Sign-on to Canadian government Re: Human rights violation of the three gorges- January 17, 2003

January 17, 2003

The Honourable Pierre Pettigrew
Minister of International Trade
125 Sussex Drive
Tower B, 5th Floor
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0G2
Fax: (613) 944-2509/0455

cc.  The Honourable Bill Graham
      Minister of Foreign Affairs

      Mr. Ian Gillespie
      President and CEO, Export Development Canada
Re: Human rights violations in the Three Gorges Project

Dear Minister Pettigrew:

We would like to bring to your attention the massive human rights violations entailed in the resettlement program for the Three Gorges Project in China. Canada is involved in this project through export credit guarantees granted by Export Development Canada.

The dam has now been completed, and plans are being put in place to start flooding the surrounding area. Given this, we are concerned that the pressure to relocate individuals,  may instigate a number of human rights violations, a fact that will be aggravated  further when the water in the reservoir area starts rising in April 2003. We therefore call on you to ensure that the project complies with the international human rights conventions to which China and Canada are party.

With a planned capacity of 18,200 megawatts, the Three Gorges Dam on China’s Yangtze river is the world’s largest power project. It will require the forced resettlement of more than 1.2 million people, and according to some estimates, up to 1.9 million people. The Three Gorges Dam blocked off the Yangtze River in November 2002. The reservoir will start filling in April 2003. So far, more than 640,000 people have been resettled. Tens of thousands will still need to move before submergence starts in April.

With submergence imminent, International Rivers Network has commissioned a long-time observer of the Three Gorges Project to prepare an investigative report on the resettlement situation in the project area. The researcher has prepared an eyewitness account based on a large number of interviews with affected people in counties that are most affected by resettlement for the Three Gorges project.

A copy of the new report is enclosed for your information. Some of its main findings are:

    * The resettled people are not offered compensation at replacement cost, but are forced to buy housing at a cost which far exceeds the compensation they have been offered.

    * The land and jobs that were promised to resettlers from rural and urban areas are not available. Where land has been offered, it has often turned out to be of inferior quality. So far, more than 100,000 people have been forced to leave the area altogether.

    * Local authorities appear to have diverted a large part of the resettlement budget into unrelated investments, using funds intended for household compensation on projects such as luxury hotels and roads.
    * According to the report, there is a “widespread belief that local officials have used the project as an opportunity to fill their own pockets.” Many cases of embezzlement of resettlement funds have been documented.

    * No independent grievance mechanism exists, and the resettlement process is conducted “in an atmosphere of officially orchestrated secrecy and intimidation.”

    * The police have used “excessive force” to quell the numerous protests against the resettlement problems, and the Three Gorges project has become “an instrument of repression with widespread human rights abuses.”

The Three Gorges project is being built without funding from the World Bank, historically the largest funder of dams in developing countries. Instead, export credit agencies and private banks ignored the warnings of critics and have extended major financial support. The governments of Canada, Brazil, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland have approved a total of more than $1.4 billion in export credits and guarantees for the project. The dam on the Yangtze is thus a model and a test case for the social, environmental and human rights policies of these export credit agencies.

In addition, Canada in 1976 ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which enshrines the freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. This Covenant, and other national and international standards, imply a responsibility for human rights violations in projects supported by Export Development Canada.

We also note that Export Development Canada says that “as a good corporate citizen,” it “values human rights and promotes the protection of internationally recognized human rights,” and that “monitoring human rights is an ongoing function at EDC.” The governments of Brazil, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland have made similar commitments to respecting environmental and human rights standards when considering official export credits and guarantees. This is positive. This is welcome. The Brazilian BNDES has also committed to “respect ethical and environmental principles.” The German government in its programmatic coalition agreement has agreed that “examinations of human rights violations should take place in connection with export guarantee decisions.” Sweden’s EKN foresees the possibility of monitoring the environmental impacts of a project – including resettlement and other socio-economic impacts – “throughout the whole project period.” Finally, the Swiss government announced in its North South guidelines of 1994 that it would give “more weight to governance and the protection of human rights in the recipient country” when considering export credit guarantees for poorer developing c

In accordance with your national and international human rights obligations, we ask you to urgently press the Chinese government and Three Gorges Project authorities for the following measures to be taken:

    * People affected by the Three Gorges Project must be resettled, compensated and rehabilitated in line with acknowledged international standards. The state must ensure that, as these standards stipulate, resettlers receive compensation at full replacement cost, and be able to improve or at least regain their former standard of living. Since the local counties are unable to resolve the resettlement problems which they have been forced to shoulder, the national authorities must assume the responsibility for resettlement in the project.

