Byen Konte, Mal Kalkile? Human Rights and Environmental Risks of Gold Mining in Haiti

CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT

Byen Konte, Mal Kalkile? Human Rights and Environmental Risks of Gold Mining in Haiti

Until now, most discussions about mining have occurred behind closed doors among government officials, company stakeholders, and international financial institutions. There is a dearth of information in the public domain about what gold mining entails, what challenges it poses, what opportunities it presents, and what it may mean for communities and the country as a whole. The purpose of this report is to help fill that gap.

Haiti stands at a crossroads: The prospect of gold mining glitters on the horizon, while the reality of an uncertain political future, weak institutions, and widespread impoverishment glares in the foreground. Celebrated as the only nation in the world born of a successful slave revolution, but known today as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is a fragile, if resilient, place. Rights are precarious, and basic resources are scarce. As of 2014, only 62 percent of all households in Haiti had access to safe drinking water, while less than 50 percent enjoyed such access in rural areas. The cholera epidemic that erupted in 2010, which has taken more than 9,000 lives to date, has revealed the vulnerability of the Haitian population amid inadequate water, sanitation, and health infrastructure. But it has also highlighted the power of popular protest. Haiti has a longstanding tradition of peasant movements, in which ordinary Haitians have mobilized to challenge and overcome injustice. It is in this context—against the backdrop of the country’s complex history with foreign intervention and investment—that efforts to develop a mining industry in Haiti must be understood.

Minerals can be exploited only once. The current moment, before mining has begun, presents a unique opportunity for the Haitian people to engage in a robust public debate about the risks and benefits of mining and for the Haitian State to implement preventive measures to avoid future human rights abuses and environmental harms. Such a debate requires transparency, public education, and active engagement of Haitian communities.

Report Objectives and Approach

Recognizing the important decisions that Haiti faces, the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law (GJC) and the University of California Hastings College of the Law have prepared this Report concerning the risks and realities of modern gold mining and its implications for human rights and the environment in Haiti. The Report is the fruit of collaboration between environmental law experts and human rights lawyers, informed by the Justice in Mining Collective, a platform of Haitian organizations and individuals committed to promoting the interests of Haiti’s rural, northern communities and prompting a national dialogue about the future of Haiti’s mineral resources. Consistent with best practice in the field of international human rights, this Report is based on intensive documentary research and review of primary and secondary materials on gold mining in Haiti; interviews with community members, Haitian government officials, and representatives of mining companies and international organizations operating in Haiti; field investigation; and discussions with members of communities in areas where companies hold permits for activities related to gold mining. The Report is a product of more than 100 days of interviews and participant observation in more than fifty meetings held in communities affected by mining-related activities in Haiti (see infra). 

All Report-related research in Haiti was undertaken using a human rights-based approach, which supports the power and capacity of people and communities to change their own lives, both independently and through institutions that represent or affect them.  This approach takes respect for human rights as its starting point and end objective, emphasizes the informed engagement of rights-holders in both the analysis of factors affecting their own lives and the design of solutions, and stresses accountability, by including evaluation of both the process and outcomes of the research.

The Report addresses four main issues: 

  • the process of modern gold mining, through an examination of its mechanics around the world and a history of extractive activity in Haiti; 
  • the experiences and concerns of communities in Haiti that have hosted mineral exploration in the past ten years, including community members’ allegations that mining companies have failed to respect human rights and the communities’ fear of future human rights violations; 
  • the environmental and social risks of mining gold in Haiti; 
  • the institutional, legal, and regulatory frameworks that will shape the economic, social, and environmental consequences of mining in Haiti. 

Extraordinary Conditions: A Statutory Analysis of Haiti’s Qualification for TPS 1

CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT

Extraordinary Conditions

A Statutory Analysis of Haiti’s Qualification for TPS 1

This report presents the extraordinary conditions in Haiti that prevent nationals from safely returning. This report also discusses the unique political moment in which Haiti finds itself—a moment which contributes to the country’s challenges with stability and security, impeding its ability to safely receive its nationals. But it also shows where progress has been made, demonstrating that the conditions described here—while together constituting a pressing social and public health crisis—remain temporary. 

