WWF’s REDD project in Mai Ndombe, Democratic Republic of Congo: No consultation, no transparency, and communities paid less than DRC’s minimum wage

By Chris Lang - REDD Monitor, November 1, 2017

WWF’s largest REDD project in Africa is in Mai Ndombe province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to WWF, the results so far are “very encouraging”. On its website, WWF states that, “The participatory approach through local development committees has proven to be a success with effective achievements.”

But a recent report by the Congolese NGO, Ligue Congolaise de Lutte Contre la Corruption (LICOCO), challenges these claims. LICOCO’s report is based on an independent observation mission to the territory of Mushie in Mai Ndombe.

The report looks into whether WWF is implementing the governance tools developed by DRC’s National REDD+ Commission.

WWF was hired by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation of Nature and Sustainable Development to run the REDD project in four territories: Bolobo, Kwamouth, Mushie, and Yumbi. The project is part of a Forest Investment Program project titled Improved Forested Landscape Management Project (PGAPF), which has US$37.7 million funding from the World Bank.

This Is Blockadia

By Daria Rivin and Alice Owen - Common Dreams, November 3, 2017

As world leaders prepare to meet in Germany to negotiate climate action at COP23, activists are putting words into action by blockading a nearby coal mine. Their message is that leaders need to grasp the urgency of keeping fossil fuels in the ground, right here and right now. With an increasing frequency and intensity, such direct actions and the associated demands for climate justice are unfolding on every continent.

These interwoven spaces of resistances are Blockadia. Based on the new Blockadia Map of 70 cases, an international team of researchers has observed a significant increase in the frequency of these resistances; all conflicts with a known start date before 2006 amount to 16 cases, whereas there are 48 conflicts starting within the last ten years.

In solidarity with all climate change affected communities of the world

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 1, 2017

Solidarity Statement

Harare: October 27, 2017

La Via Campesina International Coordinating Committee (ICC) gathered in Harare affirms its support and solidarity with the victims of the climate crisis around the world.

Since August this year we witnessed several disasters due to increased impacts of the human made climate change both in scale and intensity: hurricanes, floods, tropical storms, droughts, heat waves and more. This year only the Atlantic hurricane season had about 15 tropical storms, 10 hurricanes of which 6 (Harvey, Irma, Maria, etc.), were major and led lost lives, homes, and damage running in to huge financial impacts in Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, United States of America, etc. Africa also experienced flooding in West Africa (i.e. Sierra Leone) besides continuing droughts in parts of North and sub-Sahara Africa. In Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc.) experienced flooding which led to thousands of deaths and the destruction of croplands.

In Europe too, severe droughts and high temperatures and winds have made it difficult to control forest fires. Recently, intense storms (Xavier, Herwart, Ophelia) have battered some countries (Germany, Ireland, Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic) leaving a trail of destruction devastating storms. In all these cases hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, thousands killed. The most affected are our brothers and sisters, the peasants, poor people, rural workers, the indigenous and the fisherfolk, some of whom have been forced to migrate. Climate change continues to aggravate the life conditions of many peasants who are already suffering marginalisation and repression from capitalist state. Both in the urban areas and countryside, our sisters and brothers have limited resources to rebuild their lives, their homes, their plots and their communities.

La Via Campesina is appalled by the continued denial of the link between these climate change catastrophes to anthropogenic emissions and also by the recent pull out by U.S. President Donald Trump.

We urgently call upon our allies, friends and social movements to galvanise their struggles towards a system change. We urgently need to mobilize together with the civil society to push for our true solutions based on food sovereignty and peasant agroecology which cool the Earth and increase democratic control of energy production at the local level.

Therefore, during the forthcoming UN climate talks in Bonn (Germany) we will be on the streets pushing forward our peasant agenda, our true solutions and staying in solidarity with all climate change affected communities of the world today.

Shocking New Investigation Links Berta Cáceres’s Assassination to Executives at Honduran Dam Company

Elisabeth Malkin interviewed by Juan González and Amy Goodman - Democracy Now, November 1, 2017

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with shocking new revelations about the assassination of renowned Honduran indigenous environmental leader Berta Cáceres. On Tuesday, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a team of international lawyers released a new report that shows how the plot to murder Cáceres was months in the making and went up to the highest levels of the company, whose hydroelectric dam project Cáceres and her indigenous Lenca community were protesting. The report’s release celebrated the effort to push back against the brazen impunity with which the murder was carried out.