    * The state should create independent grievance mechanisms for the people affected by the Three Gorges Project. People should not suffer repression for expressing their opinions, for protesting peacefully, or for seeking redress for damages they have suffered. The people who have been imprisoned for protesting peacefully against the problems of the project in the past should be released.

    * As long as the problems of resettlement have not been resolved in line with international standards, the submergence of the reservoir area must be suspended. Numerous World Bank evaluations have demonstrated that an approach of resettling people while a project is being implemented does not work.

    * Canada is presently a member of the Commission on Human Rights and should, together with other member countries, raise the resettlement and human rights problems of the Three Gorges Project at the 59th session of the Commission. These problems should also be discussed as part of the bilateral human rights dialogue with China.
    * Canada, and the other governments that are involved in the Three Gorges Project through their export credit agencies, should establish a presence in the project area during this critical stage, and should monitor the implementation of the project and the resettlement efforts. The Chinese authorities have invited foreign experts to monitor the construction standards of the Three Gorges dam. They should also invite independent human rights experts to monitor resettlement.

The experience with the Three Gorges Dam and other projects demonstrates that export credit agencies, and the governments which back them, should also ensure that human rights are protected in their activities more generally:

    * Export credit agencies, including Export Development Canada, should carry out human rights and social impact assessments before taking decisions on credits and guarantees. Where relevant, they should include human rights conditions in the covenants of their credit and guarantee agreements, and should monitor the compliance with these conditions during project implementation.

    * The World Commission on Dams has proposed a framework that integrates human rights into the planning and decision-making processes of water and energy projects. The WCD recommends that “demonstrable public acceptance of all key decisions” be achieved through open and transparent negotiations with the participation of all stakeholders. The WCD also recommends a “comprehensive post-project monitoring and evaluation process,” and mechanisms to identify and remedy outstanding social issues associated with existing dams. Export credit agencies, including Export Development Canada, should adopt these and other recommendations of the WCD.

We have also submitted these concerns to the governments and export credit agencies of Brazil, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, and would be happy to discuss them with you in more detail.

As submergence draws closer, International Rivers Network and other NGOs will monitor the implementation of the Three Gorges project, the resettlement activities and the human rights situation in the project area. We urge you to use all your influence to help ensure that the project meets the international standards your governments have endorsed, and that human rights are not violated in the resettlement process.

Thank you for your attention to these concerns. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,

Fraser Reilly-King              
On behalf of all of the members of the NGO Working Group on the EDC
Doris Shen                         Peter Bosshard
International Rivers Network       International Rivers Network

Enclosure:     ‘Human Rights Dammed Off at Three Gorges – An Investigation of Resettlement and Human Rights problems in the Three Gorges Dam Project’

Further endorsements:

Lilian Corra, Asociacion Argentina de Medicos por el Medio Ambiente, Argentina
Elba Stancich, Taller Ecologista, Argentina

Lee Tan, Asia-Pacific Unit, Australian Conservation Foundation
Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth, Australia

Thomas.Lackner, Friends of the Earth, Austria

Emilie Thenard, FERN, Belgium

Lucia Schild Ortiz, Friends of the Earth, Brazil
Roberto Smeraldi, Friends of the Earth Amazonia Brasilera

David B. Brooks, Friends of the Earth, Canada
T. Wolfwood, Director, Barnard Boecker Center Foundation,

Yu Xiaogang, Green Watershed, China
Kevin Li, Globalization Monitor, Hong Kong
Sophia Woodman, Centre for Comparative and Public Law, University of Hong Kong

Hildebrando Velez, CENSAT Agua Viva, Friends of the Earth Colombia

Costa Rica
Eduardo Galeano, COECO, Friends of the Earth, Costa Rica
COECOCEIBA-Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica

El Salvador
Ambika Chawla, CESTA, Friends of the Earth, El Salvador

Tove Seline, Finnish ECA Reform Campaign

Roberto Epple, ERN European Rivers Network
Jacques Zeimert, Loire Vivante Network
Philippe Lhort, SOS Loire Vivante
Sebastien Godinot, Friends of the Earth, France

George Magradze, The Greens Movement of Georgia, Friends of the Earth, Georgia

Heffa Schücking, Urgewald
Heike Drillisch, WEED
Ulrich Delius, Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker
Jan Kowalzig and Dr. Klemens Laschefski, Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz,
Friends of the Earth, Germany
László Maráz, Pro REGENWALD
Hubert Weinzierl, Deutschen Naturschutzrings(DNR) e.V.,
Mareike Himme, BUNDjugend
Michael Bender, GRUENE LIGA e.V.

Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, India
Ashish Fernandes, Sanctuary Asia, India
Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra - Research, Analysis and Monitoring of Water and Energy Issues, India
Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group
Smitu Kothari, Programmes on Tribal Self-Rule and Seeds of Hope

Antonio Tricarico, Campagna per la riforma della Banca Mondiale
Laura Radiconcini, Friends of the Earth, Italy

Ishida Kyoko, Sustainable Development and Aid, Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES)
Ikuko Matsumoto, Friends of the Earth, Japan

Kim Youn Ji, Korean Federation for Environmental Movement

Friends of the Earth, Lithuania

Anabela Lemos, Livaningo

Monique de Lede, Friends of the Earth Netherlands
Wiert Wiertsema, Both ENDS

Diana Bohn, Nicaragua Center for Community Action

Rev.David Ugolor, African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice(ANEEJ)

Tanja Hansen, Patentstyret
Gro Volckmar Dyrnes, FIVAS
Kåre Olerud, Norges Naturfernvorbund or Friends of the Earth, Norway

Naeem Iqbal, Pakistan Network of Rivers Dams and People

Oscar Rivas, SOBREVIVENCIA- Friends of the Earth, Paraguay
Teresa Perez, World Rainforest Movement

Carlo Butalid, Philippine-European Solidarity Centre
Joan Carling, Cordillera People's Alliance

Luís Galrão, EURONATURA, Portugal
Nuno Castanheira and Maria João Pereira , Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN)
Adelaide Chichorro Ferreira, Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Coimbra

Roman Havlicek, Friends of the Earth, Slovakia

South Africa
Mike Kantey, Cape Town Greens, Green Party of South Africa
John Taylor, Sustainable Water Forum in Cape Town
Liane Greeff, Environmental Monitoring Group
Sindisiwe Ngcobo, Network for Advocacy on Water Issues in Southern Africa (NAWISA)
Patrick Dowling, Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa
Patrick Bond, Municipal Services Project

Pernilla Rinsell, Miljöförbundet Jordens Vänner, Friends of the Earth, Sweden

Christine Eberlein, Berne Declaration
Alex Sutter, Human Rights Switzerland
Richard Gerster, Gerster Consulting
Peter Weishaupt, Swiss Peace Council
Christine Plüss, Arbeitskreis Tourismus & Entwicklung
Peter Niggli, Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations (Swissaid,
Catholic Lenten Fund, Bread for All, Helvetas, Caritas, Swiss Interchurch Aid)
Christoph Buholzer, ACTARES, Shareholders for a Sustainable Economy, Switzerland
Werner Külling, Secretary General, Helvetas
Swiss Association for International Cooperation, Switzerland
Eva Kuhn and Armin Braunwalder, Fondation Suisse de'l Energie
Franziska Stocker, Society for Threatened Peoples, Switzerland
Ruth Genner and Patrice Mugny, Green Party Switzerland

Dick Nuwamanya, Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment
Muramuzi Frank, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE)

United Kingdom
Jennifer Geen, Bar Human Rights Committee
Nicholas Hildyard, The Corner House
Hannah Griffiths, Friends of the Earth, UK
Stephen Smellie, South Lanarkshire UNISON, Scotland
Cara Wilson, 'To Gwyrdd' [Green Roofs] Housing Group, Wales

United States
Bruce Rich, Environmental Defense
Doug Norlen, Pacific Environment
John Gershman, Interhemispheric Resource Center
Brent Blackwelder, Friends of the Earth, US
Nadananda, Friends of the Eel River
Paula Palmer, Global Response
Pam Wellner, Project Underground
Patricia Gay Webb. IEPD-International Environmental Policy and Development, USA.
Owen Lammers, Living Rivers
Daphne Wysham, Institute for Policy Studies, USA
Stephen Mills, International Program, Sierra Club
Andrea Durbin, Greenpeace, U.S.
Bruce Jenkins, Bank Information Center, USA
Marty Bergoffen, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project
Richard Kamp, Border Ecology Project
Barbara Warner, Marion County Water Watch

Roberto Bissio, Instituto del Tercer Mundo, Uruguay
REDES, Friends of the Earth, Uruguay

Janneke Bruil, Friends of the Earth, International
Chelsea Mozen, A SEED Europe