Posts Tagged ‘Indigenous Rights Risk Report’

Mar31

The Corruption of Keystone: Congressional Permits to Drill Don’t Change Public Opinion

This article has been reposted from Truth-Out.org. The article was originally published on March 27, 2015.
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signs the Keystone XL Pipeline bill during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 13, 2015. The bill was sent to President Obama, who vetoed it. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times).

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signs the Keystone XL Pipeline bill during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 13, 2015. The bill was sent to President Obama, who vetoed it. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times).

By Rebecca Adamson

When TransCanada Corporation announced its plans for a Keystone XL pipeline expansion project in 2008, the company projected capital costs to be $4.3 billion for the entire project. After 6 years of waiting for US executive approval, including countless congressional votes, a Nebraska Supreme Court case and a president who has yet to budge, TransCanada increased estimated capital investments for the pipeline another $2.5 billion. The reason? “Lengthy delays,” undoubtedly exacerbated by community protests and opposition from environmental and social interest groups.

One of the loudest proponents of pipeline opposition, and arguably the most vulnerable, are North America’s Indigenous Peoples. For extractive companies, indigenous lands are one and the same with their profit source – approximately 30 percent of current extractive production is located on indigenous lands, along with an approximated 60 percent of future reserves. For indigenous communities, the presence of corporations in indigenous territories, regardless of consent, is fraught with social costs – extractive projects often threaten indigenous cultural practices, sacred sites and subsistence livelihoods. Corporations must be held accountable for the losses they impose on indigenous assets.

And in some ways, they have been held accountable. Social responsibility has been on the corporate radar for over a decade now, thanks to NGOs, student movements, protests and the legal system holding corporations morally accountable for their actions.

One major missing link in demanding corporate accountability: the government. Surprisingly Congress, meant to be the biggest advocate of the American public, has transcended silence on the pipeline to promote active pursuit of exploration and drilling permits. Our entitled government has taken it upon itself to grant TransCanada a social license to operate, as though it were another pithy “ye” or “nay” vote interrupting their afternoon nap.

Congress cannot grant a social license for the Keystone XL pipeline – the only people who can grant a social license to operate is the American public, the local communities and stakeholders affected by the project. Moreover, Congressional permits shoved down the American publics’ throats won’t change their opinion of the pipeline. Congress needs to realize that a social license to operate, much like a congressional mandate to lead, comes from Main Street – not Wall Street.

There is no way to gloss this over as Congress acting “for the common good.”When governments make decisions without citizens’ consent or support, including those of indigenous peoples’, they hurt the businesses within their borders. A recent report from First Peoples Worldwide found that governments that failed to recognize Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) or respect indigenous rights hosted extractive projects at the highest risk of community protests, work stoppages and inevitable profit loss. This is becoming increasingly evident in Canada, Indonesia, Ecuador, Peru and other emerging resource economies.

In 2013, a consortium of Canadian leaders (including industry representatives) warned that Canada is “heading for a gridlock in energy development that will rob the country of future wealth unless it can solve vexing environmental and Aboriginal conflicts.” Indonesia has become saturated with violent resource conflicts, with more than 2,230 indigenous communities requesting investigations into violations of their land rights. Also in 2013, auctions for oil and gas concessions in Ecuador and Peru encountered both vehement opposition from indigenous peoples and “underwhelming” interest from companies – raising speculation that the indigenous protests influenced companies’ decisions.

It’s a simple formula to understand – when a government doesn’t listen to its people, protests happen. Protests around extractive projects cause work stoppages and overrun budgets for companies like TransCanada, which is spending an extra $2.5 billion on its “delayed,” and heavily protested, Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline debate is not about climate change, oil independence, or increased jobs – it’s about government corruption. A government that overruns its peoples’ lands by granting eminent domain to corporations is the same government that causes civil unrest, corruption, violence and therefore high risk for companies. Without a social license, TransCanada Corporation faces a future of continued protests, site closures and diminished shareholder ratings – ultimately amounting to profit loss. The American public’s opposition to the pipeline is going to keep costing TransCanada, regardless of whether or not Congress grants the necessary permits, or even if the State Department signs off on the project. When both governments and extractive industries lack a social license to operate, it’s a lose-lose game.

 

Rebecca Adamson is a Cherokee economist and the founder and president of First Peoples Worldwide. A leader, activist and ground-breaking Indigenous woman, she has dedicated nearly five decades to the Indigenous movement, both in the US and globally.

Mar05

Rape, Sex Trafficking, and the Bottom Line: Corporations’ Complicity in Violence Against Women

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

By Katie Cheney

On January 17, 2007, 9 men entered the temporary home of Rosa Elbira Coc Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi woman in Guatemala. 12 days earlier, Rosa and her family had been forcibly evicted from their home – now, she faced a second eviction, as hundreds of policemen, military, and security workers entered the settlement. After pointing a gun to her head, these 9 officials – one by one – proceeded to rape Rosa. They followed suit with 10 more Mayan Q’eqchi’ women in the community.

Gender-based violence is considered a pandemic by the United Nations, as 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women and girls are victims of violence at the hands of their partners, family members, communities, and governments – and now, increasingly, the private sector.

The officials that entered Rosa’s settlement allegedly did so based on a land dispute, between the Fenix mine, then owned by Skye Resources, and the Q’eqchi’ Mayan community of El Estor, Guatemala. The community claims the land on which the mine sits as their Indigenous territory, and has argued that the land concession was granted without the community’s consultation or consent. Skye Resources allegedly hired security officers to “guard” the mine against the local community – the same security officers that carried out the evictions and rapes in El Estor In 2007.

