World Bank-Backed Projects Threaten Indigenous Communities’ Ways of Life
Former World Bank official says bank shut down his efforts to defend rights of tribal group in Kenya
(Oct 26th 2015): The convoy of vehicles rumbled into western Kenya’s Cherangani Hills, a region of thick forests and bitter land conflicts. Inside the caravan: a delegation of World Bank and Kenyan officials accompanied by armed forest rangers.
Joseph Kilimo Chebet, father of five, standing next to the charred remains of his home. He and other Sengwer said Kenya Forest Service officers had set it afire hours before. Photo: Tony Karumba / GroundTruth
The group was investigating allegations that the Kenya Forest Service was using a World Bank-backed conservation project to bankroll a wave of evictions targeting the Sengwer, a hunter-gatherer tribe that says it has lived in these forests for centuries.
Navin Rai, the World Bank’s top advisor at the time on issues relating to indigenous peoples, was among the officials who inspected the charred ruins of mud-and-thatch huts that tribe members said had been burned by forest rangers who considered the Sengwer to be squatters occupying the land illegally.
More than 4 thousands people, from all Brazilian States, have left their homes and farms to join caravans from different regions of the country towards Sao Paulo, to attend the First National Peasants Congress of MPA, the Small-Farmers Movement of Brazil.
The symbolic Pavilion of Vera Cruz, the same place where the biggest trade union in Brazil, the CUT, and the Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores) were founded, decades ago.
MPA has mobilised thousands of rural women and men to come together and consolidate all the work the movement has been doing in the last 20 years and reaffirm their class identity as peasants. MPA is re-affirming at this congress the strategic alliance between rural peasants and urban workers.
“This congress has the task to put together what we have built so far in various areas such as health, food production, work on seeds, youth and organisational strengthening. Now, we want to take a great step and consolidate our understanding as a peasant class that we need to articulate with the workers class”, said Isabel Ramalho, from MPA National Board.
Mobilising the peasantry to challenge agribusiness
MPA is mobilising peasants to take the task of building a peasant agricultural project that fights and challenges the agribusiness model that is still powerful in Brazil.
“This same government has also allowed the progress of the capital and of the agribusiness model”, said Isabel Ramalho.
Brazil is one of the top agribusiness drivers in the world. The country has become the world´s top agricultural exporters. In 2012 Brazil surpassed the United State as the largest buyer of pesticides for its agriculture.
Agribusiness, which includes biofuels, is responsible for 27% of the country’s GDP and corresponds to at least 37% of the Brazilian export.
The First National Congress takes place in a context of a political turbulence in Brazil. The gains that former president Lula talked about may risk being eroded Brazilian President, Workers Party Dilma Rousseff, is facing strong criticism from conservative right wing sectors. In the last years, many street protests called even for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.
Brazilian social movements, however, have taken the stand to support Dilma Rousseff since, although not always satisfied with the government policies, “we should not allow a step back on what we have achieved in this country”, said Willian Clementino, from National Confederation of Farmworkers.
According to the peasant-farmers the seed specimens now being kept in the genetic resource banks run by the multilateral system of the (IT PGRFA) belong to the farmers: they are the inheritance of many centuries of peasant selection, and they have been collected in their fields.
By participating in that Treaty the peasant farmers thought their seeds were being protected against appropriation, from plant breeders’ laws and industrial patents. But now IT PGRFA plans to launch the Divseek programme – to dissect the genetic sequences of the resources in the gene bank. to publish them in electronic databases. The farmers see this as the furtherance of the bio-piracy now increasingly practiced by Big-Ag.
Patents on the ‘functional units of heredity’ (already legal in many countries) now prevent those farmers from growing their our seeds, the very seeds that were given free of charge to the treaty seed banks.
The citizens of Greece voted a clear No in the recent referendrum on austerity, yet they are being punished with further austerity measures while the banks which gave bad loans are bailed out by the public financial institutions.
