Welcome to Simone: Our New 2019 Summer Intern

With a strong interest in conflict resolution and peace-building, Simone Hanrath (BA Cultural Anthropology and Developmental Sociology 2015-2018; MA Cultural Diplomacy 2019-2020) is a driven intern at the Crowd Versus. Having organised various intercultural activities, and participated within the Shelter City project as a personal assistant to displaced Human Rights defenders, Human- and Land Rights have become Simone’s primary focus. Supporting cases of displacement,  suppressed individual liberty and environmental injustice, Simone has been organising dinners, conferences and concerts.

Her outspoken aim is to strengthen intercultural ties in order to invite various groups to leave their comfort zones and meet one another in visions and views that stretch beyond personal points of reference.

At the Crowd Versus Simone is involved with the setting up of gatherings and joint initiatives between individual actors and institutions. She will help to organise the annual meeting of the Board of Advisors fall of 2019, work in connection with the University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht, and initiate other connecting activities and activation strategies under Asceline Groot and Jone van Rees.

Simone’s strengths rely on her hands-on mentality in acknowledging potential, her bi-lingual and bi-cultural (Czech-Dutch) background, and her process-oriented approach where the realisation of projects is concerned.  Rather than focusing on being on the other side of the canal, Simone aims at finding ways to learn how to swim or to build bridges. She takes the time to involve all members of an initiative into a process of decision-making and acknowledges the necessity to reach, and continuously re-confirm, consensus in order to be productive. She is greatly in favour of the horizontal set-up of The Crowd Versus:

“I feel like The Crowd Versus is a unique initiative, in the sense that it constitutes a community as much as a philanthropic platform. It amplifies the involvement of people. By being transparent, informative, and open to alternative ways of support, such as blogging, it gets rid of the New Year’s gift giving image, where you give money to pacify your conscience and then lose sight of the cause and gift altogether. The Crowd Versus opens up a space which allows me to get  connected and see that change doesn’t have to be a far-away thing.”

Simone is not afraid to become involved within new initiatives and be part of a movement which stands in for international human rights. She finds the team of The Crowd Versus to be harbouring a  sincere and cordial approach towards reaching its goals.

Largest #ClimateStrike held by students world-wide on 15 March 2019

21 March 2019

Young adults speak out for their future to hold adults accountable for #climatechange

The school strike held by students, around the entire world, this past Friday on the Ides of March, was the largest to date.

Young adults protested to demand that politicians craft better climate oriented policies, for their future. Students gathered to protest what the adults have, in their eyes, abused from previous (business) actions and privileges to take materials and produce, without regard for the consequences for future generations.

Over time, these adults actions and (business) policy decisions contributed to the growth of carbon dioxide emissions which in turn contribute to a generally higher median temperature of the earth, as shown by scientific research by NASA.

This “demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” (From a statement of 18 world-wide scientific organizations, in 2009).

An increase can definitely be measured with human activity as the main driver of the increase. The earth has been through climactic changes in the past.

This one is unprecedented due in part to the earth’s past history of stabilization, around the past 2,000 years.

There exists scientific consensus upon scientific consensus, and that scenarios and possibilities exist to halt this increase by changing human interactions.

Students are taking matters into their own hands, under the leadership of Greta Thunberg, who stood up every Friday to protest and to hold adults accountable, initially all by herself.

The United Nations invited her to speak and she did so with furore, as you can see and hear here on YouTube.

From fridaysforfuture.org: https://www.dw.com/en/fridays-for-future-students-hold-international-climate-change-protests/a-47927393

We fully support the students in their endeavors to effect proper change in this ever-changing world.

You can support them by supporting the environmental human cases now pending, which have sometimes taken over 25 years to arrive at a level where they can have a world-wide impact.

For instance, the Chevron v. Ecuador case has taken over 26 years to now stand in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, on the very basic issue of whether human rights trump corporate privileges on a global scale.

You can also become an (online) activist by using your favorite activity to promote awareness for these cases here.

Because when we stand together, we stand stronger!

Meet our team: Jan Willem Nieuwenhuys – Treasurer of the Executive Board

28 February 2019

The team members of the Crowd Versus work and volunteer their time behind the scenes. We are a diverse group of people, but we share a clear mission: to hold irresponsible companies accountable for their actions on the legal playing field.

The Treasurer

Today we would like you to meet Jan Willem Nieuwenhuys. Jan Willem is our Treasurer and we are happy to have him on the Executive Board. Jan Willem spent his working life to improve the sustainability of the financial sector. He was one of the first bankers to start with impact-investing for his clients, while creating social and financial value.

