Multi-Award Winning Documentary Highlights the Mining Threat to iMfolozi: Sisters of the Wilderness

THIS SOCIAL IMPACT DOCUMENTARY ‘SISTERS OF THE WILDERNESS’ WON BEST SOUTH AFRICAN FEATURE DOCUMENTARY AT THE DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL AND QUALIFIES FOR THE OSCARS.

The film is mostly set in the iMfolozi wilderness area, within the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa and one of the fast disappearing pockets of wilderness where wild nature can be experienced at its purest form.

Since time immemorial this sanctuary has maintained its raw wildness. Here an ageless spirit survives and one can sense a spiritual connection to the land. The iMfolozi valley was the heartland of the Zulu people who lived here in harmony with nature and with great respect (inhlonipho) to Mother Earth and all creation.

This wilderness acts as the main character in the film. Into this wilderness a group of young Zulu women enters on a life-changing journey to experience true wild nature for the first time in their lives.

The young women, mostly from townships and semi-rural communities, aspire to elevate themselves beyond challenging life conditions. They have an interest in nature and a spark of leadership but they lack the opportunity to experience wild nature in their impoverished lives. Accompanied by veteran female wilderness guides, they camp under the stars in big game country, totally surrounded by wild animals such as elephants, rhinos and lions. Exposed to the elements and carrying on their back all they need for the journey, they have to cope with emotional and physical challenges, and learn what it takes to survive in the wild.

A wilderness journey is an intense experience where one can expect to undergo personal transformation. It can enhance personal growth and leadership development; and it is also a soulful experience that has the capacity to heal. The solitary night watch where one is responsible for the entire camp, the solitude contemplation sessions and the possible close encounters with wild animals like a charging rhino, an elephant ambling next to the camp at night, the yellow eyes of a wild cat in the dark of the night, all contribute to enhance one’s sense of connection to nature and encourage self-introspection.

The latter especially occurs whilst one sits around the campfire, listening to the lively Zululand wilderness night, hearing the cough of the leopard, the cry of the hyena or the roar of the lion.

Mentoring the women and initiating them into the wilderness is, KwaMashu born, Lihle Mbokazi, the first black South African woman wilderness guide. Lihle is also deeply interested in reviving indigenous knowledge systems and share the wisdom of the old days with the young women. Along with Lihle we also see Janet and Zondi, the lead wilderness guides, who share nature wisdom with the women.

Long periods of Nature’s ambient sounds help the audience to connect with wilderness and when interweaved with the soulful music of film composer, Ian Arber, transports one into the same inner world of connectivity that nature takes one on.

Link to SistersOfTheWilderness.com for a short trailer.

Despite the tranquil setting, the iMfolozi wilderness is now severely threatened.

An existing open-cast coal mine on the Eastern border of the wilderness is expanding regardless of its devastating impact on the surrounding rural communities and their livestock.

Additionally, a proposed coal mine just 40 metres from the park’s southern boundary threatens to devastate even further this fragile nature gem and the communities.

The park is home to incredibly important populations of both white and black rhino. It is renowned worldwide for being the historical home of the Southern White Rhino, following the successful ‘Operation Rhino’ in the 1960’s driven largely by the park’s then-warden, Ian Player.

Dr. Player’s efforts brought the rhinos back from the brink of extinction. The park now has the largest population of Southern White Rhino in the world.

The success of this program has recently been compromised by a gruesome increase in rhino poaching within the park. This critical threat has not only become a great concern for the park, but for rhino conservationists worldwide.

Link to SaveOurWilderness.org for additional blogs and information about Dr. Player.

Call to action:

At THE CROWD VERSUS we can also use your help. We crowdfund for the litigation pending to stop the permitting of open cast coal mining, or the expansion of older, already present mines (Tendele).

We have several options to create the level of your involvement. You can donate or become personally involved by writing a blog, taking photographs, or entertaining friends with a dinner at home.

We look forward to seeing your ideas!

Chevron vs Ecuador: International Arbitration and Corporate Impunity

The infamous story of the environmental pollution of the Ecuadorian Amazon by Chevron-Texaco – which has come to be known as the “Amazonian Chernobyl” – is entering a new phase.

By Aldo Orellana López; Originally published 27 March 2019 in OpenDemocracy.net

Photograph information: Former Pink Floyd front-man and activist Roger Waters shows his support for the affected communities in the Chevron-Texaco case, Quito, Ecuador, October 20, 2018. Photo by: Franklin J�come/PRESSOUTH/NurPhoto/Sipa USA. PA Images. All rights reserved.

Eight years ago, in February 2011, the Sucumbíos provincial court issued a historic ruling in the case known as Lago Agrio against the Chevron-Texaco oil company, sentencing it to pay 9,500 million dollars for polluting the Amazon during its operations there between 1964 and 1992. Since then, however, the Ecuadorian justice system has been unable to enforce the sentence.