PROTESTERS: Berta no se murió, Berta no se murió. ¡Justicia! ¡Justicia!

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: “¡Justicia! Berta!” “Justice for Berta!” they chanted, upon the report’s release.

In 1993, Berta Cáceres co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH. For years, the group faced death threats and repression as they stood up to mining and dam projects they said were destructive to their ancestral land. Then, on March 2nd, 2016, Cáceres was gunned down just before midnight in her hometown of La Esperanza. At the time of her death, she was organizing indigenous communities to resist the Agua Zarca Dam on the Gualcarque River, saying it threatened to contaminate her community’s water supply.

AMY GOODMAN: Now a team of five international lawyers have found evidence that the plot to kill Cáceres went up to the top of the Honduran energy company behind the dam, Desarrollos Energéticos, known as ”DESA.” The lawyers were selected by Cáceres’s daughter, Bertita Zúniga, and are independent of the Honduran government’s ongoing official investigation. They examined some 40,000 pages of text messages and say the conversations are proof that the orders to threaten COPINH and disrupt its protests came from DESA executives. The investigation also revealed DESA exercised control over security forces in the area, issuing directives and paying for police units’ room, board and equipment. In their new report, the lawyers write, quote, “The existing proof is conclusive regarding the participation of numerous state agents, high-ranking executives and employees of Desa in the planning, execution and cover-up of the assassination.”

For more, we go to Mexico City, where we’re joined by Elisabeth Malkin. She’s a reporter for The New York Times, has read the new report and details its findings in her article, “Who Ordered Killing of Honduran Activist? Evidence of Broad Plot Is Found.”

Railworkers face frame-up trial in Lac-Mégantic disaster

By Michel Prairie and John Steele - The Militant, October 23, 2017

The state began presenting its frame-up case against locomotive engineer Tom Harding and train traffic controller Richard Labrie, members of United Steelworkers Local 1976, in court here Oct. 2. The two unionists are charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death from the July 6, 2013, derailment and explosion of a runaway 72-car Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway oil train in downtown Lac-Mégantic. In addition to the multiple deaths, the disaster wiped out most of the city’s downtown. Also on trial is former low-level company manager Jean Demaitre.

All three are fighting the charges. They could face life in prison.

Some 50 people attended the first day of the trial, including several activists from the Citizens’ and Groups Coalition for Rail Safety in Lac-Mégantic, and others who came to show their support for the rail workers.

“Why isn’t Edward Burkhardt, the MMA CEO in the courtroom?” said Lac-Mégantic coalition spokesperson Robert Bellefleur. “What about Transport Canada, which gave the MMA special permission to run the train with a crew of just one person, Tom Harding?”

“I don’t want answers from the three men on trial,” Jean Paradis, told the media. The Montreal, Maine and Atlantic executives are “in the [United] States. Transport Canada has let those cheap companies run railroads for less money, for making more money instead of acting for the safety of the people. Safety should come first, not third.”

Paradis barely escaped with his life as the massive fireball from the explosion that night engulfed the Musi-Café where a majority of those killed were incinerated, including three of his close friends.

“The three accused are victims of the system. The ones at the end of the line are always targeted,” Richard Custeau told the Journal de Montreal, explaining his hopes that one day those higher up in the hierarchy of the rail industry will be punished. Custeau’s brother Réal was killed at the Musi-Café.

“The MMA was a railroad bought cheap by investors, in order to increase its profits and then sell it,” Harding’s lawyer Thomas Walsh explained to a crowded hallway full of reporters at the lunch break. “Today most of the same people are running its replacement. Only the name has changed. Profits are being made at the expense of safety. Transport Canada looked the other way.”

Many in Lac-Mégantic consider Harding a hero. On the night of the disaster, he parked the train on the main line on a grade at the village of Nantes about 7 miles from Lac-Mégantic, left the lead engine running to power the locomotive air brakes, set hand brakes on seven tanker cars and took a taxi to a Lac-Mégantic hotel to get his night’s rest, as he had done many times before. As he slept a small fire broke out on the lead engine due to cost-cutting inadequate maintenance by Montreal, Maine and Atlantic.

