in place, but over the last two years and with six people in jail, it’s become more difficult. But this won’t stop our activism. It will not defeat us.
Have you faced threats from private companies?
The line between the private sector and the state is blurred in Cambodia, and in certain cases is just not even there. You don’t have a minister or the army saying, ‘this is my hydroelectric dam’ or ‘we are doing sand mining’, but everyone knows the links are there.
Those representing the state will provide the apparatus and resources to threaten activists and local communities, and businesspeople – who sometimes are their own family members – will give them a percentage of the earnings. For example, sand from mining exported to Singapore – a business worth a few hundred million dollars – was controlled by a few powerful families, including that of the leader of the dictatorship, Hun Sen. This is a textbook case of organised crime with links to the state. And when a journalist, civil society group or local community tries to expose them, they use the weapons of the state to silence, jail, or bribe them.
Why did MNC decide to formally disband?
In 2015 the government passed a repressive NGO law with lots of traps that made it difficult for us to be in compliance. I was also no longer in the country, as I was not allowed to return even though I had been legally charged and convicted there. In 2013, when we registered, there were three of us, plus two nominal members who were Buddhist monks. The other two founders were taken to the Ministry of Interior and told to disband or otherwise go to jail, so they decided to disband.
We also thought it would be better not to be bound by the NGO law. Cambodian people have the right to protect their national resources. According to the Cambodian Constitution and international treaties the state has signed, we are not breaking the law. But we know this will not stop them from jailing us.
What can international community do to support MNC and civil society in Cambodia?
Some things are being done. Whenever there is an arbitrary arrest of activists, there are embassies in the capital, United Nations institutions and some Cambodian CSOs who speak up.
That’s good, but sadly it’s not enough. If you are doing business with Cambodia, such as importing billions of dollars per year worth of garments, you have to do more than just issue statements. You should make a clear connection between the health of democracy in Cambodia and the health of your business relationships. For example, the UK is working on a trade deal with Cambodia, and it must attach to it conditions such as ensuring a free media and halting the arbitrary jailing of activists.
The problem is that some diplomats don’t understand what is going on or don’t care about the human rights situation. Southeast Asian countries should also help each other and speak up on the situation in Cambodia. Not just civil society but members of parliament should call out, send letters to their ambassador and so forth.
CAMEROON: ‘Communities must benefit from what comes from their land’
CIVICUS discusses the aspirations and roles of civil society at the forthcoming COP28 climate summit with Estelle Ewoule Lobé,co-founder of the Cameroonian civil society organisation (CSO) Action for the protection of environmental refugees and internally displaced people in Africa (APADIME).
What environmental issues do you work on?
Our organisation, APADIME, works on several interconnected human rights and environmental issues. We work on the protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, with a particular focus on Indigenous women and environmentally displaced people. We contribute to the fight against transnational environmental crimes such as the illegal exploitation of forest resources and illegal trafficking of protected species. We work to strengthen the resilience of Indigenous peoples and local communities and to raise public awareness of the need to protect forests. Finally, we implement income-generating activities for Indigenous peoples and local communities.
When we work on organised crime, we don’t leave out the defence of people’s fundamental rights. Our area of work is the Congo Basin, with a base in Cameroon. Central Africa is home to one of the world’s largest tropical rainforests. It contains enormous resources on which millions of people depend for their livelihoods, including Indigenous peoples and local communities. The forest also provides a habitat for countless animal species and is of crucial importance for the global climate.
Despite all the legal measures in place to protect Cameroon’s forests, forest exploitation, often carried out in partnership with private companies, gives rise to numerous abuses, resulting in serious human rights violations fuelled by well-organised criminal networks, and generally leading to the dispossession of the lands of these peoples and communities. This is where our association comes in.
First, our work has a research component that is focused on both the legal and institutional framework to support our advocacy work at the national and international levels, and on carrying out studies and publishing articles and books, the latest of which is In Search of a Status for the Environmentally Displaced.
