CIDSE’s climate action makes it real, once again – highlights from the last couple months of 2017
Reflecting the principles of Laudato Si’ in our transformative response to the climate crisis, CIDSE, November 2017
Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ – on Care for Our Common Home is ground-breaking while remaining deeply embedded in Catholic tradition. It has inspired an expansive and profound understanding of the climate crisis and the social crisis with which it is inextricably interwoven. An Encyclical constitutes the highest-level moral teaching document of a Pope, andLaudato Si’ (LS) is the first to be issued on the theme of the environment, embedding the issue firmly in the context of social justice
This report is intended to help governments and other stakeholders reflect on how they should respond to the challenge of climate change in light of Laudato Si’ and broader Catholic Social Teaching. It provides guidance on how tackling climate change can also address the underlying issues of environmental degradation, poverty and inequality. The guidelines in this report enable members of the global Catholic family to engage with their governments’ climate plans and help adapt the principles of Laudato Si’. An executive summary of this paper is also available.
The paper will be officially launched at a side event during COP23 in Bonn on 15 November 2017. See flyer in attachment
Contact: Jean Letitia Saldanha, Senior Advisor (Saldanha(at)cidse.org)
Time has come to answer Pope Francis’s call to action and tackle the climate crisis at its roots.
Today we have the opportunity and privilege of being in Bonn, Germany at the United Nations climate change conference “COP 23”. These international events are well attended, with government and civil society organizations represented by hard-working people steeped high in technical, political, economic, and scientific discussions on how to tackle climate change. It’s inspiring to see so many people and so much energy mobilized around climate change, but beyond these furiously busy meetings, how is this translating into real commitments, real change? How does this address the reality that millions of people are facing as we speak? People are drowning, disasters are multiplying, coasts are eroding, masses of people are migrating, species are disappearing and though we can hide from the immediate effects, we can’t afford to delay our commitment any longer.
Perhaps for a moment, we need to leave the technical language behind and reconnect to something more profound and fundamental. Almost three years ago, Pope Francis released his groundbreaking, and some have even said “revolutionary” Encyclical Laudato Si’, which put forward a message of disarming clarity: there are not two crises, but only one. The climate and social crises which we are facing, are inextricably interwoven. All is interconnected. The Pope’s words have infused new energy and hope in the climate change movement, linking it to the work of the social justice, anti-poverty, and human rights movements. Maybe those making the decisions at these negotiations about the future of climate action need to be reminded of some of its key messages, and of some of the very practical and valuable guidance it can provide moving forward.
Urgency. The first message Laudato Si’ puts out is one of urgency. Clearly, we need much more ambitious climate goals and much shorter timelines than those currently on the table. There is no time for procrastination when people and their livelihoods are already directly affected, nor when the balance of our ecosystem is under severe threat.
New beginnings. Laudato Si’ inspires us to see the climate challenge as an opportunity to reframe our relationship with the environment, ceasing to see nature as something separate from ourselves or as a setting in which we live. As of now, we could recast a vision of our common future through a just transition, which leaves no one behind and creates decent, environmentally sustainable and responsible jobs in a new economy. Undertaking climate action, that requires massive public investment in food and agriculture, housing, energy, mobility, education…, is an opportunity to reorient our planning and actions to serve humanity –the “Common Good,” beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable. This is the cultural shift or revolution Pope Francis refers to because it changes our perspective on growth and refocuses on living within the planetary boundaries.
Redefining progress. We have long been trained to believe that progress came from technology, economic growth and more production and consumption. We now know that this model is unsustainable. What if we were to redefine our needs with regards to development, to reframe our understanding of what it is to have a healthy and successful existence and what if that success and progress came from well-being and harmony between us and with our environment? Pope Francis also reminds us that it is crucial to change divisions of power and access to influence, ensuring that policy and action is shaped by meaningful engagement and decision-making. Again, the people should be at the core of it all as no solution imposed from the top-down can prosper.