Since the U.S. government designated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in January 2010 after one of the world’s worst natural disasters, the country has undergone two additional catastrophes: the outbreak of cholera, introduced into Haiti’s waterways through reckless sanitation at a United Nations military base, and Hurricane Matthew, the strongest hurricane to hit Haiti in more than half a century. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designates countries for TPS in cases of ongoing armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent the nationals of those countries who have emigrated from safely returning to their home country. The DHS redesignated Haiti for TPS in 2011, emphasizing the gravity of the damage that the earthquake had caused and the severity of one of the world’s worst cholera outbreaks. TPS has been extended for Haiti four times since redesignation. 

The conditions for which TPS is in effect remain, making it unsafe for Haitian nationals to return. These conditions include a housing crisis that has left families stranded in camps and in unsafe, makeshift shelters to this day; a cholera outbreak, sparked by United Nations troops just 10 months after the earthquake, which has caused nearly 10,000 deaths and more than 815,000 cases of illness—in a country of fewer than 11 million people; and a period of extreme hunger and malnutrition caused by drought and storms and exacerbated by the economic shocks of the earthquake and Hurricane Matthew. Matthew hit one of Haiti’s key food-producing areas. 

Although these events and conditions are extraordinary and harsh, they are temporary. The Haitian government has made impressive progress in reducing the number of cases of cholera and resulting deaths. As of 2017, Haiti finally has an elected president and a full parliament, for the first time since 2012. 

This report presents the extraordinary conditions in Haiti that prevent nationals from safely returning today. This report also discusses the unique political moment in which Haiti finds itself—a moment which contributes to the country’s challenges with stability and security, impeding its ability to safely receive its nationals. But it also shows where progress has been made, demonstrating that the conditions described here—while together constituting a pressing social and public health crisis—remain temporary.

Makundi ya haki yaonya kuwa huduma ya afya ya kibinafsi inaathiri wengi, kufuja rasli mali za umma

INEQUALITIES

Makundi ya haki yaonya kuwa huduma ya afya ya kibinafsi inaathiri wengi, kufuja rasli mali za umma

Hatua ya serikali kuunga mkono upanuzi wa huduma ya afya ya kibinafsi nchini Kenya imesababisha kutengwa na kurudisha nyuma hatua za kutimiza malengo ya afya kwa wote, makundi mawili ya haki yamesema kwenye ripoti iliyotolewa leo. Sera za kitaifa zilizokusudiwa kuongeza ushiriki wa sekta ya kibinafsi katika utoaji wa huduma ya afya, pamoja na uwekezaji duni katika mfumo wa umma, zimechangia kuenea kwa wahudumu wa kibinafsi ambao mara nyingi hutoa huduma duni, hupuuza vipaumbele vya afya ya umma, na kuwasukuma wakenya wengi katika umasikini na malimbikizi ya madeni.

Ripoti hiyo ya kurasa 52, “Tiba Tatanishi: Athari ya ubinafsishaji wa Huduma ya Afya nchini Kenya,” imeandikwa na Hakijamii kwa pamoja na Kituo cha Haki za Kibinadamu na Haki za Kimataifa katika Chuo Kikuu cha New York (CHRGJ). Ripoti hiyo inabaini kwamba ubinafsishaji umewekea watu binafsi na serikali mzigo mkubwa wa gharama, umewazuia watu wengi kupata huduma ya afya, na unahujumu haki ya afya. Sera kuu ya serikali ya kutimiza mpango wa afya kwa wote—mpango wa kupanua bima ya jamii inayoegemea sekta ya kibinafsi kupitia Hazina ya Kitaifa ya Bima ya Afya (NHIF)—unatishia kuzidisha matatizo haya.

“Ubinafsishaji si suluhisho tosha kwa kutimiza mpango wa afya kwa wote,” alisema Philip Alston, aliyekuwa Mjumbe Maalum wa Umoja wa Mataifa na mwandishi mwenza wa ripoti hii. “Watetezi wa ubinafsishaji wa huduma ya afya hutoa ahadi za kila aina kuhusu jinsi hatua hiyo itapunguza gharama za matibabu na kuimarisha upatikanaji wa huduma ya afya, lakini utafiti wetu umepata kwamba wahudumu wa kibinafsi wameshindwa kabisa kutimiza ahadi zao.”

