Letter from the Directors
Perhaps like no other year, 2011 feels like one where we’ve returned to our roots. When we established EarthRights International in 1995, we had two goals: to protect human rights and the environment in Burma, and to use the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) to hold corporations accountable for their role in violations including slavery, torture and murder. That year, we sued U.S. oil giant Unocal for abuses in Burma, launching a groundbreaking ATS lawsuit.
Over the years, our work has expanded in many different directions. In Southeast Asia, in addition to Burma, we now work with communities from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Tibet and Laos. Building on the Unocal precedent, we’ve brought cases against corporations in the oil, chemical and agricultural sectors for human rights abuses in Colombia, Nigeria, Peru, and India, and we’ve supported allies in cases and campaigns all over the world.
We’ve certainly grown since those early days, but through it all, Burma and the ATS have remained core to our work, and close to our heart. And this year, both were front and center in ways they’ve never been before. Burma began an historic—if troubled—transition away from military rule that thrust the country into the international spotlight, and our EarthRights School alumni living in Burma into the leadership they’ve been preparing for. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hear an ATS case—Kiobel v. Shell—that will determine whether corporations can continue to be sued for human rights abuses they’re involved in overseas. So much of what we’ve been working for is at stake!
And even in these historic times—for Burma, the ATS, and ERI—we continued to look forward and break new ground. We were thrilled to open our new office in Lima, Peru, which will reinforce and expand the work we’ve been doing to protect indigenous communities and threatened ecosystems in the Amazon. We launched new campaigns to protect the Mekong River, and were thrilled when a 10-year moratorium on mainstream dams was announced. 2012 will be a huge year: We have a lot of work to do.
As always, we couldn’t do it without your support. Thank you!
Ka Hsaw Wa, Marie, Chana, Katie