What is more, it is now the Ecuadorian government that, as a result of an international lawsuit filed by Chevron under the global system of investment protection, should be paying the company a multimillion-dollar compensation. The arbitration tribunal that admitted the lawsuit and has rendered the award in favor of the company has also ordered Ecuador to annul the sentence of the Sucumbíos court, which it considers unlawful.

In view of this situation, the Union of the People Affected by Texaco-Chevron Operations (UDAPT) in Ecuador – plaintiff in the Lago Agrio case – has denounced the decision of the arbitration panel, accusing it of overriding the rights of the affected communities by imposing the corporation’s right to profits. The Union has warned that if the decision of the arbitrators is implemented, this will set a very dangerous precedent for the global fight to protect the environment and defend human rights.

The Chevron case in Ecuador, along with other environmental and social crimes involving multinational corporations – from the recent breakdown of the toxic mining waste dams of the Vale and BHP corporations in Brazil, to the repression and criminalization of communities and even the murder of environmental defenders, such as the still unsolved murder case of Berta Cáceres in Honduras -, highlights the need for a legally binding international instrument to put an end to the impunity with which the companies operate, and to offer adequate guarantees to the communities that are resisting and protecting the land.

This instrument should make it possible to take companies before international courts and have them respond for their crimes, and also ensure the affected communities effective access to justice and reparation.

The Ecuadorian David and Goliath

According to Pablo Fajardo, a lawyer working for UDAPT, “Chevron operated in the Ecuadorian Amazon with the aim of obtaining the largest possible economic return for the company”. To achieve this goal, it used obsolete techniques and was fully aware of the pollution it was causing. The UDAPT affirm that the company disposed of nearly 650.000 barrels of crude oil and more than 16 billion gallons of wastewater in the rivers and soils of the Amazonian jungle, affecting the health and lifestyles of more than 30.000 indigenous people and peasants in different communities.

Other practices Chevron indulged in include open-air burning of gases and the spilling of oil onto roads – according to them, in order to prevent the raising of dust. The UDAPT lawyer points out that, up to now, at least “2,000 people have died from cancer due to toxins and polluted water and air”.

The Chevron case in Ecuador highlights the need for a legally binding international instrument to put an end to the impunity with which companies operate, and to offer adequate guarantees to the communities that are resisting and protecting the land.

Texaco, which was taken over by Chevron in 2001, arrived in Ecuador in 1964 to drill for oil in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon, specifically in the provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana. This is a high biodiversity area which is home to dozens of indigenous and peasant communities.

Justino Piaguaje, the president of the Siekopai Original Nation and a spokesperson for the UDAPT, explains that “finding oil was synonymous with wealth. It was thought that all of the country’s financial and social problems were going to get solved – but not so for the native peoples. The problem of pollution started, the rivers got polluted and our land shrank”.

Texaco finished its operations in Ecuador in 1992 and left the country. By then, the impact of almost 3 decades of irresponsible exploitation was all too obvious. Shortly after, 6 indigenous nations and more than 80 affected peasant communities founded UDAPT. Its aim, from the start, has been to seek environmental remediation and reparations for the damages caused by the oil company in the jungle and to hold it accountable for its actions.

To this end, it filed a lawsuit against Texaco in the US in 1993. However, at the request of the company, the suit was transferred to Ecuador and the hearings of what became known as the Lago Agrio case were held at the local Sucumbíos provincial court. Finally, on February 11, 2011, after a litigation that lasted nearly two decades, the Sucumbíos court ruled in favor of the UDAPT and sentenced Chevron-Texaco to pay a 9,5 billions dollar fine to compensate for the harm incurred.

Chevron filed an appeal, but the ruling was ratified by all the judicial instances in Ecuador – including the National Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country. As Pablo Fajardo explains, the Constitutional Court’s ruling of July 2018 recognized that “many rights of indigenous peoples and peasants had been violated by the company”, which is something that the UDAPT had been claiming all along – for over 18 years.

Thus came to an end one of the most prominent lawsuits in recent decades: one in which an indigenous and peasant organization brought to court and won a lawsuit against one of the largest multinational corporations in the world – the revenue of which in 2018 exceeded 150 billion dollars, almost twice the GDP of Ecuador.

According to Pablo Fajardo, Chevron’s defense framework during the litigation involved some 2.000 lawyers from more than 60 legal firms and its defense expenses amounted to 250 million dollars per year. Despite all of this, the UDAPT won. “For reason is in our side”, says Fajardo.

However, as soon as this great challenge ended, another one began: that of carrying out the courts’ decision. And this has turned out to be a much tougher path to tread because, over the years, Chevron has not only tried to sabotage the legal process against it, but has taken action to shield itself and protect its assets.

Chevron’s strategies to sabotage the trial

The UDAPT point out that, throughout the process, Chevron carried out a number of actions to try and sabotage it – from political pressure to threatening international legal proceedings. This “strategy of fear” was adopted in order to isolate Ecuador from its international allies, and was reinforced by an aggressive media campaign to discredit the Ecuadorian courts and the UDAPT defense team.

