INTERNATIONAL ANTICORRUPTION DAY SYMPOSIUM IN BENIN

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Anti-corruption Day Symposium

In Benin, the capital of Edo State, citizens and the civil society community joined the international community to mark the international anticorruption day 2019. On the 9th of December, 2019, Action for Socio-political and Economic Change (ASEC) held a one day symposium on the theme ‘Creating the nexus between citizens and government on public accountability’. Participants were drawn from different civil society organizations and citizens in Edo State to keep them abreast of their roles in ensuring public finance probity and participation in government policy formulations and implementations.

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Leftist Omobude Agho, the Coordinator General of Edo Civil Society Organisations making a presentation at the symposium

The Coordinator of Action for Socio-political and Economic Change, Comrade Osazee Edigin in his opening remark, quickly brought participants to speed on the Social Contract principle based on the premise of an existing agreement between citizens and government in achieving a well organised society where roles and obligations are documented in the country’s constitution and various legal instruments. He further went on to lament the deliberate refusal of government in opening its books for citizens to see how their commonwealth is being deployed. In his simple analogy, he stated that, government is swift in taking tax evaders to mobile courts where judgment is summarily dispensed but adamant in releasing information to citizens on how same taxes collected are utilized.

He faulted Edo state government for not releasing information sought by civil society groups in the state which had led many of such requests ending in civil litigations in court. Participants were tasked in taking the use of the Freedom of Information Act to the local government council’s level which is closest to the people.

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Coordinator of Action for Socio-political and Economic Change, Comrade Osazee Edigin making his opening remark at the symposium

In his remark, Leftist Omobude Agho, the Coordinator General of Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSO), decried the poor level of citizens participation in governance which is a major setback in engendering responsive governance. He posited that, the reason government at all levels can undermine the power of citizens is because citizens show little or no interests in how their resources are being utilized on projects and general management of the state.

The main symposium was anchored by the guest facilitator, President Aigbokhan Esq, an expert and analyst in Freedom of Information Act, public accountability and transparency who delivered a paper on ASSETS DECLARATION SOVEREIGNTY: A MODEL FOR A CORRUPT FREE GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA. He highlighted that sovereignty belongs to the people wherein government draws its legitimacy from. The link between regime of asset publication under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 was also established. The role of civil society groups and citizens in engaging public office holders was not left out. He took participants through a journey of the need for citizens to use the Asset Declaration form in monitoring and curtailing the quest of amassing wealth by public officers. Participants were informed of their rights to information as contained in the public officer asset declaration form which enable citizens to know the worth of any public office holder prior to assumption of office and his worth during and after leaving office. He emphatically informed participants that, the asset declaration process is applicable to all public office holders including the President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Judge of Nigeria, Governors and every other person that is holding public office in trust for the people. Questions were asked by participants and responses were offered by the facilitator.

The Anti-corruption Day Symposium was organised by Action for Socio-political and Economic Change (ASEC) and supported by Social Action

2019 INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY CELEBRATION IN YENAGOA, BAYELSA STATE

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Anti-Corruption Day Road Procession on the Streets of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

Anti-Corruption Day Rally

The Bayelsa NGOs Forum, BANGOF with support from Social Action carried out activities to mark the International Anti-corruption Day in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa state with the Theme; ‘’Corruption; Impediment to the Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The rally which was organised in partnership with the National Human Rights Commission in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state was targeted at raising public awareness for anti-corruption in the state.

While addressing the crowd at the Peace Park, BANGOF charged the anti-corruption agencies to collaborate with one another and create a synergy to ensure the campaign is given enough teeth in other to crush corruption in the state. The statement by the organisation further outlined the negative effects of corruption in the social and infrastructural development of the Niger Delta States and charge the citizens not to consider the immediate gratification that corruption offers but rather consider the overarching interest of the people.  Bayelsans were also encourages to report any case of corruption to the appropriate agencies for prosecution.

