Posts Tagged ‘land’
Shatila Palestinian Camp, Beirut
More than 250,000 Palestinians are currently living in 12 camps within Lebanon. The Palestinian people have been displaced, and have been living as refugees for over 60 years. Nevertheless, the Palestinians continue to live in the daily hope of returning to their homeland.
This was most evident in May, when 100,000 Palestinians returned to the Israeli border to demonstrate their right to return to their homeland. Six were killed. Today there is little evidence that displaced Palestinians will become citizens of their own land in the foreseeable future.
One Palestinian camp in Lebanon, named Shatila, is situated within Beirut. The 1km2 of land is home to over 17,000 people. 5,000 people are Palestinians, and the rest are a mix of Syrians, Lebanese, Sudanese, and Iraqi refugees. Non-Palestinians use the camp as a safe haven, the one place they can avoid prison terms for being an “illegal” person.
As refugees, Palestinians are denied the right to work or own property, despite their will and abilities – 50% are university graduates. Opinions over the Palestinians’ right to work are divided; there are fears that allowing them to work will encourage them to remain in Lebanon, though they will tell you clearly – they want to be in Palestine, not Lebanon.
During the Israeli war on Lebanon in the early 1980’s, Shatila was the scene of a catastrophic massacre in 1982, where 1,500 people were slaughtered at the hands of the militia of the Lebanese Forces, supported by the Israeli army. Immediately after, in Lebanon and internationally, news, information, or press about what happened were suppressed and the destroyed camp was declared a military zone. With the assistance of the UN, the Israeli’s withdrew, and control was handed over to the Syrian army. Conditions remained desperate within the camp. In 1984 the “war of the camps” broke out. Shatila remained under siege for 3 years, where the camp was denied food, resulting in starvation and deaths.
The Syrian army began to withdraw in 2003. With greater freedom, many people left the camp, while others began to improve conditions by bringing in materials and looking for informal work. Despite this, Shatila remains without a play area, a proper school, or adequate housing.
Community is strong within the camp, and it is not as dangerous a place as is commonly perceived. Palestinians have expressed their wish for their efforts to be recognized, respected, and supported. There is a hope that an awareness of the situation for Palestinians within the camp will generate sincere progress towards a peaceful, just resolution to their displacement.
by Jacques St. Laurent
To read more about our time in Lebanon click here!
Development and Peace Launches Graphic Novel that Tells Story of Hope in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
READ OUR NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL!
An update from Development and Peace staff at the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal this week…
Land Grabbing, Garbage Dumping and Rules-Rigging
Delegates at the World Social Forum in Dakar have now been considering how social movements can work together to build another world for more than 48 hours.
Each day, Julie, Hélène and I are confronted with a smorgasbord of workshops to attend, from how African farmers are saying no to GM crops and demanding food sovereignty to how Senegalese hip-hop musicians are forging cultural frontiers of resistance to the dominant economic model.
A theme that emerges is that if the social movements of the Global South are struggling against economic domination by the powerful, the wealthy are resisting the resistance of the poor – and have been for the last few centuries.
In a workshop organized by our German counterpart organization, Misereor, a joke originally told by Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town was quoted :
«When the whites arrived in Africa, we had the land, and they had the Bible.
So they said, `Brothers and sisters, let us close our eyes and pray.’
So we did. Only when we opened our eyes, they had the land, and we had the Bible.»
Ruth Hall, a South African researcher, gave a harrowing account of a worsening state of affairs, with multinational corporations forming partnerships with governments of Africa to buy up huge tracts of land in Africa that they say are unused – financed by some so called ‘ethical’ investment funds. The result is more dispossessed peasants, who sell their land for next to nothing and end up swelling the slums of the continent’s cities.
The extremely lucrative crop Jatropha, a plant used to make bio-fuels, is a jealous plant, Rene Segbenou of Benin explained. «It tolerates no other plants in its midst, and kills the soil.»
By Mary Durran, Development and Peace Advocacy Officer
Since early December, hundreds of private contractors of multinational banana corporation Banacol have illegally invaded and occupied Afro-Colombian peace communities in the Curvaradó river basin in order to clear the land for banana cultivation.
Their actions have been supported and assisted by local paramilitaries, army soldiers and municipal governments.
The peace communities’ collective territory is protected under Colombia’s Constitution and protective measures under the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. According to documents released by the Colombian human rights organization, Intereclesial Comisión de Justicia y Paz (Justicia y Paz) , Banacol workers are displacing vulnerable Afro-Colombian peace communities, thus enabling the corporation to occupy sections of communal, resource rich land.
This violates the sovereignty of the long-standing communities, and puts them at risk for complete displacement from their collective territory in a country with almost 5 million internally displaced people. They are also bulldozing the subsistence farmers’ crops, destroying natural habitats and contaminating waterways.