On March 28, 2011, the 11 Q’eqchi rape survivors filed a lawsuit in Ontario’s Superior Court against Hudbay Minerals, which acquired Skye Resources in 2008. It is the first time a Canadian court is hearing a case against a Canadian mining company for overseas human rights abuses. The company is also facing lawsuits from the El Estor community for shootings in 2009 that left one man dead and another paralyzed, investigations into which are ongoing in Guatemala. Hudbay Minerals has denied all allegations against them, saying they are “without merit”, and has vowed to “vigorously defend itself” against the allegations of rape. The company’s stance on its former operations in Guatemala can be accessed on its website.

Rape: A Weapon of Corporate Warfare

In 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited CEO’s and Corporate Executives the world over to join in the fight to end violence against women and girls – but what about corporations that are perpetrating, and at the very least permitting, violence against women?

Over the past decade, more and more cases of corporations complicit in violence against women have surfaced across the globe, particularly in the extractive industry. Anvil Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo provided transportation (planes and vehicles) to the Congolese Armed Forces as they raped and tortured civilians near Anvil’s Dikulushi copper mine. Unocal Oil Corporation was sued for permitting (and arguably encouraging) rape, slave labor, murder, and forced displacement during the constructing of their gas pipeline in Burma. Royal Dutch Shell Oil is infamous for suppressing protests against their operations in Nigeria in the early 1990s, during which the military systematically targeted Ogoni villages, murdering, looting, and raping Ogoni women – on behalf of Shell’s operations.

An overwhelming number of lawsuits against extractive corporations that cite human rights abuses include rape and sexual assault of women. Rape has been used as a weapon of war for centuries, and was deemed a war crime in 1998 as a result of the Rwandan genocide. According to UNICEF, “Sexual violation of women erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can. Rape’s damage can be devastating because of the strong communal reaction to the violation and pain stamped on entire families. The harm inflicted in such cases on a woman by a rapist is an attack on her family and culture, as in many societies women are viewed as repositories of a community’s cultural and spiritual values.” Albeit on a smaller scale, corporations are waging wars against communities, and using sexual violence as a weapon.

 

Bakken: the Sex Trafficking Boom

While many of these cases happen internationally, extractive corporations have not excluded the United States from this trend of gender-based human rights abuses. The Bakken oil formation in North Dakota has boomed – over the past five years, it has increased daily production of oil from 200,000 barrels to 1.1 million barrels, becoming the second most oil-productive state in the country. Thousands of highly-paid workers have flocked to the region, settling in “man camps” that encroach upon the Native American Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation. The combined influx of cash and oil workers has sparked a considerable crime wave – crime has tripled on the reservation in the past 2 years, including murders, aggravated assaults, rapes, and robberies – 90% of which are drug related. Most alarmingly, a burgeoning illegal sex trade in the region has put Native American women hugely at risk to sex trafficking.

The trafficking of Native American women started in the colonial era, and has not abated – many major sex trafficking centers in North America are in cities in proximity to First Nations reserves, Indian Reservations, and Alaskan Native communities. Of female trafficking victims in the U.S., Native American women are disproportionately over-represented – in Anchorage, 33% of the women arrested for prostitution were Alaska Native, yet Alaska Natives make up only 7.9% of the population. In Canada, researchers have found that 90% of children in the sex trade were Native, and First Nations women and youth represent between 70 and 90% of the visible sex trade in areas where the Aboriginal population is less than 10%.

Reports of Native American women and girls being trafficked to the Bakken has put the Three Affiliated Tribes community on high alert – according to Sadie Bird, director of the Fort Berthold Coalition Against Violence, “We’re in crisis mode, all the time, trying to figure out…these new crises that are coming to us that we never thought we’d have to worry about. No one was prepared for any of this.” While trafficking has been a concern among Native populations in Minnesota and North Dakota for a long time, what’s unique about the spike in sex trafficking in the Bakken is its source of fuel – the oil workers.

How have companies operating in the Bakken responded to this trend? They haven’t. Companies including Apache, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Hess have taken zero responsibility for their workers’ collusion in the growing sex trade, increased drug violence, and general crime wave in Fort Berthold over the past two years, let alone the rest of the Bakken region.

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]

 

Zero Corporate Social Responsibility

There is no indication that companies are having any substantive conversations about the impacts of their operations in the Bakken region. This trend of neglecting social risks, as companies in the Bakken have done repeatedly, has permeated corporate interactions with the communities they impact across the globe.

In the example of the Hudbay Minerals case in Guatemala, the company could have avoided its current legal challenges, had it given stronger attention to the social risks involved with acquiring Skye Resources. Despite making a number of community investments (link), the company remains exposed to financial, legal, and reputational risks related to the actions of its predecessor in the concession.

Hudbay is not the only one with poor social risk management. First Peoples Worldwide’s Indigenous Rights Risk Report found that only 8% of U.S. oil, gas, and mining companies have operating policies that address human rights or community relations. According to the report, virtually all communities that host or are proximate to extractive projects are unprotected from the project’s potential negative impacts – as we’ve seen, given case after case of corporate abuses against women.

 

The Price of Cooperation

Corporations can’t get much worse than perpetrating violence against women – except when they attempt to bribe their victims to keep quiet. Barrick Gold’s Porgera gold mine has produced more than 16 million ounces of gold since 1990, an amount equivalent to about US$20 billion today. To protect the mine, Barrick employed a private security force of nearly 450 personnel, who also monitor the mine’s waste dumps. Hundreds of local people scour the waste dumps daily in search of minute traces of gold, at the risk of arrest by the company’s security officers.

At least 170 women have allegedly been raped at the Porgera mine as of 2013, by those same security officers employed by Barrick Gold. A report from Human Rights Watch recounts horrifying stories of gang rape and physical abuse, in the name of “protecting” the waste dumps from illegal mining. Many women reported that after they were arrested, they were given a choice between gang rape or going to prison and paying fines. Several were raped regardless of their choice to go to prison.

