Magazine Issue 11 Summer 2000
|'Water, water, everywhere'
Bolivians reject privatisation of water
Price hikes and privatisation of water sparked off massive popular protests in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia this spring. These were brutally crushed as the military fired teargas and bullets at protestors and respected leaders were jailed or moved away. The panicked government then attempted to restore order by declaring martial law on April 12th.
The unrest was set off by the sale of Cochabamba's public water system to a private corporation (Aguas del Tunari, owned by International Water Limited [IWL]) which promptly doubled water rates. IWL is a British firm but is controlled by San Francisco-based Bechtel, infamous in the UK as the builder of the Jubilee Line. United Utilities, another UK firm, originally co-owner of IWL, is now only a strategic partner.
On April 5th the government announced the deal was off but word got out that this was a screen and people went onto the streets nationwide. Finally, on April 12th a desperate government announced that the foreign consortium had abandoned the idea, but it is almost certain that negotiations continued, safe from public scrutiny. Ordinary people are not alone in condemning the sell-off economists and water experts have attacked its ludicrous conception. IWL acquired the state water facilities for a pittance, amidst allegations of political corruption and patronage from the former president. The private company has to bleed customers dry to pay for the Misicuni Dam, a scheme that was slated by even the World Banks technocrats as extremely dodgy.
Bolivians are determined not to see a repeat of virtually every privatisation story the world over (system decay, price rises, fat profits). This was summed up by protest leader Oscar Olivera: "We're questioning that others, the World Bank, international business, should be deciding these basic issues for us, for us, that is democracy."
Nude Solidarios say S.O.S Itoiz
Hopes of a quiet opening ceremony for the World Water Forum in March were ruined by members of Solidarios con Itoiz, the campaign to stop the disastrous Itoiz Dam in the Spanish Basque region. Protestors stripped to reveal slogans Stop Itoiz Dam and No to Water Privatisation painted on their bodies. Others distributed leaflets while banners were unfurled with the same messages.
This was the latest action in the group's European Tour S.O.S Itoiz to publicly denounce the dam project and the unjust imprisonment of protesters and to condemn the Water Forum. The Forum will try to smooth the way for the privatisation of water but is condemned as being undemocratic and using empty rhetoric to disguise real motives of profit and power. Multinationals and governments are making the resource a commodity and instrument of power, while irrational and useless water projects litter the world causing displacement of people, huge environmental destruction and repression of public resistance. See www.s-o-s-itoiz.org.uk
|Ilisu Dam Campaign calls for support
The decision over whether to give a $200 million export credit guarantee to Balfour Beatty to help it build the Ilisu dam is imminent. The need to act is urgent: sign a postcard to Tony Blair order more postcards for others to sign contact the campaign as below organise a speaker meeting - the campaign can provide info and speakers send the campaign your contact details and you'll be kept updated on events and news write to Tony Blair, asking him to reconsider his government's conditional approval of export credit support for the Ilisu Dam (see www.ilisu.org.uk for an example) check out www.ilisu.org.uk for a sample motion to propose at your next trade union meeting join the Ilisu Quid scheme! We'd rather spend our time campaigning than fundraising (leaflet enclosed) keep visiting the website it is updated regularly.
Contact Box 210, 266 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7DL 01865 200550 or email@example.com or see www.ilisu.org.uk
|Balfour Beatty AGM an (edited) personal account
"It is not often that I feel the need to express my sympathy for the plight of multinationals and their share-holders but in the middle of Balfour Beattys annual general meeting I did. Balfour Beatty is involved in the Ilisu dam project which, amongst other things, is to receive $200 million of taxpayers money to help finance the eviction of 25,000 Kurds from their homes. Before the Board could sit down to begin the AGM 15 people lined up at the back of the room, each with a t-shirt with one letter printed on it, spelling STOP THE ILISU DAM.
