Latin American Observatory for Environmental Conflicts (OLCA)

Santiago, Chile

The Latin American Observatory for Environmental Conflicts (Observatorio Latinoamerica de conflictos Ambientales – OLCA) advises communities in conflict to enhance their management capacities in favour of their environmental rights. It monitors environmental conflicts, develops management tools for them; investigates and disseminates aspects related to environmental protection and citizen rights; it carries out investigations at sector level, specific research and promotes the methodological training in conflict management.

Chile is the world’s top copper-producing country and the country with the world’s largest lithium reserves. The rising prices for copper and lithium globally means Chile is set to become one of the world’s top destinations for foreign mining investment in these industries. Chile is already the target of more than 30% of the total projected mining investment for Latin America.

The current expansion of these trends is associated with the expansion of social conflict, ecological destruction, pollution and poverty – hallmarks of extractivism.

War on Want’s work with OLCA has primarily focused on supporting the community of Caimanes in the Coquimbo region, who have resisted the expansion of LSE-listed Antofagasta PLC’s ‘Los Pelambres’ copper mine, and the ‘El Mauro’ tailings dam, which have been fraught with social and environmental conflicts and impacts on communities.

However, along with UK-based partner The London Mining Network, we’ve recently set up a UK working group on extractivism in Chile. Its objectives are: to analyse and monitor other UK mining investments in the country – as well as their investors, including pension funds and faith-based investors – and to ensure that operations respect and protect human rights and the environment.

Observatory for Mining Conflicts in Latin America (OCMAL)

Latin American Network (based in Santiago, Chile)

Observatory for Mining Conflicts in Latin America (Observatorio de conflictos mineros en Latinoamerica – OCMAL) is a platform with over 40 organisations, with the aim of defending communities affected by mining. OCMAL is a space for research and exploration of new opportunities to achieve greater effectiveness in joint work, campaigns and actions to exchange information and actions that are part of the activities of community defence and environmental protection, incorporating tasks that seek integration in global action with other actors, politically influencing international forums that influence the decisions that affect our countries.

The last two decades have witnessed the boom and post-boom of commodities around the world, leading to exponential growth in mining. These were spurred by a variety of factors, including China and India’s expanding economies, increased production of consumer electronic products, and the highest military and industrial consumption rates of these materials in history.

This has led to a dramatic increase of the levels of mining and exploration in Latin America: In 2013, the region accounted for 27% of world investment in mineral exploration. A new post-boom era is being spurred on by rising commodity prices, and a shift from fossil fuel mining (though this is still widespread) to hard rock mining for minerals and metals primarily used to produce electronic goods and renewable energy technologies.

War on Want is in the planning stages of work with OCMAL to develop processes to safeguard and protect the rights and livelihoods of communities in Latin America experiencing human rights and environmental abuses because of mining and exploration, supporting them to secure justice for those abuses through judicial and non-judicial mechanisms.

The Interinsitutional Platform of Celendín (PIC)

Celendín, Peru

The Interinsitutional Platform of Celendín (Plataforma Interinistutcional Celendina – PIC) is an organisation that brings together over 20 grassroots social organisations in the provinces of Celendín and Cajamarca in northern Peru. It was formed at the end of 2009, with the aim of defending the rights of the province of Celendín, against mining and hydropower projects that threaten its territory.

Over the past two decades the mining industry in Peru has been growing at breakneck speed. But despite promises of jobs and prosperity, rural communities – who are rarely consulted in the development of mining projects – continue to live in poverty. Mining waste has polluted waterways, affecting local people’s drinking water and irrigation needs.

In the northern Peruvian highlands of Celendín, where almost half the land has been given away in mining concessions, US mining company Newmont and its Peruvian subsidiary, Minera Yanacocha, have proposed a new open-cast mega-mine known as the ‘Conga’. The Conga project is an extension to the Yanacocha mine, Latin America’s largest gold mine.

The Conga project faces significant opposition from the local community. War on Want works with PIC to bring together the community-based groups opposing extraction projects in Peru. PIC is internationally recognised as an example of successful anti-extractivist organising, and is leading the grassroots resistance against the Conga mine. War on Want is helping PIC to build the capacity of communities to speak out against the environmental and human rights abuses they are suffering at the hands of mining companies.

Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB)

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento de Atingidos/as per Barragems – MAB) emerged in 1991 as hundreds of families were displaced by the large-scale construction of hydroelectric dams. It’s a movement organised by the communities directly impacted by large infrastructure projects like dams, and fights the forced removal of families and the privatisation of rivers and other natural resources from which these families derive their livelihoods.