“According to Chevron, the indigenous people, the peasants and their lawyers had unlawfully associated themselves to extort money from the company. And the company took legal actions in that line. That is, the company pictured itself as the victim and the indigenous people and the peasants as the criminals”, Fajardo explains.

In a global and regional scenario where socio-environmental conflicts are multiplying, not only are multinational corporations – who are now playing the role of the victim – active in generating conflicts, but they are also involved in criminalizing and even eliminating environment activists and defenders of the land – no less than 207 in 2017.

“The company pictured itself as the victim and the indigenous people and the peasants as the criminals”.

The UDAPT lawyer explains that when Chevron realized that the communities would continue to push their demand until the very end, it began to withdraw all its assets from the country. “The only thing it left behind was a bank account with 350 dollars in it and nothing else”.

Faced with the impossibility of enforcing the ruling in Ecuador, the UDAPT tried unsuccessfully to get other countries where Chevron owns assets that could be seized to ratify it – Argentina, Brazil, Canada and even the United States. But authorities in these countries rejected this possibility arguing, among other things, that the matter involved in fact different companies: “You cannot charge Chevron Argentina or Chevron Brasil with a debt incurred by Chevron Corporation, which is a different company”, they said.

The problem is that “Chevron Corporation does not own assets in its name almost anywhere in the world”, says Fajardo. In his view, “the legal structure that these companies have been building through auxiliary enterprises and holding companies is simply a structure to evade their responsibility and, in this case, to evade justice” – which is undeniably an adverse scenario for the UDAPT.

Chevron’s lawsuit against Ecuador

During the UDAPT trial, not only did Chevron withdraw all its assets from Ecuador, but it also sued the country in international courts with the aim of sabotaging the trial and seeking financial compensation. In 2009, the company resorted to the Investor-State Difference Arbitration System (ISDS) and sued Ecuador in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (CPA) in The Hague claiming that it had violated the 1993 Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between Ecuador and United States.

The company accused Ecuador of “denial of justice”. Finally, on August 31, 2018, almost 10 years later, a CPA arbitration panel issued an award in favor of the company ordering Ecuador to annul the decision of the Sucumbíos court and ruling, in addition, that the Ecuadorian State should pay Chevron a compensation amount – still to be determined – for the alleged economic and moral damages that it had caused.

This is not the first time that Chevron has sued Ecuador in international courts. It had previously tried to accuse it of polluting, and had even successfully filed once an appeal before the CPA.

However, the problem now is that the 2018 award by the arbitration panel clashes head-on with the decision of the Lago Agrio case in favor of the UDAPT. How can this be? The key is to be found in some agreements that the company had signed with the Ecuadorian governments between 1995 and 1998 which include a contract freeing the company from obligations, financial or otherwise.

Chevron had left the country in 1992. However, it came back in 1995 seeking an agreement that it finally got signed in 1998. According to Adoración Guamán, an expert lawyer for the Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power – an international coalition grouping more than 200 organizations – the government then and the company signed a “contract for the undertaking of environmental repair work and the freeing of obligations”.

It is a document by which the government frees Texaco from any responsibility “forever”. This is the contract that Chevron used to sue Ecuador in the CPA in 2009 and that not only allowed it to disclaim responsibility for polluting the Amazon, but also helped it to seek economic compensation for having been sued.

Adoración Guamán points out that Chevron’s lawsuit kept on mutating as the lawsuit of the people affected in the Lago Agrio case followed its course and progressed. At the beginning, the company argued that the government of Ecuador, by allowing the UDAPT to take legal action, was in breach of the 1998 agreement – thereby incurring in denial of justice.

But when the ruling in favor of those affected became known, the company changed its line of argument and “accused the victims of having bribed the judges responsible for the decision”. The company claimed that there existed “a plot between the government and the victims to get compensation”.

Guamán says that “the arbitration panel considered that this had been proven” and, on this basis, it ordered Ecuador to annul the sentence and to take measures to prevent it from being executed in other parts of the world – and thus ordered the government of Ecuador to communicate to all the countries where Chevron owns assets that the “Ecuadorian judicial power had committed an illegality.”

Pablo Fajardo maintains that this is “tremendously arbitrary and illegal” and asks: “What is the point of a country’s law if legal decisions can be suspended by decisions of international authorities in processes which the citizens of this country do not have access to?”

Attacking the sovereignty of Ecuador

Chevron’s lawsuit in the CPA was questioned from the very beginning by the UDAPT and its allies. In the first place, as Pablo Fajardo points out, because “the Bilateral Treaty of Investment Protection was applied retroactively – something that is illegal and illegitimate”.

He specifies that Chevron left the country in 1992 and that the BIT between Ecuador and the United States was signed in 1993 and only entered into force in 1997. Despite this, the CPA admitted the claim on the grounds that when Texaco went back to Ecuador in 1995 it supposedly carried out “repair activities which involved investments”.