Second, there is a field component in which we meet communities and organise consultation events, focus groups, surveys and observations to gather data about the difficulties people face and the needs they have.
The third strand of the association’s work is education, through which we build the resilience of Indigenous peoples and local communities and awareness about their intrinsic rights, procedural rights, sustainable land management, the preservation of protected species and current forestry legislation. We also organise awareness campaigns to help educate communities.
The fourth component is access to rights. We help organise communities by setting up networks of institutional and local players to facilitate access for communities whose human and land rights are constantly violated.
The last component concerns economic recovery through the implementation of income-generating activities, particularly through community fields.
Have you experienced any restriction or reprisal because of your work?
We are human rights defenders working in an environment that is not always receptive to the type of work we do. We are confronted with powerful interests such as those of forestry companies that often exploit forests abusively. Our presence often makes an impression and we are subject to threats that force us to limit our scope of action to prevent the situation from degenerating and becoming too risky.
At an administrative level, the main obstacle is the lack of a positive response or collaboration from officials. Some refuse to take part in our projects, contenting themselves with one general discussion session with us. Others refuse to make their contact information public.
How do you connect with the global climate movement?
APADIME collaborates with several of the world’s leading international organisations, including the International Centre of Comparative Environmental Law, an international scientific CSO based in France, which works on environmental protection through the promotion of international legal instruments. We also work with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC).
With the support and guidance of GI-TOC, we are currently working with a network of stakeholders in the Republic of the Congo and Gabon to combat organised environmental crime in the Congo Basin and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples to achieve climate justice centred on human rights.
We are involved with international players in developing the People’s Summit for social and environmental justice, against the commodification of life and nature, and in defence of the commons. Our association is also actively involved as a speaker and observer at major international meetings, the most recent of which was the 11th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC), held in Vienna, Austria in October 2022, which produced a call for action by civil society.
What priority issues should be addressed at COP28?
COP28’s priority issues are the same as those we have been defending for a long time: support for Indigenous peoples and local communities to ensure their rights are protected, in particular through the funding of conservation activities and income-generating activities to raise their standard of living, and the equitable sharing of the benefits of nature as defined by the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which recognises that in addition to the urgent need to use nature sustainably, communities must benefit from what comes from their land.
In particular, this involves examining how marginalised communities, including Indigenous peoples, can benefit from the often lucrative therapeutic and cosmetic products derived from the resources of their lands.
Do you think that COP28 will provide sufficient space for civil society? What are your expectations regarding its outcomes?
The participation of civil society in climate negotiations is extremely important because we are active stakeholders and, when we are able to influence the negotiations, we are a key factor in progress towards sustainable development. Our actions are complementary to political dialogue, which is why it is necessary, even compulsory, for us to take part in these negotiations.
As usual, COP28 will officially be open to civil society as participants and observers, but the difficulties of access will lie in financing travel to and stay in the United Arab Emirates, where this global event will be held.
But we hope that despite all these difficulties, progress will be made on the issues that are at the heart of our work, namely direct funding for communities to guarantee adaptation actions and strengthen their resilience.
Civic space in Cameroon is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
Carta abierta de líderes y lideresas activistas a los/as delegados/as del Foro Económico Mundial
Líderes y lideresas activistas piden a delegados/as del Foro Económico Mundial que declaren la emergencia climática
Actuamos conjuntamente con cientos de millones de personas de todo el mundo comprometidas con la justicia climática, la transformación económica, la igualdad, los derechos humanos, el medio ambiente, la justicia de género y los derechos de las personas trabajadoras, de la infancia, de las personas refugiadas, de los pueblos indígenas y de las comunidades religiosas. #StandTogether
Para limitar el calentamiento global a 1,5 ºC, debemos reducir a la mitad las emisiones globales en 2030 y llegar al cero neto en 2050.