MAB not only analyses and exposes the effects of the current energy policy, but also seeks to develop an alternative structure for the energy industry. They want an energy industry based not on privatisation and profits for corporations, but on respect for water and energy resources as important elements for the promotion of human rights that must be stewarded through means of popular participation.

LSE-listed BHP Billiton owns 50% of the Samarco iron ore operation in Brazil. Samarco is an open-pit mine with 4,000 million tonnes of iron ore resources. It is exploiting itabirite, a low-grade ore. The useful mine life was estimated in 2005 at 50 years if it were to continue production at the level it reached then. But it had expanded its production in the period leading up to November 2015, when a disastrous tailings (fine wastes) dam collapse occurred. The increase in production may have been because the quality of the ore was lower than the company had previously estimated.

On 5th November 2015, the Fundão tailings dam (operated by the SAMARCO mining company) – in the Mariana District of the state of Minas Gerais in the Federal Republic of Brazil – burst, releasing a total of 45 million cubic metres of mining waste. At an altitude of about 1200 metres above sea level, the Fundão Dam was a holding structure for waste material from the processing of iron ore of the Germano Unit of the Samarco Mining Company. It was one of the megastructures of the Germano mining complex.

War on Want works with MAB to support impacted communities inhabiting the corridor of destruction and waste deposition along the Rio Doce – consisting of as many as 1.4 million people – to seek urgent action to remediate ecosystems and restore nature-related livelihoods in the face of delays by the Samarco partnership and their Renova Foundation.

The Socio-Environmental Youth Collective of Cajamarca (COSAJUCA)

Tolima, Colombia

The Socio-Environmental Youth Collective of Cajamarca (El Colectivo Socio-Ambiental Juvenil de Cajamarca – COSAJUCA) is a civil society organisation that was born in April 2007. It defends human rights with a focus on the defence of the territory as the essence of a dignified life for permanence in the territory. It develops this work based on five principles: non-violence, non-partisanship, autonomy, horizontality and environmental justice.

On the 26th March 2017, the people of Cajamarca, a municipality in Tolima, Colombia, voted with a 98% majority to ban mining in its territory.

One year on, and Cajamarca’s victory has become a beacon of hope and inspiration for many across Colombia, where the on-going peace process has failed to prevent the country becoming the second deadliest nation globally in which to be an environmental defender.

Following Cajamarca’s example, 54 municipalities across Colombia are now organising similar popular consultations, seeking to reject extractive projects in favour of unspoilt nature and sustainable livelihoods.

We work with COSAJUCA and its allies who are challenging the dominant extractivist model of development in Colombia, Latin America and globally. This process is returning decision-making power over the future of living territories to local people, who are engaging in peaceful, direct, human-scale democracy.

National Coordination for Unemployed people's Rights (NCDUR)

Ouargla, Algeria

NCDUR is a grassroots, youth-led movement of unemployed people originating in the town of Ouargla, where the community lives in poverty despite the vast oil reserves. In 2013, NCDUR mobilised tens of thousands of people in huge demonstrations for decent jobs, protesting against economic exclusion and social injustice.

Ouargla is just 85 km away from Hassi Messaoud, where Algeria’s first oil reserves were discovered. Algeria is now the third largest provider of natural gas to the European Union and Hassi Messaoud is one of the richest towns in the country. Still, that wealth only benefits the fossil fuel companies and Algeria’s ruling elite.

War on Want supports NCDUR’s development of popular education projects with unemployed youth that focuses on extractivism and economic justice.

Saharawi Campaign Against the Plunder (SCAP)

Refugee camps, Tindouf, southern Algeria

The Saharawi Campaign Against the Plunder (SCAP) is a grassroots campaign to defend Western Saharan people and natural resources from illegal exploitation by foreign entities under the Moroccan military occupation.

Based in the refugee camps in Tindouf, SCAP has organised information dissemination workshops across the occupied territories and in refugee camps to raise awareness about the plunder of natural resources and the impact this has on the continuing conflict in Western Sahara. They also work to mobilise Saharawi people to defend their rights. Since launching in February 2015, SCAP has organised more than 45 mass protests against corporate plunder. SCAP activists also document these protests to raise awareness in the region and beyond.

War on Want has supported SCAP to document and publish the scale of the plunder of natural resources in the occupied Western Sahara. This includes a catalogue of the corporations involved and where profits are tapped by the Moroccan state. We support SCAP in their legal case for the decolonisation of Western Sahara.

