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As stakeholders continue with the fourth informal negotiations on a UN treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises in relation to human rights at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, activists continue to call on the European Union to start supporting the process.

Civil society support for a legally binding treaty to regulate transnational corporations is growing, particularly in the Global South. According to activists, rather than engaging with the United Nations treaty negotiations, the European Union is delaying and derailing the process. Activists are punching holes in the EU’s claim that it is committed to protecting human rights and those that defend them, when it is attempting to shut down this historical process.

Position of Friends of the Earth International

According to Friends of the Earth International, the key elements to make the new legally binding instrument effective include obligations for transnational corporations to respect human rights, corporate liability in case of violations, transparency in supply chains to pierce the corporate veil that allows companies to avoid responsibility, and an international human rights court that affected people can turn to if their national courts fail to provide access to justice.

       “Organizations and social movements around the world are demanding justice and an end to the impunity of transnational corporations that are responsible for the systematic violation of peoples’ rights. We are calling for the adoption of a legally binding Treaty that establishes direct legal responsibility for transnational corporations and their managers throughout the production chain. We can only guarantee access to justice for those affected with an effective implementation mechanism. The Treaty must prioritize human rights over free trade agreements and investments”, Ms. Karin Nansen, the chair of Friends of the Earth International explained during a press conference at the UN Square in Geneva Switzerland.

Friends of the Earth International argue that the Zero Draft must establish the primacy of human rights over trade agreements, provide paths for reparations for affected communities, and protect defenders of territories from future abuses which they contend require regulations to prevent international financial institutions from acting with impunity when financing destructive projects or supporting policies that undermine people’s rights to public services.

In 2015 a United Nations intergovernmental working group began work on a treaty to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Calls for a legal mechanism to prevent corporate human rights abuses and attacks on democratically-elected governments have been repeated since Salvador Allende’s remarkable 1972 speech to the UN General Assembly. Corporate crimes against the environment and peoples' rights have continued unabated since then, while violence against defenders of territories and collective rights have reached alarming levels and activists believe companies are rarely held to account.

Many countries have been developing concrete proposals regarding the content and implementation of a binding treaty to close gaps in international human rights law and improve affected peoples' access to justice. This includes national legislation within European states establishing legal obligations for transnational corporations to prevent human rights abuses and environmental damages along their whole supply chains.

Suspicious conduct of EU

EU representatives failed to show up to opening negotiations at the UN in 2015, and only engaged in 2016 and 2017 after pressure from civil society organizations. During the most recent informal consultations, in May and June, the EU continued to show what activists say was an impediment to the negotiations by calling for a new resolution to reduce the working group's mandate. The activist argue that if the EU’s demand is heeded to, it would mean the reversal of four years of progress, and give the EU a chance to change the scope of the treaty, or water it down to a mere amendment of the voluntary Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“All the voluntary mechanisms in the world will not secure the lives of defenders of territories from systemic threats and attacks by corporations on the environment, livelihoods, and people’s rights. It would be an historical failure for universal human rights law if, after more than 45 years of fighting for accountability of transnational corporations, the UN working group, with Ecuador as chair supported by more than 100 UN member states, yielded to the EU’s obstructive tactics”, read a statement on the Friends of the Earth International website.

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is an international network of environmental organizations in 74 countries. FoEI currently has a secretariat based in Amsterdam, Netherlands which provides support for the network and its agreed major campaigns

Compiled by Julius Kyamanywa

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On Sunday 13th October 2018, the annual Global Campaign week was launched at the UN square in Geneva, Switzerland with a huge procession.

The launch of the campaign, also known as the Week of Peoples Mobilization, was attended by representatives of the Global Inter-Parliamentary network, affected communities, movements, trade unions and other networks and organizations. The campaign will run up to 20th.October 2018.

Friends of the Earth International groups across six continents are mobilizing to highlight the climate emergency, fight dirty energy and false solutions and to call for a people-led transformation of our energy system.

