Archive for the 'Human Rights/ Droits de la personne/ Derechos humanos' Category

Mining exploitation in the Maya region

Issues related to mineral extraction and land use are leading to a global increase of upheaval. In fact, deaths caused by environmental conflicts have “almost doubled in the last three years, to a rate of over two killings a week in 2011” (Global Witness Report, 2012). The Maya region of Central America exemplifies this increase in violence as communities strive to protect their land from mining exploitation. They do so by exposing the narrow application of international declarations and treaties by mining companies.

In Guatemala, the majority of the 166 mining licenses are subject to indigenous lands, which occurs without the consent of local communities. This injustice is possible as a result of the Mining Law, in which there is no guarantee that indigenous peoples be consulted prior to the licensing of mining agreements. Interestingly enough, this law contradicts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO Convention 169 which is a binding agreement that entices participatory democracy from local communities. Udel Miranda, lawyer and member of the Church’s Social Pastoral Commission, strongly opposes this violation and stresses that indigenous communities should have “the right to collective land ownership, the right to territory, the right to water, the right to cultural identity, to participation in the decisions that affect development” (Open Democracy, 2012).

Conejo, located in Belize, is one of the two villages that first secured title to their land, in 2010 under the country’s constitution. The Belizean government is restricted from granting exploration or extraction licences to these territories without the “free, prior, and informed consent” of the villagers. The government is also prohibed from “issuing any concessions for resource exploitation, including concessions, permits or contracts authorizing logging, prospecting or exploration” before verifying property rights with tribal communities (Open Democracy, 2012). Guatemala Maya is next to attempt the inauguration of this law in their legislation. However, as citizens are confronted with significant dangers, fighting for their rights becomes increasingly difficult as their freedom of speech is breached.

In “The right of Guatemala’s Indigenous Peoples” to referenda: the rupture between discourse and practice, the Council of Western Peoples (CPO) noted attempts to suppress the organization of referenda by indigineous peoples through acts of violence, which is, surprisingly, tolerated by the State of Guatemala. Even more so, “in 90 per cent of referenda, there is evidence of peer harassment, the persecution of leaders, initiation of criminal proceedings against the leaders, and attempts to discredit, delay or cancel the event”. Companies also attempt to assimilate community leaders through monetary offers and efforts to divide communities (Open Democracy, 2012).

As can be seen, this legislation is bittersweet for the indigenous communities. Yes, they have the right to decline the negotiation of a mining law agreement. However, are their voices heard? If the answer is ‘yes’, does this eliminate the possibility of their marginalization and criminalization?

Sources

1. http://www.opendemocracy.net/robin-llewellyn/struggle-for-maya-land-oil-and-gold

2. http://www.globalwitness.org/sites/default/files/images/A_hidden_crisis-FINAL.pdf

Debt in 2012: The Numbers

This publication by the SJC highlights the most recent figures concerning debt in impoverished nations. The numbers discussed below were obtained from international financial institutions.

Debt in the developing world has evolved in a long and complex process. Understanding it requires looking at the decisions of institutions like the IMF and the World Bank as well as the individuals in the countries that they effect. These individuals are rarely involved in the decisions that shape their standard of living. The numbers only slightly illuminate the reality of debt and debt repayment.

The Rise of Debt: the 1970s

  • Lending to countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America increased significantly during the 1970s. Major banks lent money to these countries without considering what the money was being spent on and whether or not loans could be repaid.
  • Between 1970 and 1982, the total amount of debt owed by impoverished nations was increased by a factor of 8. The percentage of developing nations’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) representing amounts paid in interest to lenders quadrupled during this period.

The Onset of the Debt Crisis: the 1980s

  • In 1972, the average interest rate paid by the impoverished nations was 5.4%. In 1981, the rate continued to skyrocket, reaching 16.8%. This dramatic inflation plunged many developing nations into a crisis in which they faced unsustainable debt payments.
  • The money was used to fund “prestige projects” by dictators and undemocratically elected governments. Some governments that were funded include the Mobutu in Zaire, Marcos in the Philippines and the apartheid government in South Africa.
  • This kind of debt is often referred to as “odious” because the funds were not used to benefit the people, and lenders were aware of what the money was to be used for.