Alternative energy. There are more viable alternatives to our current carbon-energy dependent lifestyles. For instance, we can easily imagine leaving behind the greenhouse gas and carbon emission intensive model of industrial agriculture in favor of a model that ensures food security and sovereignty to communities through agro-ecological practices. Similarly, local electricity systems powered by renewable energy sources, like solar, wind and hydropower, are in most cases the quickest and cheapest ways of connecting people, the vast majority in rural areas, who live in electricity-poor households. Nearly three billion people lack access to modern cooking methods. There is a real opportunity to invest in solutions that address both climate change and energy poverty: what all these measures have in common is to put the people first, allowing communities to build resilience and thrive. In designing climate action, Pope Francis also teaches us that it is crucial to change divisions of power and access to influence, ensuring that policy and action is shaped by meaningful engagement and decision-making.
Change starts with us. We are also and most importantly invited by the Pope to make a personal and spiritual transition. “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it”. Striving for personal betterment, whether inspired by religious or secular humanist tradition, is a longstanding and perhaps eternal task. But now we have the additional motivation of a global existential crisis to focus our minds and our hearts. We need to question our priorities. Each litre of petrol that feeds a needlessly large personal vehicle, each tonne of coal burned to power luxuriously large homes, each hectare of land cleared to provide for meat-intensive diets must be seen as a trade-off for the welfare of the poor today and in the future. Indeed, Laudato Si’ calls for no less than a global climate mobilisation, demanding our political attention, material resources, personal diligence, spiritual commitment and global solidarity.
Hope. The situation is not hopeless, not so long as there are people of good will, working to improve things, not so long as we know that we belong to one another and need each other and care for life on this planet. The stories we hear from communities facing dramatic climate change are not just stories of struggle, but also inspiring stories of change. Options exist, human ingenuity and creativity exist and local and indigenous knowledge can be better shared to spread another narrative about the outcome of this crisis. These voices are also in Bonn. One need only quiet down the busy chatter of the negotiations for a moment to hear their stories and tap into their wisdom. The answers might just come if we from the wealthy and powerful nations stop talking for a moment and start listening to each other, to our own hearts, and to the Earth. And with this, we must take action – together.
Article by Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE Secretary General and Neil Thorns, CAFOD Director of Advocacy. CIDSE on November 15 a new paper, Climate Action for the Common Good at the UN climate talks in Bonn, to encourage governments to respond to the climate challenge in a way that reflects the spirit of Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical Laudato Si’. This opinion article was first published on Christian Today.
An interview with Father Rodrigo Peret from Franciscans International, member of Iglesias & Mineria network and of People’s Dialogue, about his recent arrest in Zimbabwe and the threats that environmental defenders face globally.
People around the world put their lives at risk to defend our planet or to stand up for human rights, but this attracts mainstream media’s attention only very sporadically when dramatic events take place and often when it is too late, like for the assassination of the environmental activist Berta Caceres in March 2016. However many more cases exist and its protagonists as well as the communities’ livelihoods they are fighting for deserve a wider visibility.
CIDSE discussed this topic with Father Rodrigo Peret from Brazil, member of Franciscans International and an environmental activist addressing the impacts of large-scale mining, one of the many environmental and human rights defenders that CIDSE and its members are working with.
Father Rodrigo was taking part in a visit to a mine site in Zimbabwe when he was arrested on November 10th, along with a group of 21 activists from Brazil, Britain, Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, and Zambia who were all in the country for an exchange visit about artisanal mining . The objective of the visit was to understand the role of artisanal mining and whether it could be an alternative to the mining model brought forward by transnational companies. Zimbabwe was chosen as a case to explore because over 1 million people are involved in artisanal mining. This model still faces many challenges in the country though: violence against artisanal miners is still common.
At the moment of the arrest the group was taking part in the 9th commemoration of the Marange massacre– remembering the “Operation Hakudzokwi”, a military repression on artisanal miners that reportedly left more than 200 people dead in November 2008. The commemoration’s goal was to remember those who died or suffered various forms of rights violations due to diamond mining in Marange and share stories of the survivors. Over 3000 people attended the event, mainly from the local surrounding communities.