Balfour Beatty promised to hear questions on the Ilisu Dam Project. Several Kurds stood and passionately explained how they had lost relatives, victims of Turkish militarism and ethnic cleansing, asking why Balfour Beatty was working with a torturing state? To be met with: "Its not up to us, you should speak to the government." As the question of human rights in SouthEast Turkey/Kurdistan was raised supporters stood holding up pictures of torture victims. Lord Weir looked on at the scene and promptly declared questions on Ilisu over. Suddenly, angry campaigners were all over the room, standing on chairs, trying to get the Board to just look at the photos we had, others rushed towards the Boards platform demanding the company account for their actions. The Board fled the platform amidst catcalls." Mark Thomas.
Contact The Ilisu Dam campaign firstname.lastname@example.org or Box 210, 266 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 7DL or see http://www.ilisu.org.uk. For more on Balfour Beattys involvement see Corporate Watch issue 10.
|Golden Cross camp at Ashingdon, Essex evicted
Bailiffs finally moved in on Golden Cross Camp at Ashingden in the second week of May to evict opponents of Wilcon Homes plan to build more houses.
Approximately 300-400 security guards and bailiffs surrounded the site, accompanied by a large contingent from the local constabulary. Protestors at the scene thought the operation was slightly over the top for the twelve activists present. At £16,000 a day for three days, Wilcon Homes is facing a hefty bill.
The under sheriff overseeing the eviction was so angry that his staff were being blamed for the destruction caused - trees cut down, birds squashed and foxes killed - that he made sure everyone knew that there were two operations on site - Wilcon Homes and his own.
Contact Golden Cross Action Group 01702 541 267
|X-Position on Humankind Nature Technology
From 1 June to 31 October, the world exposition EXPO 2000 will take place in Hannover, Germany. With the main theme of Humankind Nature Technology, solutions for global problems of our time are to be displayed. Leading business enterprises, individual countries and international organisations will present themselves at the EXPO.
X-Position wants to be a mouthpiece for all those who are not convinced of the EXPO visions for the next millenium: it wants to examine the world exposition critically and stimulate an international debate on the event.
|Opposition to Freeport MacMoRans mining in Sri Lanka
This March approximately 7,000 people took part in a protest against government plans for the phosphate mines at Eppawela, just south of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. The mines are to be handed over as part of a project to mine phospate fertiliser for export. The project is being carried out by a consortium of foreign mining companies led by IMC Agrico, formed in a merger of IMC Global Inc and Freeport McMoran Resources Partners. Even a cursory glance at Freeport's activities elsewhere show that unacceptable levels of pollution and disease have dogged the company: in Irian Jaya, where Freeport owns mining rights to the worlds biggest known copper and gold deposits, the company has been accused of causing major environmental and human rights abuses.
At stake in Sri Lanka is the fertile and ancient 'rice bowl' of the island, the livelihood and living space of more than 28 villages, the Kalaweva-Jayaganga water and soil conservation systems, and parts of the ancient Mahaweli irrigation system. The project also involves the construction of a phosphoric acid factory and a sulphuric acid factory - these will mean the destruction of the fragile ecosystem of Trincomalee Bay.
Opponents of the mine claim that the government has given away the right to extract, within a 30-year period, a resource which would otherwise last Sri Lankan farmers for centuries.
Under the proposed deal, the Sri Lankan government will be paid five dollars per tonne of phosphate extracted, while the mining companies will export it at world market prices currently at between 40 and 70 dollars per tonne.
|Prague 2000 - Initiative Against Economic Globalization
Ten days of activities starting on September 20th and culminating on 27th in opposition to the IMF / World Bank summit. Some 20,000 representatives of global capital (world bankers, economists and financiers) are expected to come to Prague in September to attend the 55th annual summit of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group (25th 27th). This prestigious meeting of the world economic elite is the first of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe. The delegates will meet to propose a scheme of further liberalization of the world economy by defining new loan priorities and structural adjustment conditions.
