Whiteness & Aversive Racism

British Collusion with Death Squads in the Muslim World



The British state has long been adept at cultivating fascistic forces in oppressed countries, the most infamous examples of this collaboration being the British open support for the misnamed Mujahideen (‘warriors of the faith’) in Afghanistan during the 1980s and also the British state’s role backing Loyalist sectarian death squads in the occupied six countries in the period of the ‘Troubles’. What was perhaps a slow trickle of events a decade ago has in more recent years turned into a tsunami of revelations alluding to Britain’s seemingly deep and extensive role in supporting death squads in the Muslim world. Having learnt lessons from its experiences in collusion in Afghanistan and Ireland, the British state appears to be applying a more complex and sophisticated strategy towards the current death squads in the Muslim world, some of whom are known more popularly as ‘Al Qaeda’, ‘Jabhat Nusra’, and ‘Isis’/’IS’/’Isil’/’Islamic State’.

The British state’s fundamental role in the bringing to prominence a violent sectarian ideology, which perverts and uses and abuses Islam and Muslims, is well known and goes back centuries when Britain’s was the midwife and senior ally to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. British colonialism backed the vicious religious sectarianism of Ibn Wahhab and the Saud family and brought them to power in the Arabian peninsula, a process which saw tens of thousands of people in that country massacred as part of this supremacist project.

In the late 19th century going into the 20th century, Britain instituted a number of reactionary forces in the Middle East that used and abused Islam as a cover for their monarchical and pro-colonial dictatorships, such as that in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the many monarchical mini-states in the Persian Gulf. The development of such political forces and states was at the same time a strategy against the growing pro-independence, nationalist, left nationalist and socialist struggles and countries gripping the region. Britain’s primary allies in the region are the most sectarian and oppressive regimes, and allying with them supports their common fight against any movements for independence of the people and countries of the region. Most recently, this unholy alliance has been leveled against pro-independence countries of the Libyan Jamahirya and Baathist Syria and also against the leading country in the ‘Resistance Axis’, Iran. Relatedly, the UK, USA and France, Britain’s major allies, are also in direct alliance with similar death squad forces. Mark Curtis in his book Secret Affairs (2010) has thoroughly documented and proven that Britain’s so-called global war on terrorism is predicated on allying with the very states in the Muslim world that are widely seen as propping up these same death squads, which makes the ‘war on terrorism’ more like a neo-colonial war of terrorism against people of Africa and Asia.

The apparent British role in directly fostering sectarianism and terrorism sometimes comes to light, such as during the SAS debacle in Basra in September, 2005. This was when the British undercover SAS dressed as Arabs with heavy weaponry were arrested by the Iraqi police and then forcibly and illegally taken back by the British army. Unfortunately, there was next to no investigative journalism and deeper probing conducted into this incident.

Then we have the case of the so-called Arab Spring in Libya whereby Britain teamed up openly with death squads, such as the ‘Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’. The group’s leader, Hakim Belhaj, was a primary ally for the British and the USA on the ground in Libya during 2011. It was reported recently in the media, and confirmed to me by Libyan journalists, political leaders and analysts that Belhaj’s organization is tied to ‘Isis’ in Libya. The SAS were also caught out in covert operations near Benghazi in Libya during early 2011. None of these issues has seen any serious investigation by British-based analysts and journalists.

Eyebrows were raised when former British Guantanamo and Bagram detainee Moazzam Begg traveled first to Libya and met Hakim Belhaj in 2012, and then went openly and illegally into Aleppo, Syria to openly support a death squad by the name of Katiba Muhijareen, which in its modus operandi and ideology is very similar to other more infamous armed gangs in Syria. Begg’s trial earlier this year collapsed as MI5 convinced the judge to drop the case when it came out that Begg’s visit to Syria was green-lighted in at least one secret meeting with MI5:

“In a subsequent blog [now deleted online – SC] “Begg said […] he had been approached by an MI5 officer “who said they wanted to talk to me about my views on the situation in Syria”.

““I told them that they must be aware that I was investigating several leads regarding British and American complicity in rendition and torture in Syria. They called back after consulting with their lawyers and said they understood that and would still like to meet. I agreed to speak to them and meet at a hotel in East London. Both MI5 and me had our lawyers present.”

“In the meeting Begg said MI5 were concerned about “the possibility of Britons in Syria being radicalised and returning to pose a potential threat to national security. I told them that Britain had nothing to worry about, especially since British foreign policy, at the time, seemed in favour of the rebels.”

“Begg then says he was “assured by MI5” that he could return to Syria and continue his work “unhindered””. (Guardian, 02/10/2014)

This seems to indicate that the British state is more than willing to facilitate even well-known public political figures in Britain to support their common aims in places like Syria. More indirect and circumstantial evidence points to possible British collusion, connected to Begg’s organization ‘Cage’, with one of their former clients, the so-called ‘Jihadi John’ (AKA Mohammed Emwazi), who before disappearing and apparently reappearing as an infamous ‘Isis’ butcher and propagandist complained of many instances of harassment and meetings with MI5. In addition to MI5’s outreach to Emwazi, MI5 has also admitted to trying to recruit the killer of Lee Rigby Michael Adebalajo.

More recently there has been a stunning public admission by Abu Muntasir stating he was a senior, if not the most senior, British-based recruiting sergeant for death squads in Chechnya, Kashmir, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Myanmar for some 20 years with de facto impunity from the British state: “I came back [from war] and opened the door and the trickle turned to a flood. I inspired and recruited, I raised funds and bought weapons, not just a one-off but for 15 to 20 years. Why I have never been arrested I don’t know.”” (Guardian, 13/06/2015)

While there is a growing number of articles recently, including in the British mainstream media, exploring possible USA state and government collusion with these death squads, there is in still little to no work digging into the nature and breadth of British collusion. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps one of the central reasons is that sections of and leading personalities in the British left have been and remain in open alliance with organisations and individuals in Britain who supportthese death squads, in some cases even giving them leadership platforms and positions in anti-war and other progressive organisations.

Three more factors complicate the issue: 1, the same sections of the British left have also themselves supported directly and in some cases indirectly these same death squads as ‘rebel’ or even ‘revolutionary’ forces in the ‘Arab Spring’. This seems to have pushed back on any possibility for certain people to make self criticisms and develop their position in light of the growing and overwhelming evidence that these armed gangs are not pro-people in anyway way but are depraved and profoundly sectarian and are in an overt and covert relationship with Western states in a common project to divide and ruin regions of Africa and the Middle East and Asia.

The final complicating factor is borne out of fear of not falling into anti-Muslim racism and prejudice or Islamophobia when engaging critically with these issues. It is of utmost importance that one exercises cigilance as to not to fall into the Western imperialist trap of internalizing anti-Muslim prejudice in countering collusion. There are a number of forces on what one can say is broadly on the left who have fallen into this trap and have fallen victims to the ruling classes strategy of Islamophobia. However, those who are mistakenly thinking they are supporting Muslims by backing  death squads perhaps fail to appreciate that these death squad forces and British state collusion with them is designed exactly against Muslims who are, in terms of being targeted and in a quantitative sense the overwhelming victims of this joint enterprise between leading Nato countries, reactionary states and sectarian armed gangs. It is an integral part of British racist policy to on the one hand punish all Muslims for a situation of the British state’s making in allying with the very regimes who are espousing basically the same ideology as Al Qaeda and ‘Isis’; ensuring over the decades that Saudi Arabia is in control of most of teaching in mosques in Britain and oppose and overthrow all tolerant forces in Islam that are tied to different levels of independence struggles against imperialism. Having developed this grand neo-colonial entrapment strategy towards Muslims, the British state deceitfully blames Muslims for extremism, when the British state itself is by far the biggest culprit in developing this extremism but white washes this situation and instead hides its own covert and overt strategies in this field and engages in the promotion and inculcation of anti-Muslim racism amongst peoples of all communities but focused especially on white communities. If one looks back to the history of the Loyalist paramilitaries, like with the death squads in the Muslim world, both these forces were on the surface in contention with the British state, however similarly in both these situations having spats here and there with these death squads only hides and befuddles the actual relationship between them.

In the West increasing numbers of people, writers and analysts are uncovering the USA’s role in collusion with death squads in the Muslim world it is only amount of time before the levee breaks as it were on this issue and people who live in Britain will be asking more questions and demanding accountability and justice. However, we are nearly into the fifth year after Britain openly teamed up death squad forces in Libya, the very forces it has been saying it has been opposing in the ‘war on terror’, and for all this time there has been a great amount of resistance and avoidance of this growing scandal. For the few who have been trying to raise these issues, the response has too often been at best avoidance or more often attempts at shutting down any mention of the subject.

As our comrades in the Irish freedom struggle said in relation to the British state’s covert and not so covert operations in supporting the Loyalist gangs: “collusion is no illusion, it is state murder”. The Irish people’s demands and struggles were listened to and acted upon by leading sections of the British left, and the latter supported and continue to support the Irish struggle in their on-going campaigns against collusion. It is high time that the British left similarly listened to the people of Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Somalia, Mali and many other places and campaign to end this sordid relationship which is collapsing whole countries and regions into veritable living nightmares borne out of the policies of imperialism in an increasingly desperate and barbaric crisis mode.

[Sukant Chandan is a London-based decolonial anti-imperialist activist and analyst. He advocated justice for Libyans in visiting Libya three times during the Nato onslaught in 2011 and reports frequently on English-language news channels based in Russia, Iran, China and Lebanon on which he discusses issues pertaining to the challenges of the struggle to end neo-colonialism. He can be contacted at]

Kwame Ture – Black Power Speech (1966)

Soon after he was named chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Stokely Carmichael began to tout the slogan and philosophy of Black Power.  In the speech below he explains  Black Power to an audience at the University of California, Berkeley. [Source: (1966) Stokely Carmichael, “Black Power”]


“When the missionaries came to civilize us because we were uncivilized, to educate us because we were uneducated, and to give us some literate studies because we were illiterate, they charged a price. The missionaries came with the Bible, and we had the land: When they left, they had the land, and we still have the Bible. That’s been the rationalization for Western civilization as it moves across the world–stealing, plundering, and raping everybody in its path. Their one rationalization is that the rest of the world is uncivilized and they are in fact civilized.


But the West is un-civ-i-lized. And that still runs on today, you see, because now we have “modern-day missionaries,” and they come into our ghettos–they Head Start, Upward Lift, Bootstrap, and Upward Bound us into white society. They don’t want to face the real problem. A man is poor for one reason and one reason only–he does not have money. If you want to get rid of poverty, you give people money. And you ought not tell me about people who don’t work, and that you can’t give people money if they don’t work, because if that were true, you’d have to start stopping Rockefeller, Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, the whole of Standard Oil, the Gulf Corporation, all of them, including probably a large number of the board of trustees of this university. The question, then, is not whether or not one can work; it’s Who has power to make his or her acts legitimate? That is all. In his country that power is invested in the hands of white people, and it makes their acts legitimate.”



“Human Rights” front groups (“Humanitarian Interventionalists”) Warring on Syria

In Gaza

Fall, 2015

by Eva Bartlett



This page will continue to expand as more so-called “Human Rights” groups are outed for propagating anti-Syria war rhetoric and false allegations against the Syrian government and Syrian Arab Army.  As it is, the list of players is quite extensive.  Below, I’ll list the known HR front people and groups (many, if not most, with links to the US State Department and criminals like George Soros). As Rick Sterling wrote in his “Humanitarians for War on Syria” (March 2015):

“A massive campaign in support of foreign intervention against Syria is underway. The goal is to prepare the public for a “No Fly Zone” enforced by US and other military powers. This is how the invasion of Iraq began. This is how the public was prepared for the US/NATO air attack on Libya.


The results of western ‘regime change’ in Iraq and Libya have been disastrous. Both actions have dramatically reduced the security, health, education and living standards of the populations, created anarchy and mayhem, and resulted in the explosion of sectarianism and violence in the region. Now the Western/NATO/Israeli and Gulf powers, supported by major intervention-inclined humanitarian organizations, want to do the same in Syria.”


