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2017 Was the Deadliest Year on Record for Land and Environmental Defenders

2017 Was the Deadliest Year on Record for Land and Environmental Defenders

Global Witness today reveals that at least 207 land and environmental defenders were killed last year – indigenous leaders, community activists and environmentalists murdered trying to protect their homes and communities from mining, agribusiness and other destructive industries.

  1. Global Witness annual figures show at least 207 land and environmental activists were killed in 2017 across 22 countries, almost 4 a week, making it the worst year on record.
  2. The report shows a huge rise in killings linked to consumer products. Brutal attacks on those defending their land from destructive agriculture – such as land grabs for palm oil, used in household goods like soap, and coffee – are on the rise.
  3. It critically urges government and business to take action to end the attacks and support defenders, with campaigners such as Yuri Herrera, Margaret Atwood, Lily Cole, George Monbiot and Ben Fogle speaking out against the killings.

Severe limits on the data available mean the global total is probably much higher. Murder is the most egregious example of a range of tactics used to silence defenders, including death threats, arrests, intimidation, cyber-attacks, sexual assault and lawsuits.

The report At What Cost? shows that agribusiness has overtaken mining as the industry most associated with these attacks.

These include the murder of Hernán Bedoya in Colombia, shot 14 times by a paramilitary group for protesting against palm oil and banana plantations on land stolen from his community; an army massacre of eight villagers in the Philippines who opposed a coffee plantation on their land; and violent attacks by Brazilian farmers, using machetes and rifles, which left 22 members of the Gamela indigenous people severely injured, some with their hands chopped off.

The report links this violence with the products on our shelves: large-scale agriculture, mining, poaching, logging all produce components and ingredients for supermarket products such as palm oil for shampoo, soy for beef and timber for furniture.


The report also reveals that some governments and businesses are complicit in the killings, with Global Witness calling for urgent action if the trend is to be reversed. As well as being part of the problem, governments and business can be part of the solution. They must tackle the root causes of the attacks, for example ensuring communities are allowed to say ‘no’ to projects, like mining, on their land; support and protect defenders at risk and ensure justice is served for those suffering from the violence.

Ben Leather, Senior Campaigner, Global Witness said:

“Local activists are being murdered as governments and businesses value quick profit over human life. Many of the products emerging from this bloodshed are on the shelves of our supermarkets. Yet as brave communities stand up to corrupt officials, destructive industries and environmental devastation, they are being brutally silenced. Enough is enough.

“Governments, companies and investors have the duty and the power to support and protect defenders at risk, and to guarantee accountability wherever attacks occur. But more importantly, they can prevent these threats from emerging in the first place, by listening to local communities, respecting their rights, and ensuring that business is conducted responsibly.

At least 48 land and environmental defenders were murdered in the Philippines in 2017 – the highest total ever recorded in Asia, and a 71% increase in the country since 2016. | Photo Credit: Thom Pierce, Guardian, Global Witness, UN Environment

“Despite the odds they face, the global community of land and environmental defenders is not going away – it’s only getting stronger. We invite consumers to join us in campaigning alongside defenders, taking their fight to the corridors of power and the boardrooms of corporations. We will make sure their voices are heard. And we will be watching to ensure that defenders, their land, and the environment we all depend on are properly protected.”

Other key findings include:

  1. Brazil recorded the worst year on record anywhere in the world, with 57 murders in 2017.
  2. 48 defenders were killed in the Philippines in 2017—the highest number ever documented in an Asian country.
  3. 60% recorded murders were in Latin America. Mexico and Peru saw marked increases in killings, from 3 to 15 and 2 to 8, respectively. Nicaragua was the worst place per capita with 4 murders.
  4. For the first time, agribusiness was the bloodiest industry, with at least 46 murders linked to the sector. Killings linked to mining increased from 33 to 40, and 23 murders were related to logging.
  5. Taking on poachers became even more dangerous, with a record 23 people murdered for taking a stand against the illegal wildlife trade – mostly park rangers in Africa.
  6. Global Witness linked government security forces to 53 of last year’s murders, and non-state actors, like criminal gangs, to 90.
  7. There was a large decrease in killings of land and environmental defenders in Honduras, though repression of civil society in general worsened.
  8. Recent years has seen some increased recognition and action taken by governments and business, but much more must be done, and urgently, to tackle this issue.

The campaign has gained support from a number of high profile environmental campaigners including Yuri Herrera, Margaret Atwood, Lily Cole, George Monbiot, Ben Fogle, Paloma Faith and Martin Freeman. Quotes available on request.

Notes to editors

The report can be found here.  High-quality imagery and video testimony can be found here.

