Think Creatively to Find More Pressure Points

If you are creative, sometimes you can find other actors that are not directly in the investment chain but are still important pressure points. These could be actors that promote investment or trade schemes, or development agencies that are funding projects or policy reforms that impact your case.

For example, let’s say you are working on a case concerning a hydropower dam that has grabbed indigenous community land and forests in your country. You map the investment chain of the plantation company but you can’t find any strong pressure points. Next, you should look to see if there are any infrastructure projects or energy sector reforms that have helped make the dam possible.

For example, you might find that electricity generated by the dam is transmitted by a power line that was financed by a development bank, such as the World Bank or Asian Development Bank. Although the bank is not directly responsible for the project, its resources are enabling the project and indirectly harming local communities. Or, you may find that an international development bank provided financial and technical assistance to the government to reform its laws and policies to make it more attractive for large-scale hydropower investment. Even though the involvement of the development bank is indirect, this link can be enough to target it in your advocacy. You can demand that the bank use its leverage with the government and dam operator to provide redress to the affected communities.

The key is to find new actors that are strong pressure points because:

  • They are implicated either directly or indirectly in the harms that you are seeking to address.
  • They have an accountability mechanism or are susceptible to other forms of advocacy.
  • They have influence over your primary advocacy target, the business managing the project.

The following case study is a good example of how advocates working with the Cambodian Clean Sugar Campaign effectively used a creative advocacy strategy to gain leverage over the government and companies, which were not responding to other advocacy strategies.

Box 22: Case Study

Cambodian Clean Sugar Campaign and the EU Everything But Arms Trade Scheme

In 2006, the Cambodian government began leasing vast amounts of land to private investors to develop industrial sugarcane plantations. The land concessions overlapped with community-managed forests and the private landholdings of small-scale farmers, leading to their displacement. Some of the concessions involved violent forced evictions, with entire villages being burnt to the ground by the Cambodian military in collusion with the companies. In some cases, those who protested the land seizures were thrown in jail.

With no justice available through domestic remedies in Cambodia, in 2010 an alliance of NGOs and affected communities came together to form the Clean Sugar Campaign, which has pursued multi-pronged advocacy strategies targeting different actors along the investment chains of the plantations. The campaign aims to:

·    Stop human rights abuses and environmental damage caused by the sugar industry in Cambodia;

·    Bring about a just resolution for the individuals and communities who have been harmed by the industry; and

·    Ensure that the agricultural development and trade policies benefit smallholder farmers and local communities.

The campaign brought together several displaced communities from across the country, making their advocacy stronger through their united actions and objectives.

Campaign members pursued legal action in the United Kingdom against a UK company that is importing the sugar (see Box 15). They have filed complaints with the Thai Human Rights Commission against the Thai sugar producing companies, a complaint with the OECD National Contact Point in Australia against an Australian bank that was financing one of the plantations, and complaints to Bonsucro, the sugar industry’s multi-stakeholder initiative (see the case study in Box 19). They have used media advocacy and online campaigns targeting consumers to pressure investors and major buyers to use their leverage to get the sugar companies to stop abuses and provide redress to affected communities or terminate their business relationships with them.

These strategies combined put significant pressure on the plantation companies, yet after four years of effort they still hadn’t secured redress for the affected communities. In late 2014, however, another the campaign employed another creative strategy that finally started to bear fruit.

The campaigners realized that the sugarcane producers, which were predominantly Thai, were motivated to invest in plantations in Cambodia because of the European Union’s Everything But Arms preferential trade scheme. Everything But Arms provides duty-free access to the European market and a guaranteed minimum price for sugar produced in a least developed country. Since Thailand does not qualify for Everything But Arms status, Thai sugar companies have sought to establish operations in neighbouring Cambodia and Laos in order to benefit from the lucrative trade preferences. With research and advocacy, the campaigners showed that the EU policy is part of the problem because it is incentivising companies that grab people’s land, destroy forests and violate human rights.

The coalition campaigned for the European Commission to carry out a formal investigation of human rights abuses and withdraw preferential trade arrangements for sugar produced in Cambodia until the companies provide reparations to the affected communities.

In response to lobbying, the EU Parliament adopted two resolutions urging the European Commission to launch an investigation. In 2014, under intense pressure from the campaign, the European Commission succeeding in convincing the Cambodian Government to commission a third-party audit of the displacement impacts and losses suffered by communities affected by the sugar industry. The audit will assess claims and make recommendations for the redress of affected communities. The Clean Sugar Campaign will monitor this process and continue to advocate to ensure that it results in fair and just reparations for all families negatively impacted by the sugar industry.

For more about the Clean Sugar Campaign and to follow its progress, see here.