The Players:

Avaaz: “Avaaz is an online lobby organization founded in 2007 by Jeremy Heimans (now CEO of Purpose) and others. Start-up funding was provided by George Soros’ foundation. …they have been prominent in promoting neoliberal foreign policies in keeping with the U.S. State Department. …Avaaz very actively promoted a No Fly Zone in Libya. They are now very actively promoting the same for Syria. In-depth research and exposure of Avaaz can be found here. The titles give some indication: “Faking It: Charity Communications in the Firing Line”, “Syria: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire”, “Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps for Militarism”. Avaaz justifies its call for No Fly Zone in part on White Helmets. Given the close interconnections between Avaaz and Purpose, they are surely aware that White Helmets is a media creation. This calls into question their sincerity.” [citation from: Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone]

“Avaaz is the operational name of “Global Engagement and Organizing Fund,” a non-profit organization legally incorporated in 2006. Avaaz was founded by Res Publica, described as a global civic advocacy group, and, “an online community that has pioneered internet advocacy in the United States.”…The silent voice behind Avaaz, that of Res Publica, is, in the public realm, essentially comprised of 3 key individuals: Tom Perriello, a pro-war (former) U.S. Representative who describes himself as a social entrepreneur, Ricken Patel, consultant to many of the most powerful entities on Earth and the long-time associate of Perriello, and Tom Pravda, a member of the UK Diplomatic Service who serves as a consultant to the U.S. State Department….In addition to receiving funding from the Open Society Institute, Avaaz has publicly cited the Open Society Institute as their foundation partner. This admission by founder Ricken Patel is found on the website.  The Open Society Institute (renamed in 2011 to Open Society Foundations) is a private operating and grantmaking foundation founded by George Soros, who remains the chair. …Avaaz’s stance on both Libya (now annihilated) and now Syria is in smooth synchronicity with the positions within the U.S. administration, positions such as those vocalized by the likes of war criminals such as Hillary Clinton (of “We came. We saw. He died. Laughter…” fame). The ugly iron fist of war is gently being spoon-fed to the public by way of a very dark velvet glove – that being Avaaz.” [citation from: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part II, Section I]

Amnesty International: “Amnesty does take money from both governments and corporate-financier interests, one of the most notorious of which, Open Society, is headed by convicted financial criminal George Soros (whose Open Society also funds Human Rights Watch and a myriad of other “human rights” advocates). Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, for instance was drawn directly from the US State Department …Amnesty International’s website specifically mentions Nossel’s role behind US State Department-backed UN resolutions regarding Iran, Syria, Libya, and Cote d’Ivoire… Nossel’s “contributions” then are simply to dress up naked military aggression and the pursuit of global corporate-financier hegemony with the pretense of “human rights” advocacy.” [citation from: Amnesty International is US State Department Propaganda]

Hand in Hand for Syria: “The UK Charity Commission’s website states that Hand in Hand for Syria exists for “the advancement of health or saving lives”.  Until July 2014 the Facebook banner of Hand in Hand’s co-founder and chairman Faddy Sahloul read “WE WILL BRING ASSAD TO JUSTICE; NO MATTER WHAT LIVES IT TAKES, NO MATTER HOW MUCH CATASTROPHE IT MAKES”.  The image was removed shortly after it was commented on publicly. Also on Hand in Hand’s executive team is Dr Rola Hallam, one of the two medics featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.  …On 30 August 2013, the day after the BBC’s initial report on the alleged Aleppo incendiary bomb attack, Dr Hallam appeared on BBC’s Newsnight programme expressing her profound disappointment at parliament’s rejection of a military strike against Syria. Dr Hallam’s father is Dr. Mousa al-Kurdi.  According to a 2013 article by Dr Saleyha Ahsan – the other Hand in Hand for Syria volunteer medic featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ [3] – Dr al-Kurdi is “involved politically with the Syrian National Council”.” [citation from: UK Charity Which Shares Syrian Opposition “Aims and Objectives” Benefits from Alan Kurdi Tragedy]

Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an integral part of the West’s propaganda machine. HRW shapes the narratives of conflicts, narratives which become solidified through repetition, and which eventually become regarded as undeniable facts. Moreover, the language HRW employs, far from being simply stylistic choices, is deliberately utilized to obscure the reality of war zones in the service of the Empire. This is undoubtedly the case with the Israel/Palestine conflict where Israeli actions are never outright war crimes, while Palestinian ones are. It is equally true of Ukraine. This is also the case in Libya, Syria, and Venezuela, countries where HRW has played a critical role in constructing narratives in the interests of its financier and corporate paymasters, not to mention of course the US foreign policy agenda. In both Libya and Syria, HRW has played a critical role in propagandizing the western public against the governments of those countries, thereby justifying the imperialist assault on them. More than simply “collecting the facts,” HRW cobbled together a completely distorted, and in many cases utterly dishonest and factually wrong, narrative which has buttressed the case for “intervention” in Syria, as it did in Libya….Human Rights Watch is undeniably an appendage of US foreign policy. It is in many ways part of the “soft power” arm of US power projection, a means of delegitimizing, demonizing, and otherwise destabilizing countries that do not play ball with the US.[citation from: HRW: Human Rights Watch or Hypocrites Representing Washington (Part 2)]

Ken Roth: “Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, has been vocal in his support for a full scale war on Syria in the name of humanitarianism. Roth has repeatedly called for intervention against the legal government of Syria, having recently tweeted statements such as “Like Sarajevo, could Douma market slaughter finally force Assad to stop targeting civilians?” (@KenRoth, Aug 16). The implication of the statement is quite clear: there should be military intervention, such as the US-NATO war on Yugoslavia and later Serbia, in order to stop the “slaughter” of civilians. It should be noted that this tweet was posted within hours of the news of the incident in Douma long before any investigation. Roth, and by extension his organization Human Rights Watch, further discredits whatever vestiges of impartiality he and HRW might have had with inane tweets such as “Douma market killings show how Assad chooses to fight this war: deliberately against civilians,” (@KenRoth, Aug 16), an obviously biased, and utterly unsubstantiated allegation. Roth could have absolutely no knowledge of either the identities of the dead, or the Syrian government’s motives, when he released the tweet the same day as the attack. He reveals himself here to be little more than a lackey for imperialism, a war hawk masquerading as a human rights defender.” [citation from: The Douma Market Attack: a Fabricated Pretext for Intervention?]

“Last week we found that Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth used an image of destruction in Gaza caused by Israel to accuse the Syrian government of indiscriminate use of “barrel bombs”. We wrote: “This is thereby at least the third time HRW is using a wrongly attributed pictures to depict current enemies of U.S. imperialism as having causing the damage the U.S. empire and/or its friends have caused.That is not mere bias by HRW. It is willful fraud.”[citation from: HRW’s Kenneth Roth Continues Unfounded Accusations With Another False Picture]

Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders: “Doctors Without Borders is fully funded by the very same corporate financier interests behind Wall Street and London’s collective foreign policy, including regime change in Syria and neighboring Iran. Doctors Without Borders’ own annual report (2010 report can be accessed here), includes as financial donors, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, and a myriad of other corporate-financier interests. Doctors Without Borders also features bankers upon its Board of Advisers including Elizabeth Beshel Robinson of Goldman Sachs. Complicating further Doctors Without Borders so-called “independent” and “aid” claims is the fact that their medical facilities are set up in terrorist held regions of Syria, especially along Syria’s northern border with NATO-member Turkey. In an interview with NPR, Doctors Without Borders’ Stephen Cornish revealed the nature of his organization’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, where he explains that aid is being sent to regions outside of the Syrian government’s control, and that his organization is in fact setting up facilities in these areas….In other words, the Wall Street-funded organization is providing support for militants armed and funded by the West and its regional allies, most of whom are revealed to be foreign fighters, affiliated with or directly belonging to Al Qaeda and its defacto political wing, the Muslim Brotherhood. This so-called “international aid” organization is in actuality yet another cog in the covert military machine being turned against Syria and serves the role as a medical battalion.” [citation from: “Doctors” Behind Syrian Chemical Weapons Claims are Aiding Terrorists]

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR): “They make bold but sometimes inaccurate assertions….A recent PHR press release is headlined “New Map shows Government Forces Deliberately Attacking Syria’s Medical System.” It looks slick and impressive but is inaccurate. For example, one of the most dramatic attacks on a Syrian hospital was the suicide bombing of Al Kindi Hospital in Aleppo. Yet the PHR map shows the attack having been carried out by “government forces.” Readers are encouraged to look at the 3 minute rebel video of the suicide attack which leaves no doubt who was responsible.” [citation from: About Those Chlorine Gas Attacks in Syria]

PURPOSE Inc.: “This is an international PR firm. CEO is Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder of Avaaz. President is Kevin Steinberg, previous CEO of World Economic Forum USA (antithesis of World Social Forum).  Their website describes their goal: “Purpose builds and accelerates movements to tackle the world’s biggest problems.” In this case the “problem” is reluctance to take over Syrian skies and land. For a hefty fee, “Purpose” will dupe the public and break down that reluctance. Toward that end,  Purpose created “The Syria Campaign”.”” [citation from: Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone]

Purpose Inc. (with its co-founders) is a favourite of high-finance websites such as The Economist and Forbes and sells its consulting services and branding/marketing campaigns to Google, Audi, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and many others that comprise the world’s most powerful corporations and institutions. In 2012, it raised $3m from investors. “Ford Foundation, which has given Purpose’s non-profit arm a grant, reckons it is shaping up to be “one of the blue-chip social organisations of the future.” Purpose, like many other foundations, such as Rockefeller (who initially incubated 1Sky which merged with in 2011), also serves as an “incubator of social movements.”” [citation from: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire]

“The Syria Campaign”: “The Syria Campaign began in spring 2014…The Syria Campaign is managed by Anna Nolan,  who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets,  Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war. According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry. …One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014. Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election.  Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.” [citation from: Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone]

White Helmets/”Syrian Civil Defence: “This is a new organization, highly publicized as civilian rescue workers in Syria. In reality the White Helmets is a project created by the UK and USA. Training of civilians in Turkey has been overseen by former British military officer and current contractor, James Le Mesurier. Promotion of the program is done by “The Syria Campaign” supported by the foundation of billionaire Ayman Asfari. The White Helmets is clearly a public relations project. …White Helmets work in areas of Aleppo and Idlib controlled by Nusra (Al Queda).” “White Helmets primary function is propaganda. White Helmets demonizes the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention.  A White Helmet leader wrote a recent Washington Post editorial.  White Helmets are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc.  According to their website, to contact White Helmets email The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship.” [citations from: About Those Chlorine Gas Attacks in SyriaSeven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone]


UPDATED to include a different type of front “group” (one-man show) that purports to present information on Syria:

The SOHR (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights): “In reality, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has long ago been exposed as an absurd propaganda front operated by Rami Abdul Rahman out of his house in England’s countryside. According to a December 2011 Reuters article titled, “Coventry – an unlikely home to prominent Syria activist,” Abdul Rahman admits he is a member of the so-called “Syrian opposition” and seeks the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad…One could not fathom a more unreliable, compromised, biased source of information, yet for the past two years, his “Observatory” has served as the sole source of information for the endless torrent of propaganda emanating from the Western media….The New York Times also for the first time reveals that Abdul Rahman’s operation is indeed funded by the European Union and a “European country” he refuses to identify…Abdul Rahman has direct access to the Foreign Secretary William Hague, who he has been documented meeting in person on multiple occasions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.” [citation from: EXPOSED: Syrian Human Rights Front is EU-Funded Fraud]


Important Articles:

*listed alphabetically

– About Those Chlorine Gas Attacks in Syria: Humanitarians Pushing for Intervention, Apr 3, 2015, Rick Sterling, Counter Punch

-Amnesty International is US State Department Propaganda, Aug 22, 2012, Tony Cartalucci, Land Destroyer Report

-Amnesty International, War Propaganda, and Human Rights Terrorism, Aug 8, 2013, Gearóid Ó Colmáin, Dissident Voice