Main Indicators of Debt Levels in Developing Nations
Between 1970 and 1982

1970

1974

1976

1978

1980

1981

1982

Total external debt (millions of USD)

68

141

204

313

430

488

546

Annual debt payment as a percentage of GDP

14.1

15.1

18.1

21.0

20.9

22.4

26.3

Annual interest payment as a percentage of GDP

0.5

0.8

0.8

1.1

1.6

1.9

2.3

Source: World Bank, World Development Report 1985, Table 2.6, p. 24

The Crisis Escalates: the 1990s

  • The onset of protectionist policies by industrialized countries around the world began to impede developing nations’ ability to emerge from their state of extreme indebtedness.
  • These nations had to incur more loans to be able to make the annual interest payments demanded by international lenders. Such loans came with strings attached that were detrimental to the standard of living for the individuals within the country.
  • The IMF and World Bank insist on a particular sort of project when managing the debt of poorer countries. Aid was given to these countries only if they agreed to institute policies of economic liberalization. These economic requirements result in decreased spending on health and education and resulted in a decreased standard of living for individuals.
  • The focus of the these programs continues to be on economic indicators with limited regard for the effect on individuals and their quality of life.

State of Debt in Developing Nations: 2003-2010

  • Between 2003 and 2007 total debt levels in developing nations increased by a factor of 1.3.
  • Between 2003 and 2007, payments made by impoverished nations represent almost half of what their total debt level was in 2003.
  • In 2006, the citizens of Zimbabwe spent over 420,000 USD per day repaying odious debt. Zimbabwe is home to over 12 million people, 80 percent of which must survive on less than 1 USD per day.
  • In 2007, developing nations spent over 14 billion USD on principal and interest payments. The debt level continued to increase during this period.

Debt Levels Between 2003 and 2007

Debt level in 2003

2570 billion USD

Total payments (principal plus interest) paid by developing nations between 2003 and 2007 (in 2003 dollars)

1147 billion USD (45% of total debt in 2003)

Debt level in 2007

3360 billion USD

Source: SJC’s calculations based on figures from the FMI’s World Economic Outlook Database, April 2008

  • Data from the most recent Global Development Finance Report made by the World Bank shows that total external debt stocks owed by developing countries increased during twelve months by 200% to stand at $4 trillion dollars in 2010.
  • The most recent financial crisis has drawn attention to the debt owed by wealthier nations. US gross external debts reflected 95% of GDP and the European Union owed 85% of its GDP in 2010. These debts are balanced by debt owed to them. Poorer countries lack overseas assets to balance their debts and thus continue to suffer.

Indicators of Debt Levels 2005-2010

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Total External Debt (billion USD)

2514.1

2675.3

3220.5

3439.2

3639.6

4076.3

External Debt outstanding to GNI (%)

26.6

23.9

23.2

21

22.4

21

Source: Global Development Finance 2012, Table 1, pg. 2

The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative

  • The HIPC initiative lists 41 impoverished countries, the majority of which are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. The HIPC Initiative, established in 1996, offers strategies for these nations to surface from their state of extreme indebtedness.
  • Unfortunately, experts have called these strategies into question, and the speed at which they have been implemented has been insufficient thus far to allow these nations to emerge from the crisis.
  • The HIPC Initiative has not achieved the objectives it was created for, nor has it been able to help arm impoverished nations against the insurmountable effects of the recent economic crisis.

 The Debt of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries for 2010
in Millions of US Dollars

Selected HIPC

Total External Debt

Burundi

537.1

Eritrea

1010.1

Liberia

228.0

Sao Tome and Principe

170.2

Source: Global Development Finance 2012, Country Tables

Summary of Major Criticisms

  • Numbers only exist up to the 2010 period. It is difficult to make accurate predictions concerning debt projections for the future. However, debt may amount but be hidden by periods of relative economic productivity. When a crisis hits, developing countries are hit especially hard, always.
  • Debt lending has been reckless in the past. It has resulted in developing countries having little control over their debt management while banks hold most of the power. This is to the detriment of individuals within the country. Even the HIPC Initiative has failed to address this.

The Social Justice Committee of Montreal urges the Canadian government to argue for a closer examination of the debt of third world countries, with the aim of identifying credible and practicable policy options for addressing debt that has been deemed odious and thus unenforceable.

This could specifically be pursued by improving measurement methods to ensure a fast response to debt crises.

