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Friends of the Earth International News

Friends of the Earth International News from the May 2020 edition of our national magazine, Chain Reaction.

Protecting human rights and the environment in the Asia Pacific

Many defenders of territories and human rights are threatened, suppressed or in extreme cases killed. According to a Global Witness study, 164 environmental defenders were murdered in 2018 around the world. From January to September in 2019, 138 more deaths were recorded.

In the past few years, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific's member groups' staff, activists and supporters have been beaten, sued, kidnapped, bankrupted, defamed, jailed and murdered for campaigning for environmental justice.  

To keep defenders safe, we need systemic change and the introduction of practical policies at the local, national and international level, and also within civil society organisations.

A report released by FoE Asia Pacific last December includes seven stories from across the regional network of environmental organisations, each exposing the dire conditions experienced by environmental and human rights defenders.

The report includes cases from Palestine, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Russia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and serves as an advocacy tool to work at national, regional and international level, together with governments as well as communities, activists, allies, and other actors.

The FoE Asia Pacific report is online at

A FoE Real World Radio interview with Malaysian activist Theiva Lingam, regional facilitator for FoE International, is posted at

The Global Witness study is posted at

Essential measures lacking in UN's biodiversity framework draft

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is monitoring and contributing to the open-ended working group which is putting together the proposal for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This framework is a new action plan for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The action plan is due to be released in October 2020 at a meeting in Kumming, China, hailed as the "Paris Summit for biodiversity". The Zero Draft of the plan was released in January, and in February governments met for the first time in Rome to discuss the agreement/framework.

The FoEI team said: "Our initial analysis is that the Draft is an encouraging move towards a system which tackles the root causes of biodiversity loss. However, it lacks crucial means for achieving change, including recognition of rights for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, and mechanisms for equity, justice and mitigation of impacts on vulnerable Southern countries."

Key concerns include lack of consideration of economic over-consumption and industrial agriculture, the reliance on financial "ecological services" mechanisms, the lack of legally binding mechanisms to enforce the plan, no plan to halt existing damaging practices such as mining, and a failure to put communities, and especially Indigenous Peoples, at the heart of nature protection.

FoEI and allied groups recently released a 'Do's and Dont's for a Successful Global Biodiversity Framework'. This focuses on a rights-based approach, full and equal participation for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, and global equity and financing. You can view it here:

More information:

International Women's Day of Struggle: Marches for Gender Justice

March 8 was International Women's Day, and people from all over the world took to the streets to demand the liberation and safety of women, and the dismantling of the patriarchy. Friends of the Earth International joined the World March of Women, marching with the slogan "We resist to live, We march to transform".

Activists across the world have been using these marches as a building point for broader campaigns. For example, in Pakistan there was the 10th celebration of the anti-sexual harassment law, while also discussions of how best to support women in rural areas. In Venezuela there was a week of activities including a vigil for the increase of feminicides in the country.

The World March of Women is organised every five years across the globe. In 2020, the March highlighted four themes: resistance against the militarisation of bodies, lives and territories; anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles; opening borders and "denouncing the role of walls" in the persecution of migrants; and calling for the self-determination of peoples, women and territories.

Friends of the Earth International's Gender Justice and Dismantling Patriarchy Working Group released a booklet discussing what gender justice is, and the interconnected systems that enforce the patriarchy. The booklet highlights six ways to promote gender justice within our work. You can view the booklet here:

More information:

Voices of FoE activists around the world:

Uganda: Court ruling on Total's environmental and human rights abuses

The Nanterra High Court has handed down its (indecisive) decision on the mega oil project in Uganda proposed by French company Total. The company's plan lies within a protected natural park, and involves drilling over 400 wells to extract around 200,000 barrels of oil per day.

A 1,445 km pipeline will be built to transport the oil, impacting communities and nature in Tanzania as well as Uganda. Already, nearly 5000 people in Uganda have been forced off their land, without receiving adequate compensation. The legal case seeks to prevent these human rights and environmental violations from continuing and reoccurring.