It allegedly took Barrick Gold 5 years to acknowledge the rapes. In 2013, the company set up a grievance process at the mine site to receive complaints from the rape victims – allegedly forcing women to return to the site of their attack. In Barrick Gold’s remediation strategy, if womens’ reports of rape were validated by the company’s complaints process, they qualified to receive a benefits package – on the condition that “the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against [Barrick Gold or its subsidiaries] in or outside of [Papua New Guinea].” Barrick Gold’s conditional remediation package, including items such as access to counseling and micro-credit, is an appallingly inhuman response to the rape of 170 women.

Not surprisingly, a chillingly similar case occurred at Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania, where police and security guards sexually assaulted 14 women, originally arrested for also scouring waste dumps for tiny bits of gold. This is in addition to allegations that security police at the North Mara mine killed six local villagers and injured many more.

Barrick Gold has repeatedly made systemic failures in both recognizing and addressing the social risks of their mining operations, and at this point, hundreds of people have faced sexual assault and violence because of it.

 

Corporate Warfare

Imagine if we were to add Barrick’s number of rape victims to those attributed to Hudbay Minerals, Shell, Anvil Mining, and Unocal Oil. Then, we accounted for every sex trafficking victim in the Bakken, whose exploitation was supported by various extractive corporations’ employees. To be thorough, we add in the number of murder, torture, and assault victims linked to corporate abuses. War has traditionally been defined as conflict between political entities – yet if we consider corporations collectively, is their accumulation of victims and use of force not increasingly similar to warfare?

Account after account of gender-based violence is adding up to a war – waged by corporations, against women. Their weapon of choice: rape, sex trafficking, and violence, all for the sake of the bottom line.

 

Feb27

How We Make Progress, How We Have Change: Rebecca Adamson

Reposted from the Cultural Survival Quarterly

By Agnes Portalewska

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Her voice reflects her passion. Her work reflects her commitment. Her legacy is an inspiration for many. Rebecca Adamson (Cherokee) is a businessperson and Indigenous rights advocate. She is the former director, president, and founder of First Nations Development Institute and the founder of First Peoples Worldwide. Born to a Swedish-American father and a Cherokee mother, Adamson grew up in Akron, Ohio and spent summers with her Cherokee grandmother in North Carolina. Reflecting on these early years, she says, “My journey and my vision has been driven by knowing we could solve our own problems and really wanting to listen to the ways our cultures helped us and supported our problem solving.”

Early in her career Adamson was hired by the coalition of five Indian Controlled Schools in the country. As she tells it, “the schools sued [then-President] Nixon to release the Title IV Indian Education funds. Title IV provided funds for parental involvement, among other things.” With the release of that money, the Coalition of Indian Controlled Schools were able to help tribes start their own schools. “All of this dovetailed into the Indian Education Self Determination Act. After they won and then they hired me, and I got to work in our communities, and it was amazing.” She also worked to get the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 passed, giving tribes authority for how they administered the funds.

Adamson’s background was in philosophy, a field she entered with “an undying belief that as Indigenous Peoples, we needed our own models. People constantly look at our systems and they talk about them being quaint. We get pushed back on two things: one is that the principles that I call ‘fundamental design principles’ are called romantic notions in Western thinking. But then they get caught up thinking that we’re saying individual Indians are better than individual Westerners. Both of those are just wrong. We [have] built systems that actually incentivize the good behavior.”

Later, as she pursued a graduate degree in economics and “began really looking into the finances of it,” she says, “what really hit me was how all the models that we were taking out into our communities carried Western values—they weren’t our values. So I thought if we had a development process that really listened and brought the technical and the resources together with the brilliant thinking and problemsolving of Indigenous peoples, we would get new models.” This is how the idea for First Nations Development Institute was born in 1980.

Initially, the primary purpose of First Nations Development Institute was to create a development process for Native people to do their own problem solving. The Institute created the land consolidation model, the tribal investment model, marketing, arts, food sovereignty, traditional food processes, agriculture, and the first micro-loan fund in the United States. The first 15 years were devoted to exploring Indigenous economics domestically, and the Institute began global outreach in 1994. Their first international field project grew into First Peoples Worldwide.

Since 2007, First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund has awarded nearly $1.5 million to Indigenous communities around the world representing 427 Indigenous groups in 53 countries. “Making that international transition has been extremely rewarding,” Adamson says. “It is magnitudes more difficult, more violent, and more discriminatory internationally, with what other Indigenous groups are facing. The grants are really what bring the energy and excitement and the heartbeat into our work.” She adds that the fund has supported projects that are “really struggling in dealing with huge global corporations and the pressure of being surrounded by the extractive industries and the governments that want the resources. In those cases we may be the only funder out there that is funding our communities to make their own decisions. One-third of our grantmaking portfolio had never had funding before. So we’re building those links back up to national and international groups so that we build that political machinery, bit by bit.”

For Adamson, getting corporations and governments to respect Indigenous rights requires a multipronged approach. “In the long run I think the activist groups keep the heat on. Social media has absolutely been bringing attention to it. If corporations want to manage by headlines, we’ve got to get them headlines. The activist groups are doing good work on that. Legal and rights groups are trying to get legal precedents set. What hasn’t really been approached in all this is the market. That’s why First Peoples Worldwide did the Indigenous Rights Risk Report (see page 14), to try to get one more strategic tool out there that we could all use. I think it really will bring more power and augment what we’ve already got underway,” she says.

Forward progress, however, isn’t always linear: “We don’t have a silver bullet anywhere. We could win a court case and the government decides not to uphold it. We could win an activist and media campaign, and as soon as the headlines die down they turn around and do it again. We make progress and then we slide back. [But] that is how we make progress and that is how we have change. “

After concluding its risk assessment of US-based extractive companies, First Peoples Worldwide is now turning its attention to Canada; Adamson estimates that about 70 percent of the global equity capital financing oil, gas, and mining comes from the Canadian exchange. “What we hope to do is bring the Indigenous groups in areas where we’re researching together with the other groups in the areas we’ve already researched. That’s the idea, to really start sharing this information among ourselves,” she says.

