Friday, October 19, 2018

Indigenous women’s delegation takes fossil fuel divestment demands to New York City and Washington DC

The call from the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation is for rights and environmental violations to be more thoroughly reflected in the rating scores given to fossil fuel extraction companies.

Image Credit: WECAN International

SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, Calif. – A fourth Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation will travel to New York City and Washington D.C. from October 15-17th, to take part in high-level meetings engaging the Equator Principle Association banks (EP banks) and the credit rating agency MSCI, regarding fossil fuel developments; Indigenous and human rights violations; dangers to increasing climate chaos; and demands for institutional action to change the harmful financing practices supporting extractive industries.

On October 15th, the delegation will meet with MSCI rating company in New York City. MSCI ESG Research is one of the largest independent providers of ESG (environmental, social and governance) ratings, providing through MSCI Group, ratings for over 6,000 global companies and more than 400,000 equity and fixed income securities. These ratings affect how a company is perceived by investors, and thus the types of credit and loans that will be extended to project or groups, ultimately helping to determine the viability and completion of a given project.

The call from the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation is for rights and environmental violations to be more thoroughly reflected in the rating scores given to fossil fuel extraction companies. Such shifts in rating agency procedures would act as as one tool to contribute to the continued divestment of funds from unjust and dangerous extractive corporations and projects.

On October 16th, the Delegation will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with Equator Principles Association banks in Washington, D.C as they hold their annual meeting.

The Equator Principles Association or ‘EP banks’, are a group of 94 international banks who have signed-on to adhere to a voluntary set of principles enshrined in the ‘Equator Principles’ document. As stated on the Association website, the Equator Principles is used as “a risk management framework, adopted by financial institutions, for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in projects and is primarily intended to provide a minimum standard for due diligence and monitoring to support responsible risk decision-making.”

After the human rights abuses at Standing Rock, which did not stop 13 Equator banks from providing a project loan to the primary Dakota Access pipeline developer – EP banks said they would reform the Equator Principles, and begin a revision process to be completed by 2019 that would more effectively address concerns about potential rights violations and environmental degradation. The Delegation will provide critical inputs to this revision process.

Meetings in Washington, D.C. will be held in collaboration with several groups focused on divestment strategies coordinating a collective campaign.

October 2018 Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation members include – Wasté Win Yellowlodge Young (Ihunktowanna/Hunkpapa of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Former Tribal Historic Preservation Officer); Jessica Parfait (United Houma Nation, Graduate student at Louisiana State University exploring impacts of oil and gas on Houma tribal communities); Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe, Tribal attorney, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, and former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders); Michelle Cook (Diné, Human rights lawyer, and Founder and Co-Director of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign); and Leoyla Cowboy (Diné, member of the Red Nation, and community organizer for the Water Protector Legal Collective) – joined by Osprey Orielle Lake (Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) and Co-Director of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign).

The Delegates will bring with them knowledge, data and analysis, and personal testimony as women leaders active in struggles to oppose the Dakota Access, Bayou Bridge, and Line 3 Pipelines, amongst other work.  [Full Delegate biographies available here].

Previous Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations traveled to Norway, Germany, and Switzerland, and focused efforts on some of the largest banks financing global fossil fuel infrastructure, including Credit Suisse, UBS, and Deutsche Bank – to demand adherence to the standards of Indigenous rights and human rights law, and meaningful action to divest funds from the fossil fuel companies forcing unwanted extractive development in Indigenous territories and jeopardizing the health of the global climate and communities. Background and context can be found on the Divest, Invest, Protect webpage.

This fourth, October 2018 Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation to Washington D.C. and New York City is facilitated by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International in partnership with Indigenous women leaders and their directives, as part of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign. It is one vital contribution in a groundswell of diverse efforts for fossil fuel divestment being taken by groups and communities across the U.S. and around the globe.

Members of the media are encouraged to reach out with all questions and interview requests.

