The indigenous people of Brazil’s most northerly region have been conducting a wind power trial, in a bid to convince the government that it’s a realistic alternative to the country’s controversial hydroelectric dams.(...more)
Monday, 13 May 2013
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rushes out a statement hailing a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, you can be sure that opinion is a defeat for plaintiffs’ lawyers. So it is with the court’s long-awaited ruling Wednesday in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. All nine justices agreed with Shell’s counsel at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan that claims by a group of Nigerian nationals suing under the Alien Tort Statute for Shell’s alleged abetting of state-sponsored torture and murder in their country should be dismissed, though they split on precisely why. The majority, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, held that the presumption against extraterritoriality, most recently articulated by the court in Morrison v. National Australia Bank, applies to the Alien Tort Statute even though the ATS, unlike laws regulating conduct, is strictly a jurisdictional statute. Roberts’ opinion rejected (among other things) arguments that because the ATS was enacted to address piracy on the high seas, it extends to atrocities committed on foreign soil.
Corporations like Shell, which are based outside of the United States, can now rest assured that they cannot be sued under the ATS by non-U.S. nationals who claim to have suffered harm from the corporation’s activities abroad – an outcome greeted warmly by pro-business interests. But in a call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, human rights lawyers tried to look on the bright side, pointing to indications throughout the court’s majority opinion and three concurrences that all is not lost for victims who want their day in a U.S. courtroom.
Those indications begin with Roberts’ concluding words in the majority holding. Yes, he said, the presumption must be against extraterritorial application of the ATS, but that presumption is not inviolable when there’s a strong connection between the United States and the allegations asserted. “Where the claims touch and concern the territory of the United States, they must do so with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application,” Roberts wrote.(...more)
Monday, 1 April 2013
Communities working to stop a controversial gas drilling process are getting what sounds like encouragement from an unlikely source: a report prepared for the oil and gas industry on the risks posed by those communities themselves. Even more bizarre than a risk assessment about grassroots activists is one that basically admits the activists are right.(...more)
The United States Supreme Court is poised to issue a ruling in the case of Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum. The stakes are enormous – the case will determine whether victims of human rights abuses on foreign soil, who often lack any other viable legal remedy, can bring suit against corporations in US courts.(...more)
Saturday, 5 January 2013
The banner heading of the Idle No More web page reads:
“Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work toward justice in action, and protect Mother Earth.”
Samuel de Champlain would have understood.(...more)
Saturday, 29 December 2012
A decision by the Yukon Court of Appeal will have huge implications for the mineral exploration industry in the Yukon, says Whitehorse lawyer Stephen Walsh.
The Court of Appeal ruled the Yukon government has a legal obligation to consult with the Ross River Dena Council before mineral claims are staked in the Ross River area.
Notifying the First Nation after a claim has been staked does not satisfy the duty to consult as defined by the Supreme Court of Canada, the three judges of the appeal court agreed in the 15-page decision released Thursday.(...more)
Friday, 28 December 2012
What is “Idle No More”?
It is a loosely knit political movement encompassing rallies drawing thousands of people across dozens of cities, road blocks, a shoving match on Parliament Hill between chiefs and mounties and one high profile hunger strike.
It is also a meme tweeted and shared about thousands of times a day, for messages about indigenous rights, indigenous culture and cheap indigenous jokes (“Turn off your ignition #idlenomore”).
The name Idle No More comes from a recent meeting in Saskatchewan. Sylvia McAdam and three others were mad about Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill. Their biggest frustration was that nobody seemed to be talking about it. Two provisions in particular upset them: the reduction in the amount of federally protected waterways and a fast tracked process to surrender reserve lands. In McAdam’s view, if Aboriginal people did not speak out it would mean they “comply with [their] silence.” So she and her friends decided to speak out. They would be “Idle No More.” They held an information session under the same name. Co-organizer Tanya Kappo fired off a tweet with the hashtag “#IdleNoMore.”
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
The wakeup call: Corporate interests need to accept what the courts already have — that First Nations now hold the balance of power in deciding the fate of Canada’s resource projects because they have rights that others don’t
Canada is orchestrating a big push to accelerate development of its natural resources, but behind the hype there is a shifting and tense legal landscape. First Nations are on a big winning streak in the courts that has empowered them to have a say on projects in big parts of the country.
The tension is pushing corporations to spend huge dollars to keep the peace and move projects along in areas First Nations claim as their traditional lands.