-Amnesty’s Shilling for US Wars, Jun 18, 2012, Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley, Consortium News

-Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War, Sep 20, 2013, Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green

-Avaaz: manufacturing consent for wars since 2011, Mar 20, 2015, Wall of Controversy

-Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire, Sep 17, 2014, The Art of Annihilation

-Avaaz: the World’s Most Powerful NGO, Feb 11, 2015, Wrong Kind of Green

-Avaaz’s war on Syria: Soros Sponsored Sorrow Pleads for Foreign Intervention, June 26, 2012, Wrong Kind of Green [see also their Avaaz tagged articles]

-“Doctors” Behind Syrian Chemical Weapons Claims are Aiding Terrorists, Aug 25, 2013, Tony Cartalucci, Land Destroyer

-Doctors Without Borders Aiding Globalists in Syria, Oct 17, 2013, Brandon Turbeville, Activist Post

-Eight Problems with Amnesty’s Report on Aleppo Syria, May 14, 2015, Rick Sterling, Counter Punch

-EXPOSED: Syrian Human Rights Front is EU-Funded Fraud, Apr 12, 2013, Tony Cartalucci, Land Destroyer

-Humanitarians for War on Syria, Mar 31, 2015, Rick Sterling, Counter Punch

-“Human Rights” Warriors for Empire, Glen Ford, Feb 15, 2012, Black Agenda Report

-Human Rights Watch FAIL: Uses Photo of American Bombing Destruction To Condemn Assad, Mar 11, 2015, Syria Solidarity Movement, Dissident Voice

-HRW: Human Rights Watch or Hypocrites Representing Washington (Part 1), Aug 1, 2014, Eric Draitser, New Eastern Outlook

-HRW: Human Rights Watch or Hypocrites Representing Washington (Part 2), Aug 6, 2014, New Eastern Outlook

-HRW’s Kenneth Roth Continues Unfounded Accusations With Another False Picture, May 15, 2015, Moon of Alabama

-Mythology, Barrel Bombs, and Human Rights Watch, Jul 21, 2015, Paul Larudee, Counter Punch

-Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators  White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone, Apr 9, 2015, Rick Sterling, Dissident Voice

-Syria: Amnesty International, Regime Change and an Ambassador, Nov 3, 2011, Felicity Arbuthnot, Dissident Voice

-Syria: ‘Human Rights Watch’, Key Player in the Manufacture of Propaganda for War and Foreign Intervention, Feb 1, 2014, Tim Anderson and Mazen al-Akhras, Global Research

-Syria: ‘White Helmets are Soros sponsored anti-Assad propagandists’- Vanessa Beeley, Sep 2015, Sputnik Radio

-The Douma Market Attack: a Fabricated Pretext for Intervention?, Aug 21, 2015, Eric Draitser, Counter Punch

-The Imperial-Left and the Syrian Conflict The Campaign for Peace and Democracy Champions the Proxy War Against Syria, Jul 27, 2013, Jay Tharappel, Dissident Voice

-UK Charity Which Shares Syrian Opposition “Aims and Objectives” Benefits from Alan Kurdi Tragedy, Sept 10, 2015, Robert Stuart, Global Research

-Welcome to the Brave New World – Brought to You by Avaaz, Sep 13, 2013, Cory Morningstar, The Art of Annihilation

-‘White Helmets’: New Breed of Mercenaries and Propagandists, Disguised as ‘Humanitarians’ in Syria, Sep 1, 2015, Vanessa Beeley, 21st Century Wire

Wise Use Terrorism – Craig Cole’s Anti-Indian Campaign

Intercontinental Cry

September 22, 2015

by Jay Taber


The Wise Use Movement, a fascist movement of industrial-sponsored terrorism against environmentalists and Native Americans, has a thirty-year history of fomenting violent interracial discord aimed at intimidating activists, journalists and public employees. With funding from industry, the Anti-Indian Movement in turn promotes Wise Use propaganda, organizing hate campaigns to capitalize on white supremacy and religious bigotry.

The Wall Street/Tea Party Convergence in the fossil fuel export war on the Salish Sea, using counterfeit front groups and political action committees, is a textbook example of Wise Use netwar (networked psychological warfare) exploiting organized racism. Gray ops (misleading propaganda) and black ops (counterfeit front groups) make it possible for Wise Use fossil fuel export developers to confuse mainstream media, and in conjunction with bribery through advertising, ensure that only the industrial point of view is represented in the corporate mainstream news.

Drumming up resentment against environmentalists and American Indian tribes, however, has repercussions. From 1992 to 1996, Wise Use ideologues and agent provocateurs (funded by developers) hosted Christian Patriot militias to intimidate their political opponents. In 1997, militia members from Seattle and Whatcom County, WA were convicted of firearms and explosives charges in U.S. District Court, where it was revealed they planned to murder human rights activists.

As noted in Fossil Fueled Fearmongering, political action committees, funded by Wise Use developers proposing a coal terminal at Cherry Point, capitalized on promoting interracial discord in conjunction with CERA (the “Ku Klux Klan of Indian Country”), KGMI radio and the Tea Party. In her September 14, 2015 article Creating Something Out of Nothing: Craig Cole and the Northwest Jobs Alliance, Dena Jensen examines the latest in netwar waged by SSA Marine against Lummi Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

While not a new phenomenon, The Politics of Land and Bigotry feeds on a growing politics of fear promoted by PR people like Craig Cole and his employer, Pacific International Terminals. As a rationalization of theft, Fascism in America includes both Wise Use and Christian Patriots (the people responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing), who share a willingness to use violence to maintain power and privileges based on wealth or race.



[Jay is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] Website:]

Under One Bad Sky

TckTckTck’s 2014 People’s Climate March: This Changed Nothing

September 23, 2015

by Cory Morningstar


Walk the Walk

On September 21, 2014, the day of the so-called People’s Climate March, the #WalktheWalk campaign twitter account (@weareherenow) belonging to New York City public relations firm Purpose Inc., had a mere 167 followers (see screenshot below).


Yet, the screenshot below (September 20, 2014) clearly documents the #WalktheWalk hash tag shared (“tweeted”) by none other than the twitter account belonging to U.S. president, Barack Obama. [@BarackObama: “Say you’re ready to #WalktheWalk on climate change.” “—I— #WalktheWalk on climate change.”]

It is necessary to contemplate how the president of the United States would share and promote what was intended to become a powerful marketing meme that with a mere 167 followers, had yet to make any impact whatsoever.


For Purpose Inc. (a for-profit public relations venture created by the co-founders of Avaaz), there was no necessity to build any momentum at all in order for their social media campaign to become a “success”, due to the fact that they were already part and parcel of the elite establishment from the very onset. (The first tweet from the #WalktheWalk account was on September 14, 2014. As of September 25, 2014, there were 286 tweets in total.) Foundation funded “progressive” media (in the example below, Common Dreams), as per usual, was utilized to launch and promote the campaign. The usual suspects, comprised of entities such as the TckTckTck twitter account, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and Desmond Tutu, were amongst the first to tweet #walkthewalk.


For Immediate Release

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 – 5:00pm

Thousands To #WalkTheWalk Online During Historic Climate March

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, Desmond Tutu, Celebrities and Other Notables to Join Supporters Across The Globe in Videos Walking to Urge Climate Action



New York, NY — As hundreds of thousands of people head to New York City this week to join the People’s Climate March this weekend, many more from around the world will be marching along with them across the internet.

“Politicians, Fortune 500 companies, large NGOs, as well as influential leaders such as UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, Desmond Tutu and other celebrities and notables to be announced, are joining in to spread the word and walk alongside thousands of other demonstrators both on and offline. Ikea will be calling on their global staff to #walkthewalk, and will be demonstrating public solidarity by changing their website banner leading up to the march.

#WalktheWalk is an ownerless, open-source social media campaign that provides a highly visual, easy, and personal way for people around the world who can’t be at the march or who want to take dynamic action online, to be at the march in spirit and send a message to world leaders that they care about climate change and want to see real action. It’s also a way for world leaders themselves and other high-profile individuals to express solidarity with the citizen effort. [Emphasis added]

The campaign officially kicks off Wednesday, September 17, and will run through the UN Climate Summit.

For more information please go to:

Twitter: @weareherenow

Instagram: @wewalkthewalk

Vine: @walkthewalk


The full press release (by Fitzgibbon Media) can be accessed here. ** [Domain expired: See archive page:]

To clarify, #Walk the Walk is a campaign of Here Now.

Here Now circles back to Purpose.

To further illustrate the fatuous aspects of the #Walk the Walk campaign regarding our ongoing environmental problems, consider the action of “Hop the Scotch” in response to the dire warning in 2012 by top Russia scientist, Natalia Shakhova, one of the world’s foremost experts on methane hydrates:

“The total amount of the methane (CH4) in the current atmosphere is 5 gigatons. The amount of carbon preserved in the form of methane in the East Siberian Arctic shelf is approx. 100’s-1000’s gigatons. Only 1% of this amount is required to double the atmospheric burden of methane (which is approx. 23x more powerful than CO2). There is not much effort needed to destabilize just 1% of this carbon pool considering the state of permafrost and the amount of methane currently involved. What keeps this methane from entering the atmosphere is a very shallow water column and weakening permafrost which is losing its ability to serve as a seal. It could happen anytime.”

Then consider that when CO2 Levels Doubled 55 Million Years Ago, “global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years.” [Source]

Since the 2012 interview with Shakhova, in August, 2014, it was discovered that hundreds of methane plumes are erupting along the east coast. And policy makers in tandem with NGOs and their branding executives urge the public to “Hop the scotch”? It appears that Sept 21, 2014 marked the day that 1984 and Brave New World finally collided. Surely something is amiss. It is glaringly obvious that Avaaz, Purpose and their financiers believe Americans are beyond stupid. Yet all signs point to the fact that they were sadly correct, since in response, Americans applaud.

TckTckTck remix: WalktheWalk

In the second paragraph, the description of #WalktheWalk as an ownerless, open-source social media campaign” echoes, almost verbatim, the TckTckTck campaign launched prior to 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2009. The TckTckTck campaign was created by one of the largest advertising agencies in the world (HAVAS) in collaboration with the United Nations. Upon the launch of the media campaign on September 8, 2009, the Havas press release identified Avaaz,, Greenpeace and Oxfam (founding NGOs of Global Campaign for Climate Action) having partnered with many of the world’s largest multinational corporations such as EDF and the Virgin Group. Hundreds of NGOs would “sign on” and partner with the website and the TckTckTck open-source media campaign. By December 2009, the tcktcktck umbrella (over 200 NGOs) and its strategic/calculated weak messaging (a “fair and ambitious agreement”) would successfully come to dominate COP15 and strategically drown out the most radical positions put forward (specifically, by Bolivia and the G77) that the world so desperately needed, deliberately and knowingly sentencing whole nations to certain death.

Jump forward 5 years to September 2014 to the TckTckTck remix: WalktheWalk. The 3-syllable catchphrase, like the 3-syllable TcTckTck campaign is custom-made to feed and flourish a media-induced hypnotic trance — more commonly recognized as the stupefied Euro-American psyche.

Tweets from so-called “leaders” of a now synthetic environmental movement demonstrate how the strategic creation of memes such as TckTckTck and WalkTheWalk, are created with the intent and ardent anticipation that the said meme will successfully penetrate and infest all aspects of mainstream forms of vacuous protest:

Below video (running time: 0.39): Citizens are incited to perform as “ticking” human clocks for the branding-building of TckTckTck. [Climate Justice rally on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, October 24, 2009, International Day of Climate Action]:

Video (running time 1:00) In a corporate culture consumed by celebrity fetish, celebrities are most always utilized to citizens to accept and embrace symbolism, TckTckTck – Oxfam Climate Change Campaign (Uploaded on Sep 2, 2009)

Below content and video (Millions Walked , running time: 1:30) at Upworthy (incidentally co-founded by Avaaz co-founder Pariser) is intended to compel citizens to “WalktheWalk” via the phrase “Watch some celebrities show you how they walk. It actually matters.” The Upworthy content cites text from a transcript released by Moment for Action (launched September 23, 2014), a collaboration of many participating NGO’s and foundations. Partners include but are not limited to United Nations, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation, Avaaz, WWF, Sierra Club, Amazon Watch and Carbon War Room.

