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La Via Campesina calls on States to exit the WTO and to create a new framework based on food sovereignty

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La Via Campesina, the global peasant movement representing the voices of more than 200 million small-scale peasants from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, has been mobilizing all week against the WTO. The food crisis that is currently hitting the world is further proof that free trade – far from bringing about food security – is making people starve.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has once again failed to offer a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes. For more than eight years, rich countries have been blocking concrete proposals from African and Asian members of the G33 in this regard.

Jeongyeol Kim, from the Korean Women Peasant’s Association and an International Coordination Committee (ICC) member of La Via Campesina, points out that:

“Free Trade Fuels Hunger. After 27 years under the rule of the WTO, this conclusion is clear. It is time to keep agriculture out of all Free Trade Agreements. The pandemic, and the shock and disruptions induced by war have made it clear that we need a local and national food governance system based on people, not agribusinesses. A system that is built on principles of solidarity and cooperation rather than competition, coercion, and geopolitical agendas.”

Burry Tunkara, from the Gambian Organization of Small-scale Farmers, Fishermen and Foresters and one of the main youth leaders of La Via Campesina, echoes the same sentiment in this testimony:

“The WTO only defends the rich and their commercial interests. It is a tool of neo-colonialism. It only serves the interests of multinationals to find new markets and cheaper labour. It’s time to stop that!”

The socio-economic agenda of the poorest and low-income countries is not a priority for the WTO. The proof: its inability to provide a safeguard mechanism against the “dumping” of rich countries and its approach to fisheries subsidies to the detriment of small-scale fisherfolk. There is no point in trying to reform an institution built to favour the business interests of a handful of multinational corporations.

Perla Álvarez from Paraguay, and member of the Latin American Coordination of La Via Campesina (CLOC) stated that a systemic change is urgent and necessary:

“The global food crisis is our moment of reckoning. There is no place for a ‘business as usual’ approach here. We are presenting short-term and long-term proposals that can radically shift the way in which trade affects farming communities around the world.”

Today, June 15, from Geneva, while the WTO Ministerial Conference has once again betrayed the expectations of the populations that have been most affected by the food crisis, we, La Via Campesina, share our proposals;

La Via Campesina calls on all national governments to rebuild public stocks and to support the creation of food reserves at the community level with local products from agroecological practices. LVC also called on all governments to put in place the anti-dumping legislation necessary to prevent exporters from destroying local markets.

Yudhvir Singh of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, one of the unions that spearheaded the historic mobilization of Indian peasants in 2021, shared his country’s experience with public food stocks:

“Peasants need strong public policies, such as minimum prices and public stock, to continue to make a decent living by producing food. The WTO’s attacks against our model of market regulation are extremely dangerous. The G33 must continue to resist and build based on the aspirations and hopes of small-scale producers.”

La Via Campesina has called for an immediate suspension of all existing WTO rules that prevent countries from developing public food stocks and regulating market and prices. Governments should have the right to use self-selected internal criteria to protect and promote their food sovereignty. Each country should be able to develop its own agricultural and food policy and protect the interests of its peasants, without harming other countries. The use of agricultural products for agro-fuels should be prohibited. La Via Campesina has also called for a halt in speculation.

“Agrarian Reform is necessary to build food sovereignty,” added Zainal Arifin Fuat of Serikat Petani Indonesia and member of LVC’s International Coordination Committee. “Governments must put an end to grabbing water, seeds and land by transnational corporations and ensure small-scale producers fair rights over common resources.”

We, La Via Campesina, insist that within the framework of the pandemic and the global supply crisis, governments should prioritize local markets.

Morgan Ody, peasant in Brittany, France, and general coordinator of La Via Campesina, stated on behalf of the global peasant movement:

“The World Trade Organization is a failed project. Our global peasant movement calls on all States, especially those in the South, to leave the WTO immediately. We must create a new international framework for agriculture and trade based on food sovereignty. Only then can we defend the interests of small-scale food producers.”

Source: viacampesina.org

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Uganda: Resisting Industrial Oil Palm Plantations

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September 21st is the International Day of Struggle against Monoculture Tree Plantations.

Since this Day was created in 2004, its purpose has been to highlight and support peoples’ struggles to defend territories threatened by the expansion of industrial tree plantations.

Within the framework of this Day, we want to share the new video “Uganda: Resisting Industrial Oil Palm Plantations”, produced by the Informal Alliance against Industrial Oil Palm Plantations in West and Central Africa.

The video highlights the resistance of communities in Buvuma Island in Uganda where the Bidco company (partially owned by the transnational Wilmar company) is trying to expand its oil palm plantations. By making false promises including the use of smallholder schemes , the company wants to expand its control over territories and peoples’ lives.

