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By Jovanna Garcia Soto
December 31st, 2013
On New Year’s Day, 20 years ago, a group of indigenous peoples, known as the Zapatistas, occupied several municipalities of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Not coincidentally, that same day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Zapatistas considered the free trade agreement and the neoliberal political system that spawned it to be a death sentence for indigenous peoples in Mexico. The magnitude of the Zapatista uprising was due to the participation of different indigenous groups which joined forces to change a system that was marginalizing and exploiting them.
By Lydia Simas
By Jonathan Leaning
December 19th, 2013
This last year has seen many advances around the globe for communities and activists pushing to regain their fundamental human rights to land, water, and food. As we now approach the end of 2013, we take this opportunity a look back at some of the accomplishments that have marked the year. In spite of the great challenges—and seemingly insurmountable odds—there is much to celebrate. Below are some of many highlights from the last year.
Winning land for formerly landless farmers in Brazil
By Claire Gilbert and Mina Remy
The Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) announced the redistribution of land last month to 140 indigenous and peasant families. The families were part of the largest violent eviction in the recent history of Guatemala in March 2011 when non-state actors, police, military forces and the government forced nearly 800 indigenous Q’eqchí families of their land without notice, destroyed their crops and burned their homes.
Grassroots International and its partners in the We Divest coalition join activists from around the country in congratulating TIAA-CREF for taking a step toward living up to its motto, “Investment for the Greater Good”. “TIAA-CREF has made a move in the right direction by divesting its Social Choice Fund of Veolia stock given that Veolia's business model and practices have consistently put profit over people -- whether privatizing water resources around the world, or enabling Israeli occupation and segregation in the West Bank. This is a victory for all those concerned with human rights and justice,” said Nikhil Aziz, Executive Director of Grassroots International.
Read the full press release below.
The narrative below is the third in a series of three stories documented by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), a Grassroots International partner since 1996. PCHR has gained an international reputation as an independent voice on human rights documenting abuses carried out by both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Raji Sourani, the founder and director of PCHR, recently received the Right Livelihood Award (known as the Alternative Nobel Prize). The PCHR documents human rights violations, provides legal aid to victims, advocates for greater economic and social rights, and, in particular, defends the rights of Gaza fishers who are routinely denied access to their fishing waters by the Israeli Defense Forces.
In January 1994, the Zapatistas - autonomous indigenous communities who organized themselves in a system of liberated zones within Chiapas, Mexico – emerged out of the jungles with a clear and unified voice in opposition to the system of neoliberalism being imposed upon their lives through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A trade deal between Canada, the US, and Mexico, NAFTA instituted a set of regulations that made it easier for transnational corporations to make profits across borders, no matter what the costs or consequences to people and the environment. As a result, thousands of workers in the US lost their jobs as companies moved their operations to Mexico where the costs of production were cheaper.
The article below orginally appeared in La Jicarita: An online magazine of Environmental Politics in New Mexico following a presentation by Leonardo Maggi (from the Movement of People Affected by Dams) and Sara Mersha (from Grassroots International).
It has been almost four years since the devastating earthquake of 2010 shook Haiti to its core. In the aftermath—amid grand plans to ‘build back better’ and huge promises of international aid—more than 1 million people settled into makeshift camps, their homes destroyed by the quake. Many of these camps were in public areas, highly visible on roads and highways--glaring evidence of the need to re-build.