The actions of the activists coincide with the launch of the IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.

“We only have a few years left to prevent runaway climate change. We must act together to fight this climate emergency. People Power will enable us to demand much-needed system change”, note FOEI on their official website.

National Association of Professional Environmentalists, Nape’s David Kureeba says dirty energy is a fight everyone in the world should embrace.

“Together we can make this work so easily. Our first target should be those that facilitate and promote dirty energy”, explains Mr. Kureeba.

Kureeba is the Coordinator Friends of the Earth, Africa.

NAPE and Friends of the Earth Uganda are being represented at the Global Campaign week by Community Green radio Station Manager, Julius Kyamanywa.

The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign) is a network of over 200 social movements, networks, organizations and affected communities resisting the land grabs, extractive mining, exploitative wages and environmental destruction of transnational corporations (TNCs) in different global regions, particularly Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Campaign is a people’s global structural response to unaccountable corporate power. It provides facilitation for dialogue, strategizing, exchanging information and experiences and acts as a space to make resistance visible and deepen solidarity and support for struggles against TNCs.

At the same time the Campaign proposes an International Peoples Treaty which provides a political framework to support the local, national and international movements and communities in their resistances and practices of alternatives to corporate power and the TNC model of the economy. It also participates in the campaign for UN Binding Treaty to regulate TNCs, stop human rights violations, end impunity and ensure access to justice for affected communities. 

The Week of Peoples Mobilization in Geneva (13 – 20 October 2018) coincides with the 4th Session of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group mandated to develop a UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and other business enterprises with respect to Human Rights (OEIGWG).

Story Compiled by Julius Kyamanywa in Geneva

The Vegetable Oil Development Project 2 (VODP) has expanded oil palm plantation in Buvuma Island, after replace thousands of hectares of tropical forests in Kalangala Island with oil palm trees. NAPE is concerned that the fragile ecosystem in Buvuma Islands which is also rich in biodiversity could be destroyed by oil palm growing. NAPE demands that VODP ensure that their operations are conducted in an environmentally conscious manner, and conserve and promote the sustainability of the landscape ecosystem in Buvuma Islands.   NAPE does not wish the oil palm project to become a threat to the ecosystem as has been the case in Kalangala Island where thousands of hectares of natural tropical forests were destroyed, and buffer zones that trap and filter agrochemicals from the oil Palm fields were also encroached on. NAPE also desire that the project adheres to the principles of free prior informed consent, respect of human and environmental rights.

NAPE is implementing a project aimed at securing a healthy ecosystem that supports improved community livelihoods”, is working on safeguarding the fragile eco systems in Buvuma, which she said is rich with biodiversity, but currently threatened by oil palm expansions. Through the project, NAPE is using lobby and advocacy to engage various landscape stakeholders such as National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), National Forestry Authority (NFA), Bidco and communities to conserve the forests, forest reserves, protect buffer zones on the landscape, and improve food security and land tenure among the communities of Buvuma Island. 

The Vegetable Oil Development Project 2 (VODP) plans to replicate the project in the districts of Mayuge (including Bugiri and Namayingo), Masaka-Kyotera and Mukono-Buikwe, as well as establishing oil palm trials in many parts of the country.

Given that women face many socio-economic and Environmental injustices - domestic violence, democratic access to land and land-based resources, discriminatory cultural practices and norms, gender-blind laws and regulations that do not protect women’s rights; organizing and mobilizing women to build collective power to challenge the status quo is the solution.

Women Movement’s feminist School, therefore, was a perfect space that provided popular education for the women to learn together, build knowledge together, deepen their understanding of the dynamics of the current extractive development models together, plan together, crafts eco-feminist actions and strategies that responds to their needs as women together so that in solidarity with one voice to fight for their rights.

The Rural Women’s Movement (WM) is an initiative of grassroots women that fights for women’s rights, Energy, climate and Environmental justice in Uganda in particular, and in Africa in general. The women’s movement has a goal of building eco-feminist perspective of development alternatives.