Sustainability comes naturally

“Sustainability comes naturally to me,” Jan Willem says. “When my first child was born, I asked myself, is this the world I want her to grow up in? No, of course not. I learned the profession of asset manager in a traditional way and I didn’t want to proceed in that same way. Which is why, in 1990, I established Nieuwenhuys, Brink, Crommelin Duurzaam Vermogensbeheer. Sustainable investment is now so successful that there is actually no reason not to invest in this way.”

Fair Capital Partners

At this moment Jan Willem Nieuwenhuys is Chair of the Board of Directors at Fair Capital Partners asset management, part of the Board of The Crowd Versus, and he volunteers for many other organizations. We provide you with a selection of his activities and accomplishments.

Founder of Fair Capital Partners Asset Management (since 2018)
Commissioner Houdstermaatschappij Zuid-Holland (since 2017)
Member of the Board Bergplaats (since 2017)
President of the Board Partos (since 2016)
Member of the Board Hinderrust Foundation (since 2014)
Member of the Board KNHM (2012) and Commissaris KNHM Participations (since 2016)
Director ASN Bank Asset Management (2010 – 2018)
Commissioner Doen Participations (2003 – 2006)
President of the Board Social Venture Network Netherlands (2001 – 2006)
Member of the Board, Human Rights Watch (since 1995)
Director Niewenhuys, Brink, Crommelin (NBI Vermogensplanning) (1990 – 2010)

Meet our team: Jone van Rees, one of the driving forces behind the platform

Posted on January 18, 2019

Who works and volunteers their time behind the scenes at The Crowd Versus? All different kinds of people do. 

We have held jobs in the business and legal industries. We apply that knowledge to help create this online platform to support important cases worldwide achieve justice.

Sometimes that justice has been years due, sometimes more than twenty.

Belief in Justice for All

Jone van Rees enjoys an extensive background as a legal assistant, spanning over 14 years in various areas of jurisprudence. Her degree from Georgia State University in English rhetoric and ability to speak several languages is another one of her strengths. In 2015 she started her own business in copy edit and works as a coach with aspiring authors.

She is a creative individual who likes to play with words and images in languages.

“The judicial system can effect important changes in society, in a peaceful manner, to reflect the values and norms that ensure justice for all.”

According to Jone: “The belief in justice being achieved via the legal system represents part of my personal motivation to work and volunteer in human environmental justice. I love the law and all what it entails, how it touches all aspects of our lives. The best part of being in this position is that I also get to meet and help change the world with amazing people, like Kirsten Youens, Pablo Fajardo Mendoza, Susan Smitten, René Sanchéz Galindo, and other incredible activists and community leaders.

These are all outstanding attorneys and dedicated people who work long hours for little or no pay. And now I help run the backend of The Crowd Versus’s website to make this world a better place for those who come after us, the new generations.”

Background

  • Coordinate campaigns for The Crowd Versus, social media channels in different languages, website back-end
  • Editor and coach for authors, founder of scriptumbene.com
  • Volunteer Greenpeace PNW social media
  • International Board member of scivias-institut.de
  • Guide and administrative work at the Nederlands Tegelmuseum
  • Legal assistant for various law firms in corporate, defense and plaintiff litigation in Atlanta, GA
  • Secretary for business firms, also on a multi-national level

Meet Our Team: Jan van de Venis, President of the Executive Board

Posted on December 11, 2018

Jan van de Venis

Every day, the team of The Crowd Versus works on creating awareness for human environmental rights all over the world. We have different roles, backgrounds, and day jobs. We share a clear mission: to hold irresponsible companies accountable for their actions on the legal playing field.

Today we would like you to meet Jan van de Venis, President of our Executive Board.

Human Rights Lawyer

Jan van de Venis is a human rights lawyer and founder of law firm JustLaw. He specializes in human rights and environmental and sustainable development issues. He focuses on Human Rights Consultancy, Training of legal professionals, Expert contributions to law suits and the Rights of Future Generations.

In all his activities, Jan tries to make law work for a more just, sustainable, inclusive and peaceful world and a healthy planet for present and future generations. A perfect match with The Crowd Versus.

Board member, Public speaker, and networker

Jan works for governments and institutions, politicians, NGOs (for example, Greenpeace and Amnesty International), UN bodies, businesses, academic institutions, and agencies (for example, OHCHR and UNESCO). Next to his work as a solicitor, he has many board memberships. Additionally, Jan is a public speaker, publisher, and joins a wide variety of expert groups, initiatives, networks, and outreach programs.

His personal motto is: “We may not always be able to control things that cross our paths, but we are in control of the way we respond.”