“So, what legal guarantee, if any, do the victims of corporate crimes have? None whatsoever. Economic power is being imposed and companies are buying impunity”.

Second, Fajardo notes, “the CPA panel has no competence, no legal capacity to order an independent and sovereign State to annul a final criminal sentence ordered by a court under Ecuador’s legal system”. What the CPA panel has done, in fact, is “ordering the Ecuadorian State to violate its own constitution, to break the separation of powers between the executive branch of government and the judiciary, and to get the Executive to interfere in judicial matters in order to have the sentence annulled”.

These are the reasons why the CPA award is, according to him, absolutely inapplicable. Hence, “the judgment of the Lago Agrio case cannot be annulled because there is no legal provision to do so, and therefore is fully valid”, he says.

Those affected say that the CPA award flagrantly violates their rights, because the 1998 BIT contract binds the government but not the UDAPT. In addition, they argue, the Lago Agrio case is a private trial, in which the government did not intervene – therefore, Fajardo points out, the CPA “is affecting the rights of third parties” in the trial.

The UDAPT reasons that the outcome of this case should be of concern not only to those affected and to Ecuador, but also to all the people the world over who are involved in fighting to defend the environment and human rights.

“It affects and violates the sovereignty of States, which is important as a legal precedent”, says Fajardo, and he insists that “if this arbitration award is allowed to go ahead, it could be applied to other States, where national courts of justice will lose the capacity to administer justice before transnational corporations. So, what legal guarantee, if any, do the victims of corporate crimes have? None whatsoever. Economic power is being imposed and companies are buying impunity”, he concludes.

Binding Treaty: an instrument to end corporate impunity

The Chevron case is yet another eloquent example of the impunity with which multinational corporations operate globally. It reinforces the need for an international instrument to put an end to it.

International allies point out that this case highlights the need for mechanisms which not only recognize the obligations that companies have, but also offer adequate guarantees to communities for accessing reparation and justice mechanisms.

At the same time, it shows how multinational corporations are using the international investment protection mechanism to undermine the sovereignty of countries and challenge the decisions of national courts of justice. The global investment system imposes corporate profit over and above respect for human rights and the environment. As Adoración Guamán says, we do need an instrument to change this state of affairs and “give primacy to human rights over trade and investment norms”.

“Justice as such does not exist, especially when the criminal is a transnational corporation and the victims are indigenous peoples, peasants, or nature”.

Experts also question the lack of effectiveness of human rights systems to enforce their mandates. While multinational corporations benefit from international mechanisms to protect investments which are mandatory, compliance with mandates for the protection of human rights and the environment tend to be voluntary or lack the necessary mechanisms to enforce them. “There is a huge legal vacuum here and a binding treaty is absolutely necessary”, says Fajardo.

This is precisely the aim of the Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights that is currently being promoted within the framework of the United Nations (UN) by international organizations and the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power – of which the UDAPT is part.

The Campaign has denounced the Chevron case, stating that “three private arbitrators, responding to commercial interests, are throwing out of the window a just claim and undoing 20 years of work by a broad set of plaintiffs”. It declares that the arbitration system “establishes a commercial law which sets as its priority the protection of capital profits over the right to life”.

Adoración Guamán says that the Chevron case has become the banner of the fight for a Binding Treaty. She warns that as long as multinational corporations like Chevron are not afraid of justice and do not see an effective mechanism in place that can put them on trial, sentence them and force them to pay “they will not respect human rights”.

“To Chevron, it is a matter of money and prestige. To the people affected, it is a matter of life”, says Fajardo. What Chevron did “was no accident. It was an intentional crime committed during 26 consecutive years”.

However, despite all the evidence and a due process with a final sentence against it, Chevron is not paying for its crimes. “Justice as such does not exist, especially when the criminal is a transnational corporation and the victims are indigenous peoples, peasants, or nature”, he says.

Fajardo insists that the UDAPT will continue to seek justice with the aim not only of getting Chevron to repair the damage it has caused in the Ecuadorian Amazon but, more importantly, of “setting a precedent, so that this type of crime will not be repeated in any other place in the world”.

A UN Treaty to Reduce Corporate Impunity Advantages

4 March 2019

OPINION: A promising negotiation is taking place at the UN Human Rights Council. A legally binding treaty on business and human rights could give victims transnational corporations’ malpractice a lot more power to pursue the justice they deserve. The EEB is stepping up its efforts to make the most of this opportunity to achieve environmental justice globally.

By Nick Meynen, European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

Photo credit: By Henry Mühlpfordt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1993, Ecuadorian citizens sued Texaco (that became Chevron) for leaving behind a massive amount of deadly pollution from decades of oil operations in the Amazon Rainforest. Twenty years and an unprecedented legal ordeal later, Ecuador’s Supreme Court ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion to clean up. Chevron refuses and instead paid a vast army of lawyers and PR firms to sue the victim’s lawyers and discredit them and Ecuador’s Supreme Court. The EEB crowdfunded for the lawyers who defend the 30.000 Ecuadorean plaintiffs. They are still proceeding the case in Canada. 26 years after opening a court case that they won at the highest level six years ago, the victims still face massive pollution problems and corporate impunity.

