MAB is nominated for international Human Rights award

The Movement of People Affected by Dams has recently been nominated by the North-American organization Grassroots International to receive the annual award of the Center for Justice and Human Rights […]

River flooding villageThe Movement of People Affected by Dams has recently been nominated by the North-American organization Grassroots International to receive the annual award of the Center for Justice and Human Rights Robert Kennedy. Beyond the international visibility the initiative of the Center includes juridical support to those contemplated. For MAB this award may reinforce the historical struggle in defence of human rights and its defenders.

MAB interviewed the executive director of Grassroots International, Nikhil Aziz, who talked about the general context of energy in actual capitalist scenario, the importance of the organization of the affected and the significance of the Award of the Center for Justice and Human Rights Robert Kennedy.

MAB: The production of energy has a great importance in actual global context, especially the hydroelectric energy, considered as clean energy. Social movements and environmentalists criticize this model which destroys the environment and does not treat social issues. In your evaluation is there a mid-term between energy and social-environment issues? Which would this be?

Nikhil Aziz: While energy production is vital for global energy and for people in general, electricity generated through hydroelectric plants is not the best solution. Governments of Brazil, India, China, and even of small countries have seen large hydro-power dams as an integral part of its strategies in energy production. But we know that large hydro-power dams benefits large corporations and not the majority of the population. Besides with the hydroelectric plants there is a great loss of portions of land included forest and land for food production. They cause the interruption of rivers and affect the population living near rivers, it causes the displacement of million of people all around the world, particularity indigenous people and peasant families. In India it is estimated that since 1947 more than 50 million of people has been displaced of their land and homes. It also causes the production of methane, a gas that produces greenhouse effect, as well as carbon on the river reservation. At the end, life of the hydro-power dams is not very long considering the high financial, human and environmental costs. There are other ways of producing energy, including hydroelectric plants which are less expensive, less centralized, which causes less impairments to the environment and human being. We need to change this mentality that big projects are best, and see that small actions when multiplied may obtain similar or even better results.

MAB: Official documents of Brazilian government points out that exists a pattern on human rights violation at the construction of hydro-power dams in Brazil. Has the Grassroots accompanied the cases of human rights violation in other countries, particularity at construction of dams?

NA: Yes, we have accompanied social movements in other regions that are struggling against right violation, similar to those suffered by the MAB members. For example, in India, Pakistan, Honduras and Guatemala, and in parts of Africa we have supported social movements, indigenous and peasant organizations which opposes to large dams and changes on the river bed and also we have proposed alternative solutions which causes less environmental and human impact.

MAB: In your point of view, which contribution Brazilian social movements may give to grassroots international organizations in a context of capitalist crises?

NA: Brazilian social movements like the MST and MAB have been important voices in the world through their critic analysis of capitalism, proposals that are built on democratic processes and that are based on human rights and environmental protection. The MAB and MST have been sources of inspiration for other social movements not only in Latin America but also in Africa and Asia, and even in the United States. If the MAB remains steadfast in the struggle in Brazil, despite the increasing criminalization of social struggle, MAB will continue to serve as an example to other people and organizations. This is a vital contribution that we need in today’s crisis of neoliberal capitalism. If social movements in Brazil weaken, other social movements in the world will also be weakened.

MAB: What is the Grassroots perception of the organization of the affected by dams in Brazil?

NA: The Grassroots International salutes the courage and determination of those affected by dams in Brazil, indigenous peoples, quilombolas and peasants, including women. We know the risks and challenges faced and we are inspired that you continue struggling for your rights and for an alternative way of development that is equitable and sustainable.

MAB: The Grassroots nominated the Movement of People Affected by Dams, from Brazil, for the Robert Kennedy Foundation award this year. What is the importance of the indication of a Latin American social movement to receive the award?

NA: The human rights award from the Robert Kennedy Foundation and other recognitions are important because more than a financial award, they represent the recognition and amplify the struggle and solutions promoted by movements such as MAB. These awards also somehow offer more security, since governments will be more cautious in the criminalization of social movements and members that are recognized internationally and has allies in other countries and who can mobilize other support and solidarity which movements require .

MAB: In your point of view, what is the symbolism of this award for the international community of human rights defenders?

NA: As I mentioned above, this is very important. If the human rights defenders, such as MAB, are not known and their contributions are not visible repression becomes more acute. If they are known to a larger group of people in their countries as well as in other countries, the solidarity power and support may have an impact on protection of lives and human rights.

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