“We were taken by immigration officers and later by the police from the place of the commemoration while we were attending the event with the locals” explained Father Rodrigo. The activists’ group was kept in custody for a day and was released after each paid a fine of US$100. They were accused of illegally trespassing a protected area and lawyers suggested to them to plead guilty. According to Father Rodrigo, the quick response from international partners hugely helped their quick release. The Brazilian embassy, the Holy See and various Bishops were indeed contacted quickly; international media attention also contributed to their case, as did CIDSE’s and members reactions of solidarity. The local community in Marange also reacted with anger to the actions by Immigration and Police and the people arrested received several calls and messages from community members expressing solidarity.
During their visit in Zimbabwe, the activists saw the results of the mining exploitation and recognized patterns that manifest similarly in different countries around big mining sites such as the destruction of livelihoods for the locals and the disintegration of community relations. This also happened in Marange where artisanal miners organized in cooperatives have gathered funds to get access to some basic infrastructures such as clean water and sewage systems. “It’s incredible how people live in tremendous need”- said Father Rodrigo. He also highlighted the close connection between the destruction of livelihoods and migrations. However, he said “While diamonds travel freely to Europe, people risks their life to cross the desert and then the Mediterranean sea”.
In this dire situation, people who are denouncing the impacts of big mining companies’ operations are often in danger, but exposing the situation of the person who is threatened is extremely necessary: “If you hide, if you are afraid, if you don’t communicate, it’s impossible to build a network of support”said Father Rodrigo. He highlighted the importance to give visibility to people at risk, while also acknowledging that each case is particular and should be dealt with accordingly. National and international solidarity is also crucial to pressure governments; it gets much more complicated however when the defender is pressured by the government itself. A vibrant and strong civil society network is indeed a key factor that human rights defenders can count on when at risk, and the ability to connect and respond quickly when something happens is also of vital importance.
The conversation with Father Rodrigo also pointed out how the critical situation of human and environmental rights defenders is fostered by the gap in understanding that citizens have in respect to the concept of human rights itself and the way this is treated by mainstream media. “In some counties, people think human rights workers want to help those who are against the law, and perceive them as being against development. The work we are doing in Brazil about land reform for example makes some people mad. Some people even commented below articles about my arrest that I should be killed.” The global advancement of the right and of xenophobia is according to Father Rodrigo an obvious sign of the problems in perception of human rights and environmental integrity.
The interview with Father Rodrigo was recorded by CIDSE in November 2017. The resources below provide further information and analysis about the arrest of the group of activists in Zimbabwe on 10 November 2017 and were partly used in this article.
-Statement by CNRG Board on the recent Arrests of Activists in the Marange Community (in attachment)
-Statement the the People’s Dialogue’s exchange visit to Zimbabwe and detentions (in attachment)
-Statement by the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (in attachment)
–Press release by MAM, Movimento pela Soberania Popular na Mineração, Brazil
-Articles by the network Iglesias y Mineria:
The exploitation of oil, gas, gold, silver, iron, copper, tin and other materials by transnational companies (TNCs) affect many Latin American communities. The situation has deteriorated in recent years with the increase of extractive activities. This generates irreversible and negative impacts on people’s livelihoods and ecosystems; it hinders human rights of local communities and fosters conflicts. While many Latin American governments have supported the practices of extractive corporations through economic incentives and legal changes, alternatives exist.
This topic was explored in the panel discussion “Extractives in Latin America: grassroots and international community responses” organized by Pax Christi International, COMECE and CIDSE on 31st October 2017 and attended by indigenous peoples representatives, civil society and policy makers.
In his opening remark, Fr. Olivier Poquillon, Secretary General of COMECE reminded the audience that the issue of extractives and the access to natural resources is of great concern to Pope Francis, as highlighted in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’. The care for creation, respect for others and willingness to dialogue are fundamental in the Latin American region as well.
Martha Ines Romero, Pax Christi International’s Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean pointed out how the extractives industry brings many challenges, such as the escalation of conflicts and the environmental degradation. This lead the Latin American region to become one of the most deadly places for human rights defenders.
Mikeas Sánchez Gomez shared a very interesting insight into the struggles of her Zoque community in Southern Mexico. Her community is reacting to the activities of a transnational corporation engaged in oil extraction and mining. The Zoques have mobilised non-violently through assemblies, consultations, collection of signatures and through the creation of ZODEVITE, the Indigenous Movement of the Zoque Believing People in Defense of Life and the Earth. In several cases, their actions have led to the suspension of extractive activities by companies.
