Impact story 6: Standing Strong against Extractive Industries
In this series, we highlight the impact stories of our members. They share their projects with a focus on the main users and the impact it has made on them.
For Land, Life and Justice: how collaboration enabled us to support communities resisting extractive projects
By Just Associates (JASS) and Mama Cash
On March 3, 2016, Berta Caceres, a globally recognised indigenous women’s human rights defender, was assassinated for her work to stop a dam that threatened her community. She was a leader in the community’s organising, advocacy and resistance years. The murder of Berta Caceres spurred the Count Me In! consortium to embark on research to better understand and reveal the financial drivers and enablers of extractive projects.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event
Among women human rights defenders (WHRD), those defending ancestral lands, waters and territories are one of the groups at highest risk. Their opposition to large-scale extractive projects results in threats, criminalisation, sexual assault and lethal violence. Land defenders are mostly alone in their efforts and are up against very complex and well-resourced powers. The investment chains often obscure accountability of the actors involved. As the Count Me In! consortium (CMI!)* works on gender-based violence and economic justice, we saw the urgent need to effectively support women land defenders in their efforts to fight extractives. We embarked on a research and converted the findings into a unique toolkit that supports activists and land defenders in uncovering the complex web of investors responsible for these extractive projects.
If a community raises concerns, the authorities mostly respond with violence, even death.
Uncovering intricate investment chains: Holding involved actors accountable
Extractive projects seize resources like fossil fuels, minerals, land, forests, and seas, leaving communities bereft. Meanwhile, the same communities are scarcely consulted, while governments and corporations generate huge revenues. If the community raises concerns, the authorities mostly respond with violence, and sometimes even death. As was the case for Berta Caceres.
The toolkit for impactful research
In 2021, the toolkit Behind the Scenes of Extractives: Money, Power and Community Resistance was published in English, French, and Spanish. Thus making the research and analysis available, accessible, and valuable for WHRD, movements, and organisations facing land grabs. It provides tools to uncover the visible and invisible actors and powers in the investment chain and to build alliances with NGOs, INGOs, governments and academics to have the communities’ voices heard.
The toolkit was launched at the CSW 65 during the Generation Equality Forum. And via regional workshops in South East Asia, East and Southern Africa, and Meso-America. Communities resisting extractives in their area gave positive feedback on the accessibility and innovation of the toolkit. Because of increasing demand, it is being translated into more languages, most recently in Bahasa Indonesia.
Bringing the knowledge to advocacy
The next step was to support the advocacy of WHRDs and CMI! by offering tools to convey what was uncovered via the toolkit effectively. Other materials were developed, like videos, briefing papers and talking points for INGOs and governments. The partnership with the Dutch Ministry facilitated conversations on the issues of extractives and how the Dutch government and INGOs can be better allies to the communities fighting for their lands. CMI! members and partners plan to keep using and sharing all these materials in the coming years.
Research has the power to create real impact when it’s made accessible to the people most affected.
The power of accessibility and collaboration
Our main learning and recommendation is that research has the power to create a real impact when it’s made accessible to the people most affected. Working in collaboration with Southern-led organisations was instrumental in listening to, learning from the communities, and crafting a toolkit that’s meaningful for their advocacy. It also helped mobilise the collective power and expertise not only to develop the toolkit but also to disseminate it far and wide.
*The Count Me In! (CMI!) consortium is a partner of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and comprises 6 member organisations – AWID, CREA, Just Associates, Urgent Action Fund, Urgent Action Fund Africa, and Mama Cash as the lead. The sex worker-led Red Umbrella Fund (RUF) and the Dutch gender platform WO=MEN are strategic partners of the consortium.