Archive | November, 2016
On November 4th, 2016, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights at Organization of American States in Washington issued its resolution with respect to precautionary measures.
The Commission decided to request that the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas adopt precautionary measures regarding the matter of reference.
Read the full Ruling here.
It is a comprehensive, detailed and hard-hitting ruling; it basically finds that the Government of The Bahamas has failed to take measures to protect, investigate and/or prevent the threats of death, defamations, harassment campaign and intimidation that our members have been subjected to over these last few years, despite our continuing complaints to the Police and the authorities to intervene.
The Government is now required, in accordance with its international treaty obligations at the OAS, to take positive and demonstrable action to the members of Save The Bays and to regularly report its efforts to the Commission.
We urge you to read the ruling in its entirety.
It is hard hitting.
The Commissioners of the Organization of American States do not mince words.
And they explain in great detail some of the factors and elements which led them to make this damning decision.
Read the full ruling here.
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS URGE DRY DOCKING OF PLANS TO BUILD CRUISE PORT ON DELICATE EAST END, SUGGEST FREEPORT WHERE INFRASTRUCTURE EXISTS
Two environmental organisations are calling on Carnival Cruise Lines to dry-dock plans to build a $200 million cruise port in East End, Grand Bahama, citing the area as “one of the most fragile and important ecological wonders of The Bahamas.”
Instead, say members of Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas, the port should be built in Freeport, where the infrastructure to support it already exists and where the economic environment would welcome it.
“We welcome Carnival Cruise Lines and recognize the importance of the cruise industry to the overall economy of The Bahamas,” said Joe Darville, Chairman of Save The Bays. “Our fear is that the very beauty that Carnival’s passengers and other visitors find in Grand Bahama could easily be destroyed if the port is built in that area. It is one of the most fragile and important ecological wonders of The Bahamas.”
Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham said East End is a microcosm of all that makes the environment of The Bahamas “the amazing treasure” it is.
“Driving past the Casuarina Bridge and the new Jack Hayward Bridge into East End, a whole world opens up. There is nowhere else in The Bahamas quite like it, even the light is different. But it is very fragile and much of it is quite shallow or marshland. The campus of the College of The Bahamas (University of The Bahamas as of November 10) is on marshland.”
One of the greatest concerns, say both Darville and Ingraham, is the impact that such a port could have on the potable water source.
“Grand Bahama sits on one of the three greatest watersheds of The Bahamas, the others being Abaco and Andros,” explained Ingraham. “There is a reason that the storage tanks were located at East End. The water table extends for miles and if you allow salt intrusion through dredging you will be affecting the source of water for much of the northern Bahamas.”
Ingraham and Darville also note that East End beaches, including Gold Rock Beach, are the most desirable of all of Grand Bahama’s 80 miles of beach and coastline and may be the only place in The Bahamas where swimmers and snorkelers can swim among free dolphins who live and play in the waters less than two miles offshore. They also cite untouched coral reefs at Lightbourne Cay. Environmentalists and animal rights advocates have also voiced fears that the dolphins could be captured and kept in a confined area for swim with the dolphins’ experiences for cruise passengers to earn additional revenue for the cruise line.
“There is at present no infrastructure or amenities out east to support such a project,” said Darville, who chairs the 3-year-old organization that has more than 20,000 Facebook followers and whose petition has garnered nearly 7,000 signatures. “That whole area is also at basically sea level replenished with mangroves, flowing tidal creeks and other marine amenities, all of which will be destroyed by any such development. Why take a chance risking the loss of one of the great ecological treasures of The Bahamas when it can be moved just a matter of miles and create the same economic benefit without harming marine life, rare owls, a blue hole, the water supply, magnificent coral reefs, marshlands and an area where dolphins still swim free and in the wild?”
Environmentalist Sam Duncombe concurs.
“East End is also the site of the Lucayan National Park,” she said. “How can there even be consideration of a major cruise port in such a delicate low-lying area, with wide sand bank at low tide on one side, marsh and mangroves on the other, a small national park with historic value? It would be hard to imagine a less suitable place for a port.”