Women’s organizing has come in the backdrop of the current foreign-driven investment models that prioritizes profits over people’s lives, especially women. These foreign investments have resulted into untold suffering to communities, and women are facing a lot of injustices including physical violence like rape, Kidnap, murder, loss of productive land to sustain their families among others in different regions of Africa, but they have kept silent about these injustices due to fear of being victimized and thought to be disrespectful to cultural norms. In the worst-case scenarios, they are miscommunicated from their communities for going against the cultural norms.

Sostine Namanya, the Gender officer at National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), who were co-organizers of the Feminist School said that women must stand-up and challenge these injustices and improve their lives through eco-feminist approaches that can enable them realize the changes they desire.

The women’s movement is running a campaign code named “The Women building power” which is a women’s campaign to fight for Justice, climate and Energy challenges, but the way the campaign is implemented should not cause harm to women because “there is nothing for us without us”, hence women should learn to say NO to injustices” says Namanya.

The Movement aims at working towards developing women’s activism capacity and ensuring women’s power in their homes, possessing equal rights, and ensuring women’s rights over their bodies, feminist solutions to changing women’s thinking because women represent most obvious groups in their communities.

Donna Andrews, from the WOMIN, an African Women’s Alliance against Destructive Extractivism said that women’s issues should be handled keenly thus “enough is enough”, women should learn to resist from injustices by uniting in sisterhood, inclusiveness, standing for each other through solidarity and influencing decision making.

Decisively, women play a vital role in the management of natural resources, yet they lack access to enough food, equal rights, and clean health, a situation which has worsened due to Government development programmes.

Apart from other key injustices women face, physical violence, land- grabbing and lack of adequate compensation are common in areas that are rich in variable minerals like Oil, Diamond and Gold.

Men are given priority to append signature to consent to land sell-off yet at times the plots are jointly owned or belong to the women.

She Applauded the Women’s Movement because women can now advocate for their land ownership rights, for instance women from the Albertine Graben, due to the solidarity and confidence building that has strengthened women’s leadership kills in different fields.

In 2006, when Uganda confirmed the existence of commercially viable petroleum reserves in the Western Rift Valley around Lake Albert areas of Waranga 1, Waranga 2, and Mputa, women faced many injustices ranging from lack of compensation, rejection by husbands and neglect. But now women can stand up and their voices are heard.

According to Alice Kazimura, the Executive Director of Kakindo Orphans’ care in Buliisa, such movements empower women to know their land and compensation rights which weren’t the case before initiation of these important movements.

“Women in Buliisa can now fight to acquire their compensation money themselves and challenge men who make decisions to sign for pieces of land belonging to women” says Kazimura.

Buliisa is one of the areas where women have previously suffered injustices related to loss of land- ownership rights and inadequate compensation for their land that was taken over by the company that constructed the Central Processing Facility (CPF) for Crude oil to store crude oil waste.

“The women affected by the Oil Refinery Project capacity has resisted the inadequate composition rates that they were being offered, until   the rates were revised for 2018/2019, thanks to the Women Movement that built and strengthened women’s capacity to resist oppressive laws and regulations that do not protect women’s rights”, says Abigaba Esther a victim affected by the Oil refinery project.

National Association for professional Environmentalists (NAPE) is one of these non-Governmental organizations that advocates for the rights of women in collaboration with the Women Movements to Amplifying Voices of Women in the Oil Debates in liaison with other local,, regional and international partners.

The story was compiled by Dorcus Drijaru,

Assistant News Editor, Community Green Radio - Hoima

On 8th March every year, Uganda joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Women’s day. This year’s theme was, ‘Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls: Challenges and Opportunities’. The National celebrations were held in Mityana district.