“Watetezi wa huduma ya afya ya kibinafsi wameshindwa kutoa ufafanuzi halisi wa hali ilivyo,” alisema Nicholas Orago, Mkurugenzi Mtendaji wa Hakijamii na mwandishi mwenza wa ripoti hii. “Huku wengi wakihusisha huduma ya kibinafsi na vituo vya kiwango cha juu, ‘mabwanyenye’ na ‘wachochole’ hukumbana na aina tofauti za sekta ya kibinafsi. Huduma ya afya ya kibinafsi imekuwa na madhara makubwa kwa watu maskini na jamii zilizoko hatarini, ambazo hulazimika kutumia wahudumu nafuu wa kiwango cha chini, ambao hutoa huduma ambazo mara nyingi ni hatari au hata kinyume cha sheria.”

Ubinafsishaji umedhibitishwa kuwa wa gharama kubwa kwa watu binafsi na serikali. Sekta ya afya ya kibinafsi hutegemea zaidi ufadhili wa serikali, ikiwemo matumizi ya mabilioni ya pesa kila mwaka kutoa kandarasi kwa vituo vya kibinafsi, ruzuku kwa huduma ya kibinafsi, na malipo kwa miradi ya kisiri ya ushirikiano wa sekta za umma na kibinafsi. Watu binafsi hukabiliwa na ada za juu zaidi katika vituo vya kibinafsi, ambako matibabu wakati mwingine yanagharimu mara kumi na mbili zaidi ya gharama katika sekta ya umma.

“Huduma ya afya ni biashara kubwa, huku mashirika ya kimataifa na kampuni za ufadhili wa kibinafsi zikilenga kujinufaisha kutoka sekta hiyo nchini Kenya,” alisema Rebecca Riddell, Mkurugenzi mwenza wa mradi wa Haki za kibinadamu na  Ubinafsishaji katika kituo cha CHRGJ na mwandishi mwenza wa ripoti hii. “Kampuni hizi zinatarajia faida kutoka uwekezaji wao, hatua ambayo husababisha bei za juu zaidi katika sekta ya kibinafsi huku rasli mali haba za umma zikitumika kuimarisha faida za sekta ya kibinafsi.”

Ripoti hii imeandikwa kutokana na mahojiano yaliyofanyiwa watu zaidi ya mia moja themanini wakiwemo wagonjwa na watoaji wa huduma ya afya, maafisa wa serikali na wataalamu. Watafiti walizungumza na wanajamii kutoka mitaa ya mabanda katika miji ya Mombasa na Nairobi na vile vile maeneo ya mashambani katika kaunti ya Isiolo. Wengi walieleza jinsi walivyotengwa kutoka huduma ya kibinafsi au kukabiliwa na matatizo kugharamia matibabu, kama vile kulazimika kuuza mali muhimu kama shamba ama kukatiza masomo ya watoto na fursa nyingine za kutafuta riziki. Wengine walielezea matokeo ya kusikitisha ya huduma ya kiwango cha chini katika vituo vya kibinafsi, ikiwemo vifo ambavyo vingeepukika na ulemavu. Athari zake ni kubwa zaidi kwa watu maskini au wenye mapato ya chini, wanawake, walemavu, na wale wanaoishi sehemu za mashambani.

Watafiti pia walipata kwamba sekta ya kibinafsi nchini Kenya imejilimbikiza zaidi katika huduma zenye faida kubwa,na kupuuza maeneo yenye faida duni, wagonjwa, na huduma. Wafanyikazi wa huduma ya afya katika sekta ya kibinafsi walieleza jinsi walivyohitajika kutimiza “malengo” ya kuhudumia idadi fulani ya wagonjwa na vile vile kufanya kazi katika mazingira duni ikilinganishwa na sekta ya umma.

“Mkinzano kati ya faida na malengo ya afya ya umma unafaa kuwachochea watungaji sera kufikiria upya utegemeaji wa sekta ya kibinafsi,” alisema Bassam Khawaja, Mkurugenzi mwenza wa mradi wa Haki za kibinadamu na Ubinafsishaji na mwandishi mwenza wa ripoti hii. “Huduma nyingi muhimu za afya zina thamani kubwa au ni muhimu kwa kuokoa maisha licha ya kwamba hazina faida kubwa kibiashara.”