Creemos que es hora de que las personas con capacidad de decisión que asisten a la reunión anual en Davos del Foro Económico Mundial declaren una emergencia climática en sus respectivos países y empresas, y tomen con urgencia las medidas necesarias para proteger a la humanidad y nuestro planeta.
Gobiernos, empresas, inversionistas y sociedad civil deben colaborar rápidamente para transformar nuestro sistema económico antes de que termine la década, a fin de detener el caos climático abordando al mismo tiempo la desigualdad y defendiendo los derechos humanos y laborales.
Para llevar a cabo una transición justa para las personas trabajadoras y las comunidades debemos:
- Poner fin a la búsqueda y extracción de combustibles fósiles. Eliminar de forma gradual y rápida su búsqueda, su extracción y su uso; los países de ingresos altos deberán hacer las reducciones más rápidas y los inversionistas, desinvertir en combustibles fósiles.
- Poner fin a las subvenciones a combustibles fósiles. Redistribuir los 5,2 billones de dólares estadounidenses en subvenciones a combustibles fósiles para apoyar energías renovables y fomentar sistemas de protección social.
- Hacer que quien contamine pague. Fijar un precio significativo a la contaminación y hacer que los emisores paguen el coste real de sus actividades para la salud humana y el medio ambiente.
Creemos que es hora de construir un futuro floreciente, regenerativo y más igualitario en el que haya justicia de género y no deje a nadie atrás. Esto exigirá que las empresas cumplan las leyes que respetan los derechos humanos y el medio ambiente, trabajen de un modo transparente y responsable para implantar medidas transformativas y ejerzan la diligencia debida para identificar, revelar y abordar los impactos negativos.
Sin este liderazgo, el foco de este 50º Foro Económico Mundial en Davos en “partes interesadas por un mundo cohesivo y sostenible” sonará a falso y no podremos alcanzar los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible en 2030.
Al comienzo de esta década decisiva, es hora de que los gobiernos y las empresas que se reúnen en Davos decidan si están del lado de la humanidad y por nuestro futuro común.
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Global Call to Action Against Poverty
CHILE: ‘The COP needs the participation of civil society’
In a context of great mobilisation on climate action around the world and in the run up to the next Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 25), whichwill take placein Chile in November 2019, CIVICUS speaks with Gabriela Burdines of Fiscalía del Medio Ambiente (FIMA), a civil society organisation that since 1998 has worked to promote access to environmental justice and related legislation in Chile.
In view of access restrictions faced during COP 24 in Poland, what expectations does civil society have of COP 25 in Chile?
So far we have not been aware of any action by the government against civil society participation. On the contrary, the government has tried to approach civil society by organising information-sharing meetings and facilitating access to the 'green space' at COP 25, which is the area that civil society has traditionally occupied during these events, and which in Chile will be open between 2 December and 13 December at the Metropolitan Park of Cerrillos. In addition, there are civil society initiatives such as the Social Summit for Climate Action, a summit organised by civil society parallel to COP 25, and the Peoples’ Summit, an annual meeting that brings together organisations and networks from various parts of the world to share experiences, promote alternative solutions and strengthen global organisation and local action to curb the socio-environmental catastrophe. While they have not received any official government support, these meetings have so far not experienced any restrictions.
We are yet to see what happens with the protests that will take place in public spaces, which will begin soon, in September. As civil society we are calling for a great mobilisation to be held during COP 25, on 8 December, which we hope will appeal to all people as well as to Chilean and global civil society organisations (CSOs) participating in the conference.
How is Chilean civil society organising its participation in COP 25?
Chile took on the challenge of hosting COP 25 after Jair Bolsonaro's government decided not to hold it in Brazil. This has significantly reduced planning times. Chilean civil society is organising around at least three groups or platforms. The three that I have knowledge of are Civil Society for Climate Action (SCAC), which is in charge of the Social Summit for Climate Action, where FIMA is participating and coordinating several groups; the People's Summit, which is taking place around the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November and COP 25; and the parallel COP 25 Civil Society Forum.