Flyers posted in poor neighborhoods and communities across the northwestern part of the country lured the squatters into Curvaradó in the Urabá region of Chocó, Colombia. The flyers assured three months of paid living expenses, titles to 2.5-hectare plots, materials and pay to build settlements, and a contract with Banacol Inc. to grow bananas.
What the flyers didn’t include is that the Curvaradó territory is already inhabited by Afro-descendent communities, committed to maintain their collective territories, granted to them under law 70 of Colombia (1993), which recognizes and protects Afro-Colombians’ right to collectively own and occupy their ancestral territory.
The “bad-faith occupiers,” as the Curvaradó residents call them, are mainly made up of vulnerable individuals; some displaced by violence in other regions of the country, some farmers without land, and others recently unemployed by palm oil or banana plantations. Unfortunately, their vulnerable situations put them at risk to be taken advantage of by the corporate agenda, promising them “the good life”, and thus at risk to further impoverish other vulnerable communities for their gain.
According to the ancestral inhabitants, the invaders admit that they collectively own the land, but contend to remain on the stolen plots because it is their only opportunity for work. Banacol, as so many other multinational corporations, has pitted these vulnerable populations against one another, putting them at higher risk of oppression.
The squatters say they expect to receive up to 180,000 pesos ($90 U.S.) for each hectare cleared. So far, according to Justicia y Paz, they have cleared-out over 200 hectares and built over 122 temporary huts and camps. The “bad-faith occupiers” are still arriving by the hundreds. Although the squatters would not identify who the money is coming from, the promised contracts with Banacol implicates them as the instigators and funders of an intended illegal displacement for profit.
The peace communities filed a legal complaint with the municipality of Carmen del Darién, but no response has been taken by local authorities thus far. The Carmen del Darién police ordered an eviction of the illegal occupiers, but then said that they do not have the resources to carry out such an action.
The most recent demonstration of state support and collusion with the illegal occupation was the funneling of flood victims relief funds to the illegal land invaders by the Mayors Office in Carmen del Darién, according to Justicia y Paz.
For more on History + Consequences of Occupation + Banacol’s Bloody Bananas
in Multinational Banana Corporation Displaces Afro-Colombian Peace Communities
by Megan Felt
Much of Filipino history has been dominated by spurts of colonial rule that has had lasting effects on many elements of current Filipino society. Our partners in the Philippines were able to shed light on many of the ways that years of Spanish and American rule continue to impact the country. One of the persisting effects of colonial rule is in land ownership.
On August 18th, we had the opportunity to observe a demonstration in Legazpi City pertaining to the Hacienda Luisita struggle. Close to 6,500 hectares in size, this sprawling piece of land has been used as a tool for oppression since the 1800s under Spanish rule. After being handed over to the Americans for a brief period, when it became a sugar plantation, it was finally purchased in 1957 by Don Pepe Cojuangco. Cojuangco was father-in-law to then rising politician Ninoy Aquino, who later became the opposition leader to the Marcos dictatorship. Current president Benino Aquino and his family remain part owners of the Hacienda.
One of the stipulations upon purchase was that in 10 years time, the Hacienda Luisita land would have to be redistributed to its tenants – the peasants that lived on and worked the land – at terms and costs that were reasonable. But 10 years came and went, and the Cojuangco-Aquino ownership refused to hold up their end of the bargain.
The result has been a decades-long, ongoing struggle to have proprietors redistribute the land to which the tenants are legally entitled. In 2004, during a blockade by plantation workers and union leaders, soldiers and police dispatched by then president Gloria Arroyo fired at least 1000 rounds of ammunition at the blockade, killing 12 and injuring hundreds. The event is known as the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. To date, no one has been charged for this heinous crime. Other attempts to pacify the farmers – rightful owners of the land – have included offering short-term monetary compensation and stock-options, rather than the land itself.
August18th was a National Day of Outrage call-out to stand in solidarity with the farmers against the compromise deal being offered by the current hacienda owners. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hold an oral hearing on the Stock Option Deal. Farmers and allies from all over the country organized different actions in their respective cities to ensure their voices were heard in the court dispute. It was in this action that our group was participating.
The Centre for Environmental Concern, one of Development and Peace’s partners that hosted us during the trip, is part of a multi-sectoral alliance that organized the action. The demo we attended was held outside the Department for Agrarian Reform regional office in Legazpi City. While the issue was new to all of us, it was important for us to get a small taste of the activism and mobilization that is happening around agrarian reform in the Philippines.
To date, there has still been little action on revoking the stock option deal and ensuring that the farmers get the land that they are entitled to and have been struggling to attain for decades. As human rights advocates and as supporters of a just and sustainable world, we all must stand in solidarity with the farmers of the Hacienda Luisita and our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world fighting for their rights.