To aid in this information sharing, First Peoples Worldwide is currently developing curriculum on shareholder advocacy and planning to organize Indigenous shareholder advocacy leadership training centers in Indigenous areas where resource extraction is rampant. “We are organizing these centers so that our people in those places have the accountability they need to really negotiate and control their destinies with these corporations and with the government,” she explains.

Getting resources and information to the grassroots is a must for Adamson. “Real successes have been primarily [achieved] by us, by Indigenous people. We’ve got thousands of grassroots groups out there, and we need to be able to link them with the international and national groups. We have an ability to build the political machinery globally that we need to achieve change. We need more local capacity. Funders right now tend to build somebody else’s capacity, to study us, to work for us, to be an intermediary with us, but never fund us.” She cites the adoption of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a prime example: “We saw hundreds of thousands of dollars going out to non-Indigenous groups to do FPIC studies. The Indigenous groups are the ones having to figure out how to implement it, and yet all of the resources went to other folks to study us in doing it.”

Adamson believes that Canada, at the epicenter of so many protests and recent controversies around FPIC and Indigenous rights, “is really the microcosm of all of this. What the First Nations have made [Prime Minister] Harper’s administration understand is they can stop his resource development agenda.” She also points to the Amazon region, which “has had the lowest bids on concessions in its history,” a cause she attributes directly to protests and work stoppages. “We can stop the production and the extraction of these resources and get heard, but it’s a path that could lead to violence, which in many cases has been a struggle for our lives,” she says.

As the First Peoples’ risk report illustrates, in-country risk is one of the biggest drivers of corporate risk. “Corporations want to go to where there’s the least risk, and if it’s working with us, we can be at the table directing the government to title our land, uphold our rights,” Adamson says. “We are finding out through the risk report that it’s good business when countries uphold Indigenous rights. My hope is that we can get the results into the market quicker; that we can prove that countries that want economic performance have to uphold our rights to get it, and companies that want profit have to uphold our rights to get the profit. We’ve got to get that message out more and more.”

Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about. To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.

Feb24

Mount Polley Mine: ‘Indigenous Law’ Will Now Be Enforced

This article has been reposted from Triple Pundit, originally published February 23, 2015

By Jan Lee

The negative effects of extractive industry operations on indigenous communities have been obvious for quite some time.

Studies show that the rights of Native communities are often at risk in such settings, especially when hydraulic fracturing and other crude oil-related developments are being operated on or near their lands.

What is often less reported however, are the dangers that Native peoples face from overlooked mechanical or structural failures where materials or waste compounds are stored in remote areas.

Images from NASA showcase the contaminated water that surged from the bright blue retention basin into nearby lakes when the mine collapsed. [photo credit: Triple Pundit]

Images from NASA showcase the contaminated water that surged from the bright blue retention basin into nearby lakes when the mine collapsed. [photo credit: Triple Pundit]

Mount Polley: Canada’s Worst Mining Spill

That danger was illumined in brutal clarity last August when a tailings pond in British Columbia, Canada failed, spewing 2.5 billion gallons of waste into nearby waterways. The Mount Polley Mine, located in B.C.’s vibrant Cariboo region sits amidst the province’s Fraser River watershed, an essential resource not only to the Vancouver Mainland, but to the Neskonlith Indian Band and nearby towns of the Cariboo. First Nations communities along the Fraser River and its tributaries depend on the rivers and lakes for food, water and livelihood. In many cases, access and the right to manage those resources are protected by treaty or another type of agreement with the government. In this case, sovereign rights of the Secwepemc First Nation (Shuswap First Nation in English), which includes the Neskonlith band, are protected through a reconciliation agreement with the Province of British Columbia.

The spill, reported to be the largest industrial accident of its kind in Canadian history, flowed into nearby waterways, polluting Polley Lake and creating a four-month-long drinking ban for local communities. Cleanup was estimated to cost $200 million.

This January, the results of the first of three investigations into the spill was released. The fact that the spill was caused by a failure of the pond’s earthen containment wall was visually evident from aerial photos. But the assessment of what caused the breach sent a chilling wake-up call to Native communities situated around North American ore mining sites.

“[The] dominant contribution to the failure resides in the design,” said the three-expert panel charged with determining the reason for the breach. “The design did not take into
account the complexity of the sub-glacial and pre-glacial geological environment” below the dam, which breached when stresses underneath it changed. For unknown reasons, the structural design for the containment pond had been changed at the last minute to an option that appears to have been “flawed.” The loading conditions of the pond didn’t take into consideration geological factors that would be essential to the long-term integrity of the containment walls. When the wall collapsed, the breach was sudden and unstoppable, creating a swath of heavy metals, mud and debris that penetrated nearby water systems.

Even before the cause of the breach was known, Native communities in other parts of the province began to speak out against mining operations on their lands.

“The spill’s ramifications rippled to Imperial’s Red Chris mine in northern BC, where elders from the Tahltan Central Council (with whom the company previously had a positive working relationship) established a blockade to voice their concerns about the potential of a similar incident in their territories,” stated First Peoples Worldwide in their Corporate Monitor post last September. In order to continue operations, the company was forced to sign an agreement that would allow third-party inspection of the operation under the band’s auspices.

Similar concerns were voiced in other parts of western Canada as well. In July, just days before the dam broke, Toronto-based Seabridge Gold obtained environmental certificate for its $42 billion KSM mining operation at the northwest corner of B.C. Weeks later, with news of the breach still in international spotlight, KSM bowed to pressure to allow third-party oversight for the life of the operation. Geologic studies suggest that the area possesses the same sub-glacial mining risks as the Mount Polley mine.