Friends of the Earth France, along with Survie and four Ugandan organisations, took Total to court. On 30 January 2020, the Nanterre High Court handed down its decision on the summary proceedings, stating that the case does not fall within its jurisdiction, but sits with the Commercial Court. The six organisations strongly disagree with this legal interpretation. The Commercial Court was established to adjudicate on commercial disputes, and the organisations believe it will be unlikely to take into account serious human rights and environmental violations.

More information:

Costa Rica: FoE denounces murder of Jehry Rivera Rivera

FoE Latin America and the Caribbean denounced the murder of Jehy Rivera Rivera, an indigenous leader from the Naso Bröran people in Costa Rica, on 24 February 2020. Jehry Rivera fought for indigenous autonomy in the face of land usurpers and extractive projects such as the Diquís Hydroelectric Project which was negatively affecting the community. Jehry's murder follows the assassination of Indigenous leader Sergio Rojas in 2016. On February 23, there was intrusion and intimidation by armed non-Indigenous people into the Palmira de Cabagra and Crun D'bonn in the Térraba Indigenous communities.

Costa Rican Indigenous Peoples continue to demand autonomy and governmental reaffirmation of their autonomous territories. This includes a call for the government to prosecute the murderers, and the comply with precautionary measures established in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

More information:

UK: FoE stops Heathrow Airport expansion

Friends of the Earth UK have won a historic legal case to stop the building of Heathrow's third runway on the grounds of its climate impact. The Court of Appeal ruled that UK Government acted illegally in their plans to expand Heathrow, failing to act in accordance with the Paris Agreement and consider the climate impacts of the airport's expansion. Heathrow is one of the largest pollution emitters in the UK, and the expansion would have led to around 700 extra flights per day.

This is a huge win. Local community groups have been resisting Heathrow's expansion for many years, some for over 30 years. For the UK and global community, this case is a landmark, sending a clear message that governments must now consider the climate, and the Paris Agreement, in their plans – helping to stop other climate-harming proposals.

More information:

Brazil: First anniversary of Vale mining disaster

Friends of the Earth International supported the Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) during 20-25 January – the first anniversary of the Córrego do Feijão mine disaster, which spilt 12,000,000 cubic meters of toxic mud, and collapsed and split over 9km into the city of Brumadinho, and into the Paraopeba River. 

The week of mobilisations in Brumadinho were part of the community's resistance, mobilisation, and transformation of the post-disaster reality. Brumadinho has become a symbol of corporate power and the utter lack of care corporations have for human rights and the environment. FoE Brazil is using this moment to help renew and strengthen the campaign against corporate profiteering in Brazil.

Brazil has not prosecuted any executive from Vale. Almost half of the 24,000 dams in Brazil are classified "at risk", making it probably for a similar disaster to take place.

More information:

The laws of land grabs in the Asia Pacific

A report released by six member countries of Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific discusses the land rights security of communities, including but not limited to those who are ethnically indigenous or culturally traditional, as well as those who form as an integral part of rural agricultural groups.

They include the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR) from Papua New Guinea, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI), Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) from the Philippines, Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) from Sri Lanka and the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON).

Land grabs are inherently rooted in the inequitable free market forces, attributable to flawed economic and developmental systems. There is also a need to understand how legislative and governance systems of the participating countries respond to such land rights threats and the extent to which they are able to protect community land rights from land grabbing and the violations of community land rights.

Land grabbing is the control of larger than locally-typical amounts of land by any persons or entities; public or private, foreign or domestic. This can be through ownership, lease, concession, contracts, quotas or general power. This control can be acquired through legal or illegal means, for the purposes of speculation, extraction, resource control or commodification. This is often at the expense of peasant farmers, agroecology, land stewardship, food sovereignty and human rights.

The report is posted at

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