But the approach is piecemeal and there have been few consistently successful strategies. Tension, frustration and confrontation abound. Lawyers, consultants and vested interests fuel and feed off the tension, making it hard to come up with solutions.
Many projects worth billions of dollars have been delayed or sunk altogether.
They include scores of mining, forestry and pipeline projects such as the now-shelved Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline in the Northwest Territories. The Northern Gateway pipeline could be next unless accommodation is found with opposed First Nations in the B.C. interior and on the coast.
Bill Gallagher, a former federal government regulator, oil and gas lawyer, treaty negotiator, and author of a new book, Resource Rulers, Fortune And Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources, argues there is a better way.
“The current situation in terms of access to resources, with the overarching tensions, has become unsustainable,” Mr. Gallagher said in an interview. “That is the key to the whole thing. Recognizing that Plan A has not worked; let’s put a Plan B together.”
The good news: Canadian First Nations are not opposed to development.(...more)
Friday, 7 December 2012
Landfill Harmonic is an upcoming feature-length documentary about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where the musicians play instruments made from trash.
When The Water Ends: Africa’s Climate Conflicts is a 16-minute video that documents conflicts driven by climate change in Eastern Africa.(...more)
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Seldom has a global conference been so devoid of positive expectations than the United Nations Climate Conference that is taking place in Doha, Qatar. In fact, people could be forgiven for thinking a joke was being played on them, given that the meeting is being held in Qatar, one of the world’s leading producers of oil, which is a key reason for the world’s climate woes.
But seldom has a meeting been as necessary for the future of the planet as the Doha meeting, also known as “Conference of Parties 18,” or COP 18.(...more)
Monday, 12 November 2012
CHIANG MAI – Civil society groups in Asia are calling for a review of donor-funded peace initiatives in Myanmar, expressing concern that their pace is too fast, they pay little heed to the humanitarian cost of economic development, and may do more harm than good.
“Most of the conflict, human rights abuse and environmental destruction [are] directly involved with planned resource extractions in ethnic areas,” said Wong Aung, an adviser for the Shwe Gas Movement, a watchdog NGO based near the Thai-Burmese border in Chiang Mai, which was set up in response to the exploitation of gas deposits off the coast of Arakan State in western Myanmar.
The NGO is part of the Burma Partnership, an alliance of 16 activist and civil society groups throughout Southeast and East Asia that commends the “well-intentioned” peace funds, but fears they can undermine long-term stability in conflict-affected border areas heavily populated by ethnic minorities. “If… environmental concerns or human rights violations are overlooked, the security situation on the ground will never be resolved,” Wong Aung added.(...more)
In 1996, we published the book Dealing with an Angry Public. In it we raised concerns about the distrustful attitudes that citizens have toward government and corporations, and the inability of these institutions to respond to public concerns in a robust, inclusive, and effective way. We put forward six principles that might help win back the public’s trust. We expected that leaders and organizations that adopted these principles would be better off.
Dealing with an Angry Public: The Mutual Gains Framework
- Acknowledge the concerns of the other side
- Encourage joint fact finding
- Offer contingent commitments to minimize impacts if they do occur; promise to compensate unintended effects
- Accept responsibility; admit mistakes, and share power
- Act in a trustworthy fashion at all times
- Focus on building long-term relationships
We can now cite hundreds if not thousands of cases in which our Angry Public principles and related tools and techniques increased trust, decreased pubic anger, and resulted in positive results…
More broadly, many corporations and governments around the world are now incorporating a serious commitment to sustainability in their operations, addressing social, economic, and environmental issues simultaneously. Corporate stakeholder engagement efforts have led to the adoption of voluntary standards for human rights …
Yet in most respects our desire to spur a different kind of public discourse has not panned out. We have not seen substantial changes in government or corporate behavior…
Why are we more divided than ever before? We believe there are three reasons: 1) distrust of science and expertise as a neutral foundation for policymaking has grown dramatically; 2) engagement with public and common activities has eroded; and 3) a deep economic and demographic anxiety has infected the country…(...more)
Friday, 9 November 2012
If you’re a coffee drinker, chances are the cup of java you drank this morning was made from beans that were produced or harvested by women. Women’s handprints can be found at every point in coffee production.
In fact, on family-owned coffee farms in Africa, about 70 percent of maintenance and harvesting work is done by women, according to an analysis by the International Trade Centre, but only rarely do women own the land or have financial control.