New Mining Policies for First Nations’ Lands

The provincial government has since delayed the release of the final report until 2017. The announcement, along with revelations of the avoidable cause of the breach, only heightened the frustration of Native communities in B.C.

Realizing that it would be essentially powerless to prevent any similar disasters without a conclusive report that could spur the industry and province into remedial action, the Secwepemc took what some might feel was a bold step: It invoked its rights as a sovereign First Nation of Canada and evicted Imperial Metals from its land. It also announced that it now had mining policies of its own, and would enforce from hereafter.

”One thing I want to make perfectly clear is this policy isn’t a wish-list,” said Jacinda Mack when the policies were announced. Mack serves as the the council coordinator for the Secwepemc Nation. “This is Indigenous law.”

The 55-page document spells out in specific terms the responsibilities of the mining company and the rights of the First Nation to oversee and enforce those guidelines. It invokes the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights to define the Native peoples’ right to “determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.” It also defines its right to close the mine and evict mining companies as it sees fit.

The policies were developed by a third party, the Fair Mining Collaborative, and is now available to all First Nation communities facing the question of mining on their lands.

“Indigenous rights can be defined as “flowing from Indigenous peoples’ historic and sacred relationship with their territories,” says Fair Mining Collaborative.  “These rights are derived from Indigenous laws, cultural practices, customs, and forms of governance.”

Chief Bev Sellars of the Soda Creek Band, which was affected by the tailings pond breach, explained the reason for the policies in more concrete terms. “Since mining arrived in BC First Nations have been ignored and imposed upon,” she stated in an interview with Canadian publication The Tyee. “With this mining policy we can no longer be ignored or imposed upon, and the province and industry can no longer claim they do not know how to work with us …”

Tailing Ponds Risks: A Worldwide Issue

According to studies released by the Center for Science in Public Participation and Earthworks, the conditions that affect the Mount Polley and KSM mining sites aren’t limited to British Columbia.

“There are 839 tailings dams in the United States and approximately 3,500 around the world, according the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the United Nations, respectively,” the organizations announced in a press release in February. There is currently no international oversight of such mines.

There also aren’t uniform laws protecting Aboriginal rights when it comes to mining operations. First Peoples Worldwide’s 2014 study of extractive industry operations around the world last fall illumined numerous gaps in international policies when it came to indigenous communities and their rights to water, food and other resources when it comes to mining operations.

“Our Indigenous Rights Risk Report identified 73 mining projects on or near Indigenous Peoples lands globally, of which 17 are on or near Native American lands in the U.S.,” said a spokeperson for First Peoples.

It is worth noting that while last fall’s assessment of U.S. mining operations near or on Native American lands suggested that their residents experience less risk from mining operations than in Canada, Native American rights are not necessarily as far-reaching as in Canada. The path to nation sovereignty and community oversight of mining operations is often slower in the U.S., where some Native American populations are still battling the courts regarding environmental justice and climate justice issues.

Mount Polley: Climate Change?

There are numerous takeaway lessons that can be extracted from the Mount Polley catastrophe. While it is geographically more than a thousand miles from Alberta’s Tar Sands, Mount Polley mirrors the very type of environmental disaster that ecologists feared would occur if the Embridge Pipeline were constructed across the watershed. The provincial government turned down the controversial oil pipeline two years earlier because it said it feared among other things, that the pipeline would put this breadbasket of resources at risk. It cited insufficient protections to ensure a spill of far-reaching potential wouldn’t occur. The initial report on the Mount Polley disaster suggests that far-reaching environmental spills can still occur in industries that have prevailed for years and settings that are actively managed, just as they can miles of pipeline that cross desolate terrain.

One question that the report did not address is why there was a shifting of the sub-glacial formation. It is to be assumed that such change can occur over years as a part of the natural ecology of the area, but was this unexpected shift due to melting of glacial formations, and could it be related to climate change? Is this why it occurred at the peak of the Cariboo’s warm weather, and is it a risk we’ll see again with the Northwest’s increasingly warmer and drier summer landscapes? The next two reports aren’t meant to address geologic factors, but with the lessons of the Mount Polley Mine disaster now at hand, and concerns about climate change that is increasing the prevalence of warmer temps, perhaps these are questions worth asking.

To learn more about Triple Pundit, visit their website.

 

 

Feb02

Human Trafficking in the Bakken

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A spike in human trafficking can be added to the long list of hazards brought to the Fort Berthold Reservation by the Bakken oil boom. The combined influx of cash and oil workers has created a burgeoning illegal sex trade, to which Native American women are “hugely at risk.” There is no indication that companies operating in the region are supporting efforts to combat this trend.

Although ESG risk management in the Bakken is lacking in many departments, social risks appear to be an especially blaring blind spot. While some companies in the region are making efforts to reduce flaring and improve transparency, few, if any, substantive conversations are taking place about social impacts. First Peoples Worldwide’s Indigenous Rights Risk Report found that 48 out of 52 oil, gas, and mining companies do not address social risks at the board level in any formal capacity, and the continual surfacing of stories like this reflects the impacts this has on daily corporate management.

Sources: Bismarck Tribune

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Jan16

At A Loss: The Unmentioned Social Risks of Keystone XL Approval

Ignoring public opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline is a lose-lose for the US Government and TransCanada Corporation

[photo credit: IVN.us]

[photo credit: IVN.us]

Washington, DC – Protests of the Keystone XL Pipeline over the past two years have sent a clear message to the U.S. Government – a message that Congress persistently ignored as pro-pipeline legislation progressed toward the White House this week. By voting for the Pipeline, Congress is creating a volatile business environment for extractive companies, which ultimately has and will cause profit loss for corporations like TransCanada. Indeed, TransCanada Corporation has already increased estimated capital investments for the Pipeline by $2.5 billion since 2008 due to “lengthy delays”, many of which were caused by community protests and opposition from environmental groups. A recent study by First Peoples Worldwide found that governments that ignore public concerns over resource extraction (the U.S. not excluded) foster community opposition and protests, which in turn increase site closures, production costs, and damaged reputations. The Keystone XL Pipeline is a lose-lose for communities, corporations, and the U.S. government.