This case explains why it was Ecuador who took a bold initiative. In June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution drafted by Ecuador and South Africa. An open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights, chaired by Ecuador, was established. After three sessions in 2015, 2016 and 2017, a ‘zero draft’ of this new legally binding treaty on business and human rights was presented.

The EEB has written to the the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to comment on the draft. Francesca Carlsson, Legal officer for the EEB:

“We regret that that there is no mention of the need to protect Human Rights and Environmental defenders and journalists from abuse, harassment, criminalization and harm. It is often thanks to the work of defenders and the media that victims are able to organize themselves to claim their rights. There should be dissuasive measures on corporations and governments that use methods to silence defenders.”

In the past decade, the number of environmental defenders killed, often on the order of or by the transnational corporations that this treaty tries to regulate, has gone from one a week to four a week.

Carlsson also said that in order to truly have justice for victims, “it is important that they are given the opportunity to ask the courts for injunctive measures, including relief.” She also listed a list of positive elements in the draft that should not get compromised in further negotiation stages. The draft of this treaty attempts to widen the scope of jurisdiction for victims, allowing them to benefit from the most protective legislation. Multinational corporations already have the means to benefit from “forum shopping”, picking the countries with the legislation most favorable for their case.

The legally binding treaty on business and human rights is a promising initiative that could seriously improve global environmental justice. That is sorely needed, given the fast-rising global environmental justice movement, which is linked to the ever increasing amount of environmental conflicts, which the EEB also helps to map in the Atlas of Environmental Justice. The treaty is also a direct opposite of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms adopted in trade deals, as they expand the powers of transnational corporations. The EEB is one of 100s of organizations behind an European campaign that calls for rights for people and rules for corporations. Aside from stopping ISDS, the organizations behind this campaign want the EU to fully engage with the UN Treaty on business and human rights.

You can join the more than 500.000 Europeans who support this campaign here.

Originally published by Nick Meynen at metamag.org, link here

This is Why the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation Is Asking for a Hearing

Posted on January 22, 2019

overview of mining activity for hearing

The Beaver Lake Cree First Nation fights a monumental legal battle to end tar sands projects on their territory. It destroys their land and their way of life. On 19 February the case has an important hearing. This is what happened before. 

Treaty 6

In 1876 the Canadian Crown promised the First Nations that in exchange for sharing their lands and keeping the peace, they could keep their way of life, culture, and the right to hunt, fish, trap in perpetuity. This is called Treaty 6.

19.000 fossil fuel mining projects

Since, the government of Canada and Alberta gave permission for 19 000 fossil fuel mining projects on the territory of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation. This goes against Treaty 6.

Tarsands mining

Most of these 19.000 projects are tar sands mining projects. Tar sands mining is one of the most polluting forms of mineral developments, causing worldwide climate change.

Legal action

In 2008 Beaver Lake Cree First Nation filed a legal action against the governments of Canada and Alberta over the constitutional standing of numerous tar sands projects.

The case could proceed

After 5 years of beleaguered battling the case could go to trial. Alberta and Canada fought every step of the way to have the claim dismissed, but the court disagreed and has allowed the case to proceed.

19 February

On 19 February 2019 the case has an important hearing. You can support the case by sharing the message or donating today.

More information: RAVEN Trust

Fossil Fuel Companies Are on Trial

21 November 2018

Fossil fuel companies are on trial;

latest developments and future steps

Fossil fuel companies stand trial for their role in global warming. US cities, states and children demand accountability for climate change. Read about the latest developments and future steps.

Start of the lawsuits

Thirty years ago ExxonMobil recognized the threat of fossil fuels on the climate, but did not inform the public. The lawsuits started after ExxonMobil revealed they knew about the devastating effects. Now other fossil fuel companies are also standing trial.

The effects of climate change

Climate change damages cities, states and houses, but also impacts daily life. Especially in vulnerable coastal communities, extreme weather and sea level rise form a threat. Compensation is needed, and cities, states and children hold the fossil fuel companies accountable. If they win, the impact will be big. There will be a shift from the taxpayers to the companies to bear the costs for climate change.

Key events

The website ‘Inside Climate News’ lists all key events, from the first subpoena of ExxonMobil in November 2015 until the last developments in November 2018. Want to know more about the case: Chevron Oil Spill in Ecuador? Check out our case page.

Children Climate Case Goes to Trial Stage

Youth v. Gov Climate Case Goes to Trial:

Is a Safe Climate a Civil Right?

In the United States a group of children between the ages of 11 to 22 are suing the U.S. government for their right to a safe and stable climate. This younger generation decided they would not sit idly and watch a safe future on this planet evaporate. Now they give a voice to their generation.

On 2 November 2018 the United States Supreme Court allowed the lawsuit to go ahead and proceed. Now the case may head to trial proceedings.