Sources

1. Global Development Finance 2012
http
://data.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/gdf_2012.pdf

2. Poverty Matters Blog: a Developing World of Debt (for useful graphics)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/globaldevelopment/povertymatters/2012/may/15/developingworldofdebt

3. The Human Rights Effects of World Bank Structural Adjustment, 1981-2000 in International Studies Quarterly (2006).

4. Recent Development on Odious and Illegitimate Debt in Briefing Note Five of the Jubilee USA Network (2008).

5. Unfinished business: ten years of dropping the debt. Jubilee Debt Campaign (May 2008).

Rio +20: What is green economy?

Rio +20

From the advocacy of “sustainable development” at the Rio earth summit in 1992 to “green economy” at Rio +20 in 2012, the terms illustrate optimism yet fail to live up to expectations. This year’s summit is held in one of the most environmentally diverse countries in the world: Brazil. In fact, almost 50% of Brazilian territory is taken up by the earth’s largest tropical forest, the Amazon rainforest, home to nearly 50% of all the world’s biodiversity (The Guardian). As the world’s sixth largest economy, surrounded by plentiful natural resources, Brazil is a land of contradiction as environmental struggles remain to be addressed.

In fact, a new forest management law recently approved by the Brazilian congress goes against their pro-environmental mandate. The law was to give a “green card” to land owners who illegally invaded and deforested riparian areas, which are ecosystems that occur around watercourses or water bodies. In addition, this law allows the legalization of further deforestation. Now let’s look at the bigger picture.

As can be seen, twenty years after the first summit, which engendered hopes of actions destined to protect the planet, issues concerning the environment, society and economy prove otherwise. The increase in global warming, desertification and the destruction of biodiversity are a few consequences of the expansion of privatization and industrial agriculture. Moreover, populations are increasingly hungry, namely 1 out of 6 people are eating below their needs (Via Campesina). Expulsion from lands and territories are increasing due to new forms of monopoly control over land and water. All of these issues stem from an obsession with economic growth.

This economic growth goes alongside with the new term “green economy”. This term has been coined positively as the “valuing of ecosystem services and internalizing of environmental externalities” and negatively as a “further marketisation of nature’s services” (Via Campesina). The latter approach focuses on fixing a price for nature in order to protect it. This myth of “green economy” constructed by governments, organizations of the United Nations and business people is suspected to prone neoliberal policies and further push capitalism which rhymes with monopolization and privatization. Via Campesina denounces “green economy” by pointing out that large corporations can pursue environmental deterioration as a reasonable act and continue land-grabbing.

People’s Summit

In parallel with the Rio +20, the People’s Summit reflects the reunion of citizens all over Brazil in the discussion of issues such as their rights of determining their own food and energy systems in contrast to global markets taking over.

Focusing on food sovereignty, Via Campesina provides the voice to peasants and indigenous people who form over 90% of the rural population. The NGO calls for action as it “repudiates and denounces the green economy as a new mask to hide increasing levels of corporate greed and food imperialism in the world, and as a brutal “green washing” of capitalism that only implements false solutions, like carbon trading, REDD, geoengineering, GMOs, agrofuels, bio-char, and all of the market- based solutions to the environmental crisis” (Via Campesina).

One of Rio’s straplines is “The future we want”. Who is “we”? Corporations? Farmers? Children? In defining the word “we”, there must be compromise in considering the interests of different parties and how best to accommodate different needs (food, water, rights) and wants (money, growth, social cost).

Sources

1.http://viacampesina.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1277:the-people-of-the-world-confront-the-advance-of-capitalism-rio-20-and-beyond&catid=48:-climate-change-and-agrofuels&Itemid=75

2.http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/may/29/rio-20-green-economy-monetising-nature

3.http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/rio-20-brazil-sustainable-development-environment?newsfeed=true

