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In early April, the Executive Director, NAPE and the Netherlands Ambassador to Uganda went on a multi-stakeholder tour to the Oil Pal mill in Kalangala. The tour was aimed at getting key lessons for expansion of palm oil growing in other parts of the country. Palm oil is grown on a large scale on Bugala, Bubembe and Bunyama Islands in Kalangala district, and in Buvuma island in Mukono district. Now Uganda Government plans to extend the oil palm project beyond the Islands on Lake Victoria. Oilseed development around four hubs (Lira, Eastern Uganda, Gulu and West Nile) covering 43 districts, including Mpigi, Masaka, Kalungu, and Bunyoro region is in the offing.

This sounds very good in ears of government, especially when the venture has to do with increase on the country’s GDP. But to biodiversity conservationists including NAPE, the move sends chilling shock-waves especially in this error of climate uncertainty. Large monocultural establishments are associated with a host of short-comings ranging from social to ecological. Studies on impacts of Palm Oil on communities and the environment across the globe revel untold suffering of the host communities. The main issue around large-scale palm oil projects are its impact on the rural communities. Poorly xxxxx land-laws and regulations to protect the communities worsens the bad situation leading to increased social and environmental injustices.

For the case of Uganda, communities in Kalangala and its enviros were fisher folks previously, and they depended entirely on fishing for their livelihoods. With the introduction of palm oil growing, many households have been persuaded to switch from fishing and subsistence farming to growing palm oil trees. Small-holder farmers are encouraged to devote the largest portion of their farmland to palm oil gardens. This has resulted in shortage of food as households cannot grow enough food to feed their families.

To address food shortage in Kalangala, government has developed a policy on food, where every small-holder farmer is manded to reserve two acres of their land for growing food. We are yet to see if this will help to increase food production in the palm-oil growing areas of Kalangala. The stakeholder tour aimed to hear experiences of the communities on oil pal project to inform the plan for expansion of growing palm trees beyond Kalangala.   The tour included representative from IFAD, Government of Uganda, representatives from the Dutch Embassy and OPUL.

November 25 is marked as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women whichis an important date slated to begin the 16 Days of Activism, culminating in Human Rights Day on December 10.

However, women at grassroots still face violence but remain silent about it due to factors like illiteracy, poverty and vast information gap which can be sealed through sensitization.

This grassroots idea has translated into more than 5,167 organizations worldwide organizing around the 16 Days of Activism campaign in over 187 countries.

The 16 Days of Activism is all about getting involved in the community in which we live by coming together on this important issue then we begin moving forward.

It was then, that 23 female civil society leaders from all over the world decided they want to spark international action on the issue and build connections that would enable countries to work together to eliminate gender violence worldwide. 

This year’s International theme is “in Uganda, the 2018 National theme is “From peace in a Home to peace in the Nation” and in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, the activists have adopted the theme “Everyone; Everyday; Everyway-Prevent violence against women; your way.”

Under the above theme, the “UNiTE” partners are encouraged to host events with local,national,regional and global women’s movements, survivor advocates and women human rights defenders and create opportunities for dialogue between activists, policy makers and the public.

National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) Gender officer Sostine Namanya explains that the 16 days of activism is a global annual campaign challenging violence against women and girls.

Namanya says women need to be sensitized on their rights because it’s all about gender based violence including women and girls and the seed of the idea to raise awareness about violence against women and girls at the Women’s Global Leadership Institute.

“The event is vital to participate in because it enables women to be in solidarity through collective participation through responding and taking action to fight violence against women” says Namanya.

In 2017, over 700 Organizations from 92 countries took part in global campaign and at regional level, the gender based violence Prevention Network focused on the retention of women and girls in the education system and explored discrimination and experiences of violence constrain girls’ ability to remain in and benefit from the current education system.

However, members of the network urged leaders and community members to ensure girls remain in school and complete their education.

For Uganda as a country, the theme sheds light on a widespread culture that promotes acts of violence against women particularly sexual harassment and assault.