Buliisa district celebrated the women’s Day on 16th March, 2018 at Kihungya Primary School playground in Kihungya Sub-county, Buliisa. Hon Monica Amoding, the Woman Member of Parliament (MP) for Kumi district presided over the celebrations that was organized by Buliisa District. A number of MPs attended the celebrations including: Hon. Norah Bigirwa. the Buliisa District Woman MP and host, Hon. Mukitale Birahwam MP for Buliisa, Hon Akello Silvia for Otuke district, Hon. Kisembo Basemera Noeline, MP Kibaale district, Hon. Kahunde Hellen Kiryandogo district, Hon. Barnabas and Tinkasimire, MP for Buyaga county. The Local Council 1V Chair Person, Mr. Simon Kinene and the Buliisa Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Peter Bisoborwa also attended the function.

Buliisa Small-Scale Farmers, under their Umbrella Group, “Tulime Hamwe Mbibo Zikadde Buliisa” Women’s Group in partnership with National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), carried out exhibition of indigenous seed varieties and traditional methods of traditional seed storage. During the celebrations, the women demonstrated traditional means of seeds preservation, which involves wrapping of seeds in dry grass and hanged the wrapped seeds on a pole to protect it from pest’s attack and diseases and increase its shelf-life.

They also exhibited indigenous seed varieties that were almost getting extinct, such as sorghum, beans, cassava, pumpkins, Bambaranuts (also known as in local Kinyoro Endemesa dialect), local green vegetables among others, and their import values. The women demonstrated and explained the importance of these various seeds varieties, and their important role of enhancing better nutrition and working as medicine. These traditional foods are also used during traditional cultural ceremonies, and most importantly they ensure food security in times of food shortage for example drying sweet potatoes.

The women also told their guests that these indigenous seeds varieties when planted in appropriate seasons, they produce better yields and can withstand harsh weather conditions and are not easily affected by pests like conventional and hybrid seeds which is common on the markets today.

“Women are the custodians of seeds”, and since time immemorial women have played the central role of the conservation of traditional food systems and ensuring food security in their families”, Kagole Margret, a member of the women’s group explained to the guests and MPs while visiting their stalls.

While addressing the show-gowers, members of Parliament from Buliisa hailed NAPE for supporting women in promoting indigenous seeds varieties and pledged to continue supporting NAPE’s activities in the area.

“You should always keep seeds for the next season. Do not wait for government to provide you with seeds. I therefore want to thank NAPE for promoting indigenous seeds varieties, medicine etc..,” said Hon. Steven Birahwa Mukitale, Bulisa County MP.

The Bulisa Woman MP, Hon. Norah Bigirwa appreciated the contribution of civil society organizations, especially NAPE, in empowering women and said these efforts contribute to her dream of empowering Bulisa women to benefit from the oil sector.

“In Bulisa, we want to appreciate local content concept including traditional seeds, and we say NO to GMOs! That’s why I appreciate the efforts of NAPE for this initiative of promoting indigenous seeds. I pledge my commitment to support these women,” she said.

With support from European Union (EU) and the Open Initiative for Eastern Africa(OSIEA), NAPE has been implementing a project aimed at Strengthening Community Cultural Governance Systems to defend and Protect their food, land and Natural Heritage in Hoima and Bulisa districts of western Uganda. The project, supports community efforts of small-holder farmers, especially women to enhance their indigenous knowledge of seed and associated culture to be food secure and safeguard biodiversity for future generation.

Dennis Tabaro Natukunda, the Senior Programs Officer at NAPE who also heads the project says the traditional seed varieties are intertwined in cultural heritage because they are used by the clan elders when performing traditional practices in their clan traditional ceremonies.

NAPE uses traditional community dialogue as an approach, which involves the identification and involvement of elders who have knowledge of sustainable solutions to the current conflicts on land, food and ecosystems.

During these dialogues, the elders (custodians) of knowledge meet with the young generations and small-holder farmers to synergize on weaving the basket of knowledge, especially on the role of seeds in performing rituals and ceremonies in cultural sites and their attachment to the protection of ecosystems.

Story compiled by:

Precious Naturinda, Uganda Green Community Radio