“It’s time to do more than just talk about climate change. Watch me #WalkTheWalk. @Greenpeace@greenpeaceusaKumi Naidoo, Sept 20, 2014

Six years after the global TckTckTck campaign, it must be considered par for the course that Kumi Naidoo, executive international executive director of Greenpeace International and then chair/president of the TckTckTck/ Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA) would take a leading role in the unveiling and promoting of the 2015 WalktheWalk campaign:

Kumi Naidoo WalktheWalk Purpose 2

Kumi Naidoo WalktheWalk Purpose

Above screenshots represent just 2 two of Naidoo’s twitter posts being re-tweeted by various creative directors, special advisors and CEO/founder of Purpose Inc. The Naidoo tweet was “retweeted” 21 times and designated as a “favourite”14 times, with 2 twitter users having “asked not to be shown in this view”.

Purpose Inc: Entrenched in the Democratic Party

“Josh [Hendler] joins Purpose after having worked at the intersection of social good and technology throughout his career. His sweet spot is technology leadership roles in politics, having served as the technology chief for the Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America. During the 2008 campaign, he was a consultant to the Obama campaign, managing technology for distributed organizing efforts.” — Purpose Welcomes Josh Hendler as New CTO, September 15, 2014


“Henry [Donahue] spent most of the 1990’s on the road as a fund-raiser and consultant for local and national Democratic political campaigns, including U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).  He has worked for progressive candidates in New York City, Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Kansas.” Purpose Website – Meet the Team on a Mission

Here Now Obama

The above screenshot /meme created by Purpose Inc. (under the guise of “Here Now”) makes clear that the job of Purpose Inc. is to ensure Barack Obama is seen in a most a favourable, positive and charming light and as a champion on “clean power”.

It is only by observing the relationships of the individuals that have worked toward the success of this meme, that we can understand the dynamics of the campaign. Dynamics that demonstrate a strong alliance between two key parties: Purpose Inc. and the US Democratic Party.

Naidoo’s tweet (as shown in the section above), is “re-tweeted” and shared by a multitude of Purpose Inc. staff, CEOs and participating organizations with many having prior or ongoing involvement with the US Democratic Party:

“Digital ads explicitly appealed to voters who may not have considered themselves especially climate-conscious. At a post-election briefing for Steyer on Wednesday, digital strategist Tara McGowan showcased a series of Web ads beginning with the text: ‘I’m no environmentalist …’ In each case, the sentence ended with something like: ‘… but droughts are ruining my farm’ or ‘… but science doesn’t lie'” — Inside a green billionaire’s Virginia crusade (Tom Steyer), Politico, 11/11/13

  • Jeremy Heimans, CEO of Pupose Inc. Co-founder of Avaaz, GetUp and AllOut. [Video: The Art of Manipulation: Brought to You by Avaaz, Purpose Inc. &] Heimans promotes the hashtag #newpower, and is his own biggest fan
  • We Are Here Now (a project of Purpose): “All over the world people are taking heroic action to save our climate. But a fight this big needs a breakthrough. Here now – everything changes.”
  • Robert Jay Ross, special advisor to the CEO of Purpose Inc. (Heimans). US Executive Director of Child Is Innocent a non-profit providing “leadership training to children living in Northern Uganda.”
  • Jennifer Edwards (tagline: “Champagne and Campaigns”), Digital Strategy Consultant for Purpose Inc, Sierra Club, The National Council of La Raza and Organizing for Action Digital (
  • Mercedes Gutierrez, head of sustainability at Ikea Spain
  • Galit Gun, senior strategy director at Purpose Inc., former global campaigner and founding staff member at Avaaz
  • Neeraj Narayan, regional director, South Asia, Nike Inc.
  • Santiago Gowland, general manager for The Nature Conservancy, Latin American Region
  • Radu Dumitra?cu, communications specialist at Ikea Foundation
  • Hannah Kreiswirth, creative director at Purpose Inc.


Mark R WalktheWalk 2

Above screenshot: Sept 19, 2014 tweet by Maggie Aker, Strategist at Purpose Inc.: “Well this is an adorable shuffle from @MarkRuffalo, esp since it’s for our climate. Who will #walkthewalk next?” This tweet was retweeted/favourited by both Anna Jane Joyner, Climate Strategist at We Are Here Now and Purpose Inc.

 “As a consultant for the Here Now campaign initiated by the innovative team at Purpose, Anna is part of a group testing new story-telling techniques for discussing climate change with evangelical Christians and other difficult-to-engage audiences.” — January 6, 2015, Source

WalktheWalk Tck 2

Above screenshot: @TckTckTck, Sept 18, 2014: “We are a part of the biggest climate march in history. Show us you #walkthewalk on climate change too:

Best WalktheWalk Tweets

As demonstrated in the above screenshots, TckTckTck took a leading role in promoting this particular campaign. As well, the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), fully exploited 350 board member Naomi Klein’s book launch of “This Changes Everything” blanketing the virtual sphere in catch phrases utilizing and playing off of this meme. The above screenshots which read “to change everything, we need everyone” and “here now – everything changes” are prime examples.

Broadbent Inst.

Photo: The Broadbent Institute’s Training and Leadership program

The Purpose Inc. We Are Here Now twitter account follows the twitter accounts of Purpose Inc., United Nations, IKEA, WWF, Barack Obama, Barack Obama Action Committees/Official Organizing for Action (OFA CA, OFA CO, OFA VA, OFA TX), Energy Action Coalition, RAN, the Broadbent Institute , Next Gen (Tom Steyer), Tom Steyer, Greenpeace, UN Foundation, Sierra Club, TckTckTck, Climate Reality (Al Gore), divestment groups, Bill McKibben, The Syria Campaign (destabilization/demonization campaign), and many more of influence.

Those of influence include Paul Hilder, co-founder of Avaaz who now serves as executive director of Here Now. [Hilder background]

The account also follows Tim Dickson, the co-founder of the Syria Campaign, who is also founder of the aforementioned Groundswell Communications. Dickson’s contribution to the Democratic Party is most extensive dating back to 1980. Dixon, former senior political strategist for two Australian prime ministers, now serves as the managing director for Purpose Europe. [Dixon bio]

Avaaz and Purpose Co-founder Jeremy Heimans has made the vision of for-profit Purpose Inc. clear from inception:

Vision: “Purpose is a global initiative that draws on leading technologies, political organizing and behavioral economics to build powerful, tech-savvy movements that can transform culture and influence policy… [Purpose] creates 21st century movements. We look for ways that movements can help solve major global problems. To do this, we work with some of the most exciting players in the new green and social economy to help them get to scale faster and some of the world’s biggest brands to mobilize their consumers for significant social impact….” [Further reading on Purpose: Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part II, Section II]

That goal continues to be expanded upon in an Orwellian manner with corporations now utilizing CSR [corporate social responsibility] to evolve the brand by empowering their customer (“prosumers”) to become activists:

“On Thursday, November 20th, the Social Innovation Summit held its bi-annual conference in the San Francisco Bay area. The summit brought together some of the most influential innovators and leaders in the business and social impact communities. Representatives from Google, Facebook, PwC and others came together to share and discuss new models businesses can use to transform communities and inspire action. Purpose’s very own Senior Strategist, Max Steinman, moderated a discussion entitled ‘The Rise of the Activist Brand.’ The panel explored how brands are evolving their CSR [corporate social responsibility] efforts by empowering their advocates to become activists.” [Source]

We Are Here Now Tweet 1

We Are Here Now Tweet 2

Above @weareherenow screenshots: The promise of perpetual economic growth for corporate America is key

TckTckTck – “How to Herd Cats”

In 2009, global civil society was cleverly seduced into sleeping with the enemy via the TckTckTck campaign. [Further reading: EYES WIDE SHUT | TckTckTck exposé]. In 2014, not one to learn from the past, civil society, would yet again sleep with the enemy. GCCA, an initiative that began in Bali (2007) with a $300,000 funding commitment from the Quebec government, is a “coalition of twenty key international organizations” including Avaaz,, Greenpeace , Kofi Annan’s Global Humanitarian Forum, OXFAM, WWF, World Council of Churches, Union of Concerned Scientists, Equiterre, Global Call to Action against Poverty (also co-chaired by Kumi Naidoo), and the Pew Environment Group. [Source]

While GCCA/TckTckTck working hand in hand with, Avaaz and Greenpeace undoubtedly far surpassed the United States United Nations expectations for the 2009 TckTckTck campaign, it would repeat a similar stunning performance for the United Nations just 5 years later with the popular 2014 Peoples Climate March, again uniting citizens with corporate interests:

“GCCA worked behind the scenes for over a year to prepare for the biggest date in 2014, leveraging every possible asset and contact to rally around the historic Peoples’ Climate March in the run-up to the UN Climate Leaders Summit…. In the preceding months, GCCA convened weekly calls with key partners, Avaaz, USCAN and Climate Nexus to catalyse activities and identify gaps…. Everything came together on the day as we bore witness to the world’s biggest ever climate march, and inspiring events across the globe, with world leaders, business people, activists, parents and artists walking shoulder-to-shoulder.” — GCCA Annual Report 2014

Kelly Rigg Varda Group

Kelly Rigg, Founding Director, Varda Group, US: The Economics of Sustainable Development, 16-19 June 2012 | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Photo: International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) website

Based on the UN driven spectacle and 3-syllable catchphrase (WalktheWalk) that mirrored TckTckTck in 2009, perhaps then it should be of no surprise that Kelly Rigg, former executive director of TckTckTck (Global Campaign for Climate Action) and senior campaign director for Greenpeace International, was identified by Forbes (September 25, 2014) as the key organizer of the People’s climate parade creating yet another umbrella group comprised of approx. 1300 NGOs. Rigg is also a founding director and business manager of The Varda Group consulting firm founded in 2003 with Rémi Parmentier, also with an extensive Greenpeace history:

“Rémi Parmentier has been involved in the process of Rio +20 from the start. He participated in the intersession meetings and the Preparatory Committee in New York with “informal consultations” on behalf of various international organizations and alliances. Previously, as the Political Director of Greenpeace International, in the Summit of Johannesburg in 2002, Parmentier was the negotiator and protagonist of the agreement between the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace International on the Kyoto Protocol.” [Source]

Parmentier also serves as Deputy Executive Secretary for the Global Ocean Commission which was launched in February 2013. Inés de Águeda who serves as the communications officer for the Global Ocean Commission is also an associate at the Varda Group.

“With Kelly, Inés and Rémi, the Varda Group was almost complete this week at the meeting of the Global Ocean Commission in New York.” — Varda Group Facebook page

Commissioners of the Global Ocean Commission include José María Figueres (co-chair), President of Costa Rica from1994 to 1998; President of the Carbon War Room, David Miliband, John Podesta (chair of the Center for American Progress and a former White House Chief of Staff ), Sri Mulyani Indrawati ( Managing Director at the World Bank), Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and other high profile individuals.

The link between most, if not all of these commissioners is the shared desire for carbon markets and/or the implementation of payments for ecosystem services (PES).

From the Global Ocean Commission Report 2014, The Value of the High Seas:

“One of the first questions asked by the commissioners was: can we place an economic value on what the high seas provides for our planet? While the science of ‘natural resources accounting’ is still relatively new, work we commissioned made clear that the high seas generates a wide variety of benefits to people and the planet,4 all of which must be considered before recommendations for action can be made.


The high seas supports major categories of vital ecosystem services, including: air purification, waste treatment and lifecycle maintenance; high seas carbon capture and storage; high seas ‘provisioning’ of fish and other seafood; genetic and ornamental resources; and tourism, leisure and recreation. While not all of them can be valued using current data, these ecosystem services do all have demonstrable economic value. Research carried out for the Commission has produced estimates of the economic value of two key high seas ecosystem services – carbon storage and fisheries – showing that they each generate tens of billions of dollars of value to society annually.


