Thematic Cluster:

Resource Justice, Land Rights, Equal access to Water, and Participation - Going beyond Extractivism (Draft programme)

Buy land, they are not making it anymore” (Mark Twain)



For consumer goods like smartphones, laptops, cars, etc. we need raw materials. Industries, especially in Europe and in East Asia, but also in South and Southeast Asia, are using every year more copper, nickel or tin. Most of the producing countries have to import most of these raw materials from other regions and countries. The consumer and industry are still ask for more. Same with agrarian raw materials. Thus landgrabbing for mining, industrialised agriculture and many other purposes like urbanisation and tourism is increasing, including water grabbing as well.

At the same time we observe an increased concentration of only a few multinational companies providing these raw materials. And the North just exports its mines to the South. Some of the countries in Asia and Europe are called “resource rich”. But this wealth is often not a chance but a curse. The extraction of raw materials is often associated with massive violation of human rights, social rights, workers rights, indigenous rights and the degradation of the environment. There is a huge lack of transparency and involvement of local and affected communities. The host governments are often not willing or not able to secure the rights of local people. The promised benefits of employment opportunities and economic development bypass local communities and even national governments might not gain by increasing revenues or foreign exchange. Critical civil society, social movements and journalists are threatened or even killed if they report about social and environment problems. Multinational companies avoid paying taxes, circumvent national and international regulations and sue countries when governments implement higher social or environmental standards.


Thematic Event 1 (phase 1): Mining in different regions

Mongolia’s mining boom is an example for the development paradigm of extraktivism. It was prepared and launched by development donor institutions “inspired” by so-called investors and led by the World Bank and IMF country strategies for restructuring and liberalizing policies. Government‘s attempts to merge a socio-developmental narrative with a neoliberal policy framework aimed at attracting large foreign mining investors has been successful but the actual implementation process of the socio-developmental provisions follow a particular strategy by the government whereby these provisions are being implemented only sporadically. This „selective absence“ of the state is resulting in political instability and has led factions of recent governments to promote measures that are viewed by the investors as feeding “resource nationalism”. Since 2013 the current elected government has embarked on the road of hectically amending national laws on land, pasture, water and environmental protection to „further improve investor friendly environment“. All laws, donor or development programs lead to ensuring more land freed up for extractive industry exploration and mining activities.

Restructuring and legal reform of this kind do not happen only in Mongolia. Mining activities in many other ‚resource rich’ Asian countries and in Europe, especially in Eastern Europe, with a longer history provide plenty of illustrative material about experiences at the economic, political, social and environmental level. Too, the reference to developments and discussions in Latin America could contribute to the understanding of development impacts, strategies of actors like companies, governments and financial institutions, framing the activities of social movements and CSOs.

Thematic Event 2 (phase 1): Land grab for crops, mining, development

Land and water are two of the main fundamentals for the livelihood of millions of families negatively affected by commercial, industrialised exploitation of natural resources. In the past few years ‚landgrabbing’ has reached threatening proportions with the increasing competition fo powerful companies from this mining sector, from agrobusiness, and from various other profit-seeking activities like financial and urban land speculation or tourism for increasingly scarce land and water resources.

Landgrabbing for Oil palm, Banana and Maize cultivation for example is one of the major threat to the forest in Asia, which produce many non-carbon benefits including food to the local communities and capture CO2 to cool the planet. 90 per cent of the palm oil to Europe comes from Indonesia, Malaysia. The Asian region supplies 25 per cent of the banana market in Europe, with the Philippines as the second largest Banana exporter after Ecuador.

However, corporations grab the forest and agricultural lands with the support of corrupt officials and the politicians. They displace local communities and criminalize the communities and leaders. There are plenty of human rights violations in those locations. They apply huge amount of harmful agrochemicals with grave impacts on the health of local people and the environment.. They pump out river water and the ground water in large scale. They find cheap labour from poor communities who loose their territories.

With the dispossession of land, forests and water, local communities loose the possibilities for self determined, economic viable and sustainable approaches towards their own development aspirations. Shrinking spaces for such alternatives lead into a vicious circle of forcing more and more people into the neoliberal development model with precarious livelihoods as low paid workers, migrants, and underemployed in the informal sectors of the economy.