The Initiative Against Economic Globalization (INPEG) is a loose coalition of various Czech environmental, human rights and autonomist/anarchist groups, organizations and individuals who are ready to stand up critically against the summit of the world financial oligarchy. INPEG has planned a series of campaigns that will culminate in ten days of activities starting on September 20. Nonviolent demonstrations, info campaigns, and the Festival of Art and Resistance including a counter-summit will be the main resistance activities during this period.
INPEGs activities will be exposing the links between the IMF/WB, the WTO and transnational corporations and the ways in which they work to maximize private profits and limit the power of people to protect the ecological system, determine their economic destiny, and safeguard their human rights. INPEGs goal is to give the proper name to what the policies of the IMF/WB really cause in the South as well as in Central and Eastern Europe. INPEG will be demanding an immediate suspension of these practices which lead to ecological destruction, growing social inequality and poverty and curtailing of peoples rights.
For more information on the counter-summit or other actions in Prague, accommodation facilities or on INPEG and the Czech resistance movement, visit the webpages on http://imf2000.webjump.com or contact us on our email: Prague2000_cz@hotmail.com.
Transport is available from a number of UK cities including Oxford, Manchester and London. A number of groups are also organising day schools and training events in the UK in advance of the summit. See http://go.to/s26 for your local contacts.
|Illegal logging in Nigeria: a race against time. Anna Bragga reports
The Hong Kong-based logging conglomerate Western Metal Product Company (WEMPCO) is illegally logging vast tracts of Nigeria's already depleted rainforests (Nigeria has already lost 90 percent of its rainforest cover) amidst growing public outrage and government apathy.
The Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC), based in western Nigeria's Cross River State, is using educational campaigns and peaceful direct actions to evict forest workers employed by WEMPCO.
WEMPCO has shown complete disregard for Nigerian law: its sprawling timber processing factory perched on the banks of the Cross River was constructed without planning permission or an Environmental Impact Assessment. Factory waste threatens the livelihoods of more than three million people who rely on the river for their fresh water supply. The RRDC's investigations have also revealed that the company has a track record of logging outside its concession areas and felling unapproved species and undersized trees.
A Court action instigated by the RRDC and supported by a coalition of other NGOs in 1995 failed to indict WEMPCO. The government responded to the RRDCs concerns by sending in the State Security Service to seek out and arrest those responsible.
The State Environmental Protection Agency, the secretary to the State Government, the Agriculture Commissioner, and the Forestry Development Department have all turned a blind eye to the blatant disregard of Nigeria's policy for sustainable development, conservation and management of forest.
The RRDC is promoting alternative livelihoods for local people who currently undertake logging activities because there are no other opportunities. A well-stocked resource centre promoting these alternatives is therefore a crucial part of a longer-term strategy.
Contact: Odey Oyama, Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC), Road 4, Unit 3, Federal Housing Estate, P.O. Box 2483, Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria. E-mail: email@example.com
In the UK contact Anna Bragga at firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.rainforestcentre.org
|Health and Safety Executive in the dock over forklift trucks and Paddington rail disaster
20 year old Mohammed Omar Akhtar was killed on 12th August 1997 when a forklift truck, driving out of Moores Timber Merchants in Manchester, struck the car in which he was driving. The forks of the truck pierced the windscreen and sliced into his neck. The driver and his employer were convicted for failing to have insurance and received conditional discharges. However the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has refused to investigate management and the company has so far escaped prosecution for health and safety offences or manslaughter, despite the responsibility of the HSE to refer cases where there is evidence of gross negligence to the Crown Prosecution Service. A full judicial review hearing in relation to the HSE's refusal was brought on behalf of Mohammed's family on 4 April at the High Court in London. The HSE has been severely criticised for its reluctance to investigate corporate crime where employees or consumers have been injured or killed. A Parliamentary Select Committee called its investigation policy "totally inadequate"; it only investigates 10% of major injuries reported to it and its prosecution rate is equally miserable.