During the crisis, it is the small farms of Greece which gave work to unemployed youth. It is the gardens in balconies and terraces that allowed people in Athens to eat while the banks closed and pensions dried up. And our partnerPelitiin the Global Alliance for Seed Freedom has increasing demands for Seeds as people must turn to growing their own food to survive this financial war against Greece, just as victory gardens allowed the US and European citizens to survive during the 2ndWorld War.
Yet it is the farms that the European banks want to destroy. An article in the Financial times of 22ndJuly mentions that increasing taxes on farmers is one element of the new package of austerity measures.
The right answer must be a passionate love for life and freedom. That is why we must defend or seed freedom and save seeds, we must defend our food freedom and grow our own food.
In 2014, the European Commission was forced to roll back its Seed Laws that would have locked Greece into seed slavery. The new recipe on taxes on farmers is an attempt to lock Greece into food and financial slavery.
(Tunis, 28 March 2015) More than 200 million hectares of land have been grabbed globally by private firms, governments, elites and speculators, often with the support of the IOs (World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the G8) and other globalist consortia. Their appropriation of our Commons leads to concentration, forced evictions and the oppression of peoples. This is implemented in the name of environmental protection, the prevention of climate change, the production of “clean” energy, mega-infrastructure projects and/or so-called development – often promoted by Public-Private partnerships, such as the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa.
Entire areas and territories are thus dispossessed and local populations evicted, while the loss of identity and ecosystems makes life impossible! Communities whose rights and dignity have been abused find themselves with broken up families, or obliged to become refugees, forced to migrate, lose their rights, and are impoverished and starving.
The huge profits of elites are thus built on the systematic violation of human rights of the majority of peasant farmers, informal settlement and slum dwellers, fisher folk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and communities, nomads, rural and urban workers and consumers, especially youth and women, who are dispossessed of their land and livelihoods through violence, intimidation and torture.
Land grabbing always goes hand-in-hand with water grabbing, and takes different forms: cases of unsustainable water-consuming farming, through the privatisation and management of water utilities (stealing this vital resource from those who are unable to pay for it), contamination of aquifers caused by unregulated mining, the change of river courses and waterways through the construction of dams and the resulting eviction of communities, the militarization of access to water points, the dispossession of pastoralists and fisher communities of their livelihoods through practices such as coastal sand mining.
Our solidarity, grounded in our commitment as activists, is built upon the following principles and convictions that unify our struggles:
That the human rights to water, food and land are fundamental, and crucial for life. All people, men, women, adults, children, rich, poor, rural and urban dwellers, are entitled to them.
That water and land are not only vital natural resources, but are also part of our common heritage, whose security and governance must be preserved by each community for the common good of our societies and the environment, now and for future generations.
Water, land and seeds are Commons, and not commodities.
We recognize that States are legally and constitutionally mandated to represent peoples’ interests. States are therefore duty-bound to oppose any policy and international treaty that undermines human rights and their own sovereignty, such as Investor-State Dispute Settlement schemes as included in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the majority of investment treaties.
Land water management policies should promote the achievement of social justice, gender equality, public health and environmental justice.
We take a firm stand against foreign occupation and domination in all forms.
We therefore jointly with civil society organisations from around the world,
Raise awareness, educate and organize communities in rural and urban areas in order to build a strong and united movement struggling for the recognition and enforcement of our human rights to food, water and land and territories
Always defend the right of citizens and communities to free, prior and informed consent and full participation in the governance of natural resources in citizens’ legal institutions
Build synergies between civil society actors across constituencies struggling against land and water grabbing in order to build national and regional platforms that support the building of an international convergence of land and water struggles
Reclaim our lands, waters and seeds; reclaim the legitimate political spaces that we as rights-holders have fought for, such as the Committee on World Food Security and Nutrition; and oppose co-optation of our language in a way that supports false solutions such as “climate smart agriculture”
Express our solidarity with and support for human rights defenders and those who resist land and water grabbing, especially when they are criminalized
Oppose national policies and international treaties promoting the privatization and commodification of natural resources, as well as land and water grabbing, including prepaid meters, automatic tariff adjustments and the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and ACP countries, for both goods and services
Denounce the World Bank’s “business” climate ranking and biodiversity offsetting systems, that are drafted solely to support speculation and foster land and water grabbing, while completely neglecting human rights and social and environmental standards.