The ocean has been responsible for the capture and storage of more than half of the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels and a third of the total produced by humankind. This ability of the ocean to capture and store carbon reduces the rates of increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide and can slow changes in global temperature and other consequences associated with climate change. It is estimated that nearly half a billion tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of over 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, are captured and stored by the living components of high seas ecosystems every year. Based on current calculations of the economic cost of additional carbon in the atmosphere, the value of the carbon storage by high seas ecosystems is estimated at US$148 billion a year (with a range of US$74 to US$222 billion for mid-estimates). By comparison, the entire global Official Development Aid outlay for 2013 was US$134.8 billion.”

Rigg is included within the extensive acknowledgments noted in this report (page 84). Rigg is also acknowledged in the 2006 paper Casting the Net Broadly: Ecosystem-based Management Beyond National Jurisdiction.

“Finally, a World Ocean Public Trust that unites governance of the high seas and the Area into one regime under an EBM [Ecosystem-based Management] framework should be established throughout the world’s oceans in areas beyond national jurisdiction.” — Casting the Net Broadly: Ecosystem-based Management Beyond National Jurisdiction, 2006

Considering oceans store 50 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere and approx. half of all the carbon dioxide produced by humans since the industrial revolution, and accepting the Earth’s water sources will only continue to diminish, it is not surprising that the elite establishment seeks to appoint and lock in a small body of special interests in the creation of a single global regime to fully control and exploit the high seas. Water will be secured by privatization and a global government regime that oversees the planet (which is approx. 70% water), the Earth’s remaining and quickly diminishing forests will be secured by the carbon market mechanism REDD, valuable land (thus food) will be secured via land grabs while payment for ecosystems services allows the oligarchs to catch and seize everything that falls between the cracks. Managing oceans ties control into all adjacent life. The non-profit industrial complex is the bitch that makes it all possible, the bitch that makes the dreams of the rich and powerful come true.

This elite regime (with “payments for ecosystems services” as an embraced ideology) is based on further entitlements for the entitled: the desire for private property-type rights under the guise (and subsequent marketing) of custody and stewardship. The Brave New World scheme takes refuge behind the cloak of the much utilized phrases “polluter pays principle” and “externalizing costs” which slowly and meticulously builds the collective acquiescence of ordinary citizens. The goal, which is the blatant monetization of nature, sits relatively concealed, just outside the frame. Such enticing language, catch phrases and holistic imagery are necessary and critical if the elite are to succeed in the most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance. In reality, the polluter pays only what the polluter decides he should pay, in exchange for owning/controlling Earth’s final remaining natural resources. It’s not a slap on the hand, it’s literally the rich rewarding themselves with full control of the Earth, a sick scheme created by psychopaths with god complexes.

Current and past clients of The Varda Group include: Amnesty International, Ceres, USA, Conservation International – Marine Programme, Friends of the Earth UK,Friends of the Earth US,Global Call for Climate Action (TckTckTck campaign),Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC),Greenpeace International, Markets for Change, Australia, Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), USA, Oceana, Oxfam-Novib, The Netherlands, Pew Environment Group, UNAIDS, UNEP, WWF and countless others. [Full list as published on the Varda website]

Rigg is also identified as the chair of the recently created UN Momentum for Change Advisory Panel.

Below video: Momentum for Change – Change for Good by UN Momentum for Change. Note that actor Mark Ruffalo lends himself (yet again) in order to incite interest and exhilaration exploiting a pathological celebrity fetish that consumes western societies. The core and unstated message by the UN, delivered by Ruffalo is that those with privilege can retain it as the “new economy” will magically make such privilege benign. Also in regards to the video, it is important to note the language. The word “change” used twice in one sentence, which is the obvious utilization of the title/theme of Klein’s book This Changes Everything.

The key areas of focus for the UN Momentum for Change are the following: 1) the Urban Poor, implemented with the financial support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [Further reading: The “Green Revolution” Bill Gates, Philanthropy and Social Engineering], 2) Women for Results, implemented with the financial support of The Rockefeller Foundation [Further reading: 35% of Puerto Rican Women Sterilized], 3) Financing for Climate Friendly Investment, implemented in partnership with the World Economic Forum and 4) ICT Solutions, implemented in partnership with the Global e-Sustainability Initiative.

Forbes, Sept 25, 2014: Leadership Lessons from The People’s Climate March:

With that as her model of leadership it is perhaps no surprise that so many cats have been so successfully herded. But there is more. The other leadership lesson is putting project before person.”

Truer words were never spoken. As in Africa under the TckTckTck campaign where economic growth was valued as being more important than the life of Africans, such projects (as referred to above), have a singular common thread. They are all based on more of the same perpetual growth; perpetual growth that is dependent upon and interwoven with exploitation and environmental degradation – perpetual growth which society has collectively deemed more important than life itself.

The free-market-based “solutions” have already been designed by the United Nations (think Millennium Goals), leading green-house-gas omitting obstructionist states, think tanks and institutions (think Clinton Global Initiative and’s “friends on Wall Street” divestment scheme). The NGOs are financed to the tune of billions to build normalization and acquiescence to the “new economy“, also referred to as “sustainable capitalism”. An integral aspect of “sustainable capitalism” (as if there is such a thing), includes the commodification of all Earth’s remaining natural resources to be mainstreamed by the year 2020. [“Mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism by 2020 will require independent, collaborative and voluntary action by companies, investors, government and civil society, which we hope to accelerate by advancing the discourse on the economic benefits of sustainability.” – Sustainable Investment Paper, Generation, Feb 15, 2012, Generation Investment founded by Al Gore and Goldman Sachs David Blood]

A key area of work being done at a global level today on behalf of oligarch financiers, is the imposing of western values throughout the world via soft power. No one is in a better position to accomplish this more successfully than those at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex. Both Avaaz and 350, perhaps the most influential (thus most powerful) founding members of GCCA, have successfully spread their tentacles across the globe, having become international in scope. Such soft power not only acclimatizes foreign countries to western (non)values and (corporate)culture, it lends itself to the strategies devised for destabilizations and continued imperialism and colonization by imperial states. Money flows from the corporations and oligarchs, through the foundations (tax free) to the NGOs, to training sessions and workshops set up in countries where the western influence (and authority) subtly seeks to embed itself. The fact that the target audience is youth is not coincidental; rather it is very much strategic.

“A five-day Beautiful Trouble training session for 25 young climate activists was organised jointly with and Avaaz in September with participants from Belarus, Hungary, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. GCCA provided expertise, outreach, logistical support and part of the funding for the session, while the group shared an innovative methodology that has proved successful at bringing people out on the street and encouraging them to join the global movement. As a direct result of this session, youth groups organised Peoples’ Climate March actions on 21st September in both Budapest and Warsaw, and successfully used these tactics to take a visible stand against a government squeeze on civil society space in Hungary. GCCA will continue to support the groups involved as they work to mobilise citizens across the region.” — GCCA Annual Report 2014 [Emphasis added]

As the aforementioned avalanche of social media regarding the so-called Climate March demonstrates, Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel certainly was accurate in his guidance to harness the power of social media via mobile phones in his 2007 report for the Gates Foundation. [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South: A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]

Social Media & the Cellular Savior

In the report, Paten states the following under the heading “The Cellular Savior”:

“The mobile phone is changing the way the global south communicates. Even as the number of landlines grows slowly, the growth of mobile phones is sky-rocketing, changing the connectivity potential for the planet…. What these figures indicate is that mobile phones are a great opportunity for e-advocates who want to reach a mass audience, and the applications are endless. [p. 18]


… After the successful implementation of SMS [text messaging] campaigns at the national level, the Gates Foundation might decide to fund an international SMS campaign. Unlike the local SCO partners of the pilot programs, an international campaign would partner with international advocacy organizations with strong technology programs like Greenpeace, Oxfam, and the new international e-advocacy organization Avaaz.” [p. 41] [highlighted text in original document]

If nothing else, the #WalktheWalk campaign devised by Purpose Inc. must have been a refreshing change from the multiple hate campaigns unleashed by Purpose Inc. that were created to build public acquiescence for illegal U.S. led airstrikes to commence on Syria. [Further reading: SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire]

Syria Voices FB photo Obama

State of Play on the People’s Climate March

The Climate Spectacle in New York City was overseen/managed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund from the onset. The members only “State of Play on the People’s Climate March event listed by the Environmental Grantmakers Association Website (posted August 20, 2014 – 1:00pm) stated the following:

“An unprecedented 550 organizations from labor, faith, environment and justice movements are coming together to make the September 21st People’s Climate March the largest ever public mobilization on climate. Join us to learn why such a huge diversity of organizations, networks, and individuals are mobilizing at this key moment, just days before the Climate Leaders Summit hosted by Ban Ki-moon. We’ll discuss how organizations are working together to bridge movements, as this effort not only seeks to raise awareness for climate impacts, but also open a significant political narrative about economic and environmental justice.


  • Irene Krarup, Executive Director, V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation (moderator)
  • Emma Ruby-Sachs, Campaigns Manager, Avaaz
  • Jamie Henn, Political and Communications Director,
  • Eddie Bautista, Executive Director, NYCEJA”

“This will be the first of a series of two calls – the second will be a funder-only conversation during the first week of September. If you are unable to make either call and still want to learn more, please feel free to contact Stephanie Bencivenga of Rockefeller Brothers Fund (sbencivenga[at] or Irene Krarup of V.K. Rasmussen Foundation (ikrarup[at]” [Emphasis added]

Tom Steyer #Walks the Walk

Steyer Walk the Walk

“@*TomSteyer and @NextGenClimate #WalkTheWalk on climate change. Will you?”Next Gen Climate, Sept 18, 2014

Do the Math Tour Tom Steyer

Camaraderie tours: Right: Bill McKibben, left: Tom Steyer

The environmental movement is strategically sought by (and controlled by) the very members of the same 1% whose privileged lives are not only predicated off continued reliance on a carbon based economy, but profit from its continuance: “Notably, the President of, Bill McKibben, is a close friend of Tom Steyer. Steyer is a billionaire hedge fund manager and founder of Next Gen Climate. In 2012, McKibben and Steyer hiked through the Adirondack Mountains, where the two men bonded and McKibben encouraged Steyer to become active in environmental causes, including opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.” [Source: “How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EP”] In addition, this following excerpt from a Time magazine article illustrates how the elite not only influence NGOs, but government itself: “So when Barack Obama appeared at Tom Steyer’s San Francisco home for a fundraiser last year, the President had to know there would be an ask. The 56-year-old Steyer is a hedge-fund billionaire and a major-league Democratic donor.” [Source]

McKibben and Steyer March-7

Photo: People’s Climate March, 2014. Bill McKibben ( founder) with Tom Steyer, hedge fund billionaire and founder of Generation Next

Flood Wall Street | Fitzgibbon Media

The #WalktheWalk press release was conducted by the high-profile PR agency Fitzgibbon Media. Fitzgibbon Clients include, SumOfUs, Purpose, MoveOn (an Avaaz co-founder), Credo, The Nation Institute and Amnesty International to name a few.

Note that the Flood Wall Street press coverage is also featured on the Fitzgibbon website (under the “coverage” section).

Fitzgibbon attributes the “alternative, direct action”, branded “Flood Wall Street” (supposedly independent from the largest climate spectacle in history) media coverage to their client, Energy Action Coalition.

Energy Action Coalition (“a coalition of 50 leading youth organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada.”) partners include The Responsible Endowments Coalition, Southern Energy Network (a founding member of the Energy Action Coalition), Green for All (a Ceres partner;’s Van Jones is co-founder of Green for All and serves as president) and Groundswell (It is important to note the White House Office and connections/advisors. Supporters include David Rockefeller Fund, Rockefeller Foundation , Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Calvert foundation (a Ceres partner). Groundswell Board of Directors includes Jessica Bailey, Program Officer for the Rockefeller Brother Fund’s global and domestic Sustainable Development program.

