Should We Care About a Coal Mine In Rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa?

“Through wilderness we remember and are brought home again.”

Sir Laurens van der Post

By Ronit Shapiro, Creator and Producer – Sisters of the Wilderness, Founder – One Nature

Published 25 July 2019

In 2005 I was asked to organise an event at the Royal Geographic Society in London, to raise awareness to Africa’s wild nature. The keynote speaker at the event was the late Dr. Ian Player, a much beloved South African conservationist and a deep-thinking writer. Little did I know at the time that this meeting with Dr. Player would make such a profound impact on my life.

Hearing Dr. Player talk was a great inspiration and touched something deep within. Then reading his books, in particular Zulu Wilderness, Shadow and Soul, made such an impression that this led me to change my entire career. 

Ronit Shapiro

After working in corporate communications for many years I decided to use my creativity and story-telling skills to tell stories that matter. I want to share the untold universal stories that need to be heard, those stories that can make a real difference to timely social and environmental issues affecting us all.

Passionate about the wellness of people and the environment, I intuitively felt that human and nature interconnect. I got affirmation to my intuitive feeling when I read the works of great writers, philosophers, poets and naturalists, and especially when spending time in nature.

Credit: photograph still from documentary “Sisters of the Wilderness” by Ronit Shapiro

In 2010 I wrote to Dr. Player and asked his permission to make a film inspired by his life and pioneering work in the wilderness. Dr. Player lived and worked in the African wilderness nearly all his life. He fought to protect wilderness and promoted a worldview of interconnectedness and deep ecology.

Over many years, he and his Zulu mentor and bush guide, Baba Maqgubu Ntombela, introduced thousands of people to the iMfolozi Wilderness, an ancient wilderness which nestles within the oldest game park in Africa, the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. 

Dr. Player wholeheartedly supported my initiative to make a social impact film set in the wilderness. He invited me to visit him and his wife Ann in his farm Phuzamoya, in the Natal Midlands in South Africa.

This was the beginning of four extraordinary life-changing years of in-depth mentorship by Dr. Player, and a special friendship developed with him and his dear and wise wife Ann. Sadly, Dr. Player passed away at the end of 2014. His passing created a deep void. At the same time, I was determined to continue with the film and social impact projects.

Credit: photograph still from documentary “Sisters of the Wilderness” by Ronit Shapiro

I aspired to create a moving image story to reconnect audiences with nature and raise awareness to the value of nature to our well-being. In particular I was drawn into the African wilderness, which is unlike any other wild nature, with its primordial wildlife and fauna.

A moving experience, that I had on a wilderness journey in iMfolozi, gave me confidence that this is where the film should be set and that this precious wilderness must be protected. Here an ageless spirit survives and one can sense a spiritual connection to the land. 

Credit: photograph still from documentary “Sisters of the Wilderness” by Ronit Shapiro

The iMfolozi valley was home to the first people of Southern Africa and later became 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 is also the place where the Southern White Rhino was saved from extinction. This wilderness is alive and it enriches and revitalises its visitors, physically and spiritually. 

In the film, I wanted to ‘transfer’ the audience to this primal place where no barriers separate human and nature. A journey into this wilderness is an intense experience where one can expect to undergo a personal transformation. It is a place of great inspiration.

Sadly, 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 nature, the surrounding rural communities and their livestock. Moreover, there are additional proposed coal mines in very close proximity to the park’s southern boundary which threatens to devastate even further this fragile nature ecosystem and the nearby communities.

Credit: photograph still from documentary “Sisters of the Wilderness” by Ronit Shapiro

Wild nature is fast disappearing due to humanity’s careless and irresponsible behaviour over generations. But we can stop this destruction! If we allow ourselves to pause and listen to nature and appreciate the value of nature to our wellbeing, and let nature remind us that we are nature and nature is us and what we do to nature we do to ourselves; that if we harm nature, we harm ourselves. When we develop an awe and reverence to nature, for nature sustains and nourishes us, we will be on the path to avert the destructive trend.