Whilst Global Witness maintains a real time data base with the Guardian this reports represents a consolidated data set of all killings from 2017 that have been through an additional verification process that has been complemented by an in-depth analysis, case studies and recommendations.

Severe limits on available information mean the global total is likely far higher. Murder is the sharp end of a range of tactics used to silence defenders, including death threats, arrests, sexual assault, abductions and aggressive legal attacks.

Thousands of Pages of FBI, CIA, DIA and NSA Documents About Nelson Mandela Were Just Published by Property of the People

Thousands of Pages of FBI, CIA, DIA and NSA Documents About Nelson Mandela Were Just Published by Property of the People

Washington, DC — Today, on the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, Property of the People is making all documents about Mandela obtained through it’s FOIA litigation from the FBI, CIA, DIA, and NSA available to the public.  Spanning thousands of pages, the vast majority of these documents have never before been seen by the public.

Searchable Archive of Documents Published Online Today **

For his role coordinating the movement to end apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, ultimately serving 27 years in prison. Though Mandela was freed in 1990, Mandela remained on the U.S. terror watchlist until 2008. Despite long standing public knowledge of U.S. intelligence agency assistance to apartheid South Africa, and likely involvement in Mandela’s 1962 arrest in particular, little specific public information exists on these crucial matters.

Shortly after Nelson Mandela’s death in 2013, MIT PhD candidate and Property of the People president, Ryan Shapiro, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for records on agency efforts to counter Mandela and his movement for racial justice in South Africa.

Shapiro’s FOIA lawsuit, which remains ongoing, has forced the intelligence agencies to release thousands of pages of illuminating documents. Shapiro has made a portion of these documents available to the public, resulting in extensive press coverage of FBI efforts to surveil and subvert Nelson Mandela and his struggle for racial justice. Some highlights of these documents are provided below.

According to Shapiro

Regarding the released FBI documents specifically:

“These documents not only bring to light politically motivated FBI spying on Mandela, they also expose something even darker. The documents reveal that, just as it did in the 1950s and 60s with Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, the FBI aggressively investigated the U.S. and South African anti-apartheid movements as Communist plots imperiling American security. Worse still, the documents demonstrate the FBI continued its wrong-headed Communist menace investigations of Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement even after U.S. imposition of trade sanctions against apartheid South Africa, after Mandela’s globally-celebrated release from prison, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ultimately, what the documents reveal is the FBI’s unflagging conflation of social justice efforts with security threats, and the FBI’s cartoonish obsession with Communist Party subversion in the United States even as the Cold War itself crumbled into obsolescence.”

Regarding the released documents more broadly:

“Democracy cannot meaningfully exist without an informed citizenry, and such a citizenry is impossible without broad public access to information about the operations of government. Secrecy is a cancer on the body of democracy. The records of government are the property of the people. Yet, unknown billions of pages are needlessly hidden from the people behind closed doors and “classified” markings. It is an honor to make public for all these critical documents about the United States’ long and continuing conflation of necessary social justice efforts with threats to American security.”

About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP

Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder and president of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People staff attorney, Gunita Singh.

You can support their work at propertyofthepeople.org/donate

Charlottesville Mayor Leads Pilgrimage to Montgomery Lynching Memorial

Charlottesville Mayor Leads Pilgrimage to Montgomery Lynching Memorial

Charlottesville, VA – 100 Charlottesville community leaders and resident delegates will culminate a six-day Civil Rights Pilgrimage with a soil delivery ceremony for 1898 Charlottesville lynching victim John Henry James at the new Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Legacy Museum, 122 Commerce Street, Montgomery, AL, at 2:30 pm on Thursday July 12th.

The delegates have been visiting history museums and pivotal Civil Rights Movement sites on their journey to Montgomery, studying the 400 years of Southern racial violence and terror against Black people that provide a backdrop for James’ 1898 lynching; the white supremacist rallies, the attacks against anti-racist protestors, Heather Heyer’s death in Charlottesville in 2017, and the uncountable similar tragedies between.

“Charlottesville is mobilizing to make change by literally getting on the bus to learn how our own history fits with Southern and US histories of anti-Black terror and Black resistance,” said Don Gathers, Chair of the 2016 Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces.

“This trip is part of an effort to educate students, teachers, and all community members about the legacy of anti-Black racial terror and Black resistance in Charlottesville specifically and across the South more broadly,” explained Professor Jalane Schmidt of the University of Virginia.