That the “notable” speakers highlighted in the Flood Wall Street media release (Monday September 22, 2014), were an all-white liberal cast (inclusive of’s Klein and McKibben) is completely lost on society at large is nothing less than a tragedy – classism and racism so normalized that it goes virtually unnoticed. Indeed, the non-profit industrial complex is built on a foundation of white privilege and liberalism with the mainstream populace identifying with those in the ivory towers rather than those being pissed upon down below.

The Flood Wall Street twitter account demonstrates that those at the helm did not choose to take cues from radical activists, nor those oppressed and marginalized, but rather a slew of liberal sycophants and big greens including Bill McKibben, alliances, Energy Action Coalition, Green For All, Nature Conservancy, WWF, TckTckTck /TckTckTck alliances, Al Gore/Gore Alliances, etc.

After Party Peoples Climate March

Photo: The after-spectacle party with Bill McKibben ( on left and Van Jones ( Board, Green for All, etc.) on right. Note the servers and wine glasses in the background.

And while the champagne undoubtedly over-flowed at the A-list celebration that followed the spectacle from afar, a 63 year-old man from Chicago, IL missed his flight as he sat over-night in jail with other well-meaning citizens/protestors that were arrested at the Flood Wall Street action.

Well intentioned Flood Wall Street protestors chanted “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” The problem is that their questions were directed to the wrong group of people.

A Groundswell of Revolving Doors

“Climate change affects struggling communities first and worst. Yet, working families are all too often priced out of being part of the solution. By making clean energy simple and affordable at the community level, Groundswell is paving the way for a strong-and inclusive-clean economy.” – Van Jones, Adviser to Groundswell

Groundswell’s theory of change is that of “civic consumption.” A model to save the planet by further consuming: “When we join together, we can drive prices down and give more business to the companies that are doing the greatest good.” (Emphasis in the original.) [Source] It’s important to note that & Avaaz are simply the behavioural change agents at the front of the stage. It’s behind the curtain where the future is being designed, by NGOs and institutions further up the food chain of hierarchy (Groundswell, B-Team, Generation Investments, Clinton Global Initiative, United Nations, etc. etc.) This is the paradigmatic design of the NGOs at the forefront and why they are paid to build acquiescence to through financial support. The need to normalize insanity – actions that will change nothing – is paramount.

The revolving door between the foundations and the NGOs they finance can best be demonstrated by the career path of Jessy Tolkan. Tolkan served as the Political Director for Green For All. Green for All was officially launched in September 2007 at the Clinton Global Initiative (as was 1Sky). Prior to her role at Green For All, Tolkan served as Executive Director for Energy Action Coalition. In addition, Tolkan serves/served on the Steering Committee of Rockefeller incubator project 1Sky (merged with in 2011), as well as the Board of Directors, Groundswell, and many many others. Tolkan also serves as the Global Director of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Development for two muliti-national automakers Renault and Nissan. Today, joining in the footsteps of a multitude of other establishment “environmentalists” such as Rigg (The Varda Group), Tolkan is the President of Tolkan & Co., strategy firm with clients ranging from the Working Families Party to the Renault-Nissan Corporation.

“SXSW Eco speaker Tolkan has impeccable environmental and social justice credentials. In 2008, she was arrested in front of the White House. By 2011, she was inside, meeting with President Obama to discuss the Keysone XL pipeline. She arrived at the Austin enviro conference fresh from the recent #FloodWallStreet protest. But her presentation, “The Road to Environmental Revolution … Powered by Consumers” wasn’t about public protests. It was about direct action of another kind, the kind determined by where you put your dollars….” — October 15, 2014, Advancing the Electric Car Revolution One Voting Consumer At a Time

The capture of any and all grass roots movements that may gain traction (against all odds) is also a task of paramount importance. The non-profit industrial complex, to which such agencies are part of, are expected to bring radical movements into the fold of “reason”, that is not necessarily spoken but rather just understood:

When we collaborated on a #blacklivesmatter Die-In at the NYC City Council on December 8, 2014, Groundswell successfully insured our action graced the front page of the New York Times.” – Groundswell Website

Flood Wall Street | Bomb Syria


Wag the dog. Flood Wall Street. Bomb Syria! Image courtesy of Mark Gould

On September 22, 2014, the day following Obama’s regurgitated message “I #Walkthewalk on climate change”… while all eyes were on “Flood Wall Street”, the Obama administration began bombing Syria. With yet another illegal attack/invasion, this would be his 8th war on Muslim states, making former war criminal George Bush look like a school boy in comparison. Yet, as per usual, the “progressive greens” would not attack Obama on his latest illegal attack on a sovereign country, rather, they would respond with the following comment posted alongside the image featured on the Facebook page. The date was September 23, 2014; a full day after the Obama administration began bombing Syria:

“Wondering if President Obama was listening this weekend? Here’s what he said when he went to the UN today:”

The above comment with the image (below) was posted on September 23, 2014 on the Facebook page. A full day after the Obama administration began bombing Syria.


As of September 25, 2014 (9:53am) 4,910 others “liked” this and 3,316 shared it. The commencement of yet another country being bombed by the U.S. government all while the U.S. fails to meet the needs of its own citizens appears completely lost on followers.

Yet, buried within the comments under the graphic above that captures the delusional hopium and branding of Obama is a comment that actually does reflect our existing reality:

“fuck his bourgeois imperialist ass, no surprise with all those damn capitalist ngos “marching”….we need a real mass movement not this clownery” – Ricardito Ramos

Sadly, it doesn’t take much these days for a PR campaign to successfully transform the world’s greatest war criminal/terrorist into a hero while simultaneously portraying a leader of a sovereign state, who refuses to be a puppet to the U.S., as yet another crazed “dictator”.

Nor does it take much to sell the white Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, fossil-fuel glutton/consumer extraordinaire,   as the United Nation’s “new voice for climate advocacy” and voice of Indigenous Peoples – while Bolivia’s first Indigenous President, Evo Morales (whose 2009 demand for the Earth not to exceed 1C was crushed by the NPIC) and Uruguay President Jose Mujica, a model for voluntary disciplined minimalism, go ignored by the NPIC and the media in tandem.

20 September 2014 – As the eyes of the world turn to New York City, where thousands of people are expected to gather tomorrow for a massive march in advance of a United Nations climate summit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed UN Messenger of Peace, Leonardo DiCaprio, who he has hailed as the world body’s “new voice for climate advocacy.”

Edward Bernays applauds.

The phrase “actions speak louder than words” has no room in a culture intoxicated with celebrity fetish.

Leo - Indigenous Hero

People’s Climate March. Celebrity fetish.

“When a strong, powerful and passionate unabashedly INDIGENOUS LEADER [Evo Morales] becomes PRESIDENT of his homelands and uses that to push the notion that Mother Earth is a Living Being and has rights as humans do AND makes a passionate speech the same day as a European/American celebrity [Leonardo DiCaprio] does the same and the European/American celebrity is declared a hero around the village fires there is nothing left to discuss except how assimilated Indigenous people’s minds really value white beauty standards over Indigenous integrity, strength and power. SMDH” – Rosstopher Sirhc

give a fuck DSC_0137 copy

While et. al. appeal to the populace to place their energy and “hope” into begging to their “leaders”, a dose of reality may be in order. They don’t give a fuck about the planet. They don’t give a fuck about Iraqis. They don’t give a fuck about Ukrainians. They don’t give a fuck about the Congolese. They don’t give a fuck about Syrians. They don’t give a fuck about Haitians. And they DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOU. Not today, not tomorrow. The sooner we acknowledge this, the better off we will be.

Bromides, Platitudes, and Cliches: Defending those that Protect Capital

“See, I’ve been reading these threads [that pertain to the investigation into the People’s Climate March], and when I ask pertinent questions, what I keep getting is bromides, platitudes, and cliches… I can’t help but ask myself, isn’t that what this march is about? If it weren’t, it seems to me that there would be more substance to the responses I keep getting, and reading.” – Tom Frank, Sept 17, 2014, FaceBook

Who could argue that 400,000 citizens working hand-in-hand with their children, family and neighbours, transforming 400,000 (grass) lawns, boulevards and public spaces into beautiful food gardens (a political act in itself) would have had far more effect in establishing a path to self-sufficiency and energy efficiency than burning fossil fuels and energies to partake in a spectacle – a spectacle created only to build acquiescence to further collective insanity.

Until there is no more bread, finally leaving one too hungry to be entertained by the circus any longer, we will not see the take-down of those who oppress us nor will we bear witness to the necessary destruction of the industrialized capitalist system built upon patriarchy, racism, classism, imperialism, colonialism and ecological devastation. Decades of indoctrination, obedience, pacification and overindulgence has left us docile and incapable of mustering up the necessary courage for meaningful, difficult, real resistance … the kind that puts the fear of “god” into the state. The privileged – until no longer privileged and famished – will not participate in a revolution. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) financed “revolutions” do not count. And this is our reality. This is what we must face – if we are to change the writing on the wall in any regard.

Excerpt from End Game:

“I just got home from talking to a … longtime activist. She told me of a campaign she participated in a few years ago to try to stop the government and transnational timber corporations from spraying Agent Orange, a potent defoliant and teratogen, in the forests of Oregon. Whenever activists learned a hillside was going to be sprayed, they assembled there, hoping their presence would stop the poisoning. But each time, like clockwork, helicopters appeared, and each time, like clockwork, helicopters dumped loads of Agent Orange onto the hillside and onto the protesting activists. The campaign did not succeed. “‘But,’ she said to me, ‘I’ll tell you what did. A bunch of Vietnam vets lived in those hills, and they sent messages to the Bureau of Land Management and to Weyerhauser, Boise Cascade, and the other timber companies saying, ‘We knows the names of your helicopter pilots, and we know their addresses.’ “I waited for her to finish. “‘You know what happened next?’ she asked. “‘I think I do,’ I responded. “‘Exactly,’ she said. ‘The spraying stopped.'”



[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, Political Context, Counterpunch, Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Countercurrents. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.]

FLASHBACK | Beasts in Blue Berets –The Reality Of The United Nations

New American

September 1997

by William Norman Grigg

According to Gould, “UN women describe a godfather-like institution” — a network of cronyism and corruption. “This is compounded by the fact that in some UN member countries, women are treated as chattel instead of as equals.”

UN “peacekeepers” torture a Somali child over fire

“We are not going to achieve a new world order without paying for it in blood as well as in words and money,” warned Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in the July/August 1995 issue of Foreign Affairs. Schlesinger had taken to the pages of the flagship journal of the Council on Foreign Relations to vindicate the dubious proposition that the United Nations military represents the thin blue line dividing peaceful civilization from savagery — in short, our planetary police. But what happens when the planetary police run amok and become the agents of bloodshed? When local police abuse their power, the abused have avenues of redress. From what body can those abused by the planetary police seek justice? The escalating scandal of unpunished atrocities committed by UN “peacekeepers” illustrates that the planetary police are beyond accountability.
“Perhaps our leaders should put the question to the people: what do we want the United Nations to be?” Schlesinger wrote. “Do we want it to avert more killing fields around the planet? Or do we want it to dwindle into impotence, leaving the world to the anarchy of nation-states?” Critics of the UN should eagerly embrace such a debate — provided that a copy of the above photograph is made available to all participants. First published in the United States on the cover of the June 24th issue of the left-wing weekly Village Voice, the photograph depicts two Belgian paladins of the new world order giddily holding a Somali child over an open flame. Other series of photographs depict UN soldiers kicking and stabbing a Somali, and another soldier apparently urinating on the Somali’s dead body; yet another shows a Somali child being forced to drink salt water, vomit, and worms. A second group of photos published in the July 15th Village Voice shows the dead bodies of bound Somalis — what appears to be the work of a death squad.One atrocity not caught on camera involved the “punishment” of a Somali child by placing him in a metal container and withholding water from him for two days; predictably, the relentless African heat killed the child. One Belgian UN soldier testified that it was a regular practice to use metal boxes as prison cells, and that other Somalis probably died similarly gruesome deaths.