To that end I created Sisters of the Wilderness

Credit: photograph still from documentary “Sisters of the Wilderness” by Ronit Shapiro

The film, which takes one on an immersive journey within and without into the African wilderness, tells the story of five young Zulu women going into the iMfolozi wilderness on a journey of healing and self-discovery. On their journey they learn about the plight of this primordial wilderness from an open-cast coal mine on its border and an intensifying rhino poaching calamity.

Credit: photograph still from documentary “Sisters of the Wilderness” by Ronit Shapiro

Sisters of the Wilderness is not just a film. It is also a social impact project which aims to make a difference to timely and important social and environmental issues. The project’s key impact goals are: 

  • Young people empowerment and leadership development, using the power of wild nature, with a special focus on women empowerment.
  • Re-connect audiences to wild nature and raise awareness to the value of nature to our well-being.
  • Help the efforts to save the iMfolozi wilderness from the threat of unsustainable mining and the illegal hunting of its rhinos and other endangered species.

The film is now screening in film festivals worldwide.

Please follow our Facebook page Sisters of the Wilderness and share with your friends. Thank you!

Call to Action

If you wish to support my project, host a screening of the film in your organisation, event or to a special interest group, or distribute the film in your part of the world, please contact me directly at onenaturefilms@gmail.com.

The Crowd Versus works to support the defence of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Wilderness through the foundation Save Our Wilderness.

If my article motivated you to help The Crowd Versus, you can get involved by being creative (link here) or to contribute to the case of The Crowd Versus Destructive Mining in Zululand. Thank you!

The Crowd vs. Destructive Mining in Zululand

Coal companies and the South African government have to stop with coal mining that puts Zululand and its people in danger and threatens the world’s greatest concentration of rhinos in the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.  Read more …

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Unearthed.Greenpeace.Org: Oil Majors Withhold Support for Ambitious EU Climate Target 2050

Picture credit: Photo by Zukiman Mohamad from Pexels

BP and Shell declined to back a plan to reduce European greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, Unearthed can reveal

Originally published on 20 June 2019, link here, author: Lawrence Carter Twitter: @lawrencecarter1

The European Commission says the proposal, which would set an EU-wide target of net zero emissions by 2050, is needed if global warming is to be limited to 1.5 °C in line with the Paris climate change accord.  

Prime Minister Theresa May will attend a meeting of the European Council starting later today at which leaders are expected to vote on the new target.

The move follows last year’s major report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that failure to limit warming to 1.5 °C would significantly worsen the risk of drought, floods, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. 

Some of the world’s largest oil companies, including BP and Shell, the Italian major Eni and Spanish company Repsol, have withheld support for the proposal to increase the EU’s target, despite previously stating their backing for the Paris climate agreement.

The EU’s present emissions target for 2050 is a reduction of 80-95%.

In their responses to the European Commission’s consultation on its proposal, BP, Shell and Repsol did not answer the key question on whether the EU’s 2050 target should be kept the same, or be increased to achieve net zero.

When contacted by Unearthed, Shell said that the company supported a net zero goal but would not give a date by which this should happen. 

To continue reading, please link here.

We Support the People of Ecuador

We, the students of the HKU (University of the Arts Utrecht), are working on a special project to support the case ‘The Crowd vs. Chevron oil spill in Ecuador.’

We made a substance that looks like oil and it works!

Soon you will discover what it’s for…

students of the HKU
HKU student busy developing an oil-like substance

Check below for more information about the Chevron v. Ecuador case:

The Crowd vs. Chevron Oil Spill in Ecuador

92% funded
We've raised €13,841.09 of the €15,000.00 we are trying to raise for this case!
The Crowd Claims The lawsuit against Chevron by the Amazon people raises two fundamental questions for the Canadian court to decide: (1) Should justice prioritize human rights over the interests of transnational…

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.

 

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