Advocacy, Agua/Aqua, Food Security, Water/Agua

The Human Right to Water in El Salvador (excerpt)

Versión Español

In El Salvador, environmental activists, natural resource protectors and lawmakers are still celebrating the historical victory of the Anti-Mining law which bans “prospection, exploration, exploitation, extraction or processing of metallic minerals in El Salvador.”1

Parallel to this victory, a new old fight continues.

El Salvador has, in fact, enough water for its people, however a water crisis is rising from unethical and incompetent management of resources. This is evident in the distribution when we see exclusive residential areas, resorts, mono-cropping farms receive water while mountain towns situated along flowing clean rivers do not.2

Though the organized fight for the right to water began over a decade ago, civil society with the support of international solidarity and major religions have come together to intensify the demand to pass the bill, originally drafted in 2005, which has been since updated and since challenged by right-wing parties and the private business sector.

These affected communities themselves are developing their own water committees and receiving specialized training in the collection, storage and distribution of their own communal and household systems. As a proud member of MOVIAC, the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations, we support strengthening these leaders capacities and promote healthy, just and sustainable social changes.

Voices have been tasked to investigate an important topic facing the communities we serve and we have chosen the life and death subject on the right to water in order to spread awareness and forge solidarity. This report is close to completion however we are releasing this excerpt due to the current climate of popular movements and political decisions.

The Human Right to Water in El Salvador   (excerpt) :
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El Derecho Humano al Agua en El Salvador   (extracto)

En El Salvador, activistas ambientales, protectores del agua y legisladores siguen celebrando el histórico triunfo de la ley antiminas que prohíbe “la prospección, exploración, explotación, extracción o procesamiento de minerales metálicos en El Salvador.”1

Paralelamente a esta victoria, una nueva / antigua pelea continúa.

El Salvador tiene, de hecho, suficiente agua para su gente, sin embargo una crisis del agua está levantando de la administración antiética e incompetente de recursos. Esto es evidente en la distribución cuando vemos zonas residenciales exclusivas, complejos, granjas monoculturales reciben agua mientras que los pueblos de montaña situados a lo largo de ríos que fluyen limpios no lo hacen.2

Aunque la lucha organizada por el derecho al agua comenzó hace más de una década, la sociedad civil con el apoyo de la solidaridad internacional y de las principales religiones se han unido para intensificar la demanda de aprobar el proyecto, redactado originalmente en 2005, desafiado por los partidos de derecha y el sector empresarial privado desde el inicio.

Estas mismas comunidades afectadas están desarrollando sus propios comités de agua y recibiendo capacitación especializada en la recolección, almacenamiento y distribución de sus propios sistemas comunitarios y domésticos. Como miembro orgulloso de MOVIAC, el Movimiento de las Víctimas Afectadas por el Cambio Climático y las Corporaciones, nosotros como Voces apoyamos el fortalecimiento de estas capacidades de líderes y promover cambios sociales saludables, justos y sostenibles.

Voces ha sido encargado de investigar un tema importante que enfrentan las comunidades a las que servimos y hemos elegido el tema del agua porque es un asunto de vida y muerte también para difundir la conciencia y forjar la solidaridad. Este informe está a punto de finalizar, sin embargo estamos publicando este fragmento debido al clima actual de movimientos populares y decisiones políticas.

El Derecho Humano al Agua en El Salvador   (extracto):
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agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, Corruption, Economy, Environment

The Water Crisis in El Salvador

Versión Español

On 28 July 2010, through resolution 64/292, the General Assembly of the United Nations recognized the human right to water and sanitation, reaffirming that water is essential for the realization of all human rights; however, for a significant proportion of humanity this is not true. The Friends of the Earth International Federation (FoEI) says that over 1 billion people lack clean water and more than 5 million die each year from water-related diseases.

El Salvador is one of the countries in the world facing a profound water crisis. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reports that El Salvador has 1,752 cubic meters per capita per year, which almost qualifies as “water stress.” This serious lack of water is related to deforestation and to the contamination of surface water bodies. According to the Salvadoran Ministry of Environment: more than 90% of surface waters are contaminated and only 10% are suitable for drinking by conventional methods.