Arguments for the Keystone XL Pipeline claim that it will create jobs, increase domestic oil supply and lower gas prices. President Obama’s biggest argument against the Pipeline is the opposite: “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

However, congressional approval for the Pipeline is a moot point as long as TransCanada Corporation lacks a social license to operate, or the acceptance of the project by local communities and affected stakeholders. Without a social license, TransCanada Corporation faces a future of continued protests, site closures, and diminished shareholder ratings – ultimately amounting to profit loss. Ernst and Young rate the “social license to operate” as one of the top three business risks to the extractive industry sector, citing that “the frequency and number of projects being delayed or stopped due to community and environmental activists continues to rise.”

What’s more, the recently published Indigenous Rights Risk Report shows that extractive companies couldn’t care less about the communities their projects affect – only 6% of publicly-held US oil, gas and mining companies utilize adequate risk management tools when working with communities. Moreover, only 8% of extractive companies implement any policy that remotely addresses community relations or human rights. At this rate, TransCanada has two options: either expect profit loss due to community opposition, or adjust their community engagement policies.

As long as protests continue, a social license to operate won’t materialize – and there is no end in sight for community opposition to this project. Recently, the Sioux tribe of South Dakota vowed to close their reservation’s borders, through which the Pipeline is set to run, if construction is approved. Right before the Senate vote on November 18, environmental activists installed an inflatable pipeline in Senator Mary Landrieu’s yard, one of the most outspoken proponents for the Pipeline. The First Nations-led Idle No More movement in Canada has been protesting the Pipeline north of the border for nearly two years. Those that would be directly affected by construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, including landowners and ranchers, are some of its strongest opponents – and the most systematically ignored by both Congress and TransCanada.

TransCanada severely underestimated social costs on the front end of the project, taking a reactive rather than proactive approach to community opposition – which has resulted in a $2.5 billion dollar loss before the project has even started.

At the same time, Congress’ pro-Pipeline votes have been little help – governments that ignore public concerns over resource extraction and suppress democratic systems for participation in resource decisions create a dead-end for extractive companies, whether operating in Canada, Nigeria, or the United States. Bad governance is bad for business – governments and corporations alike must start respecting communities and their right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) when working with extractive industries.

For media inquiries, contact Katie Cheney at communications@firstpeoples.org

Jan05

World Bank Incentivizes Governments to Violate UNDRIP

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticized the World Bank’s draft Safeguard Policies for “going out of their way to avoid any meaningful references to human rights.” Among its criticisms is the fact that the safeguards now require Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) from Indigenous Peoples, but “it is not clear whether the processes prescribed…to obtain such consent meet the standards required by international human rights laws.” Furthermore, the safeguards enable borrowers to “opt out” of the FPIC requirement, ostensibly to “facilitate projects in countries where the existence or the notion of Indigenous Peoples is contested. However, the ability of borrower countries to effectively choose whether or not to recognize Indigenous Peoples appears incompatible with the fundamental purpose of UNDRIP…[and] may also undermine progress achieved in recognizing and implementing the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples in certain regions of the world.”

By proposing weaker lending criteria for countries that do not recognize Indigenous Peoples, the Bank is incentivizing governments to violate UNDRIP. This has serious consequences not only for Indigenous Peoples, but for companies with investments in emerging markets, as the Indigenous Rights Risk Report demonstrates an unmistakable correlation between Country Risk and risk to the private sector.

 

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Dec19

Indigenous Rights Risk Report Quantifies Social Risks of Extractive Companies

Reposted from Cultural Survival, originally published December 15, 2014

By Madeline McGill

Further complications between extraction industries and Indigenous Peoples have been unveiled in a new report published by First Peoples Worldwide. The report, The Indigenous Rights Risk Report: How Violating Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Increases Industry Risks, found that U.S. extractive companies expose shareholders to tangible risks in neglecting the rights of the Nation’s Indigenous.

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

First Peoples’ Indigenous Rights Risk Report analyzes 370 oil, gas and mining sites on or near Indigenous land operated by 52 U.S.-based companies. The results are eye opening. 92% of these sites pose a medium to high risk to shareholders and investors. Yet only 5 companies have Indigenous Peoples policies to guide the company for how to positively engage and work with Indigenous Peoples. Co-written by Rebecca Adamson and Nick Pelosi, the report quantifies many of the social risks posed by extractive industries. Until now, such grievances have been difficult to prove, which has made it difficult to evaluate social risks.

“The push back on evaluating social risks, or at least as far as the conventional wisdom goes, is that there are no quantitative metrics,” said Rebecca Adamson, founder of First Peoples Worldwide and author of the report.  “Meaning, social risks are considered to be ‘intangibles’ a word the market uses to ignore whatever it does not want to have to deal with, such as the environment, is intangible. However, like the environment, we are seeing much more public pressure for corporations to be responsible for their footprints: planet and society. The funny thing about ‘intangibles’ is how much attention they are getting in the market nowadays.”

Now that attention is being granted to some of these issues, the next step is to incentivize companies to implement policy that recognizes these risks.

“Indigenous Peoples are securing unprecedented recognition of their rights from governments,” the report states. “But these impressive legal gains are matched with chronic gaps in implementation, especially as they relate to resource extraction.”

One of these gaps is the failure of many extraction companies to formally observe the land and human rights of Indigenous people. Adamson believes that these injustices can be addressed by holding companies accountable not only morally, but also economically.

“If you have bad credit you pay a higher interest rate,” Adamson said. “This is how the market works. So the idea behind the Risk Report is to quantify the risk companies encounter when they violate free prior informed consent and tie it to their cost of capital. That way a company that consistently violates Indigenous Rights will be rated riskier than one that upholds our rights, and therefore it will have to pay higher financing costs.”