Participants displayed different anti-corruption messages, banners and inscriptions as they walked through the street of the capital city. 28 persons representing 21 civil society and media organizations participated in the rally which took off from the Yenagoa main motor park known as Ekeki motor park through the busy streets of Yenagoa and terminated at the Peace Park, opposite Government House at Ovom.

 

Radio Call in Programme

In continuation of the programmes outline by the Bayelsa Anti-corruption Network to mark the International Anti-corruption day, the Network featured in a 30 minutes Live Audience Participation Radio discussion at the Rhythm 94.7 FM in Yenagoa Bayelsa state. The discussion on the theme “Corruption; Impediment to Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” provided the platform for the Network to reach out to the listening audience of the radio station in Bayelsa and the neighbouring states. The programme elucidated call in from several audience who concurred with the studio guests and encouraged the Network not to rest on its oars to ensure that the state is rid of corruption. Other callers who wanted to know how to join the network in the campaign against corruption were directed by the Network members to BANGOF’s secretariat in Yenagoa.

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Members of the Anticorruption Network in Bayelsa State on  a live radio programme to mark the Anticorruption Day 2019

THE INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY 2019 ACTIVITIES IN UYO, AKWA IBOM STATE

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Anti-Corruption Day Rally

In Uyo the Anticorruption Network (ACONET) members joined the Uyo Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission – EFCC on Monday, December 9, 2019 on a citywide walk to sensitize the public against the adverse impact of corruption on the country’s economy and especially the citizens. The 2019 Anticorruption Day street campaign therefore, sought to sound a clarion call on Nigerians to ‘Wipe out corruption totally!’

This according to the EFCC Uyo Zonal Head, Mr Garuba Dugum, is important because ‘any society or a nation that does not check corruption in the system is bound to fail in all ramification.’

In a related development, ACONET was also represented at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission – ICPC events to mark the World Anti-Corruption Day, with the theme; “United Against Corruption”.

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Anti-corruption Day Rally in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State

The ICPC events kicked off with a citywide public awareness and sensitisation walk from the ICPC office in Ewet Housing Estate, to 4 Lanes, connecting Oron Road, then to Uruan Street and back to the Integrity Lecture venue at Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo.

 

The State Commissioner, Mr. Sola Shodipo represented by the Director of the Legal Department, Barr. T. U. Kalu; stated that, the fight against corruption should not be limited to the ICPC alone, because the consequences transcend the commission and charged everyone to be on the alert.

 

Akwa Ibom Anti-Corruption Network (ACONET) Media Chat

Akwa Ibom Anti-Corruption Network (ACONET) organised a Media Chat as part of its activities to mark the international Anticorruption Day. The Media chat began with a brief introduction of invited stakeholders by the ACONET State Coordinator, Ann Udonte. She expressed her gratitude to all the stakeholders and representatives of the press present for honouring the invitation to the roundtable discourse. The media chart was focused on amplifying anticorruption efforts through collective actions. She emphasised that the Network will keep reaching out to the related MDAs in the state in partnership, knowing that the interest of the citizens ACONET work to serve must always come first. The State Coordinator expressed her delight in the partnership and collaborations she envisaged in the future of anti-corruption activities in the state and shared some success stories of ACONET in the fight against corruption in the state. The CLO Chairman, Comrade Franklyn Isong, in his goodwill message commended the Government for the Treasury Single Account and recommended special courts to try corrupt politicians because, according to him, the delay in convicting corrupt individuals kills the process. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the manners in which the projects of the state were carried out and went further to query the Ministry of Works on the poor state of roads in the state. Comrade Isong demanded that the state open up its portal to enable an effective and efficient tracking of budget; which he believed would afford the public the opportunity to make proper inputs on the plights and aspirations of people. He concluded with a charge to the media to wake up to their responsibilities.