However, communities are determined to resist and raise awareness by exposing the deceiving practices of the company so that other communities in Uganda and elsewhere do not fall into the same traps

Watch the video here: Resisting Industrial Oil Palm Plantations

Source: World Rainforest Movement

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THE NEW EU DIRECTIVE ON DUE DILIGENCE – A RELEVANT STEP TOWARDS ENDING CORPORATE IMPUNITY?

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This is a critical time at the European Union (EU) when it comes to human suffering and climate impacts caused by transnational corporations, with particular emphasis on fossil fuel corporations, who continue to take deliberate actions to burn the planet. An important new law has been put forward, called the EU Due Diligence Act, which is still being discussed.

However, this law leaves much to be desired, and in its current form, can provide companies, investor states and financial institutions with an easy tick-box exercise, and loopholes, that will enable them to continue creating devastation of the earth, climate and peoples with impunity. The case of the gas industry in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, is a concrete example of how this can happen and is already happening.

Many organisations in Europe including Friends of the Earth Europe have been fighting the passing of this law in its current form and partnered with JA!’s activists at the EU Commission in Brussels in May, to speak to Ministers in the European Parliament (MEP).

To see the full report by Friends of the Earth Europe, ‘‘INSIDE JOB: How business lobbyists used the Commission’s scrutiny procedures to weaken human rights and environmental legislation’’, click here: https://friendsoftheearth.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/INSIDE-JOB_-How-business-lobbyists-used-the-Commissions-scrutiny-procedures.pdf

The majority of players in the Cabo Delgado gas industry are international, and many are from countries within the EU, such as Total from France, Eni from Italy, Galp from Portugal and French, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish and Danish banks, to name a few.

Many of these oil, coal and gas companies register subsidiaries in the country where they operate, such as Mozambique, and because the current draft EU law says that only ‘big’ companies can be held accountable, this will enable these subsidiaries to get away with their abuses and violations at a domestic level, especially in countries with weakened systems of justice.

Another major issue is that the topic of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) needs to be clear and strong. For one, it is only mentioned in an annex, and uses the term ‘consultation’ rather than consent, meaning that communities will only have to be informed of the project. It fails to ensure a clear right to say ‘no’, when local communities do not accept a specific project in their territories for fearing its foreseeable impacts. Secondly, it does not take into account the difficulties that come with actually obtaining this consent, the fact that even consent can be bought, coerced or threatened into. This related to what is meant by ‘a legitimate consultation’. For example, in Cabo Delgado, Total’s consultation process with affected communities has been a sham. When Total representatives visited and visit communities for these consultation meetings, they are accompanied by a military entourage. This, along with the presence of leaders who have a beneficial relationship with the company, means that community members are too afraid to speak out and dissent, even if they disagree, and ultimately many signed compensation agreements in public and in a language they did not understand. Yet Total was able to tick the boxes required for a legitimate process.

In general, there is not enough emphasis on preventing harm, and far more on remedy. It does not deal with what should be the foundation of the discussion, which is that there should be no harm or violations committed in the first place, and that appropriate punitive and coercive sanctions must be put in place when they are committed.

Burden of proof is too high.

In many laws, including in this draft EU law, the burden is on the claimant to prove the crime, which in this case means that corporations are innocent until proven guilty, and the assumption is that communities are not telling the truth. Communities are expected to show that their human rights were violated, amongst all difficulties linked to the asymmetry of power and complicity with national governments, while companies will only need to show that they followed the required processes needed for a project to be developed in that area. In order for community complaints to be considered ‘credible’, they are expected to provide information that is not easy for them to come by, such as written documentation and emails, video and photographic evidence, and named testimonies and witnesses, to show that the companies did not act in compliance with the law and international norms and standards. Amidst global overlapping crisis strongly linked to the power and impunity of these transnational corporations, the burden of proof should be on the companies to prove they are not responsible for the harm, or that they cannot control companies in their global value chains.

The legislation does not recognise that people cannot provide this information – they often do not have access to technology, knowledge of the language used, information in writing and in many cases their lives would be at risk for speaking out.

In the case of Cabo Delgado many mainstream media articles coming out toe the government line and there have been instances where journalists who tell the truth have been arrested and tortured, or even disappeared. Media, civil society and government officials who enter the gas area are accompanied by a military and government entourage, which makes it unlikely that communities will talk about their experiences honestly. These obstacles are not taken into account.

And on climate change

The draft EU law is not clear about companies’ compliance with the Paris Agreement and keeping below the 1.5 oC degree emissions target. Instead, it speaks of ‘compatibility’ which leaves much room for industry to claim that the agreement is ‘open to interpretation’ as they have done before several times.

As long as essential issues in the draft EU law are not addressed, including binding law on compliance with climate agreements, the reversal of the burden of proof and the establishment of clear provisions to deal with neocolonial power dynamics and systemically exploitative nature of big transnational companies , it will be yet another stamp with which the industry will show off its deceiving processes to ‘meet requirements’.