When local firefighters arrived to put out the flames, they shut down the locomotive and, unknowingly, the locomotive air brakes. Harding received a call about the fire and offered to go to the train to make sure everything was OK. He was told that it was all taken care of and to go back to sleep. A short time later the train began to roll towards the city.

Awoken by the explosion, Harding rushed to the site, risking his life helping firefighters detach and move a number of unexploded tanker cars, preventing an even worse disaster.

The New AFL-CIO Stand on Climate Change

By Jeremy Brecher - Common Dreams, November 3, 2017

At its Quadrennial Convention in late October, the AFL-CIO unanimously adopted a resolution on “Climate Change, Energy, and Union Jobs.” [https://aflcio.org/resolutions/resolution-55-climate-change-energy-and-union-jobs] The resolution says that the fastest and most equitable way to address climate change is for “labor to be at the center of creating solutions that reduce emissions while investing in our communities, maintaining and creating high-wage union jobs, and reducing poverty.”

If acted on, the resolution will bring about significant changes in organized labor and will bring American trade unions into far closer alignment with allies in the climate protection movement.

The resolution starts with the facts of global warming. It acknowledges “the overwhelming scientific consensus” that climate warming is “due to human activities” and that higher global temperatures will trigger “irreversible changes in our climate,” causing “a rise in sea levels and storm surges, an increase in droughts and extreme weather events, a substantial threat of increased extinctions, decreased food security in some regions, and an increase in heat-induced health problems.”

The resolution turns next to the social justice dimensions of climate change. “Workers, communities of color and low-income Americans suffer disproportionately from environmental degradation and climate change” through “polluted air, water and land,” and from “drought and extreme weather events.” It cites Pope Francis and other religious leaders on the “moral imperative to address both climate change and poverty.”

The resolution notes that tens of thousands of union members work in industries that rely on fossil fuels or live in regions where fossil fuels are “the primary economic driver in their communities.” Like all workers, they have a right to “a strong, viable economic future” including good jobs at union wages and benefits. It cites the Paris Agreement on “the imperative of a just transition” of the workforce and “decent work and quality jobs” when addressing climate change. It resolves to fight politically and legislatively “to secure and maintain employment, pensions and health care” for workers affected by changes in the energy market.

NAFTA’s Neoliberal Foundations Need To Be Dismantled From The Left

By Jeff Schuhrke - In These Times, October 25, 2017

Rejecting both economic nationalism and free-market fundamentalism, workers across North America are building transnational solidarity and demanding labor rights for all.

Last week, nearly 60 representatives of unions and civil society organizations from Mexico, Canada and the United States gathered in Chicago for a two-day meeting to discuss strategies for collaboration as their governments renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The meeting was coordinated by the United Electrical Workers (UE), UCLA Labor Center and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, an international civic education institution affiliated with Germany’s Left Party. While many Mexican unions are dominated by the government, only the country’s more independent and democratically run labor organizations attended.

“We’re discussing what kinds of relationships can be built, either bi-nationally or tri-nationally,” Benedicto Martínez, a national co-coordinator of Mexico’s Frente Auténtico del Trabajo, or Authentic Labor Front (FAT), told In These Times. “At the forefront of our vision would be the rights of people, including better wages, better education, better healthcare and immigration rights.”

Critics argue that NAFTA has accelerated the global “race to the bottom,” where governments dismantle workplace and environmental protections in order to attract capital investment.

“NAFTA has had many negative impacts. Big companies come to Mexico accommodated by the government as workers’ rights are constantly violated,” Julia Quiñones, coordinator of the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s, or Border Workers’ Committee (CFO), told In These Times.

CFO organizes maquiladora workers in the northern Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Chihuahua. The foreign-owned maquiladoras along the U.S.-Mexico border, which produce goods for export, embody the most pernicious aspects of “free trade”: exploiting low-paid, majority-women workers and polluting their surroundings.