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Akwa Ibom Anti-Corruption Network (ACONET) Media Chat

Representative of the Joint Association of Persons Living with Disabilities (JONAPWD) – Mr. Ubong Udo Mr. Ubong Udo representing the Chairperson, JONAPWD Akwa Ibom State Chapter, stated that there is a strong link between corruption and the conditions of people living with disabilities. According to him, corruption is the major cause of high cases of disabilities in the country. So many preventable diseases are allowed to escalate because of poor management of the health institutions. Sharing the story of his disability, Mr. Udo said he became blind because the nurses and doctors on duty gave wrong diagnosis about a preventable glaucoma infection and he attributed this to the carelessness, irresponsibility and negligence on the part of Government. He also stated that some group of persons are using persons with disabilities wrongly, they make budgets for them without first evaluating their needs; they propose scholarships that do not get to any of them. He also queried the need of having special primary schools and not having Special Secondary Schools and Universities to cater for those with peculiar needs graduating from these schools.

The media chat also had in attendance the State Director, National Orientation Agency Mr. Enoh Uyoh, Democracy Africa Youth Parliament – DAYP representative by Comrade Akan James and representative of the Foundation for Civic Education, Human Rights, and Development Advancement (FoCEHRaDA) – Clifford Thomas, Esq. Others include representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) – Comrade Effiong Nya, the Traditional Institution – His Royal Highness Etinyin Edet Nyong Eken the ICPC Barrister Ugbo Kalu and the Media.

In an interactive session, questions from media persons present were adequately addressed. Barrister Clifford Thomas, while giving the vote of thanks on behalf of the stakeholders, charged the Government of the day to be responsible and monitor activities of contractors. He concluded by appreciating the Network on behalf of the participants for conveying the dialogue and reiterated the commitment of all stakeholders, present, to the fight against corruption.

 

ADVOCACY VISIT TO SOCIAL ACTION NIGERIA BY THE MEDIA AWARENESS AND JUSTICE INITIATIVE (MAJI)

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Members of the Media Awareness and Justice Initiative (MAJI), under her project tagged the Electorate Awake and Participate Project, which is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) paid an advocacy visit to Social Action Nigerian, to seek collaboration for the implementation and demonstration of key policies at the state and local government level of governance.
The visitors were received and welcome by Mrs. Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor the Head of Programmes, Social Action Nigeria and other members of staff at the Abuja office of Social Action on the 19th of November 2019.

Here are pictures from the event.

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”Mrs Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor Head of Programmes Social Action welcoming the Guests at the Meeting”

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The meeting commenced with an introductory session at about 12noon in a friendly and heartwarming atmosphere. Those present at the meeting from MAJI were, Ikechukwu Ahaka, Onyekachi Okoro, Kentebe, Ifunanya Ezewuzie and Tamunotonye Felix Moses. From Social Action were Mrs. Vivian Bellonwu Okafor, Mr. Botti Isaac and Osuoka Faith Levi.

 

CORRUPTION AND DEPRIVATION OF THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITY IN NIGERIA

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The evil of corruption and the adverse effect on the entire facets of society does not discriminate. Corruption induced poverty has sunk its proboscis on the living tissues of the old and young, male and female, able and disabled people. This anathema is determined to condemn the people to scrounge for what is rightfully theirs in perpetuity as long as the victims prefer to remain docile.

This fact was reiterated at a consultative meeting held on the 19th of June, 2019 in Port Harcourt by Social Action with people living with disability (PWD). The program examined the challenges PWDs encounter in a fast-changing world and attempted to provide solutions to resolutions reached.