When governments are questioned on their unwillingness to sanction companies and financiers, they often claim that ‘holding dialogue’ with these companies is more effective in the long run. They have said, in several instances, that sanctioning companies should be the last resort, and will lead to them having no input into companies’ actions whatsoever. This system of continued dialogue is clearly not working -companies are continuing to act with impunity – and instead, institutions like the EU need to take ‘take responsibility for the harms of its companies, with great impacts in the global South, and take a step further to actually sanctioning them.

The insufficiency and limitations of a regional legislation

At a broader level, and even though EU corporate regulation laws are undoubtedly needed, this Due Diligence directive will not solve the global problem of corporate impunity. A regional directive – especially one linked with such a weak concept as ‘due diligence’ – must complement the process towards a UN legally binding instrument to regulate transnational companies in international human rights law (the ‘UN binding treaty on TNCs’), ongoing since 2014. Surprisingly enough, the reluctance of the EU and most of its member States to adequately engage in the UN binding treaty negotiations has been reaffirmed session after session and, unsurprisingly, heavily criticized by civil society from across the world.

Without a global level playing field, companies will continue choosing the best places to violate human rights and cause economic, social, environmental and climate impacts. Or choosing the best jurisdiction to register their parent companies. Both the EU and UN laws must include direct legal obligations to companies, affirm the primacy of human rights over trade and investment agreements, and establish judicial enforcement mechanisms. The negotiations of these or any laws aimed at regulating corporate activities should logically be protected from corporate capture and influence. The EU must include several key elements in its new directive in order for it to be meaningful – and this effort must be accompanied by the EU finally taking up its responsibility to start engaging actively and constructively in the negotiations for an ambitious and effective UN binding treaty.

Ending corporate impunity must necessarily mean that we close the legal loopholes and gaps which allow transnational corporations to evade responsibility – at national, regional and international levels.

Source: ja4change.org

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#StopEACOP campaign calls on Standard Bank to come clean about its funding of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline

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The #StopEACOP campaign has noted media reports that PR firm Edelman has ended its relationship with Standard Bank over Edelman’s refusal to provide reputation management services to the bank relating to its funding of TotalEnergies (Total)’s proposed controversial East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

#StopEACOP commends Edelman for distancing itself from the bank over its role in the project.

Although Standard Bank remains tight-lipped in relation to its funding of EACOP, the media reports regarding Edelman appear to confirm #StopEACOP’s understanding that Standard Bank does intend to finance the pipeline.

The risks of funding EACOP are intensifying. Edelman’s withdrawal illustrates that these include significant reputational risks. #StopEACOP urges all Standard Bank customers, service providers, employees and shareholders to speak up against the project and the bank’s involvement in it.

The risks

The severe environmental, human rights, climate, legal, and commercial risks and impacts of EACOP are summarised in this series of finance risk briefings. Globally, 20 banks (including Total’s seven largest financiers) have made clear they will not finance the project, as have eleven insurers or reinsurers, several development finance institutions and four export credit agencies. Growing opposition to EACOP will continue to intensify the reputational and other severe risks it poses for Total, and the banks, investors and insurers backing the project.

Duncan Meisel, Director, Clean Creatives, says: “Fossil fuel projects like EACOP are a threat to the reputation of any company that promotes or funds them. Edelman’s decision not to work on this project is the right one, because it separates them from the countless local disasters caused by pipeline construction and operation – not to mention the carbon pollution EACOP will produce. During a climate emergency, ending support for life-threatening projects such as EACOP, and the fossil fuel companies behind them, is the cornerstone of responsible business practice.”

Standard Bank evasive

For several years now, Standard Bank has been evasive regarding the status of its financing of the project. Together with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), it acts as a financial advisor for the project.

Standard Bank has publicly stated that its participation in EACOP remains subject to the findings of environmental and social due diligence assessments of the project’s compliance with the Equator Principles.  At its 31 May 2022 AGM, the bank’s CEO, Sim Tshabalala, committed to making public the long-awaited Social and Environmental Consultant’s report into the EACOP project, commissioned by Standard Bank and conducted by Golder Associates. The bank has so far failed to meet this commitment and the bank has not responded to recent requests from organisations within the #StopEACOP campaign for an update on the status of this report.

A recent report by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Inclusive Development International (IDI) and BankTrack demonstrates that banks supporting EACOP would be in non-compliance with their commitments under the Equator Principles, a risk management framework for financial institutions to identify, assess and manage environmental and social risks.

In other words, irrespective of what the yet-to-be-disclosed environmental and social report states, EACOP has now been shown to violate the Equator Principles. Given the bank’s commitment only to support the project if it complies with these Principles, this finding provides a further compelling reason for Standard Bank to back away from financing EACOP.

It is time for transparency. #StopEACOP calls on Standard Bank to publicly confirm – and explain – its position, and to end the prevarication and evasiveness which has characterised its responses to civil society for a number of years.

Source: justshare.org.za

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