Thematic Event 3 (phase 2): Lessons Learned (mining, development, agriculture, etc)

Win some, loose some! But how to change the game? – International civil society and social movements in the field of raw materials

Discussing resistance movements and learning from each other – what kind of tactics do work in different contexts?

Governments in Asia and Europe are pursuing policies that foster foreign investments, pushing for free trade agreements, bilateral investment treaties and other contracts. Yet those treaties and agreements favour the mining and agro industry. At the same time, people in Asia and Europe start to organize and protest against such treaties and practices. But a lot of these voices and protests are still isolated. There is a lack of sharing knowledge and experiences, stories of success and failures of our struggles. People miss opportunities to learn from each other.

The workshop will give the opportunity to exchange and discuss about (inter-)national struggles against resource extraction and their associated costs against the background of the discussions at the two workshops of phase 1 and phase 2. What have been failures and successes of past activities by civil society and social movements? We want to discuss which campaigns, lobbying, civil disobedience, demonstrations, media work, drafting of bills / laws, and publications, etc. were successful and which were not. And more importantly: why did they prove to be successful and what were the reasons they failed to achieve the desired outcomes? What can we learn from those past activities to inspire, inform and shape current strategies and tactics? Finding common ground where we might even be able to support each other.

Guiding questions:

Are there positive examples to learn from? What resistance movements do exist in the EU and Asia who do successful work against impacts of extractivism, the influence of IFI on extractivism processes, how these processes being monitored by civil society, etc.?

Thematic Event 4: Strategising

Have an open space strategy meeting to which we invite all speakers and participants from the other resource workshops to sit together, network and discuss what might follow from AEPF11, the resource cluster and all the workshops.

Some ideas about 'Strategising Alternatives to Resource Extractivist Development' (Oliver Pye)

Resource extraction and growth = Development. This sums up the development strategy pursued by nations and capital at the ASEM summit. Local groups and civil society organizations are often involved in resisting such projects, as they lead to intense pollution, land grabbing and social marginalization on the ground. But how do we go beyond localized struggles? What alternatives can we offer to this type of development at the national and transnational scale? What strategies do we have that link local struggles to a broader movement for social-ecological transformation of existing production and consumption patterns?

In this context, debates of alternative development concepts from Latin America have become very prominent. Left-wing governments increasingly pursued neo-extractivist strategies – using income from mining and oil to fund social programmes. But this does not challenge the basic model of extractivism, leading to the concept of post-extractivism, which seeks to de-link social development from ever-increasing volumes of resources taken from the ground. The concept of Buen Vivir (good life / good living) was taken up by marginalised people in urban centres like El Alto (Bolivia) which were largely neglected by the state. In Europe, social movements are putting forward the concept of de-growth as part of a social-ecological transition strategy.

In many Asian countries, local and indigenous alternatives play an important role for grass¬roots movements as well as for national politics. Most prominent on an international level is the Buddhist-inspired concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which serves as an alternative development index and normative orientation for development in Bhutan. In Mongolia, where mainstream development is dominated by the mining industry, the culture of nomadic pastoralism could be an important source for alternative development ideas.

This strategising workshop aims to draw on the analysis and lessons learnt from the other three workshops in the cluster to discuss forward looking strategies for social-ecological transformation in Europe and Asia. Because production and consumption patterns are increasingly inter-linked between the two continents, local and national strategies will not suffice to develop civil society alternatives that can resonate with the wider population. But do European strategies such as de-growth resonate with the situation in Asia, or do they have to be re-worked to become truly transnational strategies? And can indigenous-informed strategies in Asia leap the local scale and become generalised transformative strategies for wider society?

Possible Inputs (10 minutes):
1.) Challenging the extractivist development paradigm in Mongolia
2.) Post-extractivism and De-growth: strategies for social-ecological transformation in Europe
3.) Generalising from indigenous culture and Gross National Happiness: alternative development paradigms in Asia


NOTE: The Thematic Cluster 'Resource Justice, Land Rights, Equal access to Water, and Participation - Going beyond Extractivism' is being coordinated by OT Watch (Mongolia), Center for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth-South Asia, (Sri Lanka), and Stifung Asienhaus (Germany).


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