Jamaica Case Study

WORKING FOR THE SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE

Writing the country profile for Jamaica and exploring the development and impact of the huge foreign debt that has accumulated in the country were one of my first tasks for the ‘Social Justice Committee’. Working for the ‘Social Justice Committee’ has allowed me to research and encourage greater awareness of social issues that plague the developing countries in an environment surrounded by talented, young ‘justice-enthusiasts’ who are keen to share their broad knowledge of social issues and engage in debate about these issues. The case study of Jamaica I created was interesting because I was able to use a variety of sources, from information by the IMF to Civil Society Groups to a 2001 documentary film exploring poverty in Jamaica, in order to gain a comprehensive and unbiased description of the sources of Jamaica’s economic problems as well as attempts to alleviate the problems. I was shocked to discover that, despite the country’s debt problems and the government’s resulting inability to confront more pertinent issues of domestic poverty, Jamaica has been the recipient of World Bank ‘Climate Investment Funds’. While the debt situation in Jamaica continues to be problematic and to inhibit the country’s ability to address social and economic issues, organizations like the ‘Social Justice Committee’ have made substantial efforts to bring attention to the impact of the debt burden on poor countries and encourage global action such as debt cancellation, which provides the best hope for these countries to remove themselves from poverty.

By Tara Param

1.COUNTRY PROFILE

Country: Jamaica
Population: 2.7 million
Capital: Kingston
Major Language: English
Major Religion: Christianity
Life Expectancy: 71 years (men), 76 years (women)
Monetary Unit: 1 Jamaican dollar = 100 cents
Main Exports: Bauxite, alumina, garments, sugar, bananas, rum
GNI per capita: US $4,800
Leader: Queen Elizabeth II (Head of State)
Portia Simpson-Miller (Prime Minister)
Present Value of External Debt: $13,245,898,200 (US$)
Portion of Debt Owed To Whom: $4.5 billion owed to IMF, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank

2.PAYING BACK THE DEBT

Jamaica is the fourth most indebted country in the world, but how did this happen?
Since Jamaica peacefully secured its independence from British colonial rule in 1962, in politics, it has been able to sustain relatively stable democracy. However, Jamaica’s economy suffered from its colonial legacy, creating a reliance on exporting cash crops such as sugar, cocoa and coffee.

Jamaica was initially very reluctant to accept loans from the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, because these loans typically require the donor country to implement strict austerity measures. Jamaica’s Former Prime Minister Michael Manley in a post-independence speech stated, “The Jamaican government will not accept anybody, anywhere in the world telling us what to do in our own country. Above all, we’re not for sale”. It was this non-IMF platform that won him the election in 1976. However, amidst growing economic problems, Jamaica was faced with a lack of alternatives.

The only solution Jamaica saw to its growing economic problems was external borrowing, and Jamaica was forced to sign its first loan agreement with the IMF in 1977. Developing countries were advised that if they borrowed money and invested in modernizing their economies, this would cause their economies to ‘take off’ making repayment of loans much easier. Although there was some initial success, the 1970s oil crisis increased the amount Jamaica had to borrow, while the global recession led to shrinking revenues and panic among Western banks, which began calling in their debts. As a result of these factors Jamaica’s national debt tripled as a percentage of GDP between 1973 and 1979. Almost all of Jamaica’s debt is external, sourced from institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The debt accelerated once again in the 1980s, as Jamaica sought loans from the IMF to pay back existing creditors and keep the country running. IMF loans required implementation of Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs), which involved remodeling the economy in areas such as public spending, trade policy, and regulation. These SAPs required devaluation, removal of price controls, de-regulation of import controls, tighter monetary and fiscal policy, deregulation and privatization. However, implementation of SAPs is usually accompanied by, at least initially, a worsening of the distribution of income, which led to a decline in living standards in Jamaica during this time. Imposing strict austerity measures, including slashing spending on public services, has had a directly negative effect on Jamaica’s ability to provide social services to its citizens. Education standards fell and fees were introduced to many vital public services that previously were free.

The IMF are controlled by developed countries in the West and therefore the IMF took advantage of the indebted government’s need, by demanded a system which effectively replaced locally made product with imports from the developed countries, causing Jamaica’s industry to decline. Jamaica’s dependence on imports has increased their debt burden, making the country less competitive in the international markets.

Today, Jamaica is one of the most indebted countries in the world. Figures from the World Bank Global Development Finance indicators show that the Jamaican government spends 28 per cent of the country’s revenues from exports on debt repayments, the highest amount of any developing country. The recent global recession has further exacerbated Jamaica’s problems. Jamaica is now borrowing more money from the IMF to stay afloat. Despite the unmanageable size of Jamaica’s debt, Jamaica has never been considered for debt cancellation because it has been deemed ‘not poor enough’.

3.WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW?