Safe climate is a civil right

In 2015 the children started testing the idea that a safe climate is a civil right, by filing the lawsuit against the Obama administration for the first time. The youth and children argued that the policy of the U.S. was not in the best interest of their future, by pursuing policies that harmed the climate.

It was robbing them of a future climate that supports broad human survival.

A straightforward request

Lead lawyer Julia Olson is also founder of the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust. The mission of Our Children’s Trust is to protect children from climate change. She argues that the lawsuit has a pretty straightforward request. It asks a U.S. Federal judge to order the government to start planning how to reduce carbon emissions and stabilize the climate system for future generations.

The Trump administration

In 2017 the U.S. District Court judge agreed with the youths’ claim. They could proceed to trial.

That same year the Trump administration took over the litigative position of government in this case. President Trump ordered to roll back some of the climate regulations in place at the Environmental Protection Agency. The promotion of fossil fuel production and the indifference to the risks of greenhouse gas emissions has only grown since then.

The government lawyers in the case asked for a review of the U.S. District Court judge’s decision. The government lawyers wanted to halt the trail and avoid litigation.

In a separate motion the government lawyers were also fighting against a request by the youth’s lawyers that the Justice Department preserve all relevant documents to the lawsuit. This includes information on climate change, energy, and emissions.

U.S. government will go to court

On October 29, 2018, the trial should have begun, but the U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay. This meant there were larger legal issues pending the U.S. Supreme Court wanted to examine. The U.S. Supreme Court had received a request from the Justice Department for a stay to halt the case by the government’s lawyers.The Youth v. Gov case was temporarily halted while the U.S. Supreme Court decided.

On November 2nd the U.S. Supreme Court denied the government’s request.

Now the U.S. government will have to go to court. They will argue that there is no constitutional right to an environment free of climate change.

We will keep you posted on the proceedings of this interesting case.

In the mean time, should you want to learn more, you can check out their website at Youth v. Gov, or listen to this podcast.

 

18 October UDAPT Marches in Geneva, Switzerland

UDAPT Marches in Geneva in Support of Climate Alliance

18 October 2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D345rsuUvSE&feature=youtu.be

YouTube film by Klima-Allianz Schweiz, 18 October 2018

The UDAPT, the Ecuadorian organization that represents over 30,000 peoples, 6 indigenous tribes, and peasants who are negatively affected, to this day, by the polluted messes left behind by Chevron-Texaco in their Amazonian backyard, participated in a march held in Geneva, by the Climate Alliance Switzerland.

The battle against climate change cannot be won without social justice.

 

Show your support by sharing widely, please and thank you!

 

Ecuador Case Debate Invitation on 25 October 2018

DEBATE INVITATION AT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL STUDIES, The Hague, Netherlands

 

By Letty Fajardo Vera; submitted 17 October 2018

ENTITLED: Justice for Whom in Recent Chevron-Ecuador Decision by Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration?

On Thursday 25th October from 17:00 – 19:00 hours

At The Institute of Social Studies, Kortenaerkade 12, 2518 AX Den Haag

 

Four Ecuadorian Courts have condemned Chevron for its responsibility for oil pollution in the Amazon, including the Ecuadorean Constitutional Court in July 2018 in a landmark case for environmental justice.

However on August 30 2018, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague under the “investment state dispute settlement mechanism” ordered the State of Ecuador not to enforce its judgment against Chevron.

Instead, the Hague Court imposed a penalty on Ecuador. This decision infringes not only the human rights of the victims, but also heavily affects the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian State and the status of its Constitution.

This event highlights the nature and impact of environmental crimes perpetrated by Chevron on the Amazon’s indigenous peoples in Ecuador. It also examines the dynamics and functioning of national and international legal instruments on crimes by transnational corporations. In particular, it focuses on the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, a key international site of international investor-state arbitration.

How does it operate?

Who are the judges?

How are its judgments reached?

Why are trade and investment agreements prioritized over national, regional and international human rights laws?

Is this what “The Hague the City of Justice” is all about?

What can we do about this?

 

Speakers:

Ms. Roeline Knottnerus, SOMO-TNI. Trade & Investment Policy Advisor. She will focus on why the rights of investors appear to override all other legislation and whether we can reset this imbalance through a Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights.

Mr. Justino Piaguaje, Leader of the Siekopai Indigenous  People and Member of the Executive Board of the UDAPT (Union of the Affected People by Chevron-Texaco).

Mr. Pablo Fajardo Mendoza, Lead Lawyer for the UDAPT (Union of the Affected People by Chevron-Texaco) on the Chevron Case. He will explain how International Arbitration Tribunals are a danger to the sovereignty of the peoples.

 

Schedule of the event: 17:00- 19:00 pm

Welcome to ISS: Teyo van der Schoot, Human Rights Senior Advisor (3 minutes)

Moderator:  Siobhán Airey, Research Fellow, University College Dublin & TNI

Translator: Anna Berti Suman, Environmental & Health Law Researcher, Tilburg Law School.