It has recently been announced by the Director of Public Prosecutions that no charges will be brought against the companies involved in the Paddington rail disaster. He said that corporate manslaughter prosecutions are "too difficult to bring", but called for a new offence of "corporate killing" it remains to be seen how the authorities will manage to water the final result down. See www.corporateaccountability.org
Alternative film-makers Undercurrents are broadcasting a weekly netcast hosted by PirateTV.net on Tuesdays from 9pm until 3am. This live stream features the best of current global direct action footage in the mix with classic Undercurrents archive.
Check out the netcast on www.undercurrents.org or www.piratetv.org.
Material always needed so send any tapes to Undercurrents 16b Cherwell Street, Oxford OX4 1BG 01865 203662.
In Southwark a car park, formerly a primary school's garden, was reinstated. Some 40 people cleared rubble and broken tarmac, pulled weeds and planted seeds. The conventional media and the police ignored the action. It was a wonderful, empowering and effective example of how guerrilla gardening can and should transform communities.
Opposition to the governments GM farmscale trial programme is hotting up again this year with approximately 40 sites announced to date a number of local campaigns are springing up around the country.
Campaign support and inspiration is available from a number of different directions:
The TOGG group, based in Devon, is putting together a roadshow, displays and workshops to take on tour this summer and have excellent skills and experience to support local campaigns contact them on 01803 840098.
Greenpeace is able to offer some support to local farmscale trial groups, particularly in East Anglia contact their genetics campaign on 020 7865 8100
Friends of the Earth has info on conducting a parish poll to test for opposition to GM pollution in your area contact 020 7490 1555
The Genetic Engineering Network disseminates info contact 020 7690 0626
For a list of GM sites see the Primal Seeds website www.primalseeds.org see this site also for a comprehensive overview of seed patenting and inspiring ideas to challenge the commodification of life.
For a clear guide to the issues around genetic modification see Tiki the Penguins GE guide www.oneworld.net/penguin/genetics/home.html this site is primarily targetted at young people however it does explain a complex subject in an easily accessible yet comprehensive manner.
For a briefing on the reasons why the farmscale trials are both unnecessary and unsafe contact GeneWatch UK 01298 871 558
For more animal feed info see the CW Animal Feed & Genetic Engineering briefing (see back cover for details).
|Corporate milkrounds disrupted in Turkey
This May a group brought a presentation by the transnational BOSCH to a halt, with the meeting ending in chaos. The presentation took place at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul under the remit of Career Days 2000.
The group sat calmly withstanding the corporate torment of the speaker, until one of them stood up and interrupted the BOSCH speaker with: "You have presented yourselves for long enough, now let us present you for a change: You are right now imposing global capitalism. This place is a slave market and (to the students attending the presentation) you are selling yourselves to capital. We find global capitalism and its qualified slaves immoral and untolerable." After this statement, the rest of the group stood up and yelled: "Earth! Commune! Freedom!", "Long live the revolution! Long live anarchy!"
The same group, AGF (Anarchist Youth Federation), had successfully put an end to a Shell presentation at Bosphorous University, Istanbul in April. In an immaculately-planned move, one person stood up and began: "Shell is the murderer of the Ogoni Tribe". The Shell speaker was brought to a halt while other students who had invited Shell tried to silence the anarchist, but 15 other protestors surrounded the speaker and took out eggs to pelt at the Shell representatives who apparently scarpered in humiliation.
|Rio Tinto chair says code of labour practice unnecessary
This year is the 21st anniversary of Partizans interventions at the Annual General Meeting of Rio Tinto, the world's most powerful mining corporation.
Once again, the dissidents held the floor for most of question-time, asking about the company's exploits in half a dozen countries, including India - where Rio Tinto has funded a feasiblity study for a huge iron ore mine which would adversely affect the land and health of thousands of tribal people.
Questioners were treated to a mixture of derision and boring patter from Rio Tinto chair, Robert Wilson - not least when two modest resolutions, supported by several institutional investors, were presented by the trade union-organised Coalition of Rio Tinto shareholders. These resolutions called on the company to appoint an independent, non-executive deputy chair, and adopt a verifiable code of labour practise, based on International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. "We don't need such a code" declared Wilson, claiming that Rio Tinto was already observing ILO conventions - a comment greeted with derision by trade unionists, some of whom had flown in from South Africa and Brussels for the AGM.