This, she believes, will incentivize companies to take action in a way that local, national, and international governmental bodies have not been able to successfully achieve. The Indigenous Rights Risk Report hopefully will speak to profit-based companies in a language they more readily comprehend: their market value.

“I don’t have much faith in either the national or international political leadership,” said Adamson, “many of the countries are not implementing UNDRIP, courts are slow to rule and often rulings get ignored. The activists are raising awareness and public pressure is mounting. Social media has helped catapult the issue onto national and international attention but the end game for corporations is still about keeping your stock price up and there is no incentive to change yet.  No one strategy will solve it we have to continue to build on the legal successes, look for gaps and new strategies, and get more resources flowing directly to our communities. However, using market mechanisms is a crucial void this Report intends to fill.”

Currently, the report states, action is taken to address these social risks if and only if tangible negative consequences arise. This fire-alarm method of regulation, the report finds, is beneficial to neither party.

“These informational loopholes limit the financial sector’s ability to comprehensively manage social risks…” the report states. “In the absence of market incentives for proactively addressing social risks, companies are not prompted to do so until things go wrong, and social risks become social costs.”

The Indigenous Rights Risk Report serves to evaluate these risks both quantitatively and with respect to the most pressing human rights issues affecting Indigenous people.

Looking at 52 oil, gas, and mining companies listed on the Russell 1000 Index (a stock market index that represents the 1,000 largest publicly-held companies in the US), First Peoples Worldwide identified those which overlapped with Indigenous Peoples. From there, they used five risk indicators (Country Risk, Reputation Risk, Community Risk, Legal Risk, and Risk Management) to rate each company on a scale of low to high risk, indicated through numbers 1 through 5.

The findings, as expected, were not positive. 330 projects were assessed for risks associated with operating country, companies’ reputation, the engaged Indigenous community, legal action, and risk management. 35% of those projects had high-risk exposure, and 54% had medium-risk exposure.

The report found that a majority of companies were not exhibiting adequate efforts to establish positive relationships with Indigenous communities. 92% of companies surveyed did not address community relations or human rights at the board level in any formal capacity.

Many found to be at high levels of risk were both small and large companies alike. Companies such as Alpha Natural Resources and Southwestern Energy were found with risk scores of 100%. Companies with risk scores of 50% included names such as Chevron Corporation and Murphy Oil.

Adamson hopes that the report will garner the attention of some of these companies, who rely on intangible assets such as intellectual property, human and social capital, reputation and goodwill, and even risk management accounting for 80% in the valuation assessment of their stock.

It is the purpose of the report, Adamson explains, to link corporate accountability to Indigenous social costs such as overburdened roads and utilities, increased crime, housing shortages, and polluted waters.

“In the case of Indigenous social concerns there will be cultural practices, sacred sites, subsistence livelihoods — all crucial elements of the social costs we face when corporations come into our territories with or without our consent. By identifying and quantifying these impacts Indigenous Peoples are better informed to make decisions and set development agendas on their own terms. And corporations are better equipped to listen to those terms.”

However, the news is not all bad. There are corporations taking steps towards social awareness. Conoco Philips, Exxon Mobil, Freeport-McMoRan, and Newport Mining all had board committees with community relations or human rights in their mandates. Furthermore, Exxon Mobil has an active and independent external body to advise and evaluate its community relations or human rights performance. While larger companies such as Exxon may be more incentivized for these actions to avoid negative media exposure, they are a step in the right direction.

Adamson believes that with the unprecedented findings of the report and a more unified front, real change could be seen in the relationship between Indigenous people and extractive industries.

“Indigenous Peoples have the potential to set a major portion of the extractive industries agenda but we have to be so much more united and organized,” Adamson said. “The data we collected for the Risk Report was sometimes erratic and had gaps so we were unable to calculate what the total production and future reserves were for Indigenous lands. However, there was a pattern that ran close to 30 % of current production was coming from Indigenous lands and up to 60% of the future reserves were on Indigenous lands. This is HUGE. If we were more united we could harness the market forces and make sure it is no longer business as usual. United we could be sure we are all heard in the corporate boardroom whether the answer is NO to development or whether it is YES. Indigenous Peoples would be the ones determining the relationship they want to have with corporations.”

Read the Indigenous Rights Risks Report here.

 

Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about.

Dec17

World Bank Makes Killing Indigenous Peoples More Profitable

The World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework draft neglects Indigenous rights

Washington, D.C. – Not only does the World Bank’s new Environment and Social Framework (ESF) draft incentivize governments to ignore Indigenous peoples, it strategically neglects Indigenous and human rights of Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) and protection from forced evictions. Despite the Bank’s repeated “alignment” with international human rights laws and standards, the new ESF draft prioritizes rapid loan approval for borrower countries over protection of human rights, by allowing countries to “opt-out” of FPIC requirements if they do not recognize Indigenous peoples within their border. The neglect of Indigenous rights in the new ESF draft sends a clear and false message that protecting Indigenous peoples, let alone basic human rights, should drive up the cost of lending.

A set of environmental and social safeguards designed to support borrower countries’ Bank-funded projects, the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) draft was released for consultation on July 30, 2014. A concerned letter from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (UNHCR) accuses the World Bank of continually prioritizing rapid approval of loans over the enforcement of safeguards, likely due to increased competition from other lenders to secure the “business” of developing country borrowers. However, incentivizing governments to adopt poor engagement practices with Indigenous peoples is counter-intuitive: countries that have negligible or non-existent policies toward Indigenous peoples are found to pose a much higher business risk than those that do have Indigenous policies, according to a recent study by First Peoples Worldwide. The Bank is cultivating a more hostile environment, both for Indigenous communities and business, with this safeguard draft.