Strangely Silent

One might expect the photographs and first-person accounts of such atrocities to arouse public indignation against the UN’s “planetary police,” just as the endlessly replayed videotape of the Rodney King arrest turned public opinion against the Los Angeles Police Department. Perhaps this is why the photographs have been all but invisible in the United States, and precious little media attention has been devoted to an examination of UN atrocities.

Village Voice reporter Jennifer Gould came across the accounts of the Belgian atrocities while doing an earlier story about sexual harassment of female employees at UN headquarters. “When I spoke with people at the UN, time after time I was told, ‘If you think it’s bad here, you ought to see what happens in peacekeeping operations,’” Gould told The New American. “I started looking into that issue and found that the abuses I reported were well-known and easily documented. They were all over the media abroad, and I was really surprised it hadn’t been written about over here.”

Belgian military authorities launched an investigation into the atrocities following publication of a front-page story by Belgium’s Het Laatste Nieuws. In early July, Privates Claude Baert and Kurt Coelus, the two paratroopers photographed dangling the Somali child over a flame, were acquitted by a military court, which ruled that the incident — described by Baert and Coelus as a punishment for stealing — was “a form of playing without violence,” according to prosecutor Luc Walleyn. And what of discipline from the UN, whose “Code of Personal Conduct for Blue Helmets” requires that peacekeepers “respect and regard the human rights of all”? Gould reports that a UN spokesman dismissed the acquittal of Baert and Coelus by insisting that “the UN is not in the habit of embarrassing governments that contribute peacekeeping troops.”

For its diligence in reporting unwelcome news, Het Laatste Nieuws was rewarded with a bomb threat. Reporter Lieve Van Bastelaere informed The New American that the man arrested for making the threat owned a local bar that is frequented by many people in the military, including veterans of “peacekeeping” missions. “He apparently had been angered by what he had read,” Bastelaere observed dryly. “We’ve enhanced our security here at the paper, and the police took the threat seriously, even though he may have been drunk when he made it. He claimed not to remember phoning in the threat when he was arrested.”

In September, another military tribunal will be held to investigate the actions of Sergeant Dirk Nassel, the soldier photographed forcing a Somali boy to ingest worms and vomit. However, the Belgian military system — which is deeply entwined with the UN “peacekeeping” apparatus — has yet to inflict substantive penalties for abuses committed in the service of the UN. Several years ago, according to Gould, “Belgian soldiers were also accused of holding mock executions for Somali children and forcing them to dig their own graves; though their officer was given a suspended sentence, the soldiers were acquitted.” It is thus firmly established in Belgian military jurisprudence that service in the new world army is a license to commit barbarities with impunity.

Canadian, Italian Atrocities

Nor was the Belgian component of the UN’s “Operation Restore Hope” uniquely barbarous. Three members of a now-disbanded elite Canadian paratroop regiment were tried and convicted of criminal charges in the beating death of a 16-year-old Somali boy named Shidane Arone; the three “peacekeepers” had been photographed smiling beside the bloody corpse of the boy, whose hands had been bound. The incident prompted the creation of a Canadian government commission to review that nation’s military and its involvement in “peacekeeping” missions; however, the inquiry foundered on the obstructionism of political and military bodies and produced what Canadian critics call an incomplete and inadequate report.

On August 8th, Italian military officials admitted that Italian soldiers assigned to UN duty in Somalia had also tortured and otherwise abused Somali civilians. According to the Washington Post, “Two generals who led the Italian forces to Somalia resigned in June following publication of graphic reports of sexual violence against a Somali woman, electric torture of a young man and allegations that an officer had murdered a young boy.” Drugs and prostitutes also were allowed to circulate freely among Italian UN troops.

The Italian government assembled a five-member commission of inquiry, which interviewed 145 people and traveled to Africa to interview Somalis who had been tormented by UN troops or witnessed the bestial acts firsthand. The panel’s 46-page report documented that “the criminal events were not just the result of ‘rotten apples’ that you may find in any structure, but were rather the consequence of a stretched line of command and amused compliance toward such high jinks by some junior officers.”

“Shocking as it is, the UN scandal in Somalia is no anomaly,” wrote Gould in the Village Voice. “[An analysis] of documents and reports relating to recent UN peacekeeping operations has uncovered incidents ranging from murder and torture to sexual exploitation, harassment of and discrimination against local women and children.”

The January 18th New York Times reported that 47 Canadian UN troops who served in Bosnia were accused of “drunkenness, sex, black marketeering and patient abuse at a mental hospital they were guarding.” The soldiers had been assigned the “humanitarian” chore of guarding a mental hospital at Bakovici in order to secure it for the staff’s return. “The hospital instead became the setting for heavy drinking; sex between soldiers, nurses and interpreters that violated regulations; black-market sales; and harassment of the patients….”

During the “frenzy of looting” that broke out in Liberia in the spring of 1996, peacekeepers used UN vehicles to make off with pilfered goods, according to the April 12, 1996 issue of USA Today. UN vehicles — and the troops responsible for them — have also been a boon to Balkan drug smugglers. The August 9, 1996 Washington Times reported that “U.S. and Bosnian officials suspect that high-ranking UN officials from Jordan based in the central Bosnian towns of Bugojno and Travnik have routinely provided UN vehicles to help smugglers get contraband past checkpoints. The officers appear to have received money and the services of prostitutes from the smugglers, led by Islamic foreigners who entered Bosnia with U.S. approval to defend the Muslim government.”

Significantly, the Bosnian narco-ring apparently received critical support from UN police monitors, who were stationed in the Balkans in order to facilitate the creation of a civilian police force dedicated to upholding “world law.” A Pentagon official told the Washington Times that such problems are predictable, given that “the international police task force [in Bosnia] is a compendium of people from diverse countries with different degrees of professionalism and training and different backgrounds in operations and ethics” — a fairly compelling explanation of why UN-style “world law” cannot work.

The UN’s “nation-building” mission in Cambodia — long touted as among the world body’s proudest achievements — added to that unfortunate land’s abundant history of lawlessness. In 1993, 170 residents of Cambodia protested the abusive behavior of blue helmet troops in a letter to Yasushi Akashi, who served as then-Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s representative in Cambodia. Prominent among the complaints was the mistreatment of women, who were treated to abuse and harassment by UN officials “regularly in public restaurants, hotels and bars, banks, markets, and shops.”

New York Times correspondent Barbara Crossette, whose primary beat is the UN, elaborated: “The bad behavior [of UN forces in Cambodia] was not limited to abuse of women. There were bar fights, brawls, and shootouts and a proliferation of brothels, stolen vehicles and general drunken boorishness. Geographical origins were no indicator of what to expect. While some Asian and African troops got out of line, it was the soldiers of a Bulgarian battalion who had the worst reputation. They went down in local legend as ‘the Vulgarians.’” Cambodia has descended again into murderous chaos, and Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, believes that “the mess that Cambodia finds itself in today is in large part a product of the UN’s failure to uphold the rule of law” in the course of its “nation-building” mission.

Nightmare in Rwanda

The same lawlessness infected the UN mission to Rwanda, which suffered a Cambodia-style genocide earlier this decade. Crossette noted that Rwandans accused UN troops “of illicit trading, hit-and-run driving, sexual harassment and criminal abuse of diplomatic immunity they have bestowed on themselves. The disruptive personal behavior of some troops has been a factor in Rwanda’s demand that all peacekeepers be withdrawn from the country….”

Also contributing to that demand is the fact that UN forces in Rwanda actually abetted the worst bloodletting in recent memory — the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which a half-million Tutsis were annihilated in approximately 100 days. “Many of the mass murderers were employees of the international relief agencies,” testified Peter Hammond of Frontline Fellowship in Holocaust in Rwanda. In one incident recounted by Hammond, Belgian UN troops stationed in a heavily fortified compound in Kigali “deceived the [Tutsi] refugees by assembling them for a meal in the dining hall and then [they] evacuated the base while the refugees were eating. Literally two minutes after the Belgians had driven out of their base, the Presidential Guard poured into the buildings annihilating the defenceless Tutsi refugees.”

When the Tutsi-organized Rwandan Patriotic Front drove many of the worst Hutu murderers from Rwanda into the Congo (then called Zaire), the UN intervened militarily — on the side of the murderers. One year after the genocide, wrote Peter Beinart in the October 30, 1995 issue of The New Republic, “former [Rwandan] government militias, often armed and sometimes in uniform, control many UN refugee camps, terrorizing civilians and plotting to reinvade.” Janet Fleischmann of Human Rights Watch-Africa reported, “The UN clearly took the lead in assisting these refugees who were in uniform and armed … and that helped them establish control over the refugee camps.” This development provoked the renowned French humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres and several other charitable organizations to withdraw from militia-controlled UN refugee camps.

When the UN “peacekeeping” mission to Rwanda finally furled its blue banner in March 1996, the reaction on the part of Rwandans was one of unalloyed relief. “Hundreds of genocide survivors protesting outside the UN headquarters in Kigali cheered … as the UN flag was lowered to mark the end of the United Nations’ peacekeeping mandate,” reported a March 3, 1996 Reuters wire service report. Apparently, Rwandans would rather face the prospect of bloody anarchy than submit to the variety of “peace” administered by UN troops.

Follow the Brothels

The market in prostitution — including child prostitution — thrives wherever blue berets decamp. According to Gould, records of UN peacekeeping missions document that “brothels have sprouted nearby — and in one case allegedly inside — UN compounds. In the latter case, prostitutes were allegedly employed by the UN and were reportedly even shipped on UN planes to fornicate with a UN staff member in hotels paid for by the UN.”

Last December a UN study on children in war reported that blue berets had been involved in child prostitution in six of the 12 countries which had been studied. In country after country unfortunate enough to attract the UN’s “humanitarian” intervention, “the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been accompanied with a rapid rise in child prostitution,” the document reported. Following the signing of a peace treaty in Mozambique in 1992, for example, “soldiers of the United Nations operation … recruited girls aged 12 to 18 years into prostitution.”

However, as Jennifer Gould learned, the mistreatment of women is something of a UN tradition — the world body’s enthusiastic support for radical feminism notwithstanding. In a report published in the May 20th Village Voice, Gould described the plight of Catherine Claxon, a UN employee who filed the first-ever sexual harassment complaint against the UN in 1991. After Claxon filed her complaint, “Someone fired a shot through the glass window of a coffee shop by the United Nations” — just above Claxon’s head. “Another bullet shattered Claxon’s windshield as she drove home from her job at the UN one night on the Long Island Expressway.” On three other occasions, Claxon was nearly run off the road — at the same spot where she was nearly killed by the gunshot. According to Gould, “UN women describe a godfather-like institution” — a network of cronyism and corruption. “This is compounded by the fact that in some UN member countries, women are treated as chattel instead of as equals.”

Haunting Prophecy

Gould described the UN as “a bizarre universe of intrigue and outrage, where diplomats from 185 countries — stuffed suits simmering with regional, religious, and class-bred hatreds — try to promote world peace.” Such is the character of the institution whose masters crave the power to enforce “world law.” The essence of that abstraction is captured in the photograph of “peacekeepers” Baert and Coelus playfully swinging a Somali child over a fire: Unaccountable power employed mercilessly against the helpless.

More than seven decades ago, while the U.S. Senate was debating ratification of the League of Nations Covenant, Senator William Borah (R-ID) sought to cool the ardor of the League’s supporters by dousing it with a bracing shower of cold reality. Those who believed that a world army would consist of stainless champions of “world peace” were ignoring the unyielding facts about human nature. A world army, Borah declared, would consist of “the gathered scum of the nations organized into a conglomerate international police force ordered hither and thither by the most heterogeneous and irresponsible body or court that ever confused or confounded the natural instincts and noble passions of a people.” Can there be any doubt that the UN has vindicated Borah’s dismal prophecy?

[William Norman Grigg is the author of several books from a constitutionalist perspective. He was formerly a senior editor of The New American magazine, the official publication of the John Birch Society.]

