FoE International News

From Chain Reaction #126, April 2016, national magazine of Friends of the Earth, Australia www.archive.foe.org.au/chain-reaction

Honduran activist Berta Cáceres murdered

Berta Cáceres, 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, was murdered in her home on March 3. As the leader of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, Berta rallied her fellow indigenous Lenca people and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world's largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.

Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30% of the country was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Among them was the Agua Zarca Dam.

In December 2013, Berta said: "The army has an assassination list of 18 wanted human rights fighters with my name at the top. I want to live, there are many things I still want to do in this world but I have never once considered giving-up fighting for our territory, for a life with dignity, because our fight is legitimate. I take lots of care but in the end, in this country where there is total impunity I am vulnerable … when they want to kill me, they will do it."

Gustavo Castro Soto, director of Otros Mundos Mexico (Friends of the Earth Mexico) was staying at Berta's house on the night she was killed. He was wounded in the attack. Soto said in a March 18 statement: "I am in pain for my wounds, although they are getting better, but I am more in pain for my dear Honduran people, who don't deserve this, none of us do. We've always admired this noble, brave people who are fighting for a dignified life for all, where there's room for all, without distinction and with justice. That was Berta's struggle."

Please sign an online petition to:

  • call for an independent investigation into the murder of Berta Cáceres
  • call for witness Gustavo Castro to be safely returned to Mexico
  • demand protection of Honduran environmental and human rights defenders
  • support their demand to cancel the Agua Zarca dam

The online petition is posted at: www.foei.org/news/sign-petition-stop-bloodshed-honduras

More information:

www.foei.org/features/concerns-safety-witness-berta-caceress-murder

www.foei.org/news/letter-gustavo-people-honduras

www.foei.org/features/high-profile-honduran-activist-berta-caceres-murdered

Transnational corporations and financiers and human rights violations

Activists from Friends of the Earth International, along with human rights and environmental defenders and other international organisations that are part of the Global campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, were in Geneva from March 8‒15 during the 31st Session of the UN Human Rights Council. They demanded UN member states support the process towards a binding treaty on transnational corporations and other businesses with respect to human rights.

Anne van Schaik, Accountable Finance Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "We call on the Dutch development bank FMO and Finnfunnd to withdraw from the Agua Zarca Dam project [in Honduras]. EU member states should ensure there are binding rules for European financiers which will stop these kind of financial services."

More information: www.stopcorporateimpunity.org/

FoE Russia activist imprisoned but now released

Evgeny Vistishko, a member of a regional organisation of Russian Social-Ecological Union / FoE Russia, has been released after an ordeal stemming from environmental activism concerning the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He was detained from February 2014 to December 2015.

In November 2011, activists uncovered evidence of illegal tree felling and illegal work carried out within the public shoreline of the Black Sea. Information about the activities was sent to law enforcement authorities and to the Russian President. However, law enforcement agencies took no action against those responsible for illegal activities and instead pursued the activists.

Evgeny Vitishko was arrested, charged and imprisoned for allegedly damaging a fence. He was recognised as a political prisoner by the Human Rights Center in February 2014.

Vitishko had co-authored a detailed report chronicling the impacts of the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi.

www.foei.org/news/environmental-campaigner-evgeny-vistishko-freed

Corporate vision of food promoted at the UN

At the opening of an international symposium on agricultural biotechnologies convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome in February, FoE International joined more than 100 civil society organizations issuing a statement denouncing the latest attempt by multinational agribusiness to redirect the policies of the UN toward support for genetically-engineered crops and livestock.

In convening the biased symposium, FAO is bowing to industry pressure, which has intensified following international meetings on agroecology hosted by the FAO in 2014 and 2015. The agroecology meetings were a model of openness to all viewpoints, from peasants to industry. But the biotech industry apparently prefers now to have a meeting they can control.

"We are alarmed that FAO is once again fronting for the same corporations, just when these companies are talking about further mergers amongst themselves, which would concentrate the commercial seeds sector in even fewer hands" the joint statement says.

It is clear, according to the statement, that industry wants to use FAO to re-launch their false message that genetically engineered crops can feed the world and cool the planet, while the reality is that nothing has changed on the biotech front. GMOs don't feed people, they are mostly planted in a handful of countries on industrial plantations for agrofuels and animal feed, they increase pesticide use, and they throw farmers off the land.

More information:

www.foei.org/news/biotechnology-un-causes-alarm

Joint statement:

www.viacampesina.org/en/images/stories/pdf/2016-02-12%20Joint%20Statemen...

Tell Nordic Mining to drop lawsuit against peaceful activists

Eighty Norwegian protesters, including a number from FoE Europe, face legal action for their peaceful protests. For three weeks in February, they blockaded machinery to prevent drilling on top of a mountain which could become an open-pit titanium mine. They were trying to get the Norwegian government to stop the controversial mine, which plans to dump more than 250 million tonnes of waste and chemicals into the nearby Førde fjord. The fjord is a national wild salmon sanctuary, spawning ground for a number of endangered species and an endless supplier of food and sustainable jobs. The mining company has now announced that they will file a lawsuit against the peaceful activists, some of them as young as 16.

Please sign the petition calling on the company to drop the lawsuit:

www.foei.org/take-action/actions/tell-nordic-mining-drop-lawsuit-peacefu...

More information: www.savethefjords.com, www.foei.org, #SaveTheFjords

Colombo port city will destroy fishing grounds

The China Communication Construction Company has started filling the sea next to the Colombo Harbor in order to create a 266 hectare modern city with high-rise buildings, casinos and even a Formula 1 racing track. The project will have serious negative environmental social and economic impacts, and in mid-2015 FoE Sri Lanka filed a lawsuit and the project stopped temporarily. It will mine 65 million cubic meters of sea sand in the fishing grounds between Colombo and Negombo in an area of more than 100 square kilometres, putting the livelihood of more than 15,000 fishers in trouble. The controversial Colombo port project is part of China's political, business and security strategy of rebuilding the "Silk Route" and the "One Road One Belt" connecting Asia and Europe. Although the new regime promised to dump the project during the election 2015, they are now going on the same track.

‒ Hemantha Withanage, Centre for Environmental Justice / FoE Sri Lanka

Dialogue for Forest Protection in Malaysia

On January 22, Friends of Earth Malaysia organised the Roundtable Discussion on Timber Certification with Indigenous Peoples' Representatives of Peninsular Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. More than 25 representatives from logging-affected indigenous communities participated, along with more than 20 representatives from the forestry department and various other authorities and bodies responsible for indigenous peoples' affairs, timber exportation, timber export promotion, timber plantation development and forest certification. The programme sought to provide the communities with the opportunity to directly inform the various authorities on how current governance conditions and the timber certification process have been failing to protect their rights.