CONCEPT NOTE, TOR, AND ACTION PLAN
The Oikotree Global Forum which took place in Johannesburg in 2013 reflected on how tointensify the struggles of the people for their livelihoods in many parts of the world. It was realised that there is a need to create synergies within the Oikotree movement byidentifying issues that resonate with and will involve all the struggling movements withinthe Oikotree network and by establishing a Working Group on Joint Struggles. Land wasidentified as an overarching theme for theological reflection, education and awareness-building, networking, research and advocacy in as much as land issues bring togetherpeoples’ struggles around the world against socio-economic and ecological injustice andtheir links with increased militarism. The following critical areas for joint struggle werealso identified
- POSCO Steel Company in Orissa, India;
- Palestine occupation;
- Militarism in Columbia;
- Militarism in the Philippines; and
- Poverty and socio-economic, gender and racial inequality in Southern Africa
Against this background, this concept note, developed at a meeting held in Chennai inOctober 2014, states the terms of reference of the Oikotree Joint Struggles WorkingGroup, the rationale for joint struggles and the action plan for the coming three years, i.e.2015 to 2017.
Terms of Reference/Objectives of the Oikotree Joint Struggles Working Group
The Joint Struggles Working Group has the following objectives:
- To identify/map, establish and strengthen links between the various struggles on land and resource extraction and the identified four critical areas that Oikotree member movements/networks/organisations are engaged in
- To share lessons learned from the various struggles
- To jointly develop an action plan based on the overarching theme and identified critical areas
- To jointly identify/map available resources (financial and otherwise) as well as to jointly mobilise/raise needed resources for implementing the action plan
- To jointly discuss, conduct research on and disseminate alternative proposals in relation to overarching theme and identified focal issue
Rationale for joint struggles on land:
For indigenous peoples and people who live closely with nature, land is mother, life, bloodand bone. In the indigenous worldview, the relationship between land and living creaturesis one that is intimate and spiritual. Land and human beings are more than interdependent;they are one. When you destroy the land, you destroy liviing creatures including human beings.
At the same time, land, since time immemorial, has been and continues to be a primarysource of conflict as manifested in ongoing wars and economic forms of violence. In thecurrent era marked by extensive economic globalisation and the relentless quest for profitand economic expansion, land has become even more contested. Wars for sheer space aswell as for resources embedded in land, such as oil, gold, and even water, continue to ragein many continents. Corporations actively exploit mineral wealth especially in themineral-rich regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America and grab huge tracts of land to establish large-scale industrial and monocultural farming not only of food but alsobiofuels. In many cases, states have colluded with corporations, enacting new policies andrevising old ones to attract investments in extractive and land-based industries, convertingfertile lands into special economic zones, militarising mining areas, displacingcommunities, relaxing environmental regulations and granting significant corporate taxexemptions and benefits. These developments have generated tremendous social andecological debts. The land, which should be the source of life, has become a graveyard forIndigenous Peoples, poor andmarginalised communities and other living creatures such asplants and animals.In response, people’s movements everywhere – India, Palestine, Colombia, Philippinesand many parts of Africa – are struggling to reclaim their communities’ rights to land, the right to live in their ancestral homes, the right to till and manage the land for theirnourishment and wellbeing, the right to let nature regenerate itself. Land is the red stringthat connects many struggles against injustices in the economy and the Earth. Landtherefore is a key entry point for the Oikotree Joint Struggles Working Group.
Action plan 2015 to 2017 and beyond…
In addressing the general theme of land, the Oikotree Joint Struggles Working Group willembark huge on the following actions between 2015-2017:
- Develop the subject concept note to plan actions and to raise funds forimplementation
- Conduct mapping exercise of variouss struggles that Oikotree membermovements/networks/organisations are engaged in, analyse and post findings onwebsite
- Convene interfaith gathering focusing on the theme of land with a view to strengthening interfaith solidarity
- Develop international solidarity missions connecting land and the identified criticalareas
While the Eastern State of Odisha in India is rich in resources, 70% of its population livein poverty. In 2005, the government of Odisha entered into an agreement with POSCO, aSouth Korean-based multinational steel company, to establish iron ore mines, anintegrated steel refinery and a captive port in the district of Jagatsinghpur. The project,valued at USD 12 billion, represents the single largest infusion of foreign investment inIndia. It covers 29,653 hectares of land, approximately three-fourths of which are forestedareas inhabited by adivasis or indigenous tribes (adivasis and Dalits constitute 24% and20% respectively of the total population of Odissa of 42 million). The project is estimatedto displace at least 22,000 people in the plant and port area alone and nearly 2.5 lakhfamilies in total. Environment impact assessment studies indicate that the project will haveadverse ecological impacts including: deforestation (felling 2.8 lakh trees and destroying5,000 betel-vines which provide livelihoods to some 10,000 cultivators), water-logging ofagricultural lands, contamination of rivers, shortages of water for irrigation andendangerment of the habitats of coastal and marine life such as the Olive Ridley turtleswhich nest on the beaches of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary.
To date the project has experienced delays in implementation due to sustained andorganised opposition by local communities under the banner of POSCO PratirodhSangram Samiti (PPSS). However, such opposition has been met with state repression and
violations of civil and political rights.
According to a report prepared by the InternationalHuman Rights Clinic of the New York University (2013):“Indian authorities have actively targeted those who speak out against the POSCO-India project with violence and arbitrary arrests and detentions. Local police havebarricaded villages, occupied schools, levelled thousands of fabricated criminal chargesagainst individuals opposing the project, and have refused to protect individuals fromconsistent attacks by private actors who are allegedly motivated by the interests of thecompany and of the State. As a result of these abuses, and for the past eight years, entirecommunities in the project-affected area have been living under siege and have sufferedclear violations of their rights to security of person and freedom of movement, as well astheir rights to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention, and fromdiscrimination—particularly on the basis of political or other opinion… Indianauthorities have also failed to protect project-affected communities from consistentattacks by private actors…Those resisting the project have, on several occasions, beenattacked with crude bombs by these so-called [POSCO] goons, and at least fourindividuals have died as a result of these attacks. Indian authorities seem chronicallyunwilling to address or effectively respond to these attacks, despite a heavy policepresence in the villages.”
Local communities are making the following demands:
- Immediate withdrawal of the police force from the proposed site
- Withdrawal of all the false charges against the local villagers
- Implementation of Forest Right Act 2006 in our area and recognition of individualand community rights.
- Prosecution of officials who have acted in violation of the law
- Withdrawal of POSCO from the proposed project for the greater benefit of the state
- Sustainable initiatives for genuine social and environmental development that willensure the future livelihoods of communities living there.
Against this background, the Oikotree Joint Struggles Working Group will embark on thefollowing global actions between 2015-2017:
- Collect information on solidarity groups associated with the anti-POSCO struggle
- Prepare a story or chronology of events of the struggles of PPSS against POSCO forposting on the Oikotree website and sharing during meetings
- Conduct an international solidarity mission leading to Colombia
- Conduct an international exchange programme of movements struggling againstsimilar concerns
- Conduct campaign to raise funds for legal support of criminalised activists
- Conduct a ‘name shame’ campaign against POSCO
Dr. William Stanley,Convenor