“One starts to doubt the very ethics of European relations with developing countries” – CIDSE
Press release

“One starts to doubt the very ethics of European relations with developing countries”

Guatemalan bishop calls on Europe to take the human and environmental costs of natural resource extraction into account.

(Brussels, 14 September 2011 )Monseigneur Ramazzini, Bishop of San Marcos, Guatemala, is in Brussels to report to European policymakers about the negative impacts of mining in his home country, Guatemala. Raw materials are high up the EU agenda this week, as the European Parliament adopted a report on the European strategy on raw materials on Monday 12 September. 

According to Ramazzini, it is people in poor countries who pay the consequences of the EU’s drive for natural resources, which is at odds with its very own development policies. “One starts to doubt the very ethics of European relations with developing countries. With one hand the Europeans give support through development aid, but with the other they take resources which are extracted at the cost of human rights and the environment.”, Mgr. Ramazzini told members of the press in Brussels this morning.

Monseigneur Ramazzini supports communities affected by megaprojects in their struggle to get the state and mining companies to respect their rights. In countries like Guatemala, the profits of gold, nickel and silver mining go mostly to foreign shareholders on the stock exchanges. Faced with a lack of political will to reform the mining laws to truly benefit the country, the local population receives few benefits. Indeed, they foot the bill in the form of environmental damage, social dislocation, and often further impoverishment. Land becomes more expensive and scarcer, and water is also used disproportionately by the extractive operations. Two international missions to Guatemala concluded that the megaprojects also endanger food security. However, opponents of the megaprojects are criminalized and discredited.

Raw materials are becoming scarce and Europe is almost entirely dependent on imports from other countries, for example from Latin America. The new EU raw materials policy attempts to secure raw materials supply via, amongst other things, trade mechanisms. In this context, the EU has recently concluded free trade talks with Central America but the European Parliament has yet to ratify the Association Agreement in 2012.

APRODEV, Broederlijk Delen, CIDSE, CIFCA, and Entraide et Fraternité support the community of San Marcos and other affected groups in Latin America by holding policymakers in Brussels to account. “We urgently need legally binding EU norms for European companies  to guarantee that their operations abroad don’t violate the human rights, and trade policy must be coherent with development policy. The EU should ask the  authorities in Latin America  and in particular in Guatemala to fulfill their obligations to protect human rights defenders in peaceful opposition to these megaprojects from criminalization,” said Karel Ceule, spokesperson for the organizations. 


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Notes to the editors

For a concrete case, see the Marlin Mine, an open pit gold mine in Guatemala that since its start has had a negative impact on neighboring communities and has been accompanied by growing social conflict, harassment and violence against its opponents and criminalization of social protest. Moreover, in 2005, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, visited Guatemala and said that the Government had granted the permission for the Marlin Mine without the free and informed consent of the affected indigenous communities.

APRODEV is an alliance of 16 European development agencies, which work closely together with the World Council of Churches. APRODEV influences decision-making of the EU as this affects developing countries, in order to promote justice and peace, and the eradication of poverty. www.aprodev.net

Broederlijk Delen is a Flemish ngo specialized in development cooperation. Broederlijk Delen supports 250 partner organizations in 20 countries. Most of them focus on sustainable rural development, human rights, democratization and participatory citizenship. www.broederlijkdelen.be

CIDSE is an international alliance of Catholic development agencies. Its 16 members from Europe and North America share a common strategy in their efforts to eradicate poverty and establish global justice. www.cidse.org

CIFCA  is a European network made by around 40 European ngos and solidarity committees working in development and human rights. Our main goal is to promote European participatory policies which respect human rights international standards, democracy and fair and sustainable development in Central America and Mexico.www.cifca.org

Entraide et Fraternité is a Catholic international solidarity NGO. It promotes a more just and equal society. Entraide et Fraternité works in partnership with over 110 organizations in the South. It informs and mobilizes thousands of citizens for more North-South solidarity. www.entraide.be

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