Although Jamaica is one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world, it has recently been the recipient of climate loans, which have exacerbated Jamaica’s already debilitating debt burden.

The ‘Climate Investment Funds’ (CIFs) are funds to help developing countries pilot low-emissions and climate-resilient development. However, there has been widespread criticism from civil society actors around the world about the funds. Many argue that the World Bank is not the appropriate channel for climate finance because of its poor reputation in the past in the area of climate change. The World Bank has actually increased lending for fossil fuels and continues to finance dirty technologies. In addition, the lack of input of developing countries in the design and promotion of the CIFs has provoked further criticism. The lack of guarantee from the World Bank that the funds will be additional to previously agreed development aid has created fear among the developing world. While the use of loans rather than grants risks increasing Jamaica’s already heavy debt burden.

The UK has lent Jamaica a $10 million climate loan intended to help Jamaica deal with climate change, however many civil society groups argue that the World bank and the UK government should be cancelling Jamaica’s debt, rather than contributing to it through these climate loans. It is widely acknowledged that rich industrialized countries are historically responsible for climate change and that poor developing countries should be given the same opportunities to industrialize without setting limits on their abilities to develop. Developed countries should take responsibility to address climate change, as they are in a better position to do so, allowing Jamaica to deal with its domestic problems.

Africa has also been the recipient of huge amounts of loans to cope with the impact of climate change. The money will be spent on schemes to install solar power plants and encouraging investment in low-carbon transport. These loans cause the debt problems in these countries to worsen. Loans should be focused on ensuring that these indebted countries can deal with these debt problems and help them to provide better social services to their citizens.

Following the recent financial crisis, many of the most heavily indebted countries are already in a vulnerable economic position, and these loans for climate finance have the potential to push these countries further towards economic collapse. It has been discovered that only one sixth of the pledged funds from the World Bank will be delivered as grants and over one third of CIF funding is channeled to the private sector. It has been found that, all too often, public funds intended for climate and development purposes in the poorest countries are being used instead for subsidizing high and middle income countries’ private sectors. It is important that countries such as Jamaica are provided with means to address their excessive debt situation. By contributing to Jamaica’s already unsustainable debt burden, these loans have debilitated the Jamaican government’s ability to provide basic rights and services to its citizens.

The debt situation today in Jamaica continues to be alarming and continues to restrict economic growth by drawing heavily upon resources that could be put to more productive use. In order to improve the economic situation, policies aimed at sustainable growth, such as a greater investment in education, have to be implemented to increase human capital and the labor force’s productivity.

LINKS/SOURCES:

“Jamaica’s Debt: Exploring Causes and Strategies.” CaPRI. Mar. 2008 <http://eurodad.org/uploadedfiles/whats_new/reports/capri_debtreport.pdf&gt;.

“BBC News – Jamaica Country Profile.” BBC News – Home. 10 Jan. 2012 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1190968.stm&gt;.

“Country Information: Jamaica.” Jubilee Debt Campaign UK. Apr. 2011 <http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/Jamaica+4109.twl&gt;.

“Jamaica | Data.” Data | The World Bank. <http://data.worldbank.org/country/jamaica&gt;.

Williams, Carey. “Third World Debt Crises – The Jamaican Experience.” About.com Economics. Web. <http://economics.about.com/cs/moffattentries/a/debt_crisis_3.htm&gt;.

“Why Debt Repudiation Is a Common Sense Approach to Jamaica’s Economic Crisis.” Jamaica Resist. 29 Oct. 2011 <http://lloyddaguilar.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-repudiation-of-jamaican-debt-is-not.html&gt;.

“UK Lends ‘climate Loan’ to Heavily Indebted Jamaica.” Global Justice Campaigners Tackling the Causes of Poverty. 4 Nov. 2011 <http://www.wdm.org.uk/climate-change/uk-lends-‘climate-loan’-heavily-indebted-jamaica&gt;.

“Storm on the Horizon? Why World Bank Climate Investment Funds could do more harm than good.” Eurodad: Nora Honkaniemi. Feb. 2011 < http://eurodad.org/uploadedfiles/whats_new/reports/climate%20briefing-1.pdf&gt;.

“World Bank Climate Funds: “a Huge Leap Backwards”” Bretton Woods Project. 1 Apr. 2008 <http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/art-560997&gt;.