We give you a selection of his accomplishments.

Meet Our New Secretary: Ms. Leida Rijnhout

Our New Secretary of the Executive Board, Ms. Leida Rijnhout

Our new Secretary to the Board, Ms. Leida Rijnhout

We are pleased to announce that Ms. Rijnhout has joined the Advisory Board of The Crowd Versus as the official Secretary of our foundation.

Ms. Leida Rijnhout enjoys an extensive background in cultural anthropology, in international development cooperation (with a focus on Bolivia) and especially in system change and sustainability issues.

Among her outstanding achievements, she counts the following accomplishments:

  • She has facilitated and coordinated the global NGO community to realize active engagements with United Nations Processes on Sustainable Development and Environment.
  • Previously, she was heavily involved at and in the preparations of the Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 (Johannesburg), at Rio+20 in 2012 (Rio de Janeiro), and in the development of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (better known as SDGs).
  • She was the European Focal Point for civil society in Europe, in the 10-year Framework on Sustainable Consumption and Production (UNEP).
  • She was the representative for the Environmental NGOs at the OECD, until shortly. At UNEA2 (2016) and UNEA3 (2017) she was the co-chair of the Major Group Facilitating Committee, and the main contact for UNEA and member states for the civil society groups.
  • She was Director Global Policies and Sustainability at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).
  • She was the Program Coordinator Resource Justice and Sustainability at Friends of the Earth Europe.
  • She was actively involved in the development of the Environmental Justice Atlas (www.ejatlas.org)
  • She is member of the High Level Steering Group of the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials.
  • She initiated a broad alliance of civil society organizations SDG Watch Europe and is still a member of the Steering Group. As representative for this alliance she is also member of the EU Multi Stakeholder Platform on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, chaired by EU Vice President Frans Timmermans.
  • Ms. Rijnhout was also coordinator of an international think tank on ecological debt and environmental justice.
  • She is full member of the Club of Rome, EU Chapter.
  • She is member of the coordinating group of the Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production group of Future Earth, working on system change within macro-economics.
  • She has always combined scientific research work, activists’ approaches, field experiences, and policy work. In that regard, she has written many articles and chapters of books regarding strong sustainability.
  • At this time, she is working as a private consultant. For more information: www.leapfrog2SD.org

We look forward to working closely with her.

Coal mining threatens KwaZulu; Natal’s oldest nature reserves

Coal mining threatens KwaZulu; Natal’s oldest nature reserves.

 

Update with new information (July 12): “Tendele’s mining right that was under appeal was granted in 2016 (not 2017) after an extended consultation process which included the park. This mining right is in the Mpukunyoni area and not Fuleni. It was appealed as people thought it was in the buffer zone, and that we didn’t consult and didn’t follow necessary environmental legislation – which the Minister then rejected, confirming that we acted 100% within the legislation and could prove consultation was done. Important to note: we have no relation to Fuleni or Imvukuzane; their reserve runs on the other side of the iMmfolozi River,” says Tendele COO, Jarmi Steyn.

KwaZulu Natal’s oldest game reserve, the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HIP), along with its neighbour, the Fuleni Reserve, may come under threat by yet another coal mining prospector tendering for mining rights on its borders.

For the second time in four years, the reserves, their habitant wildlife and fragile ecosystem, as well as the surrounding communities, are potentially being threatened by mining companies tendering to establish open-cast coal mines in their midst. The historic wilderness zone, now covering nearly a third of the HIP, is home to some of the densest populations of White rhino in the world – an endangered species. This zone was given special protection because it was largely unscarred by development.

Tendele Coal Mining has been operating in the area for 11 years, with approved mining rights for current and future areas, says Chief Operating Officer, Jarmi Steyn. “Tendele abides by the required legislation and its regulations as prescribed, and has extensive monitoring and management programmes in place to minimise pollution and damage to the environment as prescribed. It is important to note that the HIP is an interested and affected party of the mine, and was consulted with all mining rights applications. It’s also worthy to note that all the mine’s active areas are outside of the 5km buffer zone of the park.

Important to note- we have no relation to Fuleni or Imvukuzane – their reserve runs on the other side of the umfolozi river.

Ibutho Coal applied for mining rights in Fuleni four years ago, but it is alleged that the project was abandoned following strong opposition from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the local community. An environmental impact report on the Ibutho project suggested that hundreds of people would have to abandon their homes, businesses, farming plots and ancestral graveyards; while the direct impact of blasting vibration, dust, noise and lighting would be felt 24 hours a day, seven days a week for over 30 years.