Contact email@example.com, or Partizans, 41 Thornhill Square, London N1 1BE
|Proctor & Gamble hit in National Day of Action
As part of a March National Day of Action 62 Boycott Proctor & Gamble events took place across the UK, highlighting how buying P&G products is tantamount to supporting cruel and lethal animal tests. ASDA was a focus for action, beginning with a demonstration at their HQ in Leeds, followed by a meeting with ASDA executives to voice objections to their promotion of P&G brands. ASDA said that they would consult with customers to see if there was a demand for dedicated cruelty-free zones stocked with products from companies that do not abuse animals.
Contact Uncaged 0114 253 0020 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Is World Bank repositioning any more than a public relations act? New report investigates
Recent civil society work on the World Bank has been complicated by deliberate efforts of the Bank to co-opt critical groups, and by changes in Bank policy and practice. A briefing examining the World Banks intellectual and policy repositioning is now available. It concludes that many of the points raised are important but represent an attempt to shore up the political and social basis of economic globalisation rather than challenge it.
New Leaf or Fig Leaf, The Challenge of the New Washington Consensus, priced at £5.95 - free to NGOs in the South. Contact the Bretton Woods Project email@example.com or 020 7523 2170.
|Fidelity Investments refuse to meet with Uwa spokesperson
An elected leader of the U'wa people of Colombia joined an April protest in the City of London, singing songs and handing out leaflets to protest at oil drilling on his ancestral lands. Fidelity Investments, based in the City, is part of The Fidelity Group, one of the largest shareholders in the US-based Occidental Petroleum Company, which is set to drill for oil right next to U'wa territory.
The U'wa, a 5000-strong indigenous group, say that they would rather die and end their culture than see their ancestral lands and culture destroyed by the arrival of the oil industry.
In March a Colombian court ordered Occidental to halt construction work on the grounds that the drilling would violate the fundamental rights of the U'wa people including their right to life: Occidental plans to appeal. Meanwhile the company has admitted that it has never consulted with the U'wa.
For latest info on the U'wa see http://www.ran.org
Protests against currency speculation took place outside the Barclays Annual General Meeting in April. Barclays and other high street banks are big winners from currency speculation: in 1998 Barclays made a profit of £100million from foreign exchange dealing. This has a devastating effect on economies from Asia to Latin America.
War on Want is arguing for a 0.25% Tobin Tax to be levied on all foreign exchange transactions, the proceeds of which would be spent on poverty eradication programmes.
Contact 020 7620 1111 or see www.waronwant.org
|Bacardi breezing into NUS bars
The National Union of Students (NUS) has voted to accept a three-year sole supply deal worth £625,000 with Bacardi. The NUS had raised ethical questions with Bacardi after pressure for a boycott grew last year, but was seemingly convinced by the generous offer. The deal means that authentic Havana Club rum, which generates hard cash for the ailing Cuban economy cannot be sold in British student bars. Bacardi has a long history of funding counter-revolutionary activity in Cuba and throughout Latin America, including the odious Cuban American Foundation (CANF) which supports acts of sabotage and terrorism against Cuba. One of Bacardis lawyers was heavily involved in drafting the Helms-Burton Act that tightened the blockade against Cuba. The world community has condemned the blockade. It can be assumed that Bacardi is an enthusiastic supporter of the blockade, allowing it to continue exploiting poorly paid workers in other countries while facing little competition from Cuba. Bacardi couldnt have hoped for a cheaper or easier target than the NUS.
