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Letter from the Directors

Dear Friends,

We’re probably all going to remember 2008 for a long, long time. So many of us were united in our overwhelming hope for change, articulated during the course of an election awaited and watched by the entire world.

Yes, we heard a lot about change last year, and when you spend your time documenting, analyzing, writing about, and litigating earth rights abuses like we do, change is a welcome and necessary thing.

We ended the year with a tremendous feeling of optimism for the new directions that we hoped that the United States, at least, might be taking. We experienced this sense of hope, too, in many aspects of our work: when the federal judge in our case against Shell finally, after 12 years, set a date for trial; when we saw our former students become the pioneers of a new kind of lawyering in Cambodia, establishing that country’s first public interest law firm; when our EarthRights Schools graduated two more classes of remarkable young leaders, ready to take the futures of their people and their countries into their own hands.

But in other features of our work, the change that we saw was not so positive. Fast-paced growth in the extractive and energy sectors, industrial agriculture, forced production of bio-fuel crops and massive infrastructure projects—all in the name of regional development—were not the change that local communities, indigenous peoples, and the environment really needed. China’s lightning-speed growth continued to transform the Mekong region, and it was all that we, our alumni and our colleagues could do to keep up. And of course, our loss at trial against Chevron for the company’s complicity in killing, torture, and other abuses against environmentalists in Nigeria reminded us that the deep and long-term change we seek will take hard work, commitment and a whole lot of time.

We look back on 2008 realizing the tremendous opportunities associated with any change agenda. In this historic moment we have to ask ourselves and you: How far are we willing to go to lead, influence, push, and of course be the change that we want to see in this world? The individuals and communities with whom we work with in Asia, Nigeria and the Amazon consistently take great risks for their people, their communities and their homelands. Likewise, it’s hard to think about the US election without remembering the many people who sacrificed and died for the dream that took a momentous step towards reality in 2008.

It’s an exciting time. We’ll do what we can to live up to the responsibility and the challenge. Thanks for being with us.

Ka Hsaw Wa, Katie Redford,
Chana Maung and Marie Soveroski