In the opinion of the Office of the Procurator for the Defense of Human Rights, this situation of pollution and environmental degradation represents an accumulated evil throughout history that was deepened by the lack of diligence of the authorities, relegating the environmental issue of all State policies. For this reason, in 2006, a group of social organizations submitted a proposal for a General Water Law, which explained that the existing legal framework was obsolete and fragmented and couldn’t provide the population with resolutions. The law was based on principles such as: participation, full access, a focus on basins, sustainability and decentralization.

According to Carolina Amaya, environmental activist with the Salvadoran Ecological Unit (UNES), the main reason for not approving the General Water Law is because the right-wing business leaders represented in the Legislative Assembly, intend to control the water issue, they want to control the institutions that privatize water. This breaking point is the main motive that has interrupted the discussion of the law. In Amaya’s words, “allowing large private enterprises to have control over water management is like putting the coyote in the care of hens.”

This lack of regulation allows golf course owners, bottling companies, sugarcane producers, and other private interests to use as much water as they want, no matter how it affects local communities. One media outlet reported that a golf course has all the water it needs while nearby towns struggle to meet their daily needs. Likewise, residents of the Bajo Lempa region of Usulutan argue that sugarcane producers are depleting their water sources.

These social sectors that hold economic and political power say that water is a commodity that is bought and sold, and the only way to manage it efficiently is to let the market take over. This neoliberal thinking is rejected by various civil society organizations arguing that water is a common good and its access is a basic human right.

Conflicting visions often manifested in street closures for protests of lack of water, while companies engaged in the production of carbonated and alcoholic beverages using millions of liters a day, equally large shopping malls and exclusive residences use excessive amounts of water without any restriction. The bottom line; unequal access to potable water is a clear indicator of social injustice in El Salvador.

Crisis de Agua en El Salvador

El 28 de julio de 2010, a través de la Resolución 64/292, la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas reconoció el derecho humano al agua y al saneamiento, reafirmando que el agua es esencial para la realización de todos los derechos humanos; sin embargo, para una importante proporción de la humanidad este derecho no se cumple. La Federación Amigos de la Tierra Internacional afirma que más de mil millones de personas carecen de agua limpia y que más de 5 millones fallecen cada año por enfermedades relacionadas con el agua.

El Salvador es uno de los países del mundo que enfrenta una profunda crisis hídrica, la CEPAL reporta que el país cuenta con 1,752 metros cúbicos per cápita por año, y lo califica en una situación cercana a lo que se conoce como stress hídrico. Esta escasez tiene que ver con la deforestación y con la contaminación de los cuerpos superficiales de agua, el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente salvadoreño afirma que más del 90% de las aguas superficiales se encuentran contaminadas y que únicamente el 10% son aptas para potabilizar por métodos convencionales.

En opinión de la Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, esta situación de contaminación y degradación ambiental representa un mal acumulado a lo largo de la historia que se fue profundizando por la falta de diligencia de las autoridades, relegando el tema ambiental de todas las políticas estatales. Por esta razón fue que en 2006 un grupo de organizaciones sociales presentaron una propuesta de Ley General de Aguas, explicando que el marco legal existente es obsoleto y fragmentado y no da respuestas a la población, por lo que se requiere una ley basada en principios como: la participación, el pleno acceso, el enfoque de cuenca, la sustentabilidad y la descentralización.

Once años más tarde aún no se cuenta con la referida ley, Para Carolina Amaya, activista ambiental de la Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña, la razón de fondo por la cual no se aprueba la Ley General de Aguas es porque las cúpulas empresariales representadas en la Asamblea Legislativa por los partidos de derecha, pretenden tener el control de la institución rectora del agua, quieren controlar la institucionalidad para luego privatizar el agua, este es el punto de quiebre y principal motivo que ha entrampado la discusión de la ley. En palabras de Amaya, permitir que la gran empresa privada tenga el control en la gestión del agua, es como poner al coyote a cuidar a las gallinas.

Esta falta de regulación permite a los propietarios de campos de golf, compañías embotelladoras, productores de caña de azúcar, y otros intereses privados utilizar toda el agua que quieran, sin importar la forma en que afecta a las comunidades locales. Un medio de comunicación publicó que un campo de golf tiene toda el agua que necesita mientras que las poblaciones cercanas luchan para satisfacer sus necesidades diarias. Del mismo modo, los residentes de la región del Bajo Lempa en Usulután sostienen que los productores de caña de azúcar están agotando las fuentes de agua.