Prince Ekpere, while welcoming the PWDs and other stakeholders to the event, noted that the cost of corruption on the people can best be described as deprivation, which has led to underdevelopment, lack and poverty and wondered how PWDs are able to cope in a society that does not care for its citizens. He assured participants at the event that issues raised will be documented and mainstreamed into activities and programs for advocacy and engagements with relevant stakeholders

Neglect and discrimination was identified as one of the major issues confronting the development of the disability community in Nigeria and Rivers State in particular, Stella Ekina of the visual impaired cluster opined that efforts should be made to declare free, inclusive compulsory education for PWDs, as education remains the channel through which enlightenment can be achieved, she also said that government should be willing to sponsor those who have identified one skill or another to learn as a way of empowering PWDs and elevating their plight.

Miss Lydia Kelly narrated her ordeal during the just concluded general elections when she attempted to vote and questioned the rationale behind non-provision of support and materials to enable PWDs vote, saying a large chunk of eligible voters were disenfranchised because they are PWDs

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Figure 1. A cross-section of PLWD in a consultative meeting with Social Action Port Harcourt

Nation Mathew decried the state of the only school for PWDs in the state and called for more schools, saying it won’t cost the state government anything to situate at least one of such schools in each of the senatorial district.

They decried the manner in which those saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that PWDs are provided for have rather chosen to increase their sufferings, by deliberately allowing corruption to fester on.

Mr. Idor Livinus of the ICPC reassured the PWDs of their willingness to bring to book any government official who has in one way or another been involved in the diversion of funds meant for the development of PWDs in the state, he encouraged them to write to the commission to investigate such officials.

Mr. Ellis Nria Dapper, a director at the national orientation agency, emphasized the need for increased awareness and sensitization of the public on the need to stop discrimination against persons with disabilities, saying no one chooses to be born to disable, and encouraged PWDs to visit the NOA office more frequently to address some of the issues they face.

newsletterpic4Figure 2. a call for free, inclusive compulsory education as a way of achieving enlightenment and empowering the PWDs

Prince, in conclusion, made a short presentation on problem-solving and assured all, that the strengthening youth participation against corruption (YPAC) project is interested in ensuring equal access for all despite their socials and or economic status.

It was agreed that PWDs, NOA, ICPC and social action will lead joint advocacy and engagement activities to various stakeholders in the state, to ensure that PWDs are not left behind in the development scheme of the state.

Anticorruption Radio Programme

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As part of her Social Action Anticorruption Campaign, Social Action anticorruption network partners featured in a sponsored programme to sensitize the citizens on the dangers of corruption and the part it has played it to ensure the people of the Niger Delta remain in perpetual underdevelopment. The radio programme was aired on Wave FM 91.7 Port from 10 to 10.30 on Friday 25th January 2019.
Issues discussed were the General Elections as a driver for good governance. Citizens were encouraged to begin to interrogate the political actors during the campaigns to know their plans for the citizens on their different areas of interest so they could follow up on their commitments when/if elected. They were charged to monitor the political rallies and note the commitments made by the candidates.
The programme also included audience call-in, where questions were asked and contribution made on the topic by listeners. Callers wanted to know how to engage government officials who have made commitments in the past and renege on them. And what assurance there is that commitments made would be kept and if not, what could the citizens do.

In response to these questions, the network team explained that government officials continue to take the people for granted because the people have been docile each time it happened. They gave Instances where the citizens came out en masse to demonstrate their opposition for certain unfavourable government policies and the government in power had to be forced to reverse them. They insisted that power belongs to the people and the people must exercise it peacefully but firmly.
The resources persons were Peter Mazzi, Sebastian Kpalap, and Green Isaac on behalf of Social Action Anticorruption Network

Advocacy Visit to Political Parties and Aspirants in Rivers and Edo States

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Advocacy Visit to the Secretariat of African Democratic Congress in Port Harcourt
The Social Action’s campaign to rid the Niger Delta Region of corruption and instate the culture of transparency and accountability in the Niger Delta States took another dimension as the Anticorruption Network members paid a visit to the Secretariat of the Action Democratic Congress. This visit is one among several other visits schedules with at least five political parties in the state. The objective is to mainstream accountability into Electoral Process in the Niger Delta as a way of preparing the minds of the intended leaders on their responsibility to be accountable to the people and to implement policies that would promote good governance if elected.
The visit coincided with the day of the party’s Executive Committee meeting, which afforded the team the opportunity to meet with the party’s Excos and other aspirants which include the party’s senatorial candidate for Rivers East Senatorial District, Hon. Clay Nduka Ogbonna.