“Nelson Johnson reminded our delegation in Greensboro, ‘We must speak to the soul of the other…. Seek truth, seek justice, and seek not to become the thing which we oppose.’ It is time to tell the truth in America. It is the only way we can all live,” declared Rev. Brenda Brown-Grooms of New Beginnings Christian Community.

At the one-year anniversary of the summer 2017 Alt-Right violence, this trip is one of many ways in which the Charlottesville community is mobilizing to face the town’s difficult history of white supremacy.  The Pilgrimage commenced on July 8 — the one-year anniversary of a Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville — and will arrive in Montgomery on July 12, the 120th anniversary of John Henry James’ 1898 lynching. Trip participants will report back to the broader Charlottesville community before the one-year anniversary of the deadly August 12, 2017 “Unite the Right” Rally.

“Charlottesville —and the nation— have to understand how the violent white supremacist rallies last summer fit into a legacy of racial terror,” said Dr. Andrea Douglas, Executive Director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, and organizer of the trip. “This is our challenge: Can we create a process that uncovers and disseminates racial truth?”

Note to Editors

The 100-Member Delegation Includes: Mayor Nikuyah Walker (Charlottesville’s recently-elected, first-ever African-American woman mayor); Susan Bro (mother of slain anti-racist activist Heather Heyer); members of the clergy; University of Virginia students, faculty and staff; local public high school students and teachers; former members of the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission which held hearings in 2016 about Charlottesville’s Confederate monuments; representatives of community organizations, including 2017 counter-protesters; and other residents.

Images from the Pilgrimage: A selection of photos will be made available after the event by Eze Amos Photography. Reporters are also encouraged to peruse images uploaded with the tag #cvillepilgrimage on social media.

Pilgrimage Itinerary:
Charlottesville, VA – July 7 (departure)
Appomattox, VA – July 8
Danville, VA – July 8
Greensboro, NC – July 9
Charlotte, NC – July 9
Atlanta, GA – July 10
Birmingham, AL – July 11 (9am 16th St. Baptist Church, 10am Birmingham Civil Rights Institute)
Montgomery, AL – July 12 (9:00 Southern Poverty Law Center Museum, 2:00 Equal Justice Institute)
Charlottesville, VA – July 13 (return)

The Islamic State and Taliban are Fighting Over Afghan Talc Riches

The Islamic State and Taliban are Fighting Over Afghan Talc Riches

London, UK The Islamic State in Afghanistan (ISKP) controls major mining sites in eastern Afghanistan and has a strategic interest in the country’s rich mineral resources, new Global Witness research shows – a powerful example of the wider threat posed by armed groups and corrupt actors in Afghan mining.

The Islamic State in Afghanistan (ISKP) controls large talc, marble and chromite mines in the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Achin district in the Nangarhar province of eastern Afghanistan – the same area where in April 2017 the US military dropped the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ against ISKP-held caves. Nangarhar was the deadliest Afghan province for US troops in 2017.

The evidence on how much ISKP have been able to mine and profit from the minerals is mixed, but there has been at least some activity – and the group has fought major battles with the Taliban over neighboring districts containing even richer deposits. A Taliban commander explicitly linked the ferocity of the conflict to competition over resources, saying: “The fight is over the mines.”

A talc processing factory near Nangahar, mid 2017 | Photo: Courtesy of Global Witness

Nick Donovan, Campaign Director at Global Witness, said: “The Islamic State appears to have a significant strategic interest in Afghanistan’s minerals and controls some major mining areas. Given its track-record of exploiting natural resources in Iraq and Syria, this should be a wake-up call for both the Afghan government and the Trump administration. They must strengthen control over the trade in places like Nangarhar, but just as importantly put in place desperately needed transparency and oversight reforms so that legitimate mining has a chance to provide a viable alternative.”

Global Witness’ report At any price we will take the mines’: the Islamic State, the Taliban, and Afghanistan’s white talc mountains uses satellite imagery and extensive interviews to highlight this threat in unprecedented detail. But it also shows how ISKP are just a high-profile example of a much wider problem of the involvement of armed groups and corrupt actors in Afghan mining.

This is evident just 50 kilometers from the ISKP controlled sites, where dozens of mines under Taliban influence are producing talc and marble in large quantities. Global Witness research uncovered evidence that the Taliban are making millions a year from talc alone – part of the $200-$300 million a year they are estimated to make from minerals across Afghanistan.

A significant part of this talc ends up being sold in the United States. Almost all of Afghanistan’s output is exported to Pakistan, which in turn exports more of it to the US than to any other country. Pakistan provides more than a third of US imports of talc, which is used in products ranging from paint and cosmetics to paper and baby powder. EU countries are also major buyers.