Viewpoint: A Union Plan for Hurricane Repair: Local Hire, Prevailing Wage

By Gordon Lafer - Labor Notes, November 1, 2017

After Harvey, Irma, and Maria, many thousands of homes have been lost and lives wrecked. People in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico need decent paying jobs while they try to put their lives back together, and the one industry that will be booming is construction.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Trump, Shock Doctrine & “Disaster Capitalism” in Puerto Rico

By Amy Goodman - Democracy Now, October 31, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we turn right now to my interview with the Puerto Rican mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor I spoke with on Friday. We sat down together in the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, where the entire mayoral staff is now living. I began by asking her how Hurricane Maria has changed Puerto Rico since it struck the island September 20th.

MAYOR CARMEN YULÍN CRUZ: I think September 20th changed the Puerto Rican reality forever. We live in a different San Juan and a different Puerto Rico, not because of what we’re lacking. The majority of the island is still without any power. Only about 40 to 60 percent of the population has water. That doesn’t mean that it’s good water. We still have to boil it or put chlorine in it to be able to drink it. Medical services are really, really bad because of the lack of electricity. The supplies in the supermarkets are not there yet, so people are having a lot of trouble getting the supplies that they need. But still, the fierce determination of people has not dwindled. And to me, that’s been a very—I would say, a big lesson to learn.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about this public power company, the largest in the United States? Do you think there’s an effort in this time, in the aftermath of the hurricane of—an effort to just privatize it?

MAYOR CARMEN YULÍN CRUZ: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: For it totally to fail?

MAYOR CARMEN YULÍN CRUZ: Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think has to be done about that?

MAYOR CARMEN YULÍN CRUZ: It cannot be privatized. I am—and a lot of people—totally against, because we are a hundred miles long by 35 miles wide. That’s a monopoly. It doesn’t matter how you want to disguise it. It’s a monopoly. And what we’re doing is we’re putting in private hands the decision as to where our economic development is spread, where the sense of equality or inequality will happen. So, power isn’t just about the power grid. It’s also about the ability that the Puerto Rican people may have in the years to come to ensure that there is appropriate economic development and equally divided amongst all the 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico.

AMY GOODMAN: Disaster capitalism, what does that term mean to you? And do you think that’s happening here, using a crisis to accomplish something that couldn’t be accomplished otherwise?

MAYOR CARMEN YULÍN CRUZ: You know, I wish I had never been introduced to that term. Also the shock, shock treatment, right? Using the chaos to strip employees of their bargaining rights, rights that took 40, 50 years for the unions to be able to determine. That is something very important. And it just means taking advantage of people when they are in a life-or-death situation. It is the most—an absolute mistreatment of human rights. It means that the strongest really feed off the weakest, until everything that’s left is the carcass.

As Elon Musk Proposes Taking Over Power Authority, Puerto Ricans Demand Community-Owned Solar Power

By Amy Goodman and Juan González - Democracy Now, November 1, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: So, as the governor announced they were going to try to cancel this Whitefish Energy contract, on Sunday, we were in the offices of Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo. He is the head of UTIER, the electrical workers’ union in Puerto Rico. We were asking him about Elon Musk’s proposal to make Puerto Rico a model of sustainable energy. I asked him how to rebuild the devastated grid, if it’s possible, in a more sustainable way, and whether solar power has to mean privatization.

ÁNGEL FIGUEROA JARAMILLO: [translated] First, the complexity of the electrical system of Puerto Rico, it’s a totally isolated system. A system with a large amount of demand poses a major challenge in terms of looking at the possibility of solar power for powering the whole country. It’s very complex. It requires many studies, a lot of analysis, many evaluations. And the people of Puerto Rico can’t wait for all of that right now. Now, that doesn’t mean that Puerto Rico doesn’t have to look very seriously at the possibility of the transformation towards solar power. Nonetheless, the transformation that UTIER believes is most appropriate is—are solar communities. The communities themselves should appropriate that system. It’s not that we will become a commodity for renewable solar energy.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you interested in meeting with Tesla, Elon Musk or his representatives to figure out what a solar solution or a sustainable solution would be for Puerto Rico?

ÁNGEL FIGUEROA JARAMILLO: [translated] Yes. Yes, of course. Of course, yes. We have to meet and search for alternatives to transform the country. This doesn’t mean that we’re against—I mean, in favor of this becoming privatized. I believe that we have to meet and have a dialogue. We have to search for alternatives. But we are very clear: All the alternatives have to be owned by the community.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, the head of UTIER, the electrical workers’ union in Puerto Rico.

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