Mpango unaotarajiwa wa kusambaza kote nchini huduma ya bima ya afya ya lazima utachangia kuelekezwa kwa pesa zaidi za umma kwa wahudumu wa kibinafsi bila kusitisha kutengwa na gharama za juu. Ingawa NHIF inatoa bima ya umma, hazina hiyo hutoa kandarasi nyingi kwa vituo vya kibinafsi, hulipa wahudumu wa kibinafsi kwa viwango vya juu, na hulipa kiwango kikubwa  cha madai kwa wahudumu wa kibinafsi. “Kupanua huduma kupitia NHIF badala ya kuwekeza katika mfumo dhabiti wa huduma ya afya ya umma ni hatua kubwa kurudi nyuma,” Orago alisema.

Msukumo mkubwa wa ubinafsishaji umetoka kwa washirika wa kigeni. Washirika wakuu wa maendeleo wamehimiza Serikali ya Kenya kuongeza jukumu la sekta ya kibinafsi katika utoaji wa huduma ya afya, ikiwemo  mashirika ya kifedha ya kimataifa, wakfu za kibinafsi, na mataifa tajiri yanayotafuta masoko mapya kwa bidhaa zao.

“Dhamira ya kiitikadi kwa sekta ya kibinafsi imekiuka haki za wakenya, huku washirika wa maendeleo wakieneza na kufadhili huduma ya kibinafsi bila kuwajibika,” Alston alisema. “Usiri mkubwa juu ya makubaliano mengi na sekta ya afya ya kibinafsi unatoa mwanya kwa ufisadi na maslahi ya kibinafsi.”

Ripoti hii inabainisha kwamba serikali inapaswa kufikiria upya msaada wake kwa sekta ya kibinafsi na kutoa kipaumbele kwa mfumo wa huduma ya afya ya umma, ambao bado unatoa huduma nyingi kwa wagonjwa wanaoruhusiwa kwenda nyumba na wale wa kulazwa nchini Kenya licha ya uhaba wa fedha. “Ingawa serikali inafaa kushughulikia mapungufu makubwa katika mfumo wa afya wa umma, uwekezaji maarufu wa hivi karibuni unaonyesha hamu kubwa ya matumizi ya huduma ya afya ya umma,” alisema Alston.

“Kukiwepo na nia njema ya kisiasa na rasli mali, mfumo wa huduma ya afya wa umma una nafasi bora kutoa kwa wakenya wote huduma iliyo rahisi kupatikana, yenye gharama nafuu, na ya kiwango cha juu ambao wanastahili kupata,” alisema Orago.

This post was originally published as a press release on November 16, 2021.

Why We Must Stand with Haiti’s Democracy Activists

HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

Why We Must Stand with Haiti’s Democracy Activists

When tens of thousands of people are on the streets decrying dictatorial actions, they’re cheered on as pro-democracy protestors. Yet when similar protests occur in Haiti, they are diminished and overlooked. Being on the right side of history requires that we listen to the voices of Haitian civil society.

In the days leading up to February 7, 2021, the U.S. State Department announced its support for the continued rule of President Jovenel Moïse in Haiti. This position was in direct opposition to much of Haitian civil society, including its vibrant human rights community, which condemned Moïse’s occupation of the presidency as an unconstitutional prolongation of his mandate, which they understand to have ended on February 7. This interpretation of Haiti’s Constitution is shared by Haitian legal experts, including its judicial oversight body, religious leaders and activists. Haitian civil society has been sounding the alarm about Moïse’s abuse of power for years, documenting links to a series of massacres, corruption, and the proliferation of gangs. There has never been a more critical juncture for those based outside of Haiti to listen to Haitian voices.

To emphasize this imperative, the Global Justice Clinic issued a joint statement on February 13 calling for the U.S. government to address the human rights concerns of Haitian civil society and hosted a panel discussion with NYU’s Hemispheric Institute on March 24 to hear directly from Haitian human rights defenders and civil society leaders about the current situation in Haiti.

