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How the EU-Mercosur trade deal is worsening the international climate crisis



After twenty years of negotiations, the European Union is in the process of advancing one of the world’s largest free trade agreements with four states of Mercosur. The planned agreement suggests a political path that veers towards a worsening of the international climate crisis. Kathrin Meyer discusses the questionable contents of the political act, which will solidify inequality amongst the trade partners and enable the expansion of environmentally harmful methods.


With disregard to both the current international declarations on the worldwide climate crisis, as well as the exploitation and degradation of ecosystems outside of the European continent, the EU continues to ensure its needed raw material supply in order to encourage the expansion of its industrial sectors.

Such contempt is reflected in the current free trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur countries, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The process to build one of the largest free trade areas in the world was launched on June 28th, when the EU Commission called on its member states to ratify the detailed agreement.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström defended the initiative despite critical voices from climate activists and farmers, who condemned the ongoing negotiations on the biggest free trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur countries. In an interview with the daily newspaper Die Welt, she rejected possible changes within the agreement and said: “The treaty is ready and on the table. What’s done is done [sic!]”.

Justified criticism

Trade relations between Mercosur countries and the EU are already considered unequal. International NGOs and institutions fear that the ratification of the negotiated treaty could further strengthen structural problems.

A report by the non-profit organisation Misereor shows that the energy and raw materials sector will be one of the areas most affected. In addition to the further development of environmentally harmful processes, such as deforestation of the Amazon and new projects to promote fossil fuels, the abuse of labour will also intensify. A chief example of this includes the poor working conditions in the field of raw materials extraction.

Although the past few months have borne witness to growing environmental movements and demands for environmentally friendly political action, the focus of the free trade plan is certainly not about advancing the international energy transition. The agreement does not provide any incentives for decentralized renewable energies. On the contrary, the focus continues to be on existing production and supply models, which will continue to persist despite environmentally logical – and preferable – alternatives.

Existing production and supply models describe, inter alia, the continuation of the export relationship regarding mining products and further extraction plans.

Abolition of important export taxes

In the past, the Mercosur states regulated the export of products like lithium, copper and iron pre, due to environmental concerns, the security of their own commodity supply, and the protection of the national labour force. This will change with the new EU Trade Agreement, as the main goal of the EU’s negotiations consists of the prevention of such export restrictions to secure the supply of raw materials.

Furthermore, a ban on export taxes should make the purchase of raw materials from Latin American countries cheaper for the EU. This could mean a sharp drop in revenues for trade partner Argentina, which uses export tariffs to promote national social programs.

Liberalization at all costs

To further the development of infrastructure within the fossil fuel and mining sectors, the EU has pushed to expand the liberalization of the local energy and commodity sectors for investment and services, including continued extraction projects like the drilling for deep-sea oil deposits in Brazil or the investments in the exploitation of shale gas deposits in Argentina. The construction and building of new power plans, as well as pipelines, are on the EU’s trading agenda.

So far, not all EU member states have agreed to the fatal agreement. France has declared that it will not ratify the treaty as long as there are no valid guarantees, like the protection of the Amazon and French agriculture, as European agriculture is also at stake.

In response to French demands, political representatives from Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Latvia and Portugal have sent a letter to the European Commission calling for a rapid procedure to ensure enforcement of “one of the most important agreements in the common European commercial history“.

This is partly because of the political situation in Argentina, where President Mauricio Macri could possibly be unseated by the coming election at the end of the year. It is worth considering if the political agenda of the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is known as a despiser of the environment and human rights, could have contributed to the constitution of the letter. Bolsonaro appears poised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which would make the process of ratifying the treaty more difficult for the EU.

From the European side, one could argue that Angela Merkel and the other co-authors have lost sight of the path of sustainability for which they claim to be fighting.

Perhaps there should be stronger calls for a review of the trading agreement, which appears to have calcified in outdated ideals over the course of the last twenty years of negotiations. The demands of the European Union in this historic agreement, which include further extraction plans, expended claims of ownership, and contempt for the lands and quality of life of non-European people, reflect a neo-colonial approach in which sustainable policies are not to be found. As a result, the international climate crisis seems likely to brew into a climate disaster.


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Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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