The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.
- The Canadian government is failing either to investigate or to hold the countryâs massive extractives sector accountable for rights abuses committed in Latin American countries, according to petitioners who testified here Tuesday before an international tribunal.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) also heard concerns that the Canadian government is not making the countryâs legal system available to victims of these abuses.
âCanada has been committed to a voluntary framework of corporate social responsibility, but this does not provide any remedy for people who have been harmed by Canadian mining operations,â Jen Moore, the coordinator of the Latin America programme at MiningWatch Canada, a watchdog group, told IPS.
âWeâre looking for access to the courts but also for the Canadian state to take preventive measures to avoid these problems in the first place â for instance, an independent office that would have the power to investigate allegations of abuse in other countries.â
Moore and others who testified before the commission formally submitted a report detailing the concerns of almost 30 NGOs. Civil society groups have been pushing the Canadian government to ensure greater accountability for this activity for years, Moore says, and that work has been buttressed by similar recommendations from both a parliamentary commission, in 2005, and the United Nations.
âNothing new has taken place over the past decade â¦ The Canadian government has refused to implement the recommendations,â Moore says.
âThe stateâs response to date has been to firmly reinforce this voluntary framework that doesnât work â and thatâs what we heard from them again during this hearing. There was no substantial response to the fact that there are all sorts of cases falling through the cracks.â
Canada, which has one of the largest mining sectors in the world, is estimated to have some 1,500 projects in Latin America â more than 40 percent of the mining companies operating in the region. According to the new report, and these overseas operations receive âa high degreeâ of active support from the Canadian government.
âWeâre aware of a great deal of conflict,â Shin Imai, a lawyerÂ with the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a Canadian civil society initiative, said Tuesday. âOur preliminary count shows that at least 50 people have been killed andÂ some 300 wounded in connection with mining conflicts involving Canadian companies inÂ recent years, for which there has been little to no accountability.â
These allegations include deaths, injuries, rapes and other abuses attributed to security personnel working for Canadian mining companies. They also include policy-related problems related to long-term environmental damage, illegal community displacement and subverting democratic processes.
Home state accountability
The Washington-based IACHR, a part of the 35-member Organisation of American States (OAS), is one of the worldâs oldest multilateral rights bodies, and has looked at concerns around Canadian mining in Latin America before.
Yet this weekâs hearing marked the first time the commission has waded into the highly contentious issue of âhome stateâ accountability â that is, whether companies can be prosecuted at home for their actions abroad.
âThis hearing was cutting-edge. Although the IACHR has been one of the most important allies of human rights violationsâ victims in Latin America, itâs a little bit prudent when it faces new topics or new legal challenges,â Katya Salazar, executive director of the Due Process of Law Foundation, a Washington-based legal advocacy group, told IPS.
âAnd talking about the responsibility for the home country of corporations working in Latin America is a very new challenge. So weâre very happy to see how the commissionâs understanding and concern about these topics have evolved.â
Home state accountability has become progressively more vexed as industries and supply chains have quickly globalised. Today, companies based in rich countries, with relatively stronger legal systems, are increasingly operating in developing countries, often under weaker regulatory regimes.
The extractives sector has been a key example of this, and over the past two decades it has experienced one of the highest levels of conflict with local communities of any industry. For advocates, part of the problem is a current vagueness around the issue of the âextraterritorialâ reach of domestic law.
âFar too often, extractive companies have double-standards in how they behave at home versus abroad,â Alex Blair, a press officer with the extractives programme at Oxfam America, a humanitarian and advocacy group, told IPS. âThey think they can take advantage of weaknesses in local laws, oversight and institutions to operate however they want in developing countries.â
Blair notes a growing trend of local and indigenous communities going abroad to hold foreign companies accountable. Yet these efforts remain extraordinarily complex and costly, even as legal avenues in many Western countries continue to be constricted.
Transcending the legalistic
At this weekâs hearing, the Canadian government maintained that it was on firm legal ground, stating that it has âone of the worldâs strongest legal and regulatory frameworks towards its extractives industriesâ.
Torgny Holmgren is Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).
- It demands repetition: water is a precondition for all life. It keeps us alive â literally â while being a prerequisite for or integral part of most of our daily activities. Think hospitals without water, think farms, energy producers, industries, schools and homes without our most needed resource. All sectors, without exception, are dependent on water.
The 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos reported that water security is one of the most tangible and rapidly growing current global challenges. But: water is a finite resource. And along with more people entering the middle class, a growing global population, and rapid urbanisation, comes an increased demand for freshwater.