The U.S. government is not alone in giving short shrift to Haitian civil society. Media coverage has failed to adequately convey the widespread outcry against this administration. Nor has it captured the energy and hope that buoys Haitian human rights activists in this moment. Emmanuela Douyon is an economist and anti-corruption activist with “Nou Pap Domi,” a collective of young Haitians committed to fighting corruption, impunity, and social injustice. She’s inspired by the continued involvement of civil society, especially as “a climate of fear has settled in” the country over the last few months due to insecurity, political violence, and kidnappings: “When I see people who fought against dictatorships – who were victims and suffered a lot – and they come back out here to stand up and to fight, that gives me a lot of strength. When I see people from my generation and younger who say they’re going to keep standing and defending their values, the rule of law, democracy – that gives me hope that we can do more.” [1] Rosy Auguste Ducena, a human rights attorney and Program Director for Haiti’s National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), describes how the continued broad-based engagement motivates her: “What enables civil society to continue playing its role… is that the people have shown they have the will to not give up in this battle – there is a will to see change… That’s the biggest message of hope we have. We’ve reached a moment where we, as civil society, are one with the people. When we see they’re taking their claims and demands into their own hands as their own, we don’t need to work for them; we’re working together and that’s the best hope we have in this current situation.”

Haitian advocates forcefully condemn the pressure by the international community to hold presidential elections this year and to facilitate a referendum to alter the constitutional structure of Haiti’s government. Woodkend Eugene, a human rights attorney from the Human Rights Office in Haiti (BDHH), acknowledges that while it can be “difficult for everyone to agree on a solution, what is certain is that what is happening right now is not the solution.” He stresses that the Haitian Constitution states clearly that there can be no amendments to the Constitution via referendum, that “we cannot go into an election with an electoral council that is not legitimate,” referring to the unconstitutional appointment of its members by Moïse, and in a context of “generalized insecurity where multiple people in power have been connected to armed gangs” (the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions against three such individuals in 2020).  Ms. Auguste also pointed out the potential consequences of pushing for elections now: “The international community might be pushing for it, but the Haitian people have said there are things they will not accept or tolerate, and that’s going into elections with this administration. The people won’t accept this referendum, and if this continues to be pushed, we risk falling into a post-electoral crisis… a bigger crisis than [what] we have now.”

Regarding the appropriate role of the international community and the U.S. government in Haiti’s affairs, Ms. Auguste made her message clear: “Firstly, we are not children…Let the Haitian people choose their own future, choose when elections are right for them and choose how their country will be led.”

Ms. Douyon urged the U.S. government to “avoid repeating history, as they did with Duvalier” and to be “on the right side of history” this time by “act[ing] to stand with the people.” U.S. support for the Duvalier dictatorship and its tragic consequences are well-documented.

The clarity and consistency in Haitian advocates’ analysis and recommendations is striking, particularly because Haiti is often painted by the media and foreign actors as a “problem-state”—a never-ending and uncontrollable locus of crisis where it is impossible to discern root causes. Each of the panelists demonstrated that these tropes should be rejected and that Haitian experts should be recognized for what they are—those best placed to assess what their country needs the most. If their recommendations were adopted, rapidly held elections would not be portrayed as the only viable path forward. Instead, the power grab of a man accused of collusion in grave human rights violations would be plainly unveiled.

When tens of thousands of people are on the streets decrying dictatorial actions, they are often cheered on as pro-democracy protestors. Yet when similar protests occur in Haiti, as they have over the last several weeks, these protests are diminished and overlooked. Being on the right side of history requires that we listen to the voices of Haitian civil society.

2021. Gabrielle Apollon

Gabrielle Apollon, Director of Haitian Immigrant Rights Project at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law.

[1] All of the quotes from the panel discussion have been translated from Haitian Creole into English.

Relocation Now, Mine-Affected Communities in the D.R. and their Allies tell Barrick Gold

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Relocation Now, Mine-Affected Communities in the D.R. and their Allies tell Barrick Gold

As Barrick Gold prepares to hold its Annual General Meeting in Toronto tomorrow, Dominican communities impacted by the company’s Pueblo Viejo mine and their allies have issued an open letter to the company demanding immediate community relocation.

The letter from Espacio Nacional por la Transparencia en las Industrias Extractivas (National Space for Transparency in the Extractive Industry (ENTRE) and the Comité Nuevo Renacer, alleges grave harms to nearby communities’ health, livelihoods, and environment due to the mine’s operations. The letter also raises concerns about Barrick’s plans to expand the Pueblo Viejo mine––already one of the world’s largest gold mines–– including by constructing a new tailings dam. Dominican, Canadian, and U.S. based allies, including the Global Justice Clinic, signed on to the letter in solidarity.

Last month, communities affected by Barrick mines in Alaska, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Nevada, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines came together in a Global Week of Action, calling out the gap between Barrick’s rhetoric on human rights and its record. GJC works in solidarity with communities near Cotuí impacted by Barrick’s operations.