The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is trying to change that by giving them access to training and networking, and the opportunity to develop new trade relationships…
Fatima Aziz Faraji … manages a family coffee farm called Finca Estate in Tanzania. She’s pushed for a larger voice for women by filling the seats on coffee oversight boards traditionally reserved for men. For instance, she’s getting ready to begin a stint on the Tanzanian Coffee Board, and she’s a co-director of the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute.
So what is the IWCA’s alliance doing for women in her country? She explains the IWCA is bringing women together who previously had no access to each other, or the outside world.
The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is trying to empower women in the coffee sector through training, networking and new trade development.
Sunday, 28 October 2012
Chet Borei district, Kratie province – Sitting at his outpost overlooking the Mekong River, Deab Kuy remembers an incident some years ago when fishermen threatened to attack him if they were stopped from casting their nets around the river’s sandy islets here in Sambok commune.
The outpost, little more than a wooden house on the banks of the Mekong, is one of 15 set up in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces where a total of 77 unarmed “river guards” monitor local fishing communities in an effort to protect the area’s endangered freshwater dolphins.(...more)
Monday, 22 October 2012
VICTORIA – Thousands of protesters who packed the front lawn of the British Columbia legislature Monday yelled a thunderous “Yes” when asked if they were willing to lay down in front of pipeline bulldozers if the Northern Gateway project is approved.
But despite the crowd’s verbal willingness to risk arrest or injury to stop the pipeline, Victoria Police proclaimed the protest peaceful and arrest free.(...more)
Friday, 19 October 2012
Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation is preparing to speak out against pipeline expansion and increased tanker traffic at an upcoming demonstration in Victoria…
George is among the First Nations leaders, union officials, and activists scheduled to speak at the demonstration outside the provincial legislature in Victoria on October 22.(...more)
Tuesday, 16 October 2012
Eight years ago, Dr. Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to win the [Nobel Peace Prize] for her work demonstrating the intricate links between the environment, democracy and peace through Kenya’s Green Belt Movement. As the world honors the new recipient of the Peace Prize, we would like to pause and reflect on the many brave women of Africa, and around the world, who work every day to preserve and foster peace.
They do this in a way that does not, at first blush, seem to have anything to do with peace because they are the stewards of our world’s natural resources. For so many of us, environmental stewardship is a luxury. But for millions of people around the world, the environment provides the basics of survival including food, water, energy and medicine. When natural resources are lost through climate change and poor resource use, war and conflict increase dramatically.
The Nobel Prize committee understood this, and bestowed one of the world’s most prestigious prizes on Wangari Maathai for planting seeds of peace. Those seeds led to environment, economic and political stability, which translates directly into conflict mitigation because when people have food, water, and a safe, warm home – they don’t have to fight to survive. In short, Dr. Maathai was able to show that environmental protection is a two way street: the loss of natural resource drives war and conflict, but the restoration of natural resources drives peace and security.(...more)
Sunday, 14 October 2012
The labour strife in South Africa’s mines and the adoption of new disclosure rules for U.S. mining companies by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have cast renewed light on a global industry that affects the Canadian economy.
Every year, Canadian mining operations generate billions of dollars of revenue overseas. In fact, Canadian companies are some of the most globally active. More than 1,000 Canadian exploration companies work in more than 100 countries, from Mongolia to Peru to Tanzania. Canada’s mining investments in Africa alone have grown from $2.8-billion in 2001 to $30-billion in 2012.
The taxes and royalties that Canadian companies pay to countries that play host to them have the potential to transform economies. As we’ve seen in resource-rich countries such as Botswana, Chile and Malaysia, natural resource revenues paid to governments can be invested in roads, health care and education as well as business development and social services, leading to massive reductions in poverty. What’s more, Canadian operations can spur local economic development by creating jobs and financing community projects.
Yet, too often, these revenues are either not collected or not transformed into tangible benefits, leaving countries with more violent conflict and weaker growth than expected. In many instances, environmental destruction and loss of livelihoods, coupled with inadequate compensation, have left regions worse off than before.(...more)
Thursday, 27 September 2012
Today in the lead up to World Habitat Day on October 1st we’re proud to announce a new video People Before Profit – bringing communities across the world together to tell the global story of forced evictions. WITNESS has supported forced evictions campaigns for more than 10 years. During this time, these projects have amplified the voices of communities across the world. For World Habitat Day we are bringing many of these voices together for the first time to tell another story.
The video is also available in a multilingual version here in Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Spanish. In order to access the various languages, click the “cc” button at the bottom of the video frame.(...more)