We entered our twentieth year with big announcements – a settlement in our lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum for alleged widespread poisoning caused by oil contamination in the Peruvian Amazon and a settlement for victims of sexual violence perpetrated by security guards at a Papua New Guinea gold mine owned by Barrick Gold Corporation.
We are honored to stand with indigenous and marginalized people using litigation and other legal mechanisms, as well as capacity building tools to strengthen campaigns which address the negative impacts of rapid industrial development and rampant foreign investment.
Growing and strengthening local, regional, and global connections has been a hallmark of ERI’s 20-year history, and 2015 was no different. In Peru, we brought together lawyers and legal advocates, most of them indigenous, from Latin American communities for a first of its kind legal seminar. Our U.S.-based legal team supported public interest lawyers and their clients around the world by successfully using Foreign Legal Assistance (FLA) discovery actions to obtain valuable evidence from U.S. corporations. In the Mekong region, we facilitated transboundary collaboration between local groups and EarthRights School alumni campaigning around industrial development projects that threaten lands, livelihoods, and precious ecosystems.
We continue to facilitate opportunities for local people to enter in dialogues with the corporations and governments who make decisions about projects that directly impact their lives and environments. During the past year, these opportunities resulted in powerful moments and sent clear messages to those who traditionally occupy the halls of power. From Myanmar, a member of the Thilawa community joined us at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva to share his experience with Special Economic Zone development. From Ecuador, we helped bring a group of indigenous women earth rights defenders to Washington D.C. to speak at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights on their struggle to protect the Amazon rainforest in the face of extractive industries. And, in a move that reinforces ERI’s commitment to assist vulnerable communities in seeking accountability from the world’s most powerful institutions, we sued the IFC, the World Bank’s private lending arm, on behalf of fishing communities in Gujarat, India for irresponsible investment in a coal-fired power plant.
The successes and momentum of the last year cannot be celebrated in ignorance of the troubling trend of violence and harassment towards courageous earth rights defenders around the globe. In 2015, arbitrary arrests and acts of despicable violence were deeply felt among our partners in the Amazon and Mekong regions. We will continue to condemn these violations as we work to open safe space for advocates and activists in the farthest corners of the world to speak out against abuses of human rights and defend their environments.
At this particularly significant moment in our history as an organization, we are more humbled than ever by the vibrant and dedicated community of support that has sustained the ERI mission and vision for two decades. As always, thank you for standing with us.
Katie & Ka Hsaw Wa