This post was originally published on May 1, 2023. 

GJC Issues Statement Calling for End to Mass Deportations to Haiti

HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

GJC Issues Statement Calling for End to Mass Deportations to Haiti

The Global Justice Clinic and immigrant justice and human rights organizations—many of which are Haitian-led—release a statement denouncing the Biden administration’s launch of one of the largest mass deportation campaigns in U.S. history. These deportations target Haitian people and violate migrants’ rights to seek asylum. The U.S. government is sending Haitian people, including many children and babies, to a country that is reeling from political and humanitarian crises. The decision is infected with anti-Black and anti-Haitian discrimination. The Global Justice Clinic and fellow signatories call for an immediate halt to deportations to Haiti and an end to unlawful Title 42 expulsions.

This post was originally released as a press release on September 21, 2021.

Protect Human Rights Defenders and Peasants Facing Land Grabs: Haitian Human Rights Defender Milostène Castin Submits Communication to UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Protect Human Rights Defenders and Peasants Facing Land Grabs

Haitian Human Rights Defender Milostène Castin Submits Communication to UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

On November 18, 2022, Global Justice Clinic client and colleague Milostène Castin submitted a formal communication to the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor. 

The communication and supporting affidavit presents the threats that Mr. Castin has received against his life as a result of his solidarity and activism with peasants—subsistence farmers—including those who have been victim to forced, and often violent, takings of their land. It requests that the Special Rapporteur send an urgent appeal to the Haitian Government regarding Mr. Castin’s case. The submission was made on November 18th in recognition of the Battle of Vertières, which marked the victory of the enslaved population of Haiti overthrowing Napoleon’s army.

Mr. Castin is the Coordinator for AREDE, Action pour la Reforestation et la Defense de l’Environnement (Action for Reforestation and Defense of the Environment) and has collaborated with the Global Justice Clinic for the past ten years. Mr. Castin has tirelessly defended the rights of peasants in rural Haiti, documenting and challenging land seizures and forced displacement. He has also spoken forcefully about the impacts of extractivism and the climate crisis on peasant communities, for example presenting on environmental racism and climate (in)justice in Haiti at NYU in October 2022, at an event to mark the launch of former Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism E. Tendayi Achiume’s final thematic report.

Mr. Castin has been attacked and intimidated due to his work for many years. The Global Justice Clinic works with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to represent Mr. Castin in relation to the threats against him.

Mr. Castin held a press conference in Haiti to coincide with his submission to the Special Rapporteur and to call attention to the ongoing threats to peasant rights in Haiti, particularly land grabs and extractivist projects. He continues to call on Haitian authorities to respect and protect the rights guaranteed by the Haitian Constitution of 1987, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

This post was originally posted as a press release on November 21, 2022.

Global Justice Clinic Stands in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples’ Demands at COP27

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Global Justice Clinic Stands in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples’ Demands at COP27

The Global Justice Clinic stands in solidarity with our partners, the South Rupununi District Council, and the broader International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, also known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus (IPC) as they attend COP27 to advocate for the respect of Indigenous rights in the fight against climate change.

In its opening statement at COP27, the IPC drew attention to the dire impact that the climate crisis has on Indigenous Peoples. The statement, delivered by youth representative Nourene Ahmat Yaya, states that “[c]limate change is a matter of life and death . . . [G]lobal temperatures are increasing, threatening genocide for Indigenous Peoples in Africa, the Arctic, Coastal, Small Islands, and all other ecosystems.” The statement asserts the inherent, collective, and internationally recognized rights of Indigenous Peoples to life, self-determination, territories, and free, prior, and informed consent.

The IPC highlights the need for full and direct participation of Indigenous Peoples in UNFCCC processes and in State actions to combat climate change.   The statement calls on States to include clear indicators for drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in their Nationally Determined Contributions to maintain the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree global average temperature increase commitment, noting that the Paris Agreement commits states to respect and promote their obligations to Indigenous Peoples when taking steps toward climate action.

The Global Justice Clinic has a long-standing partnership with the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC), the representative body of the indigenous Wapichan people of Guyana. The Wapichan people are the traditional inhabitants of the Rupununi region of southwestern Guyana. They model sustainable relationships with the earth and practice stewardship of their land as a central tenet of their collective identity. The SRDC has repeatedly asserted the importance of land rights and self-determination in furthering the Wapichan people’s ability to continue their traditional way of life, and to ensure the transmission of customary values between generations.