Limpopo-based environmental consulting firm Jacana Environmentals, suggested that the noise from up to 200 coal trucks a day would radiate to distances of around 1.5km during the day and 3.5km at night. This noise would affect the tranquillity of the nearby HIP. Furthermore, it was estimated that Ibutho would require 105m litres of water a month – despite the iMfolozi River already being considered ‘water stressed’. Surface and groundwater in the vicinity of the mine would be poisoned from acidic mine drainage and other contaminants, while underground mining would cause the ground to subside.

On May 22 this year, Imvukuzane Resources applied to South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) for environmental approval to prospect for coal and other minerals, and to dig 275 test boreholes in the Fuleni area, directly adjacent to the southern boundary of the HIP. This has the potential to affect 16 500 inhabitants in the local communities, and have serious environmental impacts through “noise, blasting, coal dust, water extraction and pollution, light pollutions, contamination of soil, destruction of agricultural and grazing land, displacement of thousands of people,” says Save Our Wilderness.

 

 

Tourism Update approached the Department of Mineral Resources to query the considerations put in place with regard to the above effects on the environment, wildlife ecosystem, their consequent tourism, and on the local communities. The Department’s spokesperson, Ayanda Shezi, said: “The law requires that when an application for mining or prospecting is being considered, a thorough assessment of environmental impact be undertaken to establish if the proposed activities will have an impact, and the severity of that impact.”

The process of engagements with all stakeholders is prescribed in terms of Chapter 5 of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998, read with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2014 EIA Regulations, and undertaken by an Environmental Assessment Practitioner who upon finalisation of that process – including the associated consultation with all Interested and affected parties, submits the EIA to the Minister for consideration.

In the event that a mining right is granted, there is a further process in terms of section 5 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) that requires the mining right holder to consult with the landowners and lawful occupiers. The mine owner must still comply with all the laws of the land and best practices regarding the management of relocations.

The impact in this instance (tourism to the reserves) gets to be analysed during the EIA process as determined in the EIA regulations.”

On August 31 2017, Tendele applied for mining rights to 222sqkm within the Fuleni Reserve, which was appealed by Save Our Wilderness. On June 19 this year the appeal was rejected by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe, on the following grounds:

  • The application was rightfully adjudicated in terms of the now repealed section 39 of the MRPDA, read with regulations 49.50 and 51.
  • The amendments in both MRPDA and NEMA do not apply retrospectively, and the acting DG rightfully considered the provisions in the unamended MPRDA.
  • The regional manager has confirmed consultation with interested and affected parties.”

 

Steyn says that in general, Tendele “tries to communicate with such bodies in order to provide information and detail. In many instances it is found that environmental complaints and resistance relates back to employment opportunities and unsubstantiated compensation related issues. It must be noted that the area in which the mine operates has a very high unemployment rate and poverty is rife – any propaganda sees opportunity for alleviation of these challenges. Tendele has furthermore created a structure called the Mpukunyoni Community Mining Forum (MCMF), where all leaders and community representatives are present – municipality, traditional council, community committees and the like. NGOs are welcomed to the meetings of the MCMF, but to date, none have been willing to accept our invitations. Tendele furthermore has an interested and affected parties database whereby such parties are informed of the Mine’s doings/plans and comments and suggestions are noted and actioned.”

While the appeal against Tendele’s application was rejected, a number of conservation and local-community bodies have raised a powerful call for support to stop Imvukuzane Resources’ application. “The more people who register as Interested and Affected Parties (IAPs), the stronger and clearer the message to the Department of Mineral Resources that coal mines in rural farming communities that threaten HIP are not to be considered. Neighbouring communities derive far more jobs and sustainable benefits from the park and tourism than from coal mines that leave serious environmental, social and economic devastation behind and invariably do not rehabilitate the area despite legal obligations to do so,” says Save our Wilderness.

Imvukuzane Resources, however, remains a ghost to media enquiries. An investigation conducted by the Daily Mavericksuggested that Imvukuzane was only set up in April, and currently has a single director (a 33-year-old Pretoria attorney), and no attempt to obtain comment from the company, its employees, or any linked parties was achieved. Tourism Update’s own investigations and attempts to make contact with the mine were unsuccessful.

Imvukuzane’s application is still under consideration, says Shezi, “and no final decision has been taken”. “The Department takes very seriously the impact any proposed mining activity has on the environment. Its processes are bound by the principles of Integrated Environmental Management and Chapter 5 of NEMA, and as such, all decisions made take into due consideration all the environmental and socio-economic factors,” she concludes.

11 Jul 2018 – by Kerry Hayes

Link to article here