Duncombe, a board member of Save The Bays and founder of reEarth which played a significant role in preventing long-line fishing, said she does not believe there is any way an environmental impact assessment could recommend going forward with the port in the proposed location. Save The Bays and Waterkeepers, as well as re-Earth, also expressed concern about how an area so confined and fragile would handle the trash, packaging and garbage generated by cruise ships carrying thousands of passengers making weekly or more frequent stops.
Despite those concerns, the National Economic Council (NEC) last week gave the green light for the conclusion of a heads of agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines for the $200 million cruise project in East End. The government has said that such a port would have great economic impact.
Waterkeepers Bahamas works to promote the availability of clean water on three waterbodies in Bimini, Grand Bahama and Clifton & Western Bays on New Providence so that these waterbodies are swimmable, fishable and drinkable for future generations. The organization is a proud member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement that has united more than 290 Waterkeeper members and affiliates around the world, all working together to focus citizen action on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. If you are aware of pollution, unregulated development or other illegal activities taking place in the area please contact Rashema Ingraham via phone 242-602-7531 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on The Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay petition, please visit https://www.change.org/o/protectcliftonbay
As can be seen from the attached article, protecting environmentalists is currently a top priority for international bodies such as the United Nations. Save The Bays has reached out to the UN experts here listed concerning the threats we have faced over the past few years as a result of our attempts to defend local land rights and uphold the rule of law.
“A deadly undertaking” – UN experts urge all Governments to protect environmental rights defenders
GENEVA (2 June 2016) – Speaking ahead of World Environment Day on Sunday 5 June, three United Nations human rights experts call on every Government to protect environmental and land rights defenders.
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox; the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, stress that protecting environmental rights defenders is crucial to protect the environment and the human rights that depend on it.
“Being an environmentalist can be a dangerous, even deadly undertaking. Berta Cáceres, the Goldman Prize winner who was assassinated in Honduras in March 2016, was only one of dozens of environmentalists to be killed in recent months.
Every week, on average, two environmental and land rights activists are killed and the numbers are getting worse, according to civil society figures. The situation is particularly grave in Latin America and Southeast Asia, but it affects every region of the world. It is truly a global crisis.
On this World Environment Day, we want to underscore that environmental human rights defenders should be lauded as heroes for putting themselves at risk to protect the rights and well-being of others. Instead, they are often targeted as if they were enemies of the State.
The brave women and men who work to protect the environment are routinely harassed, threatened, unlawfully detained, and even murdered, merely for opposing powerful business and governmental interests bent on exploiting and destroying the natural environment on which we all depend.
The enjoyment of a vast range of human rights, including rights to life, health, food, water, and housing, depend on a healthy and sustainable environment. Those who work to protect the environment are not only environmentalists – they are also human rights defenders.
In March 2016, the Human Rights Council adopted a landmark Resolution (res 31/ 32) which requires States to ensure the rights and safety of human rights defenders working towards the realization of economic, social and cultural rights.
That was a good initial step, but Governments must do far more. They have obligations under human rights law to protect environmentalists’ rights of expression and association by responding rapidly and effectively to threats, promptly investigating acts of harassment and violence from all parties including business and non-State actors, protecting the lives of those at risk, and bringing those responsible to justice.
States must also adopt and implement mechanisms that allow defenders to communicate their grievances, claim responsibilities, and obtain effective redress for violations, without fear of intimidation.
They must take additional steps to safeguard the rights of members of marginalized and vulnerable communities, especially indigenous peoples, whose cultures, identities and livelihoods often depend on the environment and whose lives are particularly susceptible to environmental harm, placing them on the frontlines of conflict.
Currently, States are failing to meet these obligations. Of the nearly 1000 reported murders over the last decade, fewer than 10 have resulted in convictions. The real culprits are rarely held accountable for their crimes.
In the last year, the international community has reached consensus on the new sustainable development goals as a roadmap to a more sustainable, prosperous and equitable future. But those goals cannot be met if those on the front line of protecting sustainable development are not protected.
It is ironic that environmental rights defenders are often branded as ‘anti-development’, when by working to make development truly sustainable, they are actually more pro-development than the corporations and governments that oppose them.
Supporting environmental human rights defenders is crucial to protect our environment and the human rights that depend on it, and Governments should never forget that.”