ATTAC/CADTM

Rabat, Morocco

ATTAC/CADTM Morocco (The Association for Taxation of Transactions and for Citizen Action/Committee for the abolition of Illegitimate Debt in Morocco) is an action-orientated, grassroots movement focused on popular education. They run educational projects on a range of issues including debt, microcredits, extractivism, workers’ rights and trade justice. They also organise spaces for critical discussion on the neocolonial influence of governments and financial institutions based in the global North. ATTAC/CADTM is part of the global network – ATTAC – which is active in 40 countries, with over a thousand local groups and hundreds of organisations supporting the network.

Morocco is a profoundly unequal society. A small elite inhabit and profit from a world of golf courses, villas and beach side resorts while much of the population lives in poverty. More than three decades of neoliberal economic restructuring and deregulation in Morocco has heavily impacted small-holder farming. Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed in the 1980s have transformed how the country produces food – many small-scale farmers have been dispossessed of their land and many have become vulnerable to price fluctuations on the market for staple foods. The result of the imposition of neoliberal economic policies on the country has been a deeply unequal society with elites living in absolute luxury and the poor having no food to eat.

ATTAC Morocco activists are deeply engaged with community struggles around food sovereignty, the impacts of globalisation and campaigning for the cancellation of the national debt. They help communities defend themselves against the erosion of workers’ rights and privatisation in public services and energy provision.

War on Want has supported ATTAC Morocco to host regional activist gatherings like the alternative conference to the COP22 climate summit in 2016, and, in December 2017, a gathering of activists from across the region to share learning and work together on trade justice and food sovereignty. We are also collaborating with them on an action-research project focused on food sovereignty.

Tunisian Observatory of Economy (TOE)

Tunis, Tunisia

The Tunisian Observatory of Economy (TOE) is a collective of young researchers and activists working on economic and environmental justice.

Following the Tunisian uprising in 2011, TOE began to raise awareness about the impoverishing and undemocratic role of international financial institutions in an attempt to shift the development model of Tunisia. From an informal network of young people analysing debt issues and campaigning for a debt audit, TOE has evolved into an organisation able to  advocate to institutional financial institutions to change their practice. TOE's experience has been strengthened by the various campaigns it has launched since it started, like the campaign for a public debt audit, and one on the stand-by agreement with the IMF in 2012. Since then, the organisation was officially established in December 2013.

TOE’s vision is of a democratic economy. Their work is focused on research and advocacy, educational workshops and the promotion of critical discussion and dialogue on economic justice issues. They work to demystify economics and challenge the notion that the economy is ‘too complicated’ for most people to understand. By doing so they help empower people to debate and influence policy at the local and national level.

War on Want is supporting TOE's project to expose the exploitation of shale gas in southern Tunisia by the Anglo-French company, Perenco. The purpose of the project is to document the political, economic, social and environmental impacts of fracking in the region of Douz. We are also working with them on a research-action project on food sovereignty in Tunisia.

Worker Empowerment (WE)

Hong Kong

Worker Empowerment (WE) is a grassroots labour organisation that has developed a community approach to engaging migrants working in industrial zones in mainland China. Based in Hong Kong, WE focuses on promoting awareness amongst workers of labour rights in a number of Chinese provinces. They organise training, cultural activities and provide practical advice and support.

Labour conditions in China have gone through significant changes over the last five years under the background of China’s rapid recovery from the 2008 global economic crisis. This crisis significantly influenced working conditions and access to jobs, with the closure or relocation of factories. It was estimated that 15% cent of China’s migrant workers, about 20 million, lost their jobs or failed to work in early 2009, since business laid off workers to reduce costs. Many migrant workers have had to return to rural areas, suffering from occupational diseases and lack of local institutional support, with few skills for rural livelihoods.

War on Want supports WE’s migrant worker centre in mainland China, which hosts educational and social activities for workers and organises an outreach program to engage workers in industrial areas. This program covers a range of issues, such as women’s rights, labour rights, how to calculate wages and how to better understand entitlements on hours and benefits.

WE has been successfully raising awareness amongst migrant workers about their labour and human rights at work, and existing pathways toward achieving decent work and improving labour conditions. This success is rooted in the work undertaken by the migrant workers’ centre at the grassroots level, where over 105,000 migrant workers have received training, legal support, outreach and education through collective cases. This is particularly significant because they are the only organisation providing these services for migrant workers in the region.

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