Estos sectores sociales que ostentan poder económico y político sostienen que el agua es una mercancía que se compra y se vende, y la única manera de administrarla eficientemente es dejando que sea el mercado quien se hace cargo. Este pensamiento neoliberal es rechazado por diversas organizaciones de la sociedad civil argumentando que el agua es un bien común y su acceso es un derecho humano básico.

Visiones enfrentadas que se manifiestan con frecuencia en cierres de calles en protesta por la falta de agua, al mismo tiempo las empresas dedicadas a producir bebidas carbonatadas y alcohólicas gastan millones de litros al día, igualmente grandes centros comerciales y residencias exclusivas usan cantidades excesivas de agua sin ninguna restricción. El acceso desigual al agua potable es un indicador claro de la injusticia social en El Salvador.

Advocacy, annual report, education, Environment, Food Security, News Highlights, Voices Developments, Womens issues, Youth Development

Celebrating 30 years of Solidarity with the People of El Salvador – 2016 Annual Report

2016 was a dynamic year for Voices. We said goodbye to old friends and opened the door to new ones. We began an extensive education revitalization project in Bajo Lempa, started supporting women’s empowerment in Morazán and even joined in on environmental justice protests in the capital San Salvador.

This year is even more special because we turn 30! Since our inception in the refugee camps until now, we have never deserted our communities and are committed to being a critical source of support for them now, and in the future.

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Read our report to find out what our partners have been up to, the large scales issues they are facing and how Voices has been working hard in collaboration with leaders to find solutions to issues and pathways to accomplishing goals.

U.S. Relations

US Organizations Demand Justice for Central American Migrants in the United States

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(Text in Spanish Below)

We, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), US-El Salvador Sister Cities, SHARE, Joining Hands Network (RUMHES), Voices on the Border, and the Center for Exchange and Solidarity (CIS), organizations in solidarity with El Salvador based in the United States, denounce the raids being carried by our government for the purpose of deporting Central American families seeking asylum in the United States.

The repressive and violent actions of US immigration authorities constitute serious human rights violations and generate anxiety and terror in the immigrant community. According to the United Nations, many of the Central American families who migrate to the United States in recent years fulfil the requirements to receive international protection as refugees due to the violent situations in their communities of origin. What’s more, migrant rights defenders have indicated grave failures to provide due process for this population, especially in regards to the right to legal advice. The United States has a moral responsibility and an obligation under international agreements to protect these families and to not return them to dangerous situations.

These mass detentions are part of an immigration system that considers immigration a border security issue rather than a human rights issue. This system focuses on militarizing not just the US border, but also borders in Mexico and Central America, family detention, and mass deportation. These immigration policies are inhumane, and they generate great profits for the defense industry and private prisons that operate immigrant detention facilities; they generate more violence and danger, and infringe on the rights of migrants and refugees.

We affirm that, in addition to the economic inequality and social violence in Central America that generates migration and forced displacement, these phenomena are in large part the result of US intervention in the region. The imposition of neoliberal economic policies like free trade agreements and privatization has created conditions of economic and labor instability and precariousness, and military and security interventions both during the civil war and afterwards through the War On Drugs and the Regional Security Initiative for Central America (CARSI) have aggravated the situation of violence and weakened access to justice throughout the region. Today, under the pretext of putting a stop to Central American migration, the United States is driving the militarization of regional borders through initiatives like the Southern Border Plan with the Mexican government, and now as conditions on funds allocated to support the Alliance for Prosperity Plan for the Northern Triangle of Central America.

Instead of pursuing repressive policies against migrants, the United States government should stop enacting policies that aggravate the economic and social crises in the countries of origin. As organizations based in the United States, we demand the following:

  • An immediate stop to the round ups,
  • That Central American families receive humanitarian aid,
  • That the rights of migrants and refugees be respected,
  • And that the United States government and its ambassador in El Salvador stop imposing interventionist neoliberal and militaristic policies that contribute to the forced displacement and mass migration.