So there are several organised spaces. In the specific case of SCAC, this came into existence because there was no other network around the issue at the time, and because there were no spaces for participation in the official COP, since FIMA is the only Chilean CSO that is currently accredited with the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These groups are all working on different issues. They focus on national climate policy, including consultation on climate change law, decarbonisation planning and nationally determined contributions to greenhouse gas emission reductions under the UNFCCC. And they focus internationally, along with foreign CSOs such as Climate Action Network Latin America, and mainly with organisations from Central America, South America and Europe. In addition, we are doing advocacy and participating in events that will take place prior to COP 25, such as the Climate Action Summit in September and the Pre-COP.
COP meetings need the participation of civil society, and a participatory COP would have to include parallel events held by civil society, academics, governments and other actors, within the framework of the official conference and in the green space. It would also have to facilitate mobilisations in public spaces and activities in other citizens’ forums.
From the perspective of Chilean civil society, what are the most important issues that need to be addressed in COP 25?
During COP 25 it will be very important to have transparency and for the participation of CSOs in events such as this to be guaranteed as a right and established as a minimum requirement that the Chilean government must comply with. I would also highlight the importance of raising awareness about the urgent actions that need to be taken in the fight against climate change and raising the issues that make up the citizen agenda that are essential to curb global warming. Finally, as civil society we will be working for the real decarbonisation of our energy matrix; the termination and reparation of environmental sacrifice zones, that is, those areas encompassing a great number of polluting industries; the promotion of clean energies with a low impact on both the environment and human rights and policies for a fair transition and adaptation to climate change; and the design of market mechanisms that include adequate environmental and social safeguards.
For years the Chilean government led the negotiation of the Escazú Agreement on environmental democracy, but now refuses to sign it. Why is it refusing, and why is it important that it signs it?
For several years, Chile, alongside Costa Rica, led the negotiations that culminated with the adoption of the Escazú Agreement. Through a statement when the agreement opened to signature, which they issued on 7 June 2018 in their roles as co-chairs of the negotiation process, Chile and Costa Rica reaffirmed their commitment to signing the treaty and its prompt entry into force. However, ever since the treaty opened for signature on 27 September 2018, Chile has refrained from signing.
According to information disseminated in the media – since until now civil society has not received any formal response – the government's refusal to sign the Escazú Agreement is due to security and sovereignty reasons and is centred on the clause on cooperation with landlocked states and dispute resolution, which would affect Chile by virtue of its border conflict with Bolivia. However, the government has not said that it will not sign the treaty, but only that it is still ‘under study’. It has also stated that the entire content of the agreement is already guaranteed in our national legislation, so there would be no need to sign it.
However, we believe that it is important that the government commits to this agreement. Chile has made great legislative progress on matters related to the right to access environmental justice, but still needs to make progress in implementation. No protection exists for climate activists and there are many gaps in matters of information, participation and justice. We recently published a report on the progress made and challenges encountered in guaranteeing access to environmental justice, and much remains to be done in this area. For example, our country has no mechanisms allowing for the provision of free legal counsel on environmental matters.
In this context, we hope that Chile will soon sign and ratify the Escazú Agreement, and that this will be the beginning of a path that will take us to a different way of making decisions, in which agendas seeking to encourage investment will not undermine the fundamental rights of people and communities.
Civic space in Chile is classified as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
Civil Society Meeting Calls for Solidarity, Radical Change to Deal with Global Crises
By Amy Taylor
Our strategies have failed us. We can no longer respond to the crises facing us in the same way. We have to be more radical, more creative — together — to build the future we want. This was one of the resounding messages to emerge from a key global gathering of more than 700 leading thinkers, influencers and doers from more than 100 countries in Suva, Fiji in early December.
Read on: Inter Press Service