Box 1

The Permanent People’s Tribunal in Mexico

“Free trade, violence, impunity and the rights of peoples”

The Permanent People’s Tribunal (TPP from its Spanish name) was born as the Russel Tribunal, established to judge the crimes of the United States in Vietnam. In subsequently judged the dictatorships of the CONO SUR and was converted into the “permanent tribunal” where peoples could express in their own terms the aggressions they had suffered, be recognised as active subjects in the trial and denounce those responsible for their chaos and suffering.
The TPP was established in Mexico in 2011 at the request of hundreds of peasant, workers, and civil society organisations which accused the Mexican state of the crime of diverting power: systematically favouring businesses while impeding people from achieving justice with all its juridical and economic powers.

This diversion of power was articulated through seven processes derived from the regime established under free trade: violence against workers, violence against migrants, censorship and violence against the media, environmental destruction, violence against the maize and autonomy of the people, gender violence, and dirty wars and impunity.
On the autonomy of peoples, the claim is the removal of potential for livelihood, at the heart of which is maize, as a vital food and integral part of territory. It may have been the first time that an international jury has addressed the interrelated nature and complex relationships between dispossession, food sovereignty, migration rates and grabbing territories and commons. The TPP recommended that the government of Mexico withdraw form the Free Trade Agreement with North America; failure to do so makes national sovereignty and autonomy impossible; and to ban GM maize as it constituted an attack on future civilizations. It found that Mexico violated the Rome Statute on genocide, and made government abuses against the people visible internationally.

The TPP opened spaces for dialogue and making links, where those who have been aggrieved systemize their experiences and regain centrality as subjects. It encourages and promotes struggles, and gives a sense of achievement – making room for the expression of grievances in an environment of trust, in people’s own words, with their own references and on their own terms.

Box 2

Atlas of Environmental Justice

The Atlas of Environmental Justice comprises an atlas of thematic and regional maps covering socio-environmental conflicts around the world. Most of the cases covered in the atlas focus on situations where communities are mobilized and struggle for environmental justice.

Key highlights from the Mapping process reveal that:
1. Ecological conflicts are increasing around the world, driven by material demands fed primarily by the richest subsection of the global population. The most impacted are poor and marginalized communities (…).
2. Both old and new forms (fracking, eco-system services) of extraction are expanding. Much of this resource drive is focused on the last pristine ecosystems on the planet, which are often occupied by indigenous and subsistence communities.
3. The current wave of enclosures is leading to reckless and irreparable environmental destruction including water contamination and depletion, land degradation, and the release of dangerous toxic materials, as well as the loss of community control over resources necessary for their livelihoods. (…)
4. These environmental injustices involve a variegated web of actors, including corporate actors already operating in large-scale capital resource investment, as well as new financial actors. (…)Peoples’ resistance is emerging. Communities are fighting to regain control of their resources and assert their right to a healthy environment. Forms of action include formal means, such as court cases, lobbying government and referenda as well as informal mobilization including street protest, blockades and land occupation.
5. Companies continue to enjoy widespread corporate impunity for environmental and human rights abuses. Companies continue activities amidst strong citizens’ protests, sometimes relying on private security forces and sympathetic governments to suppress resistance. This increased persecution and violent targeting of environmental activists is undermining human rights (Nyéléni newsletter no 14: Rights and repression).
6. Increased corporate accountability, as opposed to voluntary corporate responsibility, and reduction of consumption are the only way to stop the spread of ecological conflicts worldwide. Continued monitoring and mobilisation by citizens’ groups is essential.
7. Amidst the stories of environmental devastation and pollution, there are many cases of environmental justice victories(…). The grassroots resistance of impacted communities is key to moving to a more equal and sustainable economy.