San Salvador, El Salvador

January 19, 2015

Organizaciones Estadounidenses Exigen Justicia Para los Migrantes Centroamericanos en los EEUU

Nosotros, el Comité en Solidaridad con el Pueblo de El Salvador (CISPES), Ciudades Hermanas, La Fundación Share, Red Uniendo Manos contra el Hambre El Salvador (RUMHES), Voces en la Frontera, y el Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS), organizaciones de solidaridad con El Salvador con base en los Estados Unidos, denunciamos las redadas realizadas por nuestro gobierno con el fin de deportar familias centroamericanas que buscan asilo en los Estados Unidos.

Las acciones represivas y violentas de las autoridades de migración estadounidenses constituyen una violación grave de derechos humanos además de generar zozobra y terror en la comunidad migrante. Según la Organización de las Naciones Unidas, muchas de las familias centroamericanas que han migrado a los EEUU en los últimos años cumplen los requisitos para recibir protecciones internacionales como refugiados por las situaciones de violencia en sus comunidades de origen. Además, defensores de los derechos de migrantes han señalado graves fallos en la aplicación del debido proceso para esta población, especialmente el derecho a la asesoría jurídica. Los EEUU tienen una responsabilidad moral y de una obligación bajo convenios internacionales de proteger a estas familias y no regresarlas a situaciones de peligro.

Estas detenciones masivas forman parte de un sistema migratorio que concibe de la migración como un problema de seguridad de fronteras, y no como un tema de derechos humanos. Este sistema se enfoca en impulsar la militarización de las fronteras, tanto estadounidenses como mexicanas y centroamericanas, la detención de familias migrantes, y la deportación masiva. Estas políticas migratorias son inhumanas, y enriquecen a la industria militarista y las empresas carcelarias que operan los centros de detención de migrantes; generan más violencia y peligro, y vulneran los derechos de migrantes y refugiados.

Afirmamos, además, que la desigualdad económica y violencia social en Centroamérica que genera la migración y el desplazamiento forzado son resultados en gran parte de las intervenciones estadounidenses en la región. La imposición de políticas económicas neoliberales como los tratados de libre comercio y la privatización ha creado condiciones de inestabilidad y precariedad económica y laboral, y las intervenciones militares y de seguridad tanto en los tiempos del conflicto armado como a través de la Guerra Contra Las Drogas y la Iniciativa Regional de Seguridad para América Central (CARSI) han agravado la situación de violencia y debilitado el acceso a la justicia al nivel regional. Hoy, con el pretexto de querer detener la migración centroamericana, los Estados Unidos está impulsando la militarización de las fronteras regionales a través de iniciativas como Plan Frontera Sur con el gobierno de México y ahora como condición para los fondos destinados a apoyar el Plan de la Alianza para la Prosperidad del Triangulo Norte de Centroamérica.

En vez de proseguir políticas represivas contra los inmigrantes, el gobierno de los Estados Unidos debe dejar de avanzar políticas que agravan las crisis económicas y sociales en sus países de origen. Como organizaciones con base en los Estados Unidos, exigimos lo siguiente de nuestro gobierno:

  • Un alto inmediato a las redadas,
  • Que las familias centroamericanas reciban protección humanitaria,
  • Que se respeten los derechos de los migrantes y refugiados,
  • Y que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos y su embajada en El Salvador dejen de impulsar políticas intervencionistas neoliberales y militaristas que contribuyen al desplazamiento forzado y la migración masiva.

San Salvador, El Salvador

19 de enero de 2015

education

Learn More about the Bajo Lempa Education Project

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On the 1st, we launched a Global Giving fundraising campaign for an intensive educational project in the Bajo Lempa. To date, we’ve recieved numerous generous donations and have less than a week to reach our goal. Today Global Giving will be matching donations at 20%.

Have you been wondering what our Bajo Lempa education project is all about?             Click on the PDF below to get a better understanding of the nuts and bolts and, as always, feel free to share.