>>>This video presents testimonies of the Zoque struggle that combines popular demands, demonstrations, legal protections, consultations and artistic expressions of resistance.
According to Tove Sövndahl Gant, Policy Officer on In¬digenous Peoples at the European External Action Service, the situation of indigenous peoples could be improved by implementing the UN declaration on indigenous people as basis for all actions and policies, and applying the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Stefan Reinhold, Corporate Regulation & Extractives Officer at CIDSE, reported back from the UN Binding Treaty negotiations in Geneva and he stressed the great opportunities that this process brings. Pointing out the inconsistency of various initiatives taking place at different levels or focusing on different impacts or sectors of transnational corporations, he called on the EU and member states to recognize and seize the unique opportunity conveyed by the UN binding Treaty negotiations to show leadership on an issue crucial to so many European citizens.
From the discussion, the crucial importance of putting the problems of extractives in Latin America high on the agendas emerged. This involves listening to the voices of the affected communities, ensuring the respect of their human rights and granting human rights defenders a safe opposition space. The set up of a strong legal instrument is also necessary, and the EU should adopt a constructive approach in the negotiations on a UN binding treaty on business and human rights.
>>>Full presentations by the panelists can be watched here
>>>See attached a comprehensive summary of the event and the conclusions
While international law has defined the duties of states to protect human rights, it has not regulated enough the responsibility of corporations for their human rights violations. A turning point was reached on 25 June 2014, when the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, also referred to as “UN Treaty”.
The UN Resolution called for the establishment of an Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) with the mandate to elaborate the Treaty. Following the two first session held in 2015 and 2016, the open-ended intergovernmental working group will now meet for a first round of negotiations on the draft elements presented by the Chair of IGWG. After open deliberations on the Treaty, States will now begin negotiating on the content.
CIDSE’s position towards the Treaty
The elements reflect the high-quality, substantive discussions of the first and second IGWG sessions, building upon an open and credible process. Together with European NGOs we also published this statement on the publication of the elements.
There is growing momentum for the UN Treaty across many sections of society. From 20 States voting for the 2014 resolution establishing the Treaty process, some 80 States participated in the 2016 IGWG session. For the 3rd session beginning on 23 October, all States should come prepared to negotiate the content of the Treaty, considering carefully the potential of the elements and their effective implementation to put a stop to corporate-related human rights abuses.
Drawing from our positions to date, our studies, and our work within the Treaty Alliance, we will advocate for an instrument which can respond to strong demand from communities on the ground. Urgent international action is needed to tackle the flagrant imbalances in power between transnational corporations and people and ensure protection of human rights.
See below the following statements:
- CIDSE written submission to the 3rd IGWG session
- Joint oral statement: General statement
- Joint oral statement: General framework
- Joint oral statement: Scope of application
- Joint oral statement: General obligations
- Joint oral statement: Preventive measures
- Joint oral statement: Access to justice
- Joint oral statement: Jurisdiction
Why do we need a binding Treaty to protect business and human rights? CIDSE’s partners from Peru, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo share their testimonies.
– Awareness raising video by Justice & Paix
Resources from CIDSE members
DKA’s online action “Petition: People over Profit”(German)
Explanatory article “The Treaty, a tool at the service of food sovereignty” by Entraide & Fraternité (French)
CCFD’s online action, Petition “Stop Impunity : Take action” (French)
Briefing: “Will Belgium help to end corporate impunity?” by Broederlijk Delen (Dutch)
Activities in Geneva by CIDSE members and partners
Representatives from the CIDSE secretariat will attend the session together with its members CAFOD; CCFD-Terre Solidaire; Entraide & Fraternité; Fastenopfer and Misereor.
CIDSE will also collaborate with several allies and partners, including:
– MAB, Brazil
– PACS, Brazil
– Vale Affected People, Brazil
– Tierra Digna / Red Sombra Glencore, Colombia
– Franciscans Brazil / Iglesias y Minería
– GRUFIDES Peru / Iglesias y Minería
– CESTA / Friends of the Earth El Salvador
– CINEP, Colombia
– Alyansa Tigil Mina, Philippines
– PAN-AP, Malaysia
– AIDC, South Africa
CIDSE will co-organize two side events in Geneva:
- “Human rights in trade & investment policies: The value of the Treaty”, Monday 23rd October.