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Figure 1 Chairman, Exco Members and Candidates of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) Port Harcourt with the Anticorruption Network members
At the meeting which was cheered by the party’s Chairman in Rivers State, Dr. Kalada Irunabere, the Anticorruption Team explained the reason for the visit and made it clear that it was not a political visit but a campaign for the support for transparency and accountability.
The Chairman on behalf of the aspirants affirmed that accountability is one of the tenets of the party as embedded in her constitution. Hon. Clay Nduka Ogbonna explained further that as a senator, he will run an open and participatory administration, were representation will be according to the will and aspiration of his people in Rivers East Senatorial District in particular and the Rivers people as a whole.
While responding, the leader of the team, Peter Mazzi thanked the chairman and Exco members of the party for the opportunity to meet with them and harped on the importance of remaining steadfast to the party’s manifesto before, during and after the elections because the citizens would hold them to their promises if elected.
This advocacy visit is one among other visits to selected political parties and aspirants in Rivers State on the need to engage political actors on the dangers of curuption to the state and the need to imrove on good governance through transparency and accountability before they are voted into office. The project is sponsored by Macarthur Foundation, through the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation.

JUDICIARY WORKERS’ STRIKE: DEMOCRACY IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

Written by Lillian Akhigbe, Communications Officer, Social Action
The indefinite nationwide strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Judiciary workers, which took effect on Monday January 5, 2015 has lingered into the fourth week, with no end in sight to the strike action. The workers, under the platform of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), have vowed not to resume work until the Federal High Court judgement granting financial autonomy to the Judiciary is enforced. The judgement which was delivered by Hon. Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on January 13, 2014, was later followed by several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) agreed between the Nigerian government, representatives of JUSUN and other stakeholders, who all pledged to comply with the court ruling, to allow a free and independent justice system in Nigeria. But the reluctance of the federal and state governments, to abide by the agreed terms of the most recent MoU dated November 27, 2014, has led to the commencement of the current strike action by JUSUN.
The Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), as a civil society organisation, condemns in very strong terms, the failure of government at the various levels to allow the Judicial arm of government have financial independence as expressly provided in Section 81(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which states that: “Any amount standing to the credit of the Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation shall be paid directly to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the Heads of the Courts established for the federation and the state…”. The Judiciary, being the last hope of the common man, must not be made financially dependent on the Executive arm of government, but rather be allowed to exist as a free, vibrant and efficient arm of its own. Hence, the strike action of the Judiciary workers is for a good cause which would fortify democracy in Nigeria.
According to the Executive Director of Social Action, Dr. Isaac Osuoka, “Nigerian leaders must genuinely embrace democratic principles, orientations, ideas and ideals which would bring about good governance, social stability and democratic freedom. Social Action is committed to the promotion of better democratic practices, people-oriented policies, improved livelihoods and the protection of human rights. In that light, I urge all stakeholders to support the call for financial autonomy of the Judiciary, in order to strengthen democracy in Nigeria and bring about an end to the prolonged strike action embarked upon by the Judiciary workers which has affected the wellbeing and livelihoods of a diverse array of Nigerians.”
We lament the loss of livelihoods occasioned by the ongoing strike action. A majority of lawyers earn their living through litigations, and these legal practitioners have been adversely affected by the lingering strike and the closure of the courts. This loss of livelihood has brought hardship upon them and their dependants. Also affected by the strike action, are arrested persons kept in prison custody who seek bail, as well as those who have successfully been granted bail and are ready to meet their bail conditions but cannot, owing to the closure of the courts. These people now languish in prison custody indefinitely, pending the termination of the strike action, while the challenge of prison congestion grows worse as a result.
Sadly enough, poor community folks and vulnerable members of the society who crave for justice in the face of oppression and violation of their rights, have no court of law to seek redress for the wrongs they have suffered. Against the background of the closure of the courts, anarchy seems to be on the rise in the country, and the aggrieved, downtrodden masses silently bear the brunt of it.
With the forthcoming elections scheduled to hold in February, 2015, it is expedient for the courts to be operational, in order for Tribunals to be set up for election petition litigations which may arise, following the conduct of the elections.
We therefore call on the federal and state governments of Nigeria, to uphold the principles of democracy and put the interests of the Nigerian masses above their personal interests by complying with the Federal High Court ruling and the MoU entered into with JUSUN, in order to ensure an autonomous Judiciary. Indeed, the political profitability of denying the Judiciary its financial autonomy, has a prohibitive cost on the quality of the Nigerian justice system.
For further enquiries, please contact Lillian Akhigbe, Communications Officer of Social Action,on: admin[at]saction.org; lillian[at]saction.org

