May 22, 2012

Bearing Witness: Panning For Justice (MGA)

As part of the annual Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations (May 7-18, 2012), the NGO Working Group on Mining of the NGO Committee on the U.N. International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, of which Mercy Global Action at the UN is a member, organized and co-sponsored a multimedia exhibit on May 8th at The Tillman Chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations entitled “Bearing Witness.”

The goals of the Bearing Witness Project were:

1. To give witness through multimedia and story to a portion of the destructive and death-dealing impact of extractive abuses on peoples and on the environment.
2. To stand in solidarity with and to pray for those who have been impacted by this destruction.
3. To identify and make visible the legal, human rights and church statements and documents that reject mining abuses and that support a just and rights-based development framework.
4. To memorialize those impacted by mining destruction and atrocities.

Through the exhibit, the NGO Working Group on Mining issued the following call to governments, the mining industry and members of civil society:

1. We call for implementation, accountability, transparency and independent monitoring of all codes and agreements at all levels – national and international – to prevent extractive industry abuse.
2. We call for a strong application of the precautionary principle wherever the effects on the environment, biodiversity, human rights and animal welfare are uncertain.
3. We call on all States to enact and implement domestic laws to protect and provide redress for communities that suffer through the actions of mining corporations.
4. We call on those States, whose corporations and investment institutions profit from activities outside the State, to enact laws giving jurisdiction over such extraterritorial activities.
5. We call for the ratification of ILO 169 and ILO 76 on Safety in Mining.
6. We call for a review of all current projects begun without reference to the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the right to self-determination of Indigenous communities. Such reviews must include the participation of legitimate representatives of the custodial community from which Free, Prior and Informed Consent was not obtained.
7. We call on States to establish an independent Panel to adjudicate on:

  • Compensation and restitution for damages inflicted by extractive industries to the lands, territories and resources.
  • Rehabilitation of degraded environments caused by extractive industry projects .

8. Finally, we call upon all of us as citizens to realize our responsibility as ethical consumers and to advocate for the human and ecological rights of those negatively impacted by the scale and abuses of the industry and our own consumer practices. This is not only our challenge, it is our obligation.

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Sisters of Mercy in the Philippines, Argentina, Panama, Peru and Cambodia contributed to the exhibit by sharing their grassroots experiences of the negative impact of mining abuses on their communities and on the peoples who resist mining abuse. At the event on May 8th, Mercy International Association was represented by Mercy Sisters Áine O’Connor (member of the Bearing Witness planning committee), Mary Bilderback and Rita Parks.

The exhibit culminated at the end of the day with a time of remembering and naming the human rights activists that have been disappeared or killed in the years 2010-2012 because of their work.

Rita Parks rsm offers a reflection of her experience that day. To access her reflection, click here.

Messages to:
Áine O’Connor rsm
Rita Parks rsm

 Photograph on flyer used with permission of Southwings. Flyer design by Nicolas Cambier. Slideshow photos courtesy of VIVAT International and Rita Parks rsm

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