“Jamaica’s Debt Burden Is Also Yours.” Jamaica Gleaner News. 8 Apr. 2009. <http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20090408/lead/lead10.html&gt;.

Handa, Sudhanshu and King, Damien. “Structural Adjustment Policies, Income Distribution and Poverty: A Review of the Jamaican Experience”. Centre for International Studies. 1996 <http://idl-bnc.idrc.ca/dspace/bitstream/10625/33344/1/115762.pdf.&gt;

“Jubilee Debt Campaign UK : Country Information : Jamaica.” Jubilee Debt Campaign UK : Home : Drop the Debt. Apr. 2011. Web. <http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/Jamaica 4109.twl>.

“About Life and Death”. A Film by Stephanie Black. 2001

Sheckleford, Michale. “Jamaica: Debt, Economic Performance and Labour Productivity.”. Council on Hemispheric Affairs. 6 Sept. 2006. Web. <http://www.coha.org/jamaica-debt-economic-performance-and-labour-productivity/&gt;.

 

Report from the Special Rapporteur of food in Canada

In an effort to dissect the issue of food security that is slowly on the rise in Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada jointly coordinated a visit for the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in Canada from May 6th to the 16th of 2012. The purpose of this visit was to assess the way in which the human right to adequate food was being realized in Canada. During the visit, the Special Rapporteur had met with provincial and municipal authorities ranging from the Department of Health and Social Services, to the Ministry of Agriculture, to Food and Rural Affairs.

In attempting to analyze exactly what is going on regarding the human right to food, the Special Rapporteur spoke to many groups, stakeholders, and individuals in order to fully grasp the extent of the situation. Canada has always been credited for its international participation in countless human rights efforts across the globe, at home on Canadian soil, there has increasingly been a divergence between implementation and policymaking in regards to the protection of economic and social rights.

It is safe to admit that Canadians faired a little better than their neighbors to the South during the economic crisis of 2008. Having said that, the crisis has affected a portion of the Canadian population quite gravely, in particular those we were already within the margins, specifically those on social assistance and Aboriginal communities.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur points out those governmental bodies, particularly the federal government whom must be held accountable for all its recent cutbacks. The cost of living is increasing while social assistance is dormant, thus leaving many on social assistance below the poverty line. Ultimately, those living in poverty cannot afford nutritious meals. It’s a vicious cycle, one that is slowly sucking in many portions of society.

Since the 1950s, Canada has been moving more and more towards large industrialized mechanisms of farming that support trade liberalization. While that may allow Canada to be a key player in the globalization field, it marginalizes and alienates small-scale farmers who are key players in the access to food. Canadian goods are cheaper than goods imported into the country, if the Canadian government were to support local food production and subsidize it instead of subsidizing import tariffs, more Canadian mouths would be fed and less people would be living in the margins.

Social protection of the vulnerable is a Canadian duty, a characteristic that many Canadians take to heart. Alarmingly while Canada is a welfare state that bolsters an image of protection and love for its citizens, 50% of those living on social assistance are food insecure.

Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Canada has a duty to ensure that it dedicates the maximum amount of available resources to progressively achieve full economic, social and cultural rights, which include the right to food, for the most marginalized members of society. With Canada’s low deficit-to-GDP ratios, it is the ideal time according to the report, to be ensuring that robust measures are taken for social protection.

The report does shed a bright light on Canadian endeavors regarding the country’s contribution to global food security. Canada exceeded its minimum food aid commitments under the Food Aid Convention. With CIDA launching its Food Security Strategy in 2009, Canadians are becoming more aware that food security is a Canadian right, one that all Canadians are entitled to. The report illustrates that although Canada’s international commitments are still strong, domestic initiatives are faltering with very little accountability. It illustrates that there is still much work to be done, after all, it’s a shame that a country that prides itself on its Welfare approach is becoming less and less a welfare state and more and more a capital-driven machine.

Mining in Honduras

Governmental legislation

Canada and Chile take part in public security reform and proposed mining, oil and gas legislation in Honduras.

In October 2011, the son of the UNAH rector Castellanos was murdered along with a friend by police in the Honduran capital city, Tegucigalpa, which prompted the creation of the Honduran Public Security Reform Commission created by Honduran Congress in January 2012. Aquiles Blu Rodriguez, a retired General from Chile’s Carabineros national police force, Adam Blackwell, Blu Rodriguez and three Hondurans, Jorge Omar Casco, Matias Funes, and Victor Meza, form the committee. Their goal is to design, plan and certify a process of integral reform of public security in Honduras by investigating and evaluating the performance not only of the national police force, but also that of public prosecutors and judges (Spring & Cuffe, 2012).

