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Dialogue on Life and Mining from Latin America December 10th, 2013

Religious and Lay representatives from Latin America, “moved by the critical situation of our peoples vis-à-vis the extractive industry”, met in Lima in November 2013. Concerned that mining is a source of “constant and serious conflict” in many countries of Latin and Central American countries, the attendees wanted to develop a vigorous and supportive set of local and international networks to help address the destructive impacts of mining. The Missionary Oblates were represented by Fr. Gilberto Pauwels OMI from Bolivia, and Fr. Seamus Finn OMI from the United States and through their participation in VIVAT, a coalition of religious congregations with ECOSOC status at the United Nations.

There are a number of outcomes from the gathering that included reaching out to a larger number of communities affected by mining, engaging with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican and convening a broader consultation on the challenges of extractives in the second half of 2014.

Extractives, mining oil and gas exploration, play an important role across the world while also imposing great intrusion and damage in local communities and on the environment where they operate. The search for a way forward that addresses the most serious of those negative impacts has been taken up by a number of different initiatives in the academic, business, stakeholder and shareholder and NGO sectors. Hopefully gatherings like the meeting in Lima can make a constructive contribution to that process.

Read the statement: Dialogue on Life and Mining: Open letter from religious and lay stewards of the goods of creation in Latin America

United Nations Opportunities November 4th, 2013

united-nations-headquarters_smThrough the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the VIVAT International NGO Office, persons in our network are able to participate in major UN meetings in New York City. There is no fee to attend these sessions, but participants are responsible for their own transportation and room and board. If you are interested in attending a major UN meeting in New York in 2014, contact Daniel LeBlanc OMI as soon as possible at

February 11 – 21, 2014: 52nd Commission on Social Development (CSocD 52)

Theme: Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all.

March 10 – 21, 2014: 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 58)

Theme: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. 

May 12 – 23, 2014: 13th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII 13)

Theme: Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

Action Through Words

Helpful Resource: Action Through Words

Action through Words is an online study course that helps users deepen their knowledge of the history and workings of the United Nations while expanding their knowledge of the English language and communication skills. This program is designed for anyone wanting to explore the work of the UN, especially those working where access to formal language training is limited. Go to:


VIVAT International Submission on Mining and HR June 3rd, 2013

Newmont Mining Protests in Peru

Newmont Mining Protests in Peru

VIVAT International submitted an Oral Statement to the 23rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations. The submission focused on concerns related to mining activities and their negative effects, particularly on indigenous peoples.

A directive signed last year by Brazil’s Solicitor-General “opens up all indigenous areas to mineral, dams, roads, military bases and other developments of ‘national interest’ without the need to consult with or address concerns of indigenous peoples”, according to an expert familiar with the directive who asked to remain anonymous. It also restricts demarcation of new indigenous territories. A similar dynamic is underway in Peru, where the government recently backslid on implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Consultation Law (Consultation Law). The landmark law, passed in 2011, requires the Peruvian government to consult indigenous peoples affected directly by development policies and projects such as oil drilling, mining, roads and forestry. Consultations must aim to achieve agreement or consent. The hope was that the law, if implemented effectively, could help reduce the number of violent conflicts that frequently emerge in the country’s oil and mining industries.

However, in early May, Peru’s Vice Minister of Culture Ivan Lanegra—responsible for overseeing implementation of Peru’s Consultation Law—resigned in protest following Executive branch declarations that highland (or campesina) communities do not qualify as indigenous peoples. At the same time, the Peruvian government announced that it will proceed with 14 mining projects located in the Peruvian highlands without prior consultation with neighboring communities.

Read the submission…

Setback for Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Prior Consultation in Peru May 29th, 2013

The Peruvian government is refusing to publish a database on indigenous peoples and has excluded from the consultation process, coastal and mountain communities, where mining activity is concentrated.

The implementation of the Law of Prior Consultation of Indigenous Peoples over legislative or administrative measures that directly affect them — in effect for a little over a year — is facing huge setbacks in Peru. In late April, in the context of falling metals prices and slowing economic growth in China and Europe, the government temporarily waived prior consultation on 14 mining projects located on the coast and in the mountains and that are currently in exploratory phase.

Read more…

JPIC Staff Visits Bangladesh May 3rd, 2013

Khasi VillageChristina Herman, JPIC Office Associate Director, visited Bangladesh in late March/early April. Her daughter, Emma, accompanied her, taking thousands of photos and copious notes. Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI graciously hosted a ten day trip around the Sylhet region of NE Bangladesh, which provided a fascinating look at the lives of the indigenous Khasi people and the issues confronting their villages. The Oblate mission in Bangladesh started in the Sylhet region, and there are a number of parishes among the indigenous peoples of the area.

Frequent national strikes (or hartals) called by a political opposition determined to undermine the government made the trip challenging, but the group covered a lot of ground.

Sharif Jamil, Buriganga RiverKeeper

Sharif Jamil, Buriganga RiverKeeper

In Dhaka, Christina teamed up with the Bangladesh WaterKeeper, Sharif Jamil, in an examination of environmental and labor issues related to the leather and garment export industries. They visited the Buriganga River, leather tanneries north of the city, a massive garment factory, and had a number of informative meetings with factory owners and managers, labor union organizers, and environmentalists.

Polluted Water from Leather Tanneries

Polluted Water from Leather Tanneries flows into the Buriganga River

The tanneries are a large source of pollution for the main river flowing through Dhaka, a megacity of an estimated 18 million people. Millions depend on the rivers for bathing, washing clothes, and transportation, yet they are heavily polluted with industrial and human waste. Human Rights Watch recently issued a study of the health impacts of the tanneries, which matched the findings of this trip. Untreated industrial waste flowing from the garment factories is common. A huge factor in the pollution is the lack of adequate sewage treatment for the city’s burgeoning population.

Click here to read more »

100 Years in the Amazon Basin October 18th, 2012

Fr. Seamus Finn OMI with Fr. Roberto Carrasco Rojas OMI in Iquitos, Peru

A recent trip to the Peruvian Amazon served to remind me of the vast expanse of the region and the great diversity that lives within its boundaries. While I was ready for the heat and humidity that Iquitos is known for, I was hardly prepared for the great network of major rivers that are an essential part of transportation in the region…

Read Fr. Seamus Finn’s latest post on Huffington Post

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