A man walks among piles of talc at a processing plant near Jalalabad, mid-2017 | Photo: Courtesy of Global Witness

“Unwitting American and European consumers are inadvertently helping fund extremist groups in Afghanistan,” said Donovan. “The US and other importing countries must put in place strong requirements for companies to exercise full due diligence of their supply chains – as a matter both of moral duty, and of their strategic national security interest in a stable Afghanistan.”

He added: “the ultimate aim is not to stop the trade but to reform it in a way that preserves and strengthens the livelihoods of ordinary Afghans without funding the Islamic State, other illegal armed groups, or abusive strongmen.”

There are no easy solutions to achieve this, but there are obvious reforms that could help, and which have yet to but put in place. The Afghan government and its international partners should urgently:

  1. Tighten control over the minerals trade in Nangarhar and across Afghanistan, especially the movements of minerals through the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan;
  2. Give local communities an interest in legal mining through a direct share of revenues and, where appropriate, community ownership of mines;
  3. Work with trade partners and consumer countries to put in place strong controls over supply chains from conflict affected areas; including a requirement for due diligence by importing companies;
  4. Carry out transparency and oversight reforms – like a single transparent sub-account for mining revenues – in order to make abusive mining more difficult and create a space for legal extraction that benefits the country and local communities.
  5. Prioritise security around the mines as part of a broader strategy to protect resource-rich areas.

For the US in particular, abuses in the Afghan mining sector should be a major security concern, but so far the Trump administration’s main priority has been to push for US companies to get more contracts for Afghan resources. The US should do three things:

  1. Make the security and reform of the sector a high level priority for its engagement with the Afghan government;
  2. Only push for new contracts in areas with adequate security, and after basic governance reforms have been made;
  3. Require US companies to carry out due diligence and rid their Afghan and Pakistani supply chains of conflict minerals.

The Afghan government has made clear and welcome commitments to most of these reforms, but they have yet to be implemented – upcoming amendments to the Afghan Mining Law will be a key test. A ban on the talc trade was imposed in early 2015, but was lifted later that year under pressure from traders.

“The Afghan government and its partners need to start treating this problem with a sense of urgency that matches the scale of the threat,” Donovan said. “They are counting on Afghanistan’s resources to fuel development and fund the government, but as our research shows all too clearly, without immediate action, they are far more likely to fuel more corruption and conflict.”

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The full text of the report ‘At any price we will take the mines’: the Islamic State, the Taliban, and Afghanistan’s white talc mountains is available here. Supporting photo and video B-roll are available upon request.
  2. The report uses satellite imagery and interviews with a range of sources to show the extent of ISKP and Taliban control of mines. Major talc mines, as well as chromite and marble, are located within the main ISKP-controlled area around the Momand valley in Nangarhar’s Achin district. The available satellite imagery does not appear to show vehicles or machinery in the area, and several sources denied mining had taken place since ISKP seized it in mid-2015. At the same time, multiple other credible sources reported that ISKP have indeed benefitted at least to some extent from extraction, with some indicating they have done so with a tighter grip and greater investment than the Taliban. Some of these sources provided supporting evidence. ISKP were also widely agreed to have levied a modest tax on talc removed from stockpiles near the Momand valley in early 2017, a movement visible in the satellite data. As early as 2015, an ISKP commander Global Witness interviewed described control of resources in Badakhshan as a key priority, saying: “at any price we will take the mines.”
     
  3. The global talc industry is predicted to grow to around US $3.29 billion by 2021. An estimated 380,000 tons of talc was imported into the United States in 2017. On average around 35% of US imports are from Pakistan, according to the US Geological Survey. From our research we also estimated that around 80% of Pakistan’s 2016 exports of talc actually originated in Afghanistan. Of those exports, 42% went to the US, and another 36% went to EU countries, especially the Netherlands and Italy. See report for more details and sources.
  4. Chromite is the only economic ore of chromium, which is widely used as an essential element in the production of stainless steel and other steel alloys. Marble produced in Afghanistan is also renowned for its quality, with uses ranging from flooring and tiles to decorative objects.
  5. Global Witness’ previous 2016 report “War in the treasury of the people: Afghanistan, lapis lazuli and the battle for mineral wealth” exposed the importance of mining, especially of lapis lazuli, for the Taliban in Afghanistan. The report found that armed groups including the Taliban were earning tens of millions of dollars per year from Afghanistan’s lapis mines, the world’s main source of the brilliant blue lapis lazuli stone, which is used in jewellery around the world. The full report can be found here.
  6. For a graphic visualisation of talc flows out of Pakistan to the rest of the world see Chatham House’s graphic here.