- “The French law on duty of diligence: progress in the EU and the elements of the UN Treaty”, Tuesday 24 October
(See in attachment below flyer invitations)
After the IGWG session in Geneva, CIDSE will co-organize a panel debate with Pax Christi International and COMECE on “Extractives in Latin America: Which are the responses at the grassroots, EU & international levels?”, which will be an occasion to feedback on the Treaty negotiations. (See the flyer attached)
A second event will take place on 20 November in Brussels, co-organized with the Development and Peace Foundation (sef:): “Is the window of opportunity still open? State of the negotiations on a UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights.”
CIDSE and the Treaty Alliance
CIDSE is one of the leading members of the Treaty Alliance, a global coalition of civil society groups and movements supporting the development of a binding international instrument.
Here you can find the Treaty Alliance statement for the 3rd IGWG session (EN-ES-FR-PT-DE-IT).
Live from Geneva
Report from first day of negotiations on the UN Binding Treaty
Report from the second day of negotiations on the UN Binding Treaty
UN Treaty Negotiations Day 3 – Prevention & Acces to Justice inspire most constructive discussions so far
CIDSE’s contacts in Geneva
Denise Auclair: auclair(at)cidse.org
Stefan Reinhold: reinhold(at)cidse.org
- CIDSE IGWG written submission October 2017 (35 Downloads)
- Extractives_Event_31-October-Invitation_1.pdf (10 Downloads)
- Flyer Treaty side event 23 October 2017 (21 Downloads)
- Oral statement: Scope of Application (13 Downloads)
- Oral statement: General Framework (18 Downloads)
- Oral General statement (12 Downloads)
- Flyer side event 24 October on French law (12 Downloads)
Last modified on Tuesday, 28 November 2017 17:05
Press release: Urgency, equity and ambition are the key ingredients for climate justice Written by CIDSE
As the climate change conference COP23 draws to a close, the Catholic network CIDSE sees some positive developments but reaffirms that urgent steps are necessary if we aim to face the climate crisis and guarantee a safer and better future for the most vulnerable.
As countries wrap-up discussions at the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, it’s clear that climate change is a reality and that climate action can no longer wait. We are already in the midst of a climate crisis and the future of millions of people, starting with the ones living in highly impacted areas, is at risk. We need urgent solutions- this was the message of the Fijian Presidency of the conference, who brought the point of view of a country who is dramatically affected by climate change. If nothing more is done to change the course: across the Pacific Islands, home to 10 million people, up to 1.7 million could be displaced due to climate change by 2050.
In addressing this challenge, CIDSE believes we must follow the principle of equity. In a report released by a group of social movements, environmental and development NGOs, trade unions, faith and other civil society groups including CIDSE, it is evident that all countries need to step up their fair share of effort, while considering the historical responsibilities and different capabilities of every nation. “In agreement with what Pope Francis defines as the “ecological debt”, rich countries must deliver their fair share of public climate finance to limit warming to 1.5°C. Unfortunately COP23 did not deliver on increased climate finance nor on the roadmap towards the $100bn by 2020. This is disappointing as it’s the least rich countries can do for the most affected by climate change in order to embark on a low-carbon development pathway.” said Giulia Bondi, CIDSE’s Climate Justice and Energy Officer.
Ambition needs to be at the core of climate action. CIDSE welcomes the positive advancement of this year’s talk with the set-up of the “Talanoa Dialogue” that sets into motion the plan for governments to keep global warming below 1.5C. At COP24 next year, countries must collectively assess progress on their national climate plans – NDCs –and make commitments to ramp up ambition by 2020. To make the just transition and sustainable future a reality, it is crucial to maintain the political will high.
A new mechanism put in place during the concluding session of the climate talks will introduce the possibility to tackle agriculture more directly in the framework of the Paris Agreement. It will now be possible to better address the impacts of climate change in agriculture, including the key role of adaptation, and how non-CO2 Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) from agriculture can be reduced. This is a welcome development especially considering that the global food system has a huge carbon footprint contributing to up to roughly 30% of total GHG.