New Report Highlights Problems With Forest Carbon Trading Scheme In Nigeria

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A new report released today highlights how forest dependent communities in Cross River State, south-east Nigeria, are losing rights and livelihoods, as their forests are being locked down by the government, which seeks cash through a United Nations backed ‘carbon trading’ scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

The report, ‘_Seeing REDD: Communities, Forests and Carbon trading in Nigeria_‘, by Nigerian organisation, Social Action, was presented today in Lima, Peru at an event at the People’s Summit on Climate Change, which coincides with the 20th Conference of Parties (COP20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in the Peruvian capital city.

The report shows how the implementation of the REDD+ mechanism is having a devastating effect on the economies of affected communities around the Cross River forests. With neither adequate consultation nor alternative livelihood options, community members, who have depended on the forests

for generations, are now being victimised by government agents following a ban imposed on economic and cultural activities in the delineated forests. Thus, REDD+ has restricted access to forests where indigenous communities gather food, medicine and energy. Local nutrition and livelihoods are seriously threatened and the attendant scarcity of food products caused by government’s actions have led to increase in the prices of basic food products. Ironically, higher wood prices, occasioned by REDD+, is encouraging illegal logging in the forests.

The report shows how communities are grappling with being implicated in the false solutions to the problem of climate change. While community members suffer the negative effects of climate change which they did not create, they are, through schemes like REDD, liable to being criminalised in the process of enforcing carbon market policies.

“The reduction of emissions from fossil fuels should be the main goal. But measures like REDD+ are diversionary market schemes which are driven

by those who cannot see beyond profits”, according to Isaac ‘Asume’ Osuoka, Director of Social Action. “Communities that depend on the forests are at risk of human rights violations, as authorities could now see them as impediments to maintaining the carbon marketing potentials of forests. Unfortunately, there is no corresponding mitigation of climate change, as we are seeing.”

With REDD+, greenhouse gas polluting countries and companies in the developed world could pay for schemes that promise to reduce deforestation in the developing countries. Thus, developing countries, especially African countries having vast expanse of tropical forests, become ‘sinks’ for greenhouse gases, most of which are emitted from developed countries.

“This is a new form of colonialism”, according to Nnimmo Bassey,Coordinator of Health of the Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF). “REDD+ is subjugating African communities and driving new land grabs akin to the colonisation of the continent.”

With the ongoing UN climate conference seeking agreements for global action including the implementation of REDD+ mechanism, citizens groups at the People’s Summit are demanding people-oriented measures that will actually curtail climate change worldwide.

Other speakers at the event included Ruth Nyambura of the African Biodiversity Network, Kenya, Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network, USA and Cassandra Smithies, a researcher/campaigner on climate justice.

The report is available at Seeing REDD