As such, the Global Justice Clinic supports Immaculata Casimero, Alma O’Connell, and Timothy Williams, SRDC representatives attending COP27, in demanding that the Guyanese government fulfill its obligations to grant legal recognition of the Wapichan territory and recognize the Wapichan people’s contribution to combating the global climate crisis. The SRDC’s effective management and continued protection of Wapichan territory is hindered by national policy that does not recognize their rights to their full territory.

The Global Justice Clinic also joins the IPC and Indigenous rights advocates in underscoring the risks that voluntary carbon markets and the sale of  ‘ecosystem services’ pose to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. These market-based climate solutions risk undermining Indigenous Peoples’ land rights and allowing parties in the Global North to continue exploiting the world’s natural resources without meaningfully contributing to real emissions reductions. The Global Justice Clinic echoes the SRDC’s concerns over the lack of meaningful free, prior, and informed consent in engaging villages over Guyana’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy, which aims to use voluntary carbon markets to become a leader in climate change.

We call on governments at COP27 to listen to Indigenous Peoples. We continue to echo the IPC’s demands for swift action to truly reduce emissions and honor the rights and knowledge of the Indigenous caretakers of our planet.

This post was originally published as a press release on November 18, 2022.

Indigenous Women in Guyana Commit to Protecting their Lands from Destructive Mining, Deforestation

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Indigenous Women in Guyana Commit to Protecting their Lands from Destructive Mining, Deforestation

At the end of an indigenous women’s empowerment conference in the Parikwarnau Village in Guyana from April 4-5, 2022, delegates pledged to take action and demanded the same from the government of Guyana.

The eighty-six women attending the conference committed to advocating for legal recognition of traditional Wapichan lands, continuing to sustainably care for those lands, protecting waters and forests from the effects of mining, combating climate change, and addressing pressing social issues. These commitments and demands were set out in a Call to Action by the female protectors of the Wapichan Wiizi.

The conference was hosted by the women’s arm of the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) (and Global Justice Clinic partner), the Wapichan Women’s Movement (WWM). Led by Immaculata Casimero and Faye Fredericks, key topics at the conference included indigenous women’s protections under international law, particularly CEDAW, and their role in the fight for climate justice. For example, indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to the food insecurity that has resulted from climate change, as the family’s primary food providers. Women learned together about concepts like “nature-based solutions”—the idea that focusing on protecting nature and biodiversity through sustainable actions like allowing forests to regrow is a way of combating climate change. “Indigenous peoples are the original inventors of ‘nature-based solutions,’” Immaculata Casimero said at the end of the conference. “To combat deforestation, we have captured aerial images of impacted areas and plan to use them in advocacy efforts.”

Casimero and Fredericks reported feeling a palpable shift in the room after the conference; they are confident that indigenous women felt empowered by this experience and will return to their communities and share their knowledge with others. The women’s plans are captured by the concrete commitments and demands listed in the Call to Action, which the SRDC posted on Facebook.

This post was originally published on April 18, 2022.

GJC Among Organizations Demanding Halt to Deportations of Haitian Migrants Amidst Worsening Crisis in Haiti

HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

GJC Among Organizations Demanding Halt to Deportations of Haitian Migrants Amidst Worsening Crisis in Haiti

The Global Justice Clinic, in collaboration with several human rights and migrant rights organizations, jointly issued a factsheet analyzing the ongoing crisis of U.S. deportations and expulsions to Haiti in the midst of an ever-worsening political and humanitarian crisis. It shows the numerous ways the U.S. has violated its legal obligations to Haitian migrants.

Recommendations include an immediate end to deportations to Haiti, the restoration of access to asylum, and an end to the U.S. government’s discriminatory treatment of Haitian migrants. The signatories of the statement include Haitian organizations Groupe d’Appui aux Rapatriés et Réfugiés (Support Group for Repatriated People and Refugees, GARR), Rezo Fwontalye Jano Siksè (Jano Siksè Border Network, RFJS), and Service Jésuite aux Migrants-Haiti (Jesuit Service for Migrants-Haiti, SJM).

Additional signatories include Amnesty International, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Refugees International.

This post was originally published as a press release on December 16, 2021.