Global Witness is an international organization that investigates and campaigns to prevent natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses

Trans Mountain Pipeline Faces Untenable Risk for Failing to Recognize Indigenous Jurisdiction

Trans Mountain Pipeline Faces Untenable Risk for Failing to Recognize Indigenous Jurisdiction

Secwepemc Territory, BC — The Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET) pioneered an Indigenous risk assessment of Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP), demonstrating that failure to take into account Indigenous jurisdiction and land rights constitutes too great a risk for large projects seeking access to Indigenous lands and resources.

This was confirmed by Kinder Morgan Limited (KML) Canada this weekend, when following another mobilization by Indigenous Peoples against the TMEP, KML announced that it is suspending non-essential spending on the TMEP because the risks to investors are too great.

The announcement took investors by surprise and shows that the TMEP has come to a breaking point, where there will either be a decision to cut the losses and stop the project now, or provoke further conflict and confrontation, which will only increase risks.

Though much attention has been focused on inter-jurisdictional struggle between the federal and provincial governments over regulation and environmental assessment, the company and governments have both failed to dispense their legal duties of obtaining consent from the proper title holders of the land. The failure to take into account Indigenous jurisdiction and land rights continues cannot be remedied. There is no recovering from this failure to properly assess risks and from the announcement by KML.

Secwepemc land defender, Kanahus Manuel stated:

“Kinder Morgan is misleading investors by suggesting they have secured the land base and Indigenous consent for the Trans Mountain pipeline.  They do not have consent from the Secwepemc and failure to recognize Secwepemc title, land rights and indigenous jurisdiction, will only result in more conflict, direct actions, blockades and Indigenous land occupations which will increase the risks and economic uncertainty for Kinder Morgan and its construction deadlines.”

Map highlighting Secwepemcul’ecw Nation along proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline route. Read the Risk Assessment Brief by the Indigenous Network on Economies & Trade HERE

As the updated INET summary brief, released, today, April 13, 2018,  “Standing Rock of the North” states:  “Despite the company’s insistence that the threats to the pipeline come from the provincial government, it is Indigenous jurisdiction that poses the greatest threat. Indigenous Peoples from across B.C., as well as non-Indigenous allies, have shown their opposition to the project, and its violation of Indigenous jurisdiction, through physical blockades. Kinder Morgan’s failure to take into account indigenous land rights and jurisdiction, including failure to obtain the prior informed consent of Indigenous Peoples, constitutes the greatest risk to the proposed development and investments. The surprise announcement from Kinder Morgan came on that same weekend that the company refrained from having high-profile Indigenous leaders arrested that joined in a blockade at its facility in Burnaby. This indicates the company recognizes the risks posed from rejection of the project by Indigenous Peoples. The failure of KML to yet again disclose those risks should be deeply disconcerting to investors and lenders.”

Over half of the proposed pipeline route of Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) passes through Secwepemc territory in the south-central Interior of British Columbia.

In the fall of 2017, INET prepared the Secwepemc Risk Assessment of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project that detailed the risks to investors, including Secwepemc land defence risk, legal risk, economic risk, political risk, reputational risk, regulatory risk and climate risk. It was tabled with investors in North America and Europe. Since then these risks and opposition to the TMEP project led by Indigenous Peoples has only grown.

Ska7cis Manuel, Acting Director of INET stated:

“Kinder Morgan’s announcement of a work stoppage is a win for land and water defenders and their dedication to environmental protection. There is a clear opposition to the tripling of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the extraction of fossil fuels from the tar sands. Kinder Morgan’s announcement was not only irresponsible from an investors’ perspective, it is even more irresponsible since it calls on Canada to use executive force, while failing to take into account Aboriginal Title and Rights. This is a fundamental human and indigenous rights issue. INET has raised concerns about Canada’s oppressive tactics, including use of court injunctions to access Indigenous peoples’ resources, with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  The stoppage reveals that Indigenous peoples’ rights have weight and there is a clear need for the full recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights, anything else, including the use of force, will just result in increased uncertainty and risk.”

Related Documents

  1. Read the Risk Assessment Brief by the Indigenous Network on Economies & Trade HERE
  2. Read the Risk Summary by the Indigenous Network on Economies & Trade HERE

About the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET) 

The Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET) is a network of Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous supporters who work toward promoting the economic dimension of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.  We have prepared legal arguments that Canadian policies that fail to recognize Aboriginal and Treaty rights and our decision-making regarding access to our lands and resources, constitute a subsidy under international trade law. Our submissions have been accepted by World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tribunals during the last round of the Canada USA Softwood Lumber Dispute.