MAC: Mines and Communities

Walhi splits with USAID

Published by MAC on 2003-03-25

Walhi splits with USAID

Source: Laksamana.Net, March 25, 2003

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has severed ties with one of its main donors, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in protest against the US-led war on Iraq. Longgena Ginting, director of Walhi's national executive board, on Monday (24/3/03) said the non-government organization has sent a letter to USAID informing the agency of its decision, state news agency Antara reported. He said the ongoing US military aggression in Iraq is a violation of the basic principles of human rights. Walhi was founded in 1980 with the aim of working toward equitable management of Indonesia's natural resources and environment, in conjunction with efforts to transform the nation into a democratic society.

The Jakarta-based organization won fame and respect as one of the most outspoken opponents of the corrupt and repressive regime of former dictator Suharto, criticizing national environmental policies and campaigning for indigenous peoples' rights. Walhi initially grouped just a few dozen local and provincial non-government organizations (NGOs) and has since developed into a broad network with over 300 member NGOs, becoming Indonesia's top environmental watchdog. In addition to dues and contributions from its members, Walhi has funded its activities through assistance from several sources, including: CARE, OXFAM, USAID, the Institute of Social Research and Development (LPPS), Netherlands Organization for International Development Cooperation (NOVIB), Belgium's National Center for Development Cooperation (NCOS), Canadian Development Agency (CIDA), Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Yayasan KEHATI), and Friends of the Environment Fund (DML).

Walhi's relationship with USAID was first tested in 1995 following complaints that US foreign aid was being used to discredit American businesses in Indonesia. The controversy was related to New Orleans-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, which in September 1995 applied pressure on USAID to withdraw its financial aid to Walhi, which had been accusing the mega-rich mining company of polluting rivers, destroying crops and complicity in military attacks on civilians in Papua province. USAID opted to continue supporting Walhi, but reports said the agency subsequently attached strings to its aid, specifically that the funding should not be used for activities critical of mining.

The US government agency, which has an annual budget in Indonesia of about $130 million, denied imposing such conditions on its aid. But it's no secret that anti-mining group Jatam (Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network) had its USAID funding cut after it criticized the Indonesian operations of US mining giant Newmont. In April 2000, Jatam was informed it would no longer be receiving USAID assistance. According to Asia Times Online, Jatam had previously been given $75,000 to protect the rights of communities to manage their natural resources and assist in monitoring the impact of mining operations. In 1999 Jatam demanded and end to all large-scale commercial mining activities, citing human rights abuses and environmental destruction. USAID consequently expressed doubt over Jatam's ability to give impartial assistance to communities and claimed the group's actions were "harmful to US goals".

Walhi is not the only Indonesian non-government organization to stop receiving US government funds. Women's rights group, the Advisory Association for Women Entrepreneurs in Indonesia, on Monday announced it would no longer receive aid from the US and its war allies Britain and Australia. The Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) on Tuesday it would also refuse funds from the US government and its allies. "This is a form of our protest against the attitude of the three countries which have ignored the international community," YLBHI chairman Munarman was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse. He said the US-led invasion of Iraq was a humanitarian tragedy and a gross violation of human rights. "We are also calling on other NGOs in Indonesia to halt all kind of cooperation with the governments of the US, Britain and Australia," he added. Government officials and moderate Muslim leaders have rejected calls for boycotting US products and severing ties with Washington, saying the Indonesian public should be able to distinguish between economic and political matters.

Text of the Walhi Statement

WALHI's Political Statement on Military Aggression against Iraq

From: The National Executive of WALHI [1] (Indonesian Forum for Environment)

Jakarta, 24 March 2003

The commencement of the military aggression on Iraq, signals naked war crimes against humanity, being conducted by the administrations of George W. Bush (USA), Tony Blair (United Kingdom) and John Howard (Australia) on the peoples, the women and the children of Iraq.

The ignoring of the authority of the United Nations and violations of international conventions, show that there are no arguments to justify the military aggression of the United States and its Allies.

The military aggression of the coalition spearheaded by the US on the nation of Iraq is a crime against humanity and a violation of the values and principles of human rights, clearly stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, the US and its allies are unilaterally violating Resolution No.1441 of the UN Security Council by which the international community gave the mandate to find a resolution of the US-Iraq conflict.

We believe that the crimes conducted by the US and its allies, which has ruined the livelihood of the innocent peoples of Iraq, shows nothing but an ambition to.... conquer the political sovereignty, and gain the colonization, of Iraq.....specifically to win economic and political authority over oil.

Demonstrations and protests by the international community against the military aggression of Iraq demonstrate a belief in the illegitimacy of such conduct by those who desire a peaceful world. ..

Therefore we fully support any kind of peaceful action by peoples and communities around the world, urging the US government and its allies to stop the war; while at the same time condemning any kind of threat or violence to US, British and Australian citizens in any parts of the world.

In this context, the Statute and the Basic Values of WALHI, which have been the basic principles and basis for WALHI's advocacy and activities, are clearly stated. WALHI is an organization based on the principles of humanity and respect to living creatures, democracy, human rights and, the justice and sovereignty of the sources of livelihood.

WALHI also takes a position as part of peoples' and social movements, of fighting against any kind of domination by global forces that are responsible for grabbing the rights to live, and political, economic and cultural rights of peoples around the world...

Based on the above principles, the National Executive of the Indonesian Forum for Environment takes a political stance as follow:

* We call for... urgent action to stop the war and the withdrawal of all military troops of the US and its allies from Iraq, either through diplomatic, political and economic pressures.

* Urge the United Nations to immediately impose sanctions against the governments of the US and its allies, and take George Bush, Tony Blair, and John Howard to the International Court for war crimes and crime against humanity.

* Urge the Indonesian government to break diplomatic relationships with the governments of the US, UK, and Australia, and firmly prohibit the use of Indonesian territory for the mobilization of military forces and equipment.

* As part of this political position and for the supremacy of human rights and democracy, the National Executive of the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) has decided to halt all cooperations with the development agencies of the governments of the US, UK, and Australia. We decide to take steps as follow:

Stop the cooperation relationship with USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) and as soon as possible clear the outstanding administrative matters of the previous cooperation.

Stop the negotiation process for cooperation with DFID (the Department for International Development of the UK), and AusAID (Australian Agency for International Development).

The National Executive of WALHI also calls on to all pro-democracy society and social movement in Indonesia and around the world to:

Unite in fighting any kind of aggression and imperialism of the US and its allies, and stop any cooperation with the US, UK and Australia government. Take firm stance to fight against any kind of penetration, hegemony, and domination of global neo-liberalism in political, economic, and socio-cultural lives, and any kind of neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism that has and will grab the rights to live and the rights of political, economic, socio-cultural of the peoples around the world Let us move together for a just and peaceful world, without any kind of domination and violence.

For Justice and Peace,

Jakarta, 24 March 2003

Longgena Ginting

Executive Director

[1] WALHI is a nationwide network of 510 NGOs, students, and community organizations in 25 provinces (out of 33 provinces) in Indonesia.

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