As we enter our 20th year as an organization, we reflect back on the pillars that remain our goals today: amplifying local voices over corporate greed, cutting-edge legal strategies, hard-hitting campaigns, and a robust network of skilled and rabble-rousing local activists who continue to speak truth to power around the globe. From a single-room, one-computer office in Thailand, ERI has expanded its global reach to include four offices in the U.S., Peru, Thailand, and Myanmar, housing a team of sixty worldwide.
In 2014, we came together to complete an ambitious strategic plan for 2015-2019. Over the course of the next five years, we plan to build on the past 20 years of accomplishments while advancing our mission to protect and promote earth rights globally through combining training, legal, and campaigns work across our offices. Within the broad terrain of earth rights advocacy, ERI has identified six areas of urgent global concern: extractive industries, such as oil, gas and mining; mega projects, such as dams and highways; land rights and clean environments for vulnerable communities; obligations and immunities of international financial Institutions; the rights and security of earth rights defenders; and climate change and climate justice. By leveraging our distinctive strengths, ERI will continue to innovate strategies within these themes, working to shift power from corporations to local communities in the Mekong, the Amazon, and around the world.
While we saw many examples of destruction in the name of development, we also celebrated significant progress for the earth rights movement. In Myanmar, as Special Economic Zones (SEZs) grow and communities are harmed by polluting industries, ERI brought recently displaced villagers from the Thilawa SEZ near Yangon to Japan to demand that JICA, the Japanese government agency financing operations in the zone, publicly respond to complaints of intimidation and indignity the villagers suffered during the resettlement process. For the first time since their land was confiscated nearly twenty years ago by the Myanmar government, the villagers used public advocacy and institutional channels to demand due process and better compensation, opening the door for communities affected by other SEZs to do the same.
In the Mekong region, where development projects like the Don Sahong dam threaten to destroy the Mekong River’s ecosystems and livelihoods of villagers who depend on the river, we premiered our storytelling series Faces of Change, which sheds light on the injustices caused by these harmful projects and the earth rights defenders who fight against them. Across the globe in the Amazon, even as police shoot protestors standing up to a giant mining company in Peru, we see indigenous communities fight together against big oil. In the U.S., where corporate power is increasingly boundless due to the failure of the courts to limit it, we celebrated a settlement in our case against Occidental Petroleum for polluting the Corrientes Region of the Peruvian Amazon.
We are humbled and proud to be a part of the earth rights movement and the foundation it has given us to create a better world. Soon, we will break ground for the Mitharsuu Center for Leadership and Justice in Chiang Mai, giving the Mekong region a model for green building while serving as a meeting point of the minds and hearts pursuing a just and sustainable future for this region and for all.
As always, thank you for joining us.
Katie and Ka Hsaw Wa