The UN Human Rights Council appointed Mr. John H. Knox (USA) in 2012 to serve as Independent Expert, and reappointed him in 2015 as Special Rapporteur, on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The Council requested him, a professor of international law at Wake Forest University in the United States, to clarify the application of human rights norms to environmental protection, and to identify best practices in the use of human rights obligations in environmental policy-making. Learn more, visit:
Mr. Michel Forst (France) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur
JOINT STATEMENT BY WATERKEEPERS BAHAMAS & SAVE THE BAYS
ON CROWN LAND LEASES FOR FARMING, FISHING, FORESTRY HARVESTING
Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save The Bays join those across the Bahamian spectrum this week who are expressing reaction ranging from disbelief to outrage upon learning that the Government of The Bahamas has authorised negotiations with the People’s Republic of China for 10,000 acres of Crown land in Andros, farming and fishing rights, and 4,500 acres of Crown land for timber harvesting.
As partners in the struggle to call attention to climate change, and as champions of transparency, accountability, freedom of information and protection of the many natural resources with which The Bahamas is blessed, we hereby go on record opposing the granting of any such rights to foreign governments to farm, fish and harvest the precious resources of The Bahamas.
By stating this view, it is not our intention to cast aspersion on this or previous governments for this is not a time for blame and both governments have contributed to the growing dependence on a foreign government.
Nor do we wish to cast blame on the representatives of the People’s Republic of China. It is clear that with one fifth of the world’s population, the most populous nation on the face of the earth must find ways to feed itself in the future. We simply wish to reiterate that The Bahamas which already faces a precarious future with some predicting that as much as 80% of our land mass will be underwater due to rising seas in our grandchildren’s lifetime, this tiny island nation may not serve as a temporary foodbasket for a giant, risking the depletion of conch, crawfish and fish or losing Crown land with tens of thousands of Bahamians awaiting grants. Our arable land is already shrinking and we can ill afford to donate more.
We stand firm and united with others in the environmental and freedom of information movement. Please do not give away what makes The Bahamas one of the most desirable places to live, work and play on earth. Please, listen to the voices of the people who love The Bahamas and want the best for its future.
With donations pouring in from around the world in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the need for transparency and accountability is critical if The Bahamas is to remain a reputable recipient of international beneficence, say civic leaders.
“Never has the need for transparency been greater,” said Joseph Darville, Chairman of environmental advocacy organization Save The Bays. “Since Hurricane Matthew, we have had many offers of assistance. We explain the needs, how many homes are without roofs, how many families have been displaced, how many businesses cannot open their doors because they were flooded and lost everything. But what we cannot explain when asked is who is overseeing efforts and what is the level of accountability? Donated goods come in but without a transparent government reinforced by Freedom of Information legislation, we cannot offer potential donors of large sums the comfort that we have legislation that would allow the public to see how funds were spent if we submitted a request.”
The aftermath of the Category 4 storm that levelled parts of Grand Bahama, Lowe’s Sound, Andros and damaged much of the southern short of New Providence rekindled the push for strong freedom of information legislation. Save The Bays is one of 17 professional, civil society, environmental and business organisations that joined forces to push for the legislation. Government had promised to table a revised freedom of information bill this month but postponed, blaming the delay on the storm.
Attorney Lemarque Campbell, president of Citizens for a Better Bahamas, said the cloud of secrecy that surrounds closed door deals and contract awards must end.
“There are only a handful of countries in the world in which the citizenry has no legislated rights to know what the government does,” said Campbell. “Unfortunately, that handful of countries that favours secrecy over transparency still includes The Bahamas. But I am confident that with all of our voices calling for true freedom of information we will get there. We just have to keep up the fight and not give up.”
The groups that united over freedom of information also submitted comments on the draft bill along with several recommendations. Among the most important were an independent Information Commissioner with its own fixed budget and whistleblower protection
Others, including Organization for Responsible Government (ORG), are also pulling for an ombudsman to liaise on behalf of the general public, campaign finance reform and access to procurement contract processes.
The 17 groups calling for true freedom of information represent thousands. They include Citizens for a Better Bahamas, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer’s Confederation, Bahamas Federation of Retailers, We The People, The Abaco Chamber of Commerce, Save The Bays, The Nassau Institute, reEarth, Organization for Responsible Governance, HeadKnowles, Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, Waterkeepers Bahamas, The Bahamas Press Club, Our Carmichael, It’s Our Turn and Young Marine Explorers.