“I will be attending this delegation because through my research I have learned a lot about the effects of oil and gas on my community. I have learned how much environmental and human damage they are accountable for, and I want to put personal stories to the survivors of their collateral damage. Historic communities have already been lost and communities of color suffer at disproportionate rates along Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, and if the industry is going to continue to harm our people and the environment, then investors should know what they are funding.” – Jessica Parfait (United Houma Nation, Graduate student at Louisiana State University exploring impacts of oil and gas on Houma tribal communities)

“Enbridge has the only fully approved, fully funded major tar sands line in North America. It is a 1/3 owner in Dakota Access, and therefore a 1/3 owner in the brutality on unarmed people that took place in Standing Rock. Enbridge now plans to send almost one million barrels of oil per day through my people’s treaty territory, against the will of the tribes and people. Enbridge holds an A credit rating. No bank with even the most basic respect for human rights should be funding this company.” – Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe, Tribal attorney, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, and former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders)

“I come from Standing Rock, an indigenous community impacted by the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) – a pipeline our community, tribal government and citizens did not consent to. I am here to call for accountability and reform from the financial institutions that continue to fund these companies and projects despite the egregious civil rights abuses and human rights abuses that occurred at Standing Rock. The time has come for companies, businesses, institutions, communities, families and individuals to step up and play an active role in transitioning from fossil fuel extraction and consumption to green energy. Our future is at stake.” – Wasté Win Yellowlodge Young (Ihunktowanna/Hunkpapa of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Former Tribal Historic Preservation Officer)

“Indigenous women are fighting for our land and lives. The decisions made by rating agencies like MSCI impact the survival of our people. If these agencies give companies who violate indigenous rights an “A” rating, there is a serious problem with how these companies are being measured and evaluated. Rating agencies must include indigenous human rights assessments and indigenous stakeholders as credible sources of information in evaluating investments and companies. We are demanding businesses to uphold their responsibility to protect and respect indigenous human rights.  For far too long the indispensable role banks and financial institutions have played in resource colonization and the oppression of indigenous peoples worldwide have been obscured. I believe that our stories, our counter-narratives, have the power to bring meaningful legal change. The courage these women show, their audacity to face those in seats of power, demonstrates a commitment to justice that we all can learn from.”– Michelle Cook (Diné, Human rights lawyer, and Founder and Co-Director of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign)

“Settler colonialism is a dangerous and violent thread of capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy, which works to ‘eliminate Indigenous people’. I was forced to learn in early education that settlers were people to celebrate. I speak about our true heroes, our relatives and our ancestors. All of the U.S. is indigenous lands, this is what I know to be true, and resource extraction is Indigenous genocide. I see so much beauty in our people and our lands. Resource extraction tries violently to tear our livelihood apart. Our bodies are under attack when our lands are used for resource extraction. Divestment is the frontlines; it’s another form of non-violent direct action. This is where the money directly ties to resource extraction. Instead, we need money to be moved to building a good future away from dangerous extractive industries like fossil fuels that hurt everyone.” – Leoyla Cowboy (Diné, member of the Red Nation, and community organizer for the Water Protector Legal Collective)

“Divestment from dirty fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure demonstrates a commitment to our collective future and the web of life. What is needed immediately from financial institutions, insurance companies and rating agencies, is a show of leadership and dedication to ecological sustainability, and human and Indigenous rights, as we face the unprecedented challenges of a world plunging into climate chaos. Indigenous women have long bore the brunt of extractive industries, and despite this, shine powerfully with solutions to the harms that come from these destructive practices. Financial institutions, businesses, and governments need to listen to Indigenous women and adhere to their demands, which are founded on requests for basic respect for obtaining free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities, as required under international law. WECAN International stands with representatives of the ongoing Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations – and is calling for justice and accountability from institutions engaged in or enabling fossil fuel extraction. Business as usual cannot continue. Now is the time to move forward towards renewable, regenerative energy for all.” – Osprey Orielle Lake (Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network and Co-Director of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign)

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