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Stories of Victory and Struggle from 2014

January 2015

Grassroots International and our global partners are leading the way in developing sustainable solutions to the biggest challenges facing our world. From farming cooperatives and seed banks, to passing laws that protect ancestral lands and defending the human right to land, water, and food,  together we take on big struggles and win important gains. Below are just some of the successes achieved in 2014 with support from Grassroots International, standing up to challenge poverty, climate disruption and human rights abuses.

Moving Towards an International Declaration on the Rights of Peasants
Resulting from a campaign led by the Via Campesina (Grassroots partner), on June 27, 2014 the United Nations Human Rights Council Assembly passed a resolution to move forward on drafting an international declaration on the rights of peasants and other rural workers. The Via Campesina represents more than 250 million peasants, agricultural workers, fishers and indigenous peoples and has been at the forefront of efforts to pass this declaration for years. This resolution brings us one step closer to worldwide recognition of the critical role that peasant farmers play.

Historic Victory for People Affected by Dams
The Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), a Grassroots International partner, celebrated an historic victory on June 23, 2014, when for the first time in Brazilian history legal rights were granted to people impacted by mega-dam projects. Tarso Genro, governor of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, signed a decree creating a State Policy for People Affected by Hydroelectric Projects. MAB played a key role in making this happen.

“We hope that this initiative by the government of Rio Grande do Sul will serve as a precedent to pass similar legislation in other parts of the country,” said Neudicléia Oliveira of the national coordinating body of MAB.

Palestinian Human Rights Defender Released from Prison
Hassan Karajah, youth coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign, was freed from Israeli prison in October 2014 after being held for 22 months. Hassan’s arrest was one in a line of many in Israel’s ongoing criminalization of Palestinian nonviolent human rights defenders. While in custody he endured harsh conditions and interrogation by Israeli military. We were overjoyed to hear of Hassan’s release, which came as a result of actions by human rights defense organizing by our grantees in Palestine!

Garífuna Representatives Testify at Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica
Showing strength and conviction in defending their right to judicial protection, a delegation of Garífuna peoples from the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH, a Grassroots partner), traveled to Costa Rica to testify in the “Triunfo de la Cruz” hearing at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This hearing addressed violations of territory rights of the Garífuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz.  Testifying in this case was a powerful way for OFRANEH to promote their communities’ right to participate in matters impacting them.

Solidarity with Palestine and Divestment from the Israeli Occupation
2014 was the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. In an important show of solidarity the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest $21 million from Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and Caterpillar – three companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

In addition, the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul canceled their Memorandum of Understanding with defense contractor Elbit Systems Ltd, one of the world’s largest security and defense electronics contractors. Elbit has a lucrative contract with Israel to build and operate the Separation Wall in the West Bank and Gaza. Grassroots International, as part of the We Divest Coalition, mobilized thousands of activists to call for an end to corporate profits from the occupation.

“A long way has still to be gone until we will achieve justice, equality and return for our people. However, this week we have been once again reassured by Rio Grande do Sul that we are not alone on this path towards peace.” – open letter of thanks to the government of Rio Grande do Sul from Stop the Wall (a Grassroots International partner) and other Palestinian organizations.

Climate Justice Mobilization in New York City
In the fall of 2014 Grassroots International and the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) supported international social movement leaders to participate in the People’s Climate March and the People’s Climate Justice Summit and Tribunal in New York City. It was such an honor – and vitally important – to have representatives from the Movement of People Affected by Dams (Brazil), the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Honduras) and members of the Via Campesina with us to bring an international perspective to this historic event.  Together with our partners and the CJA, we exposed the dangers of false solutions such as mega-dams, agro-fuels, and so-called “Climate-Smart Agriculture,” and promoted people’s strategies for real solutions such as food sovereignty, agroecology, territory rights of indigenous peoples, water rights, and energy sovereignty.

Landless Workers Movement – Encampment Established and Upheld
In early September, 2,500 families from the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil established the Dom Tomas encampment in the state of Goiás. The encampment is on the property of Senator Eunício Oliveira, who owns more than 49,421 acres of land in Goias. Eunício Oliveira and his lawyers tried to evict the MST families but the Goiás Court of Justice suspended the injunction making it possible for the families to stay.

“Eunício is the largest landowner in the region. His unproductive land only serves to enrich him more and more. This is the largest occupation of land in Goiás in the last ten years, and we will not allow more injustices to benefit landowners,” said Luiz Zarref, a member of the encampment.

Mayan Peoples Movement Defeats Monsanto Law
Following widespread protests and organizing on the part of the Mayan Peoples Movement, including Grassroots partner the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC), as well as the National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Peasants (CONIC) among others, the people of Guatemala succeeded in repealing the “Monsanto Law.” This law would have opened the market for genetically modified seeds, benefiting companies like Monsanto, and threatening to eradicate natural seeds and biodiversity.

Inspiring Visit from Haitian Human Rights Leader
In August, Antonal Mortime of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH, a longtime Grassroots partner) came to the US to meet with organizations and activists. He stopped by Grassroots International to talk with us about the condition of human rights defense work in Haiti. He inspired us with his commitment to organizing in defense of human rights, even under the ongoing threat of violence and repression. While in the US he did interviews with Haitian radio programs, met with US policy makers, and was interviewed by The Nation.

Palestinian Food Sovereignty Movement Wins International Recognition
The Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) was awarded the 2014 US Food Sovereignty Prize for their inspiring work in promoting food sovereignty and defending the human rights to water, land and food. For decades UAWC has been working with farmers to form cooperatives and seed banks and to support women’s leadership. UAWC shared the prize with Community to Community Development /Comunidad a Comunidad (C2C), a farmworker organizing group based in Bellingham, Washington which also works to promote food sovereignty.

Victory for Human Rights Activists in Honduras
In February 2014, charges against indigenous community leader Berta Cáceres were permanently dismissed. Berta, General Coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH, a Grassroots International ally), was facing serious charges as a result of her courageous organizing with indigenous Lenca communities in resistance to megaprojects that threaten their territories and way of life. Her victory comes despite the increased criminalization of human rights defenders, particularly those opposing mines and other megaprojects.

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