The adoption of the “Gender action plan” and the operationalization of the “Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform” were also a positive step; however there is still a long road ahead for gender equality and the rights of indigenous peoples to be fully integrated into climate action.
While system change and political will are necessary to solve this crisis, individual commitments and behaviors are as important in addressing climate change. “Walk on Earth Gently”, a multi-Faith invitation to Sustainable Lifestyles supported by CIDSE, invites people to embark on a journey towards compassionate simplicity for the sake of the climate and to put belief into action in relation to our own lifestyles like the CIDSE network does through the campaign “Change for the Planet- Care for the People”. “We wish to support the Pope’s call for a personal and spiritual conversion that puts into question our daily choices.” said Josianne Gauthier- CIDSE Secretary General.
The landmark encyclical Laudato Si’ still remains our inspiration guiding our climate justice work. Through the release of the paper Climate Action for the Common Good during COP23, CIDSE encouraged governments to respond to the climate challenge in a way that reflects the spirit of Pope Francis’ encyclical and it reminded governments of the massive transformational change needed to tackle climate change and of the urgency we need to deliver this – in the cultural, economic, social and spiritual perspectives of today’s lifestyles and for future generations.
Contact: Valentina Pavarotti, CIDSE Media and Communications Officer, Pavarotti(at)cidse.org
Ingredients of a just transition for a low carbon and sustainable future
Written by Giulia Bondi 18 December 2017
Transitioning to a low-carbon and sustainable economy based on accessible and affordable renewable energy for all is a key pillar to achieve the targets set by the Paris Agreement. The changes required in our societies and economies are profound, so how are we to ensure a just transition for all, where no one is left behind and planetary boundaries are respected?
At the heart of the Paris Agreement lies the target to keep the global temperature rise well below 2C while pursuing efforts to not exceed the 1.5C degrees threshold. This is what Fiji and Pacific islands reminded us all at COP23. “1.5C to stay alive”, as the slogan goes. It is paramount that all countries step up their promises to reduce their carbon emissions, taking into consideration different responsibilities and capabilities. The urgency to increase climate action can no longer be sidelined. It requires a change to the structural pillars of our current system that is inevitably dooming humanity towards catastrophic consequences.
Climate change cannot be tackled in isolation. The energy sector as a whole contributes to one-third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and it goes without saying that it needs a deep and radical transformation. But when we talk about transforming the energy sector, it does not necessarily mean simply stopping the use of fossil fuels and introducing renewable energy sources, instead it is a much more complex debate that must be addressed holistically from the very start. The way the energy sector is currently functioning is also keeping people in poverty due to its governance and financing structures, inherently breaching all fundamental human rights, from the right to food and water to access to electricity and clean cooking, and ultimately widening the gap of inequalities.
With this in mind, we held with Misereor, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, PAIRVI and Coastal Development Partnership a side-event at COP23 in Bonn to depict the challenges and opportunities of such just transition, by showcasing stories from those who are at the heart of the transformation needed, particularly workers and poor communities. As a result, we attempted to identify the essential ingredients of a just transition recipe that must be embedded in all climate actions.
Often in our policy work we fall into the trap of using buzzwords and end up distancing ourselves from their original meaning. I believe this is the case for just transition. What does it actually mean? As Rhoda Boateng, from the Africa office of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reminded us, “just transition essentially means to place the social dimension into the climate and environmental talks: that is to take on board the concerns of workers who are often times the most vulnerable, while we are moving towards a low carbon economy”. For instance workers should not be faced with the choice of either working or destroying the environment. Rather, a clear planning, setting up of guidelines backed by strong policies have to be created, and very importantly adequate public investments must be secured. All of this should be based on a thorough social dialogue that includes comprehensive compensation or social protection schemes for retiring workers as well as trainings in new sectors, as in the renewable energy.
Another key element I believe is that a just transition recipe must follow a different and critical pathway. Transformations are not innovative as such if they follow a business-as-usual approach. Very often initiatives lack a strong and prophetic vision, and this prevents the social transformation to happen. For Soumya Dutta, a long-standing climate justice activist in India, “the vision of the transition we seek is one where energy systems are decentralized, community owned and controlled, and that ensure universal access”. Today’s current energy systems are highly commodified and exclusive, mainly controlled by large corporations, but we have an opportunity to move towards fairer and just systems. We need to keep challenging policy-makers who are highly influenced by corporate interests, and as reiterated by Soumya, we must give space to community-led alternatives to prosper and duplicate in an equitable manner.