Section 1 – Ms. Roeline Knottnerus, SOMO-TNI. (10-15 minutes)

Mr. Pablo Fajardo Mendoza, Lead Lawyer UDAPT. (10-15 minutes)

Mr. Justino Piaguaje, Leader of the Siekopai Indigenous people. (10-15 minutes)

We strive to make this part a dynamic discussion that sees active participation from both panelists and audience regarding the discussed topics.

Section 2 – Questions and answers

Section 3 – Wrap-up, Letty Fajardo Vera (2- minutes)

 

Organized by: @UDAPT @iss.nl @StopCorporateImpunity

 

STORMS DURING MINISTER MANTASHE’S WHIRLWIND TOUR OF KZN & XOLOBENI

STORMS DURING MINISTER MANTASHE’S WHIRLWIND TOUR OF KZN & XOLOBENI

By Sheila Berry

Minister Mantashe’s whirlwind three day roadshow to major mining hotspots in KZN and the Eastern Cape last weekend has understandably focussed on the arrest of human rights attorney Richard Spoor and the tear gassing and use of stun grenades against protesting Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) members in Xolobeni, on Sunday 22nd September.

Bench Marks Foundation media statement  , Daily Maverick article. 

However, it is important to place on record that the minister’s visits to the two communities in Northern KZN bordering the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park (HiP) were also not without incident, though not as dramatic as the scenes from Xolobeni.

These visits dashed the hopes of many for open, honest and even-handed engagement with minister Mantashe. Like his predecessors, he has been brazenly pro mining, and it was clearly a tactic on this tour to block genuine voices of communities impacted by mining. It has left many people dissatisfied that meaningful consultation with directly affected communities and the minister is possible.

On Friday, 21st September, the minister spent five hours meeting with Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC) and left the expectant KwaMlaba/Ukhukho community members waiting for hours for their chance to speak to Mantashe – an opportunity denied to them. Instead, when the minister eventually emerged from the mine, he and  various other pro-mining speakers spent the next forty minutes praising ZAC, a mine with a long history of ignoring legislation, worker unrest, strikes, violence, and community dissatisfaction and complaints that go unheard.

In 2015, ZAC was exposed for illegally opening three new pits without the necessary environmental authorisations, and was found guilty of contravening the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) and non-compliance with health, safety and environmental regulations, and was temporarily closed in June 2014. Concerns about acid drainage and contamination of water sources that feed HiP were also raised that have yet to be satisfactorily addressed.

Last year, two activists were murdered: one was shot by a driving contractor for ZAC and another man was beaten to death by two policemen from Pinetown, 250kms away! To date, no arrests have been made though the identity of the murderers is known.

The Ukhukho community has also strongly objected to a depot for mine waste set up in their community and opened with great fanfare by King Zwelethini two years ago. Even more significant was the closure of ZAC by Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) officials on Monday, 16th September, the week of the minister’s visit. It had not operated all that week yet not one word was said about this. The mine resumed operations the Monday after the minister’s visit, on 24th September.

Without giving the aggrieved community a chance to say one word, the minister announced that it was getting late and he needed to leave. He and his entourage climbed into their vehicles and drove off leaving behind stunned and deeply disappointed community members. One should not be surprised or blame the frustrated community if there is an escalation in the burning of coal trucks, strikes and picketing that has become the hallmark of ZAC’s operations.

On Saturday, 22nd September, the minister repeated the same process at Somkhele on the eastern side of HiP, near the main entrance to the Park. He spent three hours inside Tendele mine, engaging with mine management, trade union members and workers. Again, when he eventually met with the long-suffering community,  there were the usual speeches of praise – this time about Tendele mine and the CEO, Jan du Preez, for the good work and benefits they bring to the community. No mention was made of the recent High Court application against Tendele by the community organisation MCEJO and GET for the mine’s lack of compliance and other complaints [Links here and here].

After the speeches, the minister walked out without giving the Somkhele/Mpukunyoni community an opportunity to speak. With one voice the tent erupted.

Since 2004, directly affected community members have tried without success to engage with the various ministers and the Department of Mineral Resources of South Africa. On Saturday, when they saw the door being shut in their faces again with all the attempts that were made to make sure community members were not given a chance to express their collective pain, they rose up and said No! Minister Mantashe come back. We demand to have an opportunity to present our issues and be heard by you.  This surely would not have happened if the minister had had his way and another expensive opportunity would have been missed by the government of hearing evidence that rectifies the distorted one-dimensional engagements that typify DMR’s modus operandi. It is apparent that minister Mantashe and his department had all the intentions of sabotaging their own visit.