We call on international governmental organizations, States and Local Authorities to:
Recognize the indivisibility of human rights and their international obligations towards their realization, especially for vulnerable and marginalized groups, women and youth. They must systematically apply the human rights approach, stop violations and prevent and prosecute human rights abuses
Implement adequate policies of agrarian reform, land reform, genuine land restitution, equitable redistribution and sustainable management of land, water and other natural resources
Adopt coherent policies including on development that benefit communities’ empowerment rather than economic and geopolitical interests
Respect, protect and fulfil the human right to water and sanitation that was recognized and made explicit by the UN General Assembly resolution 69/2010, and adopt the constitutional and legislative regulatory frameworks that guarantee everyone the availability and accessibility of water and sanitation, as well as the effective justiciability of the human right to water
Recognize, respect and protect the collective customary rights regulating the access, security and governance of land and water, our Commons, by ensuring women’s rights
Strictly uphold their obligations not to recognize illegal situations, including and especially prohibited acts by occupying powers, and not to cooperate or transact with any parties that engage in, or benefit from illegal situations
Guarantee peoples’ free, prior and informed consent and full participation when decisions are made about the management of land, water, and other natural resources. And not just hear us, but address our demands, including our right to say No to land and water grabbing
Implement the International Labour Organization Convention 169 on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Explicitly endorse the promotion of human rights, including the human rights to water, food and land, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN post-2015 Agenda
Implement the CFS/FAO Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, and the FAO Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries immediately and with our full participation as rights holders; and enact national laws that make their provisions upholding peoples’ rights fully justiciable
Support and adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People working in rural areas as currently being developed in the Human Rights Council
Adopt and implement a Binding Treaty to prevent and prosecute crimes committed by transnational corporations and other business enterprises
Adopt the relevant measures and instruments of international law, especially in the framework of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) of the United Nations, in order to effectively strengthen the human right to water and sanitation, and to clarify and specify its content and States’ obligations, and to prevent any form of water grabbing
We call upon civil society, social movements, grassroots organizations, workers’ unions and NGOs of the world to engage in this discussion, to strengthen this declaration and support its claims by all available means. We need to foster the solidarity of our struggles, including the struggle for our rights to the essential resources required for life, we need to make civil society’s voice heard in the negotiations towards the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN Agenda post-2015, in the application of international and regional guidelines on land and natural resources, and the COP 2015 in order to stop climate change.
As we continue to build this convergence, we recognize and appreciate our diversity, and welcome diverse initiatives that are emerging and which we will debate and discuss. To do this we commit to disseminating this declaration widely. We will take it to our territories and communities in order to involve them further in the process of shaping this Convergence.
The bank’s commitment, it says, is to “do no harm” to people or the environment. An estimated 3.4 million people have been physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people, forcing them from their homes, taking their land or damaging their livelihoods, ICIJ’s analysis of World Bank records reveals.
The true figure is likely higher, because the bank often fails to count or undercounts the number of people affected by its projects.
A team of more than 50 journalists from 21 countries spent nearly a year documenting the bank’s failure to protect people moved aside in the name of progress. The reporting partners analyzed thousands of World Bank records, interviewed hundreds of people and reported on the ground in Albania, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Kosovo, Nigeria, Peru, Serbia, South Sudan and Uganda.
In these countries and others, the investigation found, the bank’s lapses have hurt urban slum dwellers, hardscrabble farmers, impoverished fisherfolk, forest dwellers and indigenous groups — leaving them to fight for their homes, their land and their ways of life, sometimes in the face of intimidation and violence.