SPACES FOR CHANGE’s executive director, Ms. Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri delivered the lead paper at a workshop exposing the worsening climatic conditions and negative impacts of the World Bank-financed Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline and the West Africa Gas Pipelines (WAGP) projects. The workshop, organized by Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Togo, Ghana in partnership with Friends of the Earth International brought together Friends of the Earth’s senior legal officers and researchers from Togo, Ghana, Nigeria; representatives of project-affected communities from Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria; civil society leaders, concerned environmentalists and the media to explore strategies for assisting project-affected countries and communities to assert and defend their  economic, social and cultural rights.

Her paper, “Protecting Communities Affected by WB-financed Initiatives through Litigation” developed an advocacy and litigation strategy for engaging the World Bank and its investors whose handling of the project has caused arbitrary land takings, heritage losses, biodiversity, pollution, outbreak of communicable diseases,  high unemployment  rates, mass eviction, food insecurity, and loss of livelihoods. Litigation option is considered as a major response to the gross social and economic rights violations exposed in the Friends of the Earth International’s recent report, Broken Promises: Gender Impacts of the World Bank-Financed West-African and Chad-Cameroon Pipelines. Jointly owned by Exxon/Mobil, Petronas Malaysia and Chevron, the 6.7- billion-dollar, 650-mile pipeline, which carries crude from the oilfields of land-locked Chad to a shipping facility off Cameroon’s coast, was made possible by World Bank loans amounting to 337.6 million dollars. 

 Extensive research shows how the projects have undermined the rights and livelihoods of entire communities, and placed disproportionate burden on women, young girls, children and the youth. The authors chided the Bank and its investors for “pandering to the patriarchal tendencies of certain communities where their projects – especially resource-extraction projects – are implemented”.

  

Outlining a variety of legal advocacy and litigation strategies that may be employed to demand corporate accountability and remedial action for the project-affected communities and countries, Ms. Ohaeri educated participants on the national, regional and international legal frameworks and foundations, including the specific provisions that govern such complex initiatives. She further explained how the accountability mechanisms, with emphasis on the African Human Rights Systems and institutional grievance platforms at the national, regional and international levels, especially the World Bank Independent Inspection Panel work. Participants learned about the procedures for engaging those mechanisms, the respective roles of stakeholders and the necessary steps for the launch of an effective litigation campaign: beginning from the identification and selection of plaintiffs, the framing of the issues using the human rights paradigm; the selection of forum; compilation of legal evidence, seeking technical and research support and amicus curiae interventions, including the effective use of friendly settlement procedures. 
From that discussion about applicable standards, mechanisms, and procedures, she highlighted the different challenges that both communities and their legal representative may face in a high-profile litigation of this nature, using her experiences gained from nearly a decade of direct involvement and engagement in several complex development initiatives involving oil multinationals, Chinese Consortiums, state and federal governments in Nigeria and Africa. 
As part of its broader efforts to build support for human rights-centered responses to the prevalence of development-based displacements and the accompanying social and economic rights deprivations, SPACES FOR CHANGE will continue to interrogate the rhetoric and empty promises such as “employment generation, infrastructural development and fair compensation” of multi-billion dollar investments in Africa, which the WAGP project represents.

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