Mantashe was forced to return and appease the angry gathering and had to give the floor to the community. He allowed only seven speakers who criticised the mine and repeatedly called for justice to be served and for the law to be be applied. Affected community members, who have lost their sources of income and have had their lives and health destroyed by living in close proximity to the mine, spoke openly about their suffering. All the stories were about how Tendele is impacting on people’s human rights and the negative impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the greater Mpukunyoni area. A 56 year old Mr Ndlovu, broke down and wept as he narrated how, after being removed from his home, he struggled to lay daily bread on the table for his children. More testimonies followed as the community spoke of their suffering and poverty resulting from mining in the area that takes away and pollutes their land and water.  One woman had with her, a bottled sample of polluted water from her tank at home.

Not one person spoke in favour of the mine or mentioned anything positive about Tendele.

The impacts of the mine also threaten the HiP, KZN’s flagship tourist attraction, established 110 years ago as a sanctuary for the last remaining pocket of Southern White rhino on the African continent, and providing thousands more sustainable jobs than the coal mine right on the Park’s boundary that the minister has allowed to expand by a massive 222km2 for the next 30 years until 2046.  This despite the SA signing international protocols and treaties committing the country to decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels, particularly coal. The reality is that in 2015, the coal mining sector, arguably the most environmentally damaging mining activity, accounted for about 0.5% of the national workforce. With the technical developments rapidly being favoured by the mining industry, like self-drive vehicles, and robots for security, the number of jobs currently filled by local community members is likely to decrease dramatically.

By the end of the input from the community that included handing over memoranda (view PDF – Zulu) prepared by two community organisations, MCEJO and Mpukunyoni Community Property Association (MCPA), the minister promised that DMR would assemble a task team to address the issues raised by the community. Its first meeting(s) will be held on Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd October 2018 at the Protea Hotel, an unfortunate venue choice. Before its conversion into a 3-star hotel, it was used by the apartheid regime as a place to torture and murder so-called “enemies of the state”.

From Somkhele, the minister and his department travelled to the much publicised violent visit in Xolobeni. When Richard Spoor appeared in court last week he was charged with assault of a policeman, refusing a lawful order, and incitement to public violence. The case was remanded until 25 October.

Meanwhile the government is still to deal appropriately with the Marikana massacre and to prioritise the arrest of the two men, posing as policemen, who murdered Sikhosipi Bazooka Radebe, a leading activist in Xolobeni, who was shot seven times in the head in front of his 15 year old son. This happened more than two years ago. There are several other deaths of anti-mining activists nationwide fighting for justice that remain unsolved and numerous anti-mining activists across the country continue to be subjected to intimidation, violence, damage to property, and their lives threatened.

One thing that became clear during the minister’s tour is how effective mining is at splitting communities into a few beneficiaries who are decision makers on one side and the masses who are left with nothing on the other side.

Stand with Indigenous Peoples

Stand with Indigenous Peoples: donate, organize an event, or set up an online fundraiser

Indigenous Nations are on a winning streak in the Canadian country’s courts.  We’ve stopped pipelines, pushed back against open pit mining and built an unprecedented alliance that is igniting all across the country.

Now it’s time to tackle climate destruction at the source:  Canada’s dirty tar sands.

At the heart of the largest industrial project on Earth, a tiny Nation who’ve lost 90% of their territory to oil and gas development are saying, “Enough.”  From tar sands ground zero, the Beaver Lake Cree are waging a monumental tar sands lawsuit against Canada and Alberta to force them to honour treaty rights and push back against tar sands development on their territory.

The lawsuit is the first ever to challenge the cumulative impacts of industrial development. Not one project, not one mine: all of them at once.

Indigenous legal challenges are behind the biggest progressive wins in this country. Cases supported by RAVEN halted the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline. Our Pull Together campaign killed the Enbridge pipeline. From these victories has sprung a movement of people like you, who are strategic, focussed, and 100% committed to level the playing field so that Indigenous Nations can stand toe-to-toe with industry and government in the courts.

It’s a defining moment: will we allow the ideologues who are seizing power to distort our democracy to serve Big Oil’s agenda? Or will we rise together to realize the vision of a fair country, where the caretaker values of Indigenous Peoples become integral to solving the climate crisis?

The Tar Sands Trial aims to force limits on an industry that has been allowed to violate the treaties at every turn, and wreak havoc on the health of ecosystems and local communities. We need leaders like you to build this unprecedented alliance that is growing across the country because — when we join forces — we’re unstoppable.

Stand with Indigenous Peoples: donate, organize an event, or set up an online fundraiser. We’ve got just under 10 weeks before the Beaver Lake Cree go to court, and we need $100,000. Are you in?

In solidarity,

Ayendri, Brendan, Ana, Andrea and the rest of the RAVEN team

P.S. People who stepped up to organize events and host online fundraisers were the magic that helped us to stop Enbridge and Kinder Morgan. Now, we’re unleashing the power of the crowd to stop tar sands at the source. Take it to the next level by hosting an event or setting up an online fundraiser.

P.P.S. Double your impact: pass this message on to someone who needs to know about RAVEN’s Tar Sands Trial.  http://us9.forward-to-friend.com/forward?u=ec1dc8977d6122fcc867a4a12&id=ac6cceb10e&e=ae2320fd2a

Thank you!