Jun 10, 2020

Supporting Communities during Pandemic Times

There’s no doubt that we are living in strange, stressful and uncertain times. We are all – in one way or another – affected by the pandemic and coping to the best of our abilities. At AIDA, we feel deeply for everyone affected globally, while our primary concern lies with the health and safety of our team, partners, supporters and the many whom we serve in communities at risk.

The AIDA team, from the safety of our homes, continue working diligently, committed to protecting local communities and the environment across the Americas. In many ways the need for our work is greater today. Threats to remote populations and the drive to develop ecologically sensitive areas haven't stopped, and neither will we.

In the framework of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve had to adapt the way we work with the communities in La Oroya no ensure that they continue to receive the support they need.

One of the main adjustments has been around the work we are doing with the Human and Environmental Health Table group, for which we have 1) created a calendar for weekly virtual meetings, providing a space to strategize, support and assist with the follow up of activities; and 2) supported the design and implementation of a communications campaign: “reactivation without contamination” focused on addressing direct contamination by heavy metals in the region. At AIDA we have helped create materials, content and provide distribution channels for the campaign, ensuring as higher outreach as possible.

In addition to this work, here are three steps AIDA is taking to continue our legal efforts supporting the communities in La Oroya, and maintaining them engaged and connected during these critical times:

  • Diversifying our communication channels with the communities and partners: to ensure the safety of the communities and our team no onsite visits are being conducted at the moment, thus we have moved all meetings to virtual platforms. We are using a messaging application available to all participants to stay connected in a timely manner, and to share useful information on the case and providing materials related to the implementation of the right to health in the context of the current pandemic.
  • Continue to work on the legal case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: we’ve had to redistribute tasks and responsibilities to move forward with the document that will compile the requests, arguments and profs related to the case to the Commission. To achieve this, we’ve held frequent virtual coordination meetings with all participants.
  • Training cycles: we have worked with members of the Platform on people affected by heavy metals in a proposal to create a series of training cycles available to the public. These cycles should serve as educational as well as a space for reflection and strategy building. AIDA will provide the virtual platform to held these trainings, and will also design and conduct the session on international issues.

Our attorneys are closely monitoring the situation in the region, calling on governments to uphold their international obligations and ensure the pandemic isn't used as an excuse to weaken environmental and human rights protections. 

Mar 24, 2020

United to protect herbivorous fish

Attendees to the organized Forum
Attendees to the organized Forum

In November in the city of La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, along with our partners from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur and the NGO Eco-Azul Terrestre, we organized a Forum where members and representatives of research centers, academia, civil society organizations, government and fishermen communities participated in a workshop on the Importance of Herbivorous Fish in Reef Ecosystems of Northwest Mexico.

During the forum, presenters shared information on herbivorous fish and the ecological role they play in the reefs of the Gulf of California. In the region of the American tropics there is a need to improve the regulation of coral reefs and associated species necessary for ecosystem balance. At the present, due to impacts globally (bleaching, ocean acidification) and regionally (physical damage, overfishing, pollution, invasive species, lack of regulation, cumulative and synergistic impacts), coral reefs are classified into critical habitats that could be reduced by 70-90% with the increase of 1.5° C and disappear if we reach 2° C of sea surface temperature.

With this is mind, we analyzed biological monitoring data and fishing capture data with the objective of identifying the best legal tools for the protection and management of essential species for coral reefs communities.

During the forum, representing AIDA, I presented a report that emphasizes the general obligations of countries that are part of international treaties such as the Convention on the Sea, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the American Convention on Human Rights, the World Heritage Sites and Ramsar Conventions. We talk about the needs for regional regulation, comparative law cases and advocacy actions for regulatory improvement in various countries in the region.

It should be noted that the situation facing the Mexican Caribbean region is urgent due to the various impacts that are cumulatively generating degradation effects, resulting in greater loss and a higher number of diseases associated with coral bleaching. We explain how the work of AIDA's attorneys in providing international legal arguments and strategy with regional and local organizations was successful, and as a result, Mexico as a country recently included 10 species of parrot fish in its Official Mexican Standard 059 for the protection of species at risk for the Wider Caribbean region, and that in terms of management, fishing is prohibited within the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve.

All attendees participated in round tables, question and answer sessions, and discussions on cases and recommendations for next steps. There were multiple objectives defined that need to be addressed, particular needs by area and existing tools that can be used to improve the regulation of herbivorous fish in the region.

Finally, all agreed to continue working towards an outcome on regulatory and sustainable management that promotes the conservation of reef species and habitats in the region. A preliminary report on the work and advances of the group will be produce in mid-2020.

Mar 23, 2020

Working hand by hand to defend Human Rights

Riverine Community -Altamira
Riverine Community -Altamira

Early this month Marcella (AIDA fellow attorney) and I traveled to Altamira, the area most affected by the Belo Monte dam. We were there to attend the annual strategy meeting of the Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre, group of local communities we support in this case, where local leaders gather to evaluate the challenges presented during the year and plan coordinated strategies to confront them. During our visit we also met with our regional partners.

During the meeting we made a presentation on lessons learnt from the Belo Monte case in preparation for Belo Sun (mining project, which seeks to mine indigenous lands already impacted by the construction of the Belo Monte dam), showing the importance of documenting impact information. We also presented tools on protecting environmental defenders.

Making the most of our visit we also conducted interviews and monitored the current situation of Altamira and the communities affected by Belo Monte, and now also by Belo Sun. We met with several environmental defenders and social organizations and documented the situation in the region. In addition to the impacts of both projects, there is growing concern about the threat of land invaders and deforestation of the Amazon.

As part of our visit we held a meeting with our local partner ISA, which reported on the current status of the Belo Sun project. The new construction project already has an approved Environmental Impact Assessment, and is only on hold due to legal actions by the Public Prosecutor's Office, but this will not last long. There is concern about the situation of local indigenous communities because publicly, they are recognized as the ones who "have the project stopped" and that is a high risk factor.

Along with our partners we are coordinating next steps focusing on a report on how Belo Sun will affect Human Rights of the communities already affected by Belo Monte. We will present a projection of the possible impacts of the mining project and evaluate, with scientific support, the existing Impact Assessment.

We are also planning to bring the attention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the case and the Human Rights violations derived from Belo Sun. The Indigenous communities fighting to defend their land and their rights are and will always be at the center of our work and their protection our priority.

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