See www.rcgfrfi.easynet.co.uk/ratb/index.html or contact the Boycott Bacardi Campaign, BCM Box 5909, London WC1N 3XX. Note: To date, Cambridge, Oxford, Sheffield and East London Student Unions have passed motions condemning the NUS decision.
|Two million, yes, two million on strike in India
India, May: a nationwide strike called by the National Platform of Mass Organisations (NPMO) against liberalisation, privatisation, rising prices and cuts in food and fertiliser subsidies led to approximately two million people going on strike across a range of industries.
Commercial activity was badly hit as employees in most of the banks stayed away from work. According to central bank sources, clearing of cheques was affected as supporters of the All India Banks Employees Association (AIBEA), which controls over 50% of workers in the banking industry, took part in the strike.
In both houses of the Indian Parliament, agitated members demanded rollback of the hike in prices of essential commodities. One of the houses was adjourned as the entire Opposition raised anti-government slogans against the cut in subsidy on foodgrains and fertilisers.
NPMO is an umbrella organisation of left trade unions and mass organisations.
|Radical New Project for Empowering Communities Hits the Road
Co-operative and community groups have come together to launch an ambitious scheme to make free training and information about social enterprise available across the UK. Eight events are planned where anyone will be able to find out how to start a co-operative and community enterprise.
Workshops include latest ideas for Local Exchange Trading Schemes, the potential of tenant management in Housing Co-ops, the future of Credit Unions and worker co-operatives and community businesses.
For details of events happening near you contact 0870 733 2538 or visit www.gn.apc.org/ss/upstart/tc
|Papuan Peoples Congress
The Papuan Peoples Congress which began Monday 29th May is the first meeting of the West Papuan Council, the umbrella group formed to represent Papuans interests to Indonesia. The congress is a joint venture between the OPM (Free Papua Movement) and civil society organisation FORERI (Forum for Reconciliation). John Ondawame, OPM spokesman, said, This congress demonstrates the willpower of the West Papuan people to organise and manage their own affairs. Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid is expected to open the congress.
Also attending and filming the congress - is Mike Atkins from UK campaign group People and Planet. Mike is accompanying a returning Papuan activist who has been gathering support for his peoples struggle in Europe.
West Papua has been under colonial occupation by Indonesia since 1962 and the indigenous Papuans have been subject to massive human rights abuses, while Indonesia encouraged multinationals to strip Papua of its vast rain forests and mineral resources.
As the congress gathers, the abuses continue; the army is setting up and arming pro-Indonesian militias, while on May 22 Indonesian state oil company Pertamina announced plans to exploit natural gas reserves off Papuas Western coast British Gas and ARCO are known to be involved in exploration. Under current structures Papua itself will receive almost no profit from this resource theft.
Regular reports from the Congress will be available on the web at www.westpapua.net/ppc.
|Nestle Still Milking Profits
Will Nestlé ever learn? It comes as no surprise that the Swiss giant still has the whiff of immorality surrounding its marketing of baby milk in the South, and it has reacted to the latest allegations in time honoured fashion. Pakistan's anti-corruption body, The National Accountability Bureau, has begun to investigate Nestlé after receiving allegations from a former employee, Syed Aamar Raza that senior staff are implicated in attempting to boost baby milk sales by bribing doctors, making direct contact with mothers and paying staff by sales performance. In other words, it is still up to its old tricks. A report on the evidence, Milking Profits, was launched at the British Medical Association by Baby Milk Action with Raza on 15th February. Nestlé has still not responded rationally to his allegations, and is "still investigating". According to Baby Milk Action: "In the media Nestlé is attempting to blame Mr. Raza for the violations, disregarding the fact that Mr. Raza's superiors authorised payments and signed cheques. Minutes even show the number of points awarded to staff for sales of different baby milks in the sales incentive scheme." Shots were fired at Raza's home shortly after his appearance in London. Despite independent confirmation Nestlé is attempting to claim the attack did not happen. Baby Milk Action is asking the appropriate authority in Pakistan to investigate Nestlé's response to the shooting, and pressing Nestlé to release information regarding audits it claims to conduct into its subsidiary companies.
Milking Profits available from Baby Milk Action: 01223 464420 or see www.babymilkaction.org