LEER, Lograr en Educación Rural / Success in Rural Education

agriculture, Economy, International Relations, U.S. Relations

The Cost of Free Trade: 5 Years into DR-CAFTA

The Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (or DR-CAFTA) went into effect March 1, 2006. After 5 years, it is time to evaluate what kind of results this agreement has produced. Like any other free trade agreement, the logic behind CAFTA was that liberalized trade leads to a net welfare gain for both countries. Furthermore, because the seven countries involved in the agreement (US, Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua) have different resources, technologies, and preferences, there are gains to be made from trade. By pursuing each other’s comparative advantage, as David Ricardo first argued, each country may specialize in that which it is relatively better at producing. This is a powerful theory, but as economics often shows, theory cannot always be reconciled with reality; many of these models make specific assumptions that do not always match the real world. Specifically in the case of CAFTA, it appears as though the Central American countries have suffered several negative consequences of this free trade agreement. The results of the agreement that weren’t clearly negative are ambiguous at best.

 

The removal of tariffs lowers the costs of trade between these countries and their main trading partner–the US. That being said, because tariffs have been removed, the governments of the Central American countries have less government revenue flowing in. While the US hardly had any tariffs on imported goods from Central American countries, the Central American nations had high tariffs on US goods in order to raise revenue for their governments. Before DR-CAFTA came into effect, about 80% of all US goods were not duty free, and the removal of the tariffs caused the governments to lose a substantial amount of revenue.

 

Additionally, because the US subsidizes its agricultural products, it has hurt the average farmers in these Central American countries. Since most Central American farmers cannot compete with the massive, more efficient farms in the US that are subsidized by the government, many of these Central American farmers find themselves out of business.  This forces them to instead try to find work in the multi-national corporations’ factories. More individuals in the cities seeking jobs in the so-called “maquilas” means that the supply of labor rises while the number of maquilas stays the same. This leads to an excess supply of Salvadorans seeking jobs in these factories. Thus, factory owners may lower their salaries because there is so much competition for work.

 

Many theorists would assert that one of the largest benefits of trade is that after lifting barriers to trade, the countries involved in the agreement will be able to consume more, leaving them all better off. In reality however, the results are neither negative nor positive, but rather unclear. Data shows that over the course of the last five years and until 2010, exports and imports in El Salvador have steadily increased. One, however, cannot say for certain that this is a direct result of DR-CAFTA. More than that, while Salvadoran exports and imports may have increased, it does not necessarily mean that El Salvador is physically producing and exporting more goods. Export and import data are calculated by value, and therefore one must factor prices into the equation. It is possible that El Salvador produced just as much last year as it did five years ago. However, because prices have risen, the value of its exports has also risen even though El Salvador is not better off in real terms. There is some evidence that suggests that increases in price levels over time account for some of the rise in exports. According to the data, El Salvador has experienced inflation since 2005. Because of the difficulty of directly attributing rises in exports and imports to DR-CAFTA the actual effect of the agreement on trade is ambiguous.

 

The effects of DR-CAFTA remain unclear when analyzing Chapter 10 of the agreement, which eliminates barriers to investment. According to the chapter, investments are very strongly protected.  This protection is provided by the most-favored nation provision (in which the countries agree to accord one another with the same favorable terms that would be offered in treaties with any other nation) the “fair and equitable treatment” clause (which refers to a country agreeing to treat foreign investors the same as domestic ones), and the “full protection and security” clause (which refers to a country’s agreement to protect one other’s investors by providing them with security).  Because of these provisions, multi-national corporations can securely conduct their business in signatory nations and employ their citizens.  Although this is positive for El Salvador and the rest of Central America, the nature of the jobs these corporations often provide is unsanitary, unsafe, and low-paying. Thus, the citizens of Central America are not necessarily better off, especially since the multi-national corporations often do not reinvest their profits within the region but instead send it back to their home country. Due to the lack of economic development from the international investors, workers do not necessarily stand to gain.

 

For all of these reasons, DR-CAFTA has no clear and significant benefits to El Salvador and the other Central American members of the agreement. Salvadorans and other Central Americans need development, and because DR-CAFTA seems to facilitate it through spurring investment, but impede it through working conditions, among other things, this trade agreement is neither a sufficient nor an ideal solution to development.  DR-CAFTA, along with its effects like poor working conditions, low salaries, US subsidized exports, etc, will continue to remain an issue of concern until further investigation and/or reforms can be completed.