Goldcorp

Goldcorp is a fast-growing senior gold that operates and develops in the Americas. However, activists claim that Goldcorp does not operate in Honduras in the same way it operates in Canada. Activists of Goldcorp’s operations in Central America gathered in a 6,000 km walk to the miners and residents of Trimmin. Reina Gamora, a Honduran school teacher and protester claims that “[Goldcorp workers] operate through utilizing the corrupt government that operates in Honduras. They ignore the human rights and environmental impacts their operations have”.

Moreover, there are 50 million tonnes of contaminated material surrounding the San Martin mine, located in the Siria Valley and over 80% of people living close to the mine have suffered serious sickness. Residents and farm workers discovered they have high levels of lead and zinc in their blood and urine.

To add to the damage, neither the government nor Goldcorp is taking accountability for the health issues.

Civilians injustice

Honduran civilians’ issues go far beyond those of mining. Since the June 2009 coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya, dozens of murders of journalists and LGTB activists occurred, as many of them were actively involved in the resistance movement to the coup. Most recently, on May 14, Erik Martinez, an LGBT activist, was found murdered. Two days later, journalist Alfredo Villatoro was found dead for which arrests were made last week, one of the people detained being a police officer.

“Since the coup, the State of Honduras has received a lot of recommendations including from the Truth Commission, in which national and international representatives – including a representative from Canada – participated at the service of [President Porfirio] Lobo,” explains Oliva, one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists. “They gave [over 80] recommendations and none have been complied with.”

Honduran and international non-governmental organizations (NGOS) have engaged in their own campaigns on the issue, for law reform and corporate accountability; however, the grassroots movement in Honduras has largely been led by local community members from areas directly affected by mining projects and concessions. A Congressional Committee had also been working on a mining law proposal requiring fifty per cent State involvement in all mining ventures. However, work on draft legislation to that effect, developed by affected communities and NGOs alongside presidential advisors, was cut short by the 2009 coup.

Civilians have no where to turn to when the police do not have public credibility, the government is unresponsive to their needs and large corporations are exploiting their lands.

References

1. http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/chile-chili/bilateral_relations_bilaterales/mining.aspx?view=d

2. http://www.rightsaction.org/action-content/goldcorp-mining-harmful-status-quo-intact-honduras-guatemala

3.http://upsidedownworld.org/main/honduras-archives-46/3645-canada-and-chile-meddling-in-hondurass-economic-and-security-policies



Rio +20 : Globalize Hope

Twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, Rio +20 is the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which is to take place in Brazil, in June 2012.

The event’s purpose is to focus on economic and social ways to build a sustainable future for peasants and traditional peoples whom are disadvantaged as a result of the capitalist system. In other words, the discussion will revolve around ways to improve international cooperation. This will be done to achieve sustainable development in regards to elite monetary decisions.

Via Campesina, an international movement which brings together millions of peasants, farmers and agricultural workers, participates in this social movement by gathering member organizations to compile struggles all over the world as means of demonstrating their solidarity to the governments that will be attending the Rio +20 meeting.

“Each struggle, each act of resistance, each territory that we retake should be the expression of this global unity in the face of the advance of the capitalist system over nature”(Via Campesina, 2012).

Via Campesina also calls for action at the People’s Summit for permanent mobilization going through the week of June 18 to 22 to express the fight against capitalism by organizing actions throughout the world such as marches in the cities, media campaigns, film showings and so on.

This is a call for action for those whom are living under norms that do not respect human rights. This is also a call for us, the “lucky ones”, to allow the next generations to come, our children and our grandchildren, to live in a sustainable future.

References

1. United Nations. Rio +20: The Future We Want. Web. 9 May 2012. Web. http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/about.shtml\

2. La Via Campesina. Rio +20 : International Campaign of Struggles: Peoples of the World against Commodification of nature. 9 May 2012. Web. http://viacampesina.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1265:rio20-international-campaign-of-struggles-peoples-of-the-world-against-the-commodification-of-nature&catid=48:-climate-change-and-agrofuels&Itemid