Yet as in all recipes, there are ingredients that are essential and problematic at the same time, and for the just transition case it is public finance. I felt anger when listening to S. Jahangir Hasan Masum, from Coastal Development Partnership, who explained that in Bangladesh and generally in Asia, large investments are still in place for many coal-fired power plants, supplied by countries like China, Indonesia and Japan and that money is flowing through the so-called “south-south cooperation”. If we really want to be serious about protecting the most vulnerable communities from climate change impacts governments and multilateral development banks must ensure a just and public finance that is focused on the outcomes, on equity and transparency principles and not on mere accounting rules.
Although it is evident that decarbonisation is vital, governments in developing countries are justifying their actions behind the right to development. Isn’t yet the right to clear air and health also part of sustainable development? Gerry Arances from the Centre for Energy, Ecology and Development in the Philippines, explained the paradox: when a country has 25000 gigawatts renewable energy potential but that in 2016 emitted 40.93 million of tonnes of CO2 emissions from coal consumption, it’s clear that the government isn’t responding to the needs of the people. “We don’t know what will happen if the 1.5C temperature threshold is breached, hence it is a matter of life and death and just transition shouldn’t be a vision alone, but an urgent response to act on climate”.
After all, the just transition recipe isn’t easy, but if all the right ingredients are included, mixed and blended evenly, I am confident that the result can be a truly transformative one. One that can conceive an energy system that increases access and reduces costs, that is in tune with people’s interest and development needs and that recognizes ecological limits. As civil society actors, we must ensure that such just transition is multidimensional, holistic and local, driven by principles of solidarity, social justice and sustainability.Only through a co-creative and inclusive process we can design an economy where the planet and people come first.
Last modified on Monday, 18 December 2017 12:19
Regional Conference, Abidjan, 21-23 November 2017.
More than 70 representatives of African church institutions and faith groups, social movements and grassroots initiatives as well as non-governmental organizations from Africa, Europe and America gathered last week in Abidjan under the slogan “Land grabbing in Francophone Africa: identifying and strengthening endogenous solutions”.
The event was organised by the platform “Our land is our life” established at the conference on “Land Grab and Just Governance in Africa” in Limuru/Kenya in 2015 which brought together church and non-church actors to exchange knowledge and strategies on land grabbing.
The Abidjan conference aimed at sharing knowledge based on the practices of African communities and developing strategies to stop land grabbing in Africa, besides building networks and strengthening movements within Africa and between Africa and other continents. It was also a space for reflection and discussion on land grabbing issues from the perspective of Laudato Si’ and Catholic Church social teachings.
The organising committee consisted of RECOWA/CERAO (Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa), AFJN (African Faith and Justice Network), AEFJN (African Europe Faith and Justice Network), CIDSE, CIKODEV Africa (Pan African Institute for Research, Training and Action for Citizenship, Consumer and Development in Africa), Jinukun-COPAGEN (Coalition for the Protection of African Genetic Heritage), AFSA (African Food Sovereignty Alliance), CIKOD (Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development) and CGLTE (Global Convergence on Land and Water Struggles).
CIDSE’s member organisations supporting this initiative were CAFOD, KOO/DKA, Fastenopfer, Manos Unidas and MISEREOR with 19 participating partners from DR Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Tchad and Senegal, together with MISEREOR and CIDSE Secretariat staff.
On Day I, the conference was opened by Fr. Joseph Aka, General Secretary of RECOWA, the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa.
The first panel consisted of the following speakers (from left to right):
• Colonel ME Kouamé Martial, Representative of the Ministry of Water and Forest
• Bishop Lucius Ugorji, President of the Justice and Peace Commission
• Bishop Alexis Toubali, 2nd vice President of RECOWA
• Bishop Joseph Spiteri, Apostolic Nuncio in Ivory Coast
• Claire Quenum, Representative of AFSA (Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa)
• Kadidja Koné, Representative of CGLTE (Global Convergence of Land and Water Struggles)
The speakers acknowledged the fact that land grabbing is increasing in Africa and is an issue that needs to be tackled.
