By Anne Bordatto
I got to know the work of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development in 2014. At that time, I was accompanying Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous communities in their struggle against a hydroelectric project in Guatemala.
The Coalition’s contribution was invaluable to strengthen community-based strategies for the defence of the territory. When a researcher and activist helped us find information on the international financiers involved in the project, the local communities — with the support of some Coalition’s members —filed a complaint with the office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO). They also carried out advocacy with other European development banks. Because of the delays in the project implementation and thanks to the CAO’s findings, which recognised non-compliance with the social and environmental safeguards of the bank, the international financiers withdrew their funding and the project was halted.
As several wise people say, against the globalisation of evil — human rights violations, destruction of nature and of the indigenous cultures that coexist with it — it is more than necessary to “globalise the good”.
It is crucial to learn, from the well-advised voices of indigenous peoples and communities in resistance against the imposed “development” model, about the experiences of struggle to protect life, the ancestral and alternative forms of organisation and administration of natural common goods, and the construction of community-led life plans in harmony with nature.
As an engineer and permaculturist, I’m always keen to learn about forms of community organisation for self-governance and management of natural common goods, food and energy autonomy, observing and working with nature. I started my career in the field of rural electrification with renewable energy sources in France and Guatemala. However, I soon started noticing how extractive projects were being imposed without meaningful consultations, leaving no benefits for the affected communities but only serious negative impacts. These projects were designed in an unsustainable way and were leading to the criminalisation of local communities.
I then started a new path as an activist, helping strengthen strategies to defend the territory of indigenous communities through my technical knowledge, research capacity and alliance building skills. I’d define myself a “green” feminist, because I feel I am in a process of perpetual learning. I strive to constantly deconstruct the system of privilege and always question myself.
Even the most remote communities feel that what they suffer is “something big” and that it is necessary to understand its dimension in order to strengthen their protection strategies, to defend their territories, but also to build alternatives in line with what they really want and need.
These communities provide us invaluable lessons and I’m always inspired by their unbreakable strength, their capacity to constantly reinvent themselves to keep their culture alive, their deep rootedness to a land from which they are often at risk of being displaced, their humble and essential vision of life in search of harmony with nature.
In the three months since I joined the Coalition as a Community Resource Exchange Regional Facilitator for Latin America, I have already learned of many resources to strengthen strategies to defend the territory and I hope I’ll soon be able to share them with as many people as possible. The Community Resource Exchange is a system that will allow us to strengthen our struggles and build collective power. As in a forest, all elements will be interlinked and through our diversity we will come together and collaborate, so that life will continue to sprout and flourish, and many worlds can continue to co-exist on Earth.