The 16 days of activism of 2018 campaign emphasizes on the prevalence of sexual violence in places of work and education institutions as circulated in the media which are deeply distressing but it calls for long-overdue reflection on the social and institutional structures that promote these acts as well as on our own actions.

This requires answers to many questions like;does sexual harassment occur in schools, Community?How can young people challenge sexist attitudes and promote equality between the sexes at school and in the community?

Why do victims of gender-based violence often remain silent about the abuse they have experienced? What can be done to help victims feel more comfortableand speak out?

Are young people equipped to deal with gender-based violence and sexual harassment? Do they have access to enough support and tools?

The questions are answered through the alliance exhibited in collective participation to fight for the rights of women during the 16 days of activism to eliminate violence against women and girlsby:-

  • Educating Community members on their responsibilities under Internal and National human rights law.
  • Strengthening women’s ability to earn money and support their households by providing skills-training for women.
  • Promote peaceful resolution of disputes by including the perspectives of women and girls.

However, the rural women are in solidarity with other women who want to fight for their rights given that there is collective power to mobilize in the face of violence because most women are empowered through advocacy to speak up against violence.

Lucy Ongera from Rwamutonga village in Bugambe sub-county, Hoima district says many women face violence in their homes but still remain silent due to poverty, illiteracy and lack of information channels to seek help in the fight against violence.

According to Esther Abigaba from kitegwa village in Buseruka sub-county, one of the areas affected by the Oil refinery project in Hoima district, women at the grassroots really need empowerment because there are some women within the communities who cannot speak up despite existence of programs that advocate for their rights.

“Gone are the days when women were violated against and remain silent but there is widespread advocacy through emancipation hence together, we can speak up and fight for our rights”says Abigaba.

Beatrice Rukanyangaa National Feminist steering committee member clarifies that women and girls are discriminated and violated against because there are weak laws governing the vice but emphasis should be put on creating Laws that protect discrimination and violence against them.

“There are existing laws against violent acts like rape, assault, verbal abuse, torture and others need to be enforced because the laws are very weak” Rukanyanga said.

Regarding the 2018 Activism campaign, Human rights defenders believe that, Gender based violence and discrimination can be eliminated though encouraging women to participate in the political process and educating the public about the value of women’s votes.

Apart from the above, raising public awareness of the poor conditions’ grassroots women face in rural areas is vital and also highlighting the value of girls’ education and women’s participation in economic development.

Story Compiled by Dorcus Drijaru

Assistant News Editor, Community Green Radio

Representatives of a broad range of African civil society organizations (CSOs) attending the 14th UN Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP14) are demanding that multinationals stop destroying the planet by engaging in destructive activities such as mining of fossil fuels, agribusiness, chemicals, timber etc.  Africa is now grappling with the threats from basic genetic engineering and associated agro-toxics and do not even have experience or capacity for basic regulation of the risks for those first-generation genetic technologies, let alone synbio and GDOs. sadly, multinational companies are backed by some African elites and governments.

The UN Biodiversity Conference will be held from 13 - 29 November 2018 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The Conference of the Parties is the governing body of the Convention, and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings.

The UN Biodiversity Conference includes the meetings of the governing bodies of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its protocols as well a number of parallel fora and summit meetings. It comprises the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the ninth meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety and the third meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing, as well as the high-level segment of these meetings.

In addition, on the margins of the UN Biodiversity Conference, pledges and commitments in support of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 will be made by governments, business, NGOs and intergovernmental organizations, cities and subnational authorities, indigenous peoples and local communities, youth and civil society.

The United Nations will call on decision makers from more than 190 countries to step up efforts to halt the biodiversity loss and protect the ecosystems that support food and water security and health for billions of people. 

During the conference, the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Egypt and China have launched an action agenda for nature and people to catalyze actions in support of biodiversity conservation and its sustainable use. The agenda aims to support achievement of the CBD’s Vision of Living in Harmony with Nature by 2050.

Conceived as a practical tool for translating the principles of Agenda 21 into reality, the Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and microorganisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live. However, this is not the case today. Multinational companies, backed by some elites from developing countries including some African nations are destroying our only planet, threatening lives of millions.

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