Bishop Joseph Spiteri: “Land grabbing spreads in all regions of Africa. We must assess: What are the different forms of land grabbing? How does the phenomenon differ between countries? But after analyzing the situation we also need to act. We need to discuss, which role the church can play in this.”
Claire Quenum: “The people have the right to feed themselves. They have the right to food sovereignty. Not having access to land and water is a threat to food sovereignty, agroecology, the space for living, the space for keeping animals.”
Kadidja Koné: “Land, water and the seeds of peasants are no commodities, they are commons which need to be preserved for future generations.” The access to land must be guaranteed through legal provisions on the national, regional and continental level, to protect communities, women and the youth against discrimination. This implies to resist investment programs such as the G7-New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa or other public-private partnerships.”
Nine bishops from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Niger and Togo travelled to Abidjan to participate in the conference to listen to the testimonies of people affected by land grabbing and have a dialogue with communities, peasants organisations, NGOs, faith groups, social movements and others.
Sister Modestine Rasolofoarivola from the organisation Vahatra in Madagascar: “I am here to get to know the networks that engage themselves in Africa against land grabbing and to share our Madagassy case. In Madagascar, land grabbing is caused by foreign investors and the politicians do not protect us from the phenomenon. Receiving land titles to securitise land is very complicated and expensive.”
Koffi Wisdom Adjawlo from the Youth Volunteers for the Environment (YVE) in Ghana presenting a case of land and water grabbing involving a UK company in the Bole District of Ghana. The work presented is jointly carried out by a consortium of church and non-church actors consisting of YVE Ghana, GRAIN and the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD). “The community was promised a school, a road and good jobs by the company. Nothing came true. Instead, they are losing their agricultural lands and fishing grounds.“
Kadidja Koné is a representative of the social movement, Global Convergence on Land and Water Struggles and worked for 10 years with INADES-Côte d’Ivoire. She is co-facilitating the conference.
Mariam Sow from the Senegalese partner organisation ENDA-Pronat: “Our experiences show that the advocacy work on agroecology and good land governance must go hand in hand. It is a social task. Without a just access to land, people cannot farm according to their agroecological principles.”
Working group on mining with Armand Dione, Forum Civil (Senegal)
Working group on agribusiness: Mamy Rakotondrainibe, Collectif Tany (Madasgacar), Koffi Wisdom, YVE (Ghana) and Rose Oppong, CIKOD (Ghana)
Working group on forests with Lilia Ravoniarisoa (FVTM) and Merci Ralaitsiferana, farmers from Madagascar
Working group on legislation: Sr. Modestine Rasolofoarivola from Vahatra and partners from the network SOA (Madagascar).
On the last day, the conference ended with the adoption of a powerful joint statement signed by around 60 church and non-church actors. Bishops and human rights defenders sat together to jointly draft the text, which facilitated linkages among all actors to the political process of bringing church and civil society together. Another strength of the statement is that it captures the topics seen as most important for the communities affected by land grabbing: their right to manage their lands as commons in the notion of food sovereignty, the need to strengthen their capacities to know and be able to defend their rights and the protection of their engagement which is increasingly shrinking due to the criminalization of human rights defenders. “We never had such a strong statement by the African church on the matter of land grabbing”, stated many participants.
Participants also developed action plans for their countries or regions. for example, participating Bishops committed to extend their knowledge on land governance in future and to spread the conference ideas within church institutions. The West Africa Working Group wants to establish a Whats’ app group in order to have an immediate communication channel when it comes to activities against landgrabbing on the ground.
Statement drafting session.
Download attachments: FR-Déclaration de la conférence d’Abidjan (28 Downloads)
A Multi-Faith invitation to Sustainable Lifestyles, Interfaith statement, November 2017 (available in EN – ES)
Statement delivered to COP23 by faith leaders and people of faith from all over the world. This statement, supported by CIDSE, is part of the Multi-Faith Sustainable Living Initiative to be launched at a side event in Bonn on 9 November 2017. See flyer invitation (attached) .
This event will be live-streamed throughout the day.