Courtesy of SIWI.
More food needs to be grown, more energy needs to be produced, industries must be kept running, and more people will afford, and expect, running water and flushing toilets in their homes.
Global demand for freshwater is, according to OECD, projected to grow by 55 per cent between 2000 and 2050. These demands will force us to manage water far more wisely in the future.
However, how to manage water is still a luxury problem for the two billion people in the world who still lack access to clean drinking water. Without clean water you cannot safely quench your thirst, prepare food, or maintain a basic level of personal hygiene, much less consider any kind of personal or societal development.
In addition to being a breeding ground for diseases and human suffering, as seen during the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa, a lack of water keeps girls from school and women from productive work. On a larger scale, it keeps societies and economies from developing.
Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is firmly advocating for a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on Water in the Post-2015 development agenda. A water goal needs to address several key aspects of human development. It is needed for health.
In addition to the two billion people lacking access to safe drinking water, 2.5 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. One billion people are still forced to practice open defecation. On the positive side, every dollar invested in water and sanitation equals an average return of four dollars in increased productivity.
Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov is the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations.
- Kazakhstan being the worldâs largest landlocked country, and also the ninth largest country in the world of more than 2.7 million square kilometres, hosted in 2003 in Almaty the First United Nations Conference on Landlocked Countries.
The conferenceâs outcome, the Almaty Programme of Action (APoA), practically the only one of its kind thus far, is a road map to ensure the special needs of LLDCs. It contains specific measures and recommendations concerning the policy in the spheres of transit and infrastructure development and for financial and technical assistance to specified group of countries.
Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten
The APoA, first developed in 2003, has helped create new linkages and strengthen existing partnerships between landlocked developing countries, transit developing countries and development partners, including multilateral institutions.
Part of the area planned for extraction of CO2 in Val dâElsa, Tuscany, Italy with a protest sign reading: EXTRACTION OF CO2 FROM THE GROUND â A NONSENSE!!! Credit: Silvia Giannelli/IPS
- âIf Â they go ahead and dig those wells, all my work will be destroyed, all my life, everything,â says Franca Tognarelli, looking at the hills and vineyards around her house in Certaldo, Val dâElsa, in the heart of Tuscany.
Now retired, Franca invested all her savings in restructuring her house in Certaldo, only to find that it sits on top of a deposit of CO2 that a private company â Lifenergy S.r.l. â is eager to extract and sell for industrial purposes, most likely in the production of sparkling beverages.
The irony is that the gas under Francaâs house is the same greenhouse gas held largely responsible for global warming.
While a growing awareness of the potential disastrous consequences of climate change is pushing nations to join efforts in curbing emissions of CO2, including considering highly disputed technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), the prospect of lucrative business is enough for private companies to want to extract more of it from under the ground.
People in the city of Bayamo in the eastern Cuban province of Granma use horse-drawn carts as public transportation. Credit: Jorge Luis BaÃ±os/IPS
- Up and down the streets of towns and cities in Cuba go horse-drawn carriages with black leather tops and large back wheels, alongside more simple carts, operating as public transportation.
This ancient means of transportation can be seen throughout this country, in urban, suburban and rural areas, where motor vehicles are expensive and there are not enough cars and buses. And in the most remote parts of the country carts are virtually the only way to get around.
In this column, Fernando Cardim de Carvalho, economist and professor at the Federal University of RÃo de Janeiro, looks at the challenges facing re-elected Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and argues that in the economic sphere she must find a way out of the trap that Brazil has faced since control of inflation was achieved twenty years ago.
- The tight race between incumbent President Dilma Rousseff of Brazilâs Workersâ Party and her opponent, Aecio Neves from the centre-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) party, ended on Sunday, Oct. 26 with the re-election of Rousseff.
As happens in cases of re-election, the new government is, for all purposes, inaugurated immediately, because there is no need to wait until the legal date of January 1 to begin forming the new government and making necessary decisions.
Uganda is estimated to have two billion barrels of oil reserves. Environmental experts are concerned that many African countries lack the capacity to exploit oil and gas at minimal risk to the environment. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS
- Recent discoveries of sizeable natural gas reserves and barrels of oil in a number of African countries â including Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya â have economists hopeful that the continent can boost and diversify its largely agriculture-based economy.Â
But environmentalists and climate change experts in favour of renewable energy say that the exploration of oil and gas must stop, as they are concerned that many African countries lack the capacity to exploit oil and gas at minimal risk to the environment.