While the ESF draft does require borrower countries to obtain Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) from Indigenous communities, it allows countries to define who Indigenous peoples are to begin with. Countries where “the existence or notion of Indigenous peoples is contested” can choose to opt-out of the ESF’s FPIC requirements – essentially incentivizing governments with fewer standards to comply with if they choose to not recognize Indigenous peoples within their borders. If countries decide to opt-out, the piecemeal treatment of rights throughout the document fails to protect Indigenous rights under any other safeguard clause. Even if countries do comply with the FPIC requirement, the processes for acquiring FPIC outlined in the ESF draft don’t comply with international standards, and don’t require requesting parties to have meaningful consultations with or participation of affected Indigenous peoples.

The Bank also backpedaled on their land acquisition, restrictions on land use, and involuntary resettlement standards, particularly concerning for Indigenous peoples. While an existing standard (ESS5) states that involuntary resettlement should be avoided, the new ESF draft fails to prohibit projects that will cause forced evictions, and fails to recognize that forced evictions violate international human rights law. There is also no reference to the need for prior notice before resettlement, security of tenure, access to public services and facilities, and most alarmingly, no prohibition on use of bank funds for land grabbing and the consequent displacement of people.

Photo Credit: The Guardian

Photo Credit: The Guardian

Moreover, the recent evictions of Sengwer peoples in Kenya due to a Bank-funded project demonstrate the Bank’s regard for Indigenous lives – that they have none. When a Bank-financed watershed conservation project in the Embobut Forest of Kenya resulted in forced evictions, the Sengwer community challenged the project through litigation in Kenyan courts and filed a complaint with the World Bank. “As the World Bank started to defy their own safeguards, the Sengwer started looking for ways to end the negative impacts the project was having on their community,” says Rebecca Adamson, president and founder of First Peoples Worldwide. “We’re all familiar with a race to the bottom in the business world, but now we are seeing it in the international aid world too.” The Sengwer Indigenous Peoples Programme is a grantee of First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund.

The ESF draft egregiously avoids significant mentions of human rights or international human rights law throughout most of the document. Although the Bank has aligned itself and its operations in support of human rights through its Articles of Agreement, the ESF fails to stipulate how. While the draft includes a new standard on Indigenous peoples rights, they are built into the document incrementally. The ESF draft does not include a comprehensive safeguard that addresses all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights collectively, as in other international human rights laws and standards. Furthermore, the human rights norms expressed in the ESF draft fail to reflect any existing human rights laws and standards, which may muddle implementation and enforcement. The UNHRC calls for the World Bank to include human rights within its overall program objectives, and incorporate due diligence into its risk management policies.

Read the UN Human Rights Council’s letter of concern here.

Nov12

New Study Finds 94% Of US Companies Ignore Rural Community Impacts

Extractive Industries neglect community engagement policies, increasing vulnerability of world’s rural poor

Community Angle Graphic

Recent community backlash against the Keystone XL pipeline, Indigenous protests against oil and gas concession auctions in Ecuador and Peru, and violent resource conflicts in Indonesia have all exposed extractive companies’ poor community engagement practices – and companies are doing nothing about it. A recent study from First Peoples Worldwide found that only 6 percent of publicly-held US oil, gas and mining companies utilize adequate risk management tools when working with communities, making people in rural areas increasingly vulnerable to extractive projects’ negative social and environmental impacts, and exposing shareholders to financial loss.

According to the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, 85% of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Simultaneously, rural areas are where extractive industries predominantly operate – and systematically ignore one of the most marginalized groups in the world. The Indigenous Rights Risk Report, a recent study released by First Peoples Worldwide at the 2014 SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing, investigated 52 U.S. oil, gas, and mining companies with projects operating on or near Indigenous territories around the globe. While the report focused on Indigenous communities, it’s findings apply to all communities in which extractive industries operate – only 8% of companies had any policy that remotely addressed community relations or human rights.

The study examined 330 extractive projects, assessing companies’ risks based on five indicators: Country Risk, Reputation Risk, Community Risk, Legal Risk, and Risk Management. Companies’ community engagement risks were assessed in the Risk Management category, and were based on whether they had a board committee that addressed community relations or human rights, an advisory entity on community engagement, incentives for staff to pursue successful community relations, a public feedback mechanism, a formal agreement and consultation process with communities, whether they conduct Social Impact Assessments, and other indicators.

Only four companies (ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Freeport-McMoRan, and Newmont Mining) had a board committee with community relations or human rights in its mandate, and among those, only Exxon Mobil has an active and independent external body to advise and evaluate its community relations or human rights performance. Most small extractive companies, including Alpha Natural Resources, Murphy Oil, and SM Energy, are doing virtually nothing to mitigate their impacts on rural communities, nor their risk to community opposition and inevitable profit-loss.

While larger extractive corporations like ExxonMobil and Chevron are incentivized to have community engagement policies to avoid negative media exposure (which they’ve experienced plenty of in the past), smaller companies attract minuscule (if any) scrutiny from the media and NGOs – giving them little reason to affect decent policies when working with rural communities. Companies are mitigating their risk exposure to negative social impact reactively rather than proactively, often in response to actual or potential threats to their reputation. This sends the message that communities need to “act up” in order for companies to address their concerns.

Extractive industries must start accounting for the communities in which they work, by implementing comprehensive policies that respect the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.

Click here to view the Press Release.

To view the full report, click here.

First Peoples Worldwide is an Indigenous-led organization that builds upon a foundation of Indigenous values and rights to achieve a sustainable future for all. Our Keepers of the Earth Fund provides grants directly to Indigenous-led development projects. Since 2007, we’ve given $1.7 million in grants to hundreds of Indigenous communities across 58 countries. Our corporate engagement program makes the business case for respecting and upholding Indigenous Peoples’ rights through vigilant monitoring of corporate practices, affecting policy change, and advocating best practices in Indigenous community engagement.