Non-Profits and the Pacification of the Black Lives Matter Movement


August 14, 2015

By Brendan McQuade

Killer Police

Above: Mo. Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson hugged Adrian (who wouldn’t give his last name) in Ferguson on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 17, 2014, on W. Florissant. [Source]

Rebellions aren’t simply repressed. They’re pacified. While repression—the iron hand—is useful to terrorize a population into submission, the issues animating a rebellion must be partially redressed—the velvet glove—to forestall a further reaching revolutionary upsurge. The most effective way to defeat rebellion is to blunt its grievances and overtake its leaders. This is precisely what is happening with the Black Lives Matter movement.

For the past year, much attention has focused on the most dramatic responses to the Black Lives Matter movement: the militarized police and smoke grenades, states of emergency and curfews, government surveillance and fears of infiltration. While these forms of repression should not be discounted, they should be properly understood. Heavy-handed responses polarize the struggle. The middle ground disappears and both sides radicalize. For those seeking to maintain the status quo, this is not the best outcome.

It’s much better to co-opt moderates and divide the opposition. After the initial explosion in Ferguson following Mike Brown’s death, Governor Jay Nixon put a black officer, Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ronald S. Johnson, in charge. Johnson immediately won praise, when he ordered his officers shed their riot gear and started walking with marching demonstrators. In this new context, liberal organizations began to separate themselves from more radical demonstrators. The NAACP organized events “to channel the anger over Brown’s death into positive action such as getting people to register to vote and to obtain college grants.” Johnson and other police executives marched at the head of a NAACP demonstration. The response to the Ferguson Rebellion had shifted from crude repression to subtle pacification.

Established non-profit organizations are essential to this work. They bring needed legitimacy to the state’s efforts to contain dissent. In Ferguson, the NAACP and local religious groups have sought to temper protests, limit property damage, and redirect discontent toward institutional channels. Despite their best intentions, these groups become potent weapons to mollify discontent and moderate change.

The same dynamic was recently at work in Chicago, where the ACLU of Illinois sold out grassroots movements, who had been working to curtail stop and frisk by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). In the summer of 2014, the CPD conducted a quarter million stops that did not lead to an arrest, four times the rate of New York City. Nearly three quarters of those stopped were black. In response to this systemic racial profiling, We Charge Genocide, a grassroots abolitionist organization, wrote the Stop, Transparency, Oversight and Protection (STOP) Act. This municipal ordinance would have required the CPD to collect and share comprehensive data on police stops.

The We Charge Genocide (WCG) name is an allusion to a 1951 report that Civil Rights Congress presented to the UN. The study cited lynching, police brutality, legal disenfranchisement, and systemic inequality as evidence that the US government was engaged in genocide against its black citizens. In September 2014, WCG presented its own report to the UN Committee Against Torture that detailed the Chicago police’s systemic harassment and abuse of minority communities, the failure of existing redressive mechanisms, and the resultant impunity of the Chicago police. For the past ten months, WCG has worked to educate and mobilize youth of color about the CPD’s racially discriminatory stop and frisk practices.

While grassroots activists were mobilizing support for the ordinance among Chicago’s communities and alderman, the ACLU entered secret negotiations with the CPD and mayor’s office to broker an alternative agreement. On the very day that the STOP Act was to be filed by three aldermen, the ACLU announced the details of their agreement with city government. Instead of public disclosure, the ACLU-CPD “settlement” names an independent consultant, former US magistrate Arlander Keys, who will issue biannual reports on the CPD’s street stops and recommend policy changes. This is sharp contrast from the STOP ACT, which would have required quarterly public reporting of more comprehensive stop and frisk data: demographic information of those stopped, the badge numbers of officers involved, as well as the location, reason, and result of the stop

In effect, the ACLU used WCG and STOP Act as bargaining chip to advance a narrow policy goal. As the WCG’s public letter put it:

What you have “won” is fundamentally different from the STOP Act, both in its means and in its ends. Our goals are rooted in the experiences of those most directly impacted; yours are not. Our movement is rooted in a political analysis that recognizes the need to shift power away from police and into our communities; your policy “victory” is not. Our motivation is rooted in a theory of change that prioritizes movement building and centering the leadership of those most affected; yours is not. Now, because of your self-serving interest in pushing simplistic policy changes, we and our allies face a much harder task pushing the critical package of reforms included in the STOP Act but ignored in your settlement. There is no such thing as an easy victory, and yours has come at a high cost.

The ACLU agreement shifted the terrain of struggle. Their agreement is a half measure that allows the CPD and city government to show that they are doing something, while, at the same time, undercutting a more radical plan that would have subjected the CPD to more meaningful public accountability.

More importantly, the ACLU-CPD agreement denies WCG and the larger Black Lives Movement an important victory. In their letter, WCG acknowledged that the ACLU “settlement represents just one of many efforts… to co-opt our movement by engaging with less threatening groups. Passage of the STOP Act would be public recognition of the real, grassroots power of young Black and Brown Chicagoans; instead the City wisely sought to settle into an ongoing relationship with a legal organization that poses no real threat to the status quo.” In other words, the ACLU is not an ally. It works to pacify the Black Lives Matter movement by blunting its grievances and overtaking its solutions with half measures.

The ACLU did not become complicit in the pacification of the radical movements because they are part of some crude conspiracy. It’s more subtle. The ACLU is a foundation funded non-profit. It’s part of the web of elite institutions that exercise political power in the United States. By class background, socialization, and worldview, the ACLU’s lawyers and administers have more in common with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy than they have with WCG activists.

The overlapping interests of elites in the ACLU and city government highlight the importance the idea of pacification. In the recent years, critical scholars have recuperated the term “pacification” from military jargon to highlight continuities between warfare and policing. Both are class projects to eliminate enemies and fabricate social order. The iron hand and the velvet glove work together. To pacify “communists” in Vietnam or “terrorists” in Iraq, you need to build a government that enough people can abide. The same dynamic is at work in Chicago, where the ACLU just helped the city government efforts to pacify ongoing black insurgency.


[Brendan McQuade is a visiting assistant professor of international studies at Depaul Univeristy.]

UN as Corporate Clubhouse

Public Good Project

August 15, 2015

By Jay Taber

The UN as a corporate clubhouse — where billionaires like convicted inside-trader George Soros and anti-trust arch enemy Bill Gates swagger with Bono  — began in 1947 with John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s purchase of six blocks in Manhattan for UN Headquarters. Since then, global initiatives sponsored by the UN Security Council, Human Rights Council, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, World Health Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Social and Economic Development programs have all born the mark of Wall Street. Indeed, privatization and other acts of corporate aggression against democracy and indigenous sovereignty have benefited beyond belief from UN support, leading to the incontestable conclusion that the UN is a dishonest broker.


[Jay Taber has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] Website:]

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part IV

The Art of Annihilation

January 26, 2015

Part IV of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer [Part I, Part II, Part III]


+++Note from the authors: The bulk of research for this investigative report was conducted from December 2013 to April of 2014. New alliances/affiliations/stats that have since materialized may or may not be reflected at this time.


Social Panorama of Latin America

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has highlighted a slowing of progress in poverty reduction in Latin America, citing “rising food costs and weaker economic growth” as contributing factors. UN economists based in Santiago reported that 164 million people, or 28% of the region’s population, are still considered poor. That is nearly unchanged from 2012. Of those, 68 million of them are in extreme poverty – a poverty that most Americans cannot even begin to fathom.

Yet there are bright spots. ECLAC’s “Social Panorama of Latin America” report (March 2014) notes that Venezuela and Ecuador led the region in decreasing poverty in 2012. The largest drop was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where poverty fell by 5.6% (from 29.5% to 23.9%) and extreme poverty by 2.0% (from 11.7% to 9.7%). In Ecuador, poverty was down by 3.1% (from 35.3% to 32.2%).

This 5.6% decrease in Venezuela translates into a 19% decline in poverty overall, which Mark Weisbrot, co-director of Center for Economic and Policy Research, “noted is almost certainly the largest decline in poverty in the Americas for 2012, and one of the largest – if not the largest – in the world.”

Yes – they are extracting oil. (Ecuador relies on oil for a third of its national budget.) Just like the Harper Government, the Obama Government and most all other states that are able.

The main difference is that the US spends it on bombing other countries and killing innocent people – for profit and plunder – while Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador are spending it to lift their people (and others oppressed by imperial states) out of poverty. [Ecuador will increase by more than 50% the budget for Health, the executive will allocate more than 5.6 billion dollars by the year 2017 and also plans to hire about 19,000 doctors. Source]

Of course, the words militarism, imperialism and colonialism are not in the NGO dictionary. Nor is the word capitalism.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that it is the wealthy that created the climate crisis. It is the wealthy that perpetuate and propel the fossil fuel production/extraction economy.

As an example, the entire state of Venezuela accounts for only .057% of global emissions while 50% of emissions come from 1% of the world’s population. (If you can afford to get on a plane and fly anywhere at all, this places you in the 1% category.)

Per capita (per person) emissions: Ecuador: 2.2 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Bolivia: 1.15 tonnes CO2 of emissions per capita | Venezuela: 6.30 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | United States: 19.22 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Canada 16.60 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Congo: 0.3 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita.

As a further example, ALBA delivered relief aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon (video below published on September 19, 2013), while Imperial states continue to destabilize the Middle East.

The left would like to believe that anti-imperialist states can change the existing world order on their own; that without dismantling the industrialized, capitalist economic system, states such as Ecuador and Venezuela can and must simply shut down their oil production. (Of course, we have no such fantasies for our own voracious nations.) But, such a feat would achieve nothing more than food shortages for their citizens, many of whom are already starving. And on an international level, this will change nothing. Rather, imperial forces would ramp up efforts to destabilize, invade and occupy. Further, leaders of ALBA states do not claim they are capable of such a task:

“Ecuador is not trying to change the situation as it has come to be; yet we will try and protect our people from this unfair world order. This is what the integration of the Latin American nations is meant to help accomplish. United, we will become stronger and gain more weight on the international arena. I insist that even if we can’t change the current world order – as this is something too challenging for Latin America to tackle, we do not have enough influence – we nonetheless have a duty to protect our nations from this unfair and immoral world order driven by the interests of the capital alone.” — Interview with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, Oct 30, 2013 

How to Co-opt Revolutionary Ideas


Participants sit in bleachers at the packed World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights, Photo by The City Project

On April 19-22, 2010, following the failure of COP15 (where vulnerable states were grossly undermined), the State of Bolivia hosted The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. A global gathering of civil society and governments gathered in Tiquipaya, just outside the city of Cochabamba. “Particularly notable was the large number of Indigenous people from throughout South and North America, who played leading roles in defining the meeting’s environmental philosophy and drawing up a program for action. Morales urged the delegates to commit to learn and benefit from the wisdom of the world’s indigenous peoples.” [Source] Working Groups included a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, a World People’s Referendum on Climate Change, and the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal.

Two primary revolutionary declarations were achieved: The Peoples Agreement and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

The People’s Agreement was and remains the only democratically written climate agreement that actually could have addressed the magnitude and scale of our multiple ecological crises. Further, it came to be recognized by the United Nations, due in large part to the tenacity of a single person on behalf of a single state, Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations, Pablo Solón (from February 2009 to July 2011.) Today, somewhat ironically, Solón is the Executive Director of the NGO Focus on the Global South.

October 10, 2010 – Tianjin, China: “The proposals of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth have been maintained and expanded upon in the new negotiating text on climate change that emerged from the last round of negotiations in Tianjin, China. Throughout the process in Tianjin, attempts were made to substitute the negotiating text, which contains the positions of all countries, with a text that would be limited to recognizing the principal elements of consensus for Cancun.

The negotiating text that will be taken up in Cancun includes, among other elements, the following proposals from Cochabamba:


  • Reduce emissions by more than 50% for 2017.
  • Rights of Mother Earth.
  • Full respect for human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and climate migrants.
  • Formation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal.
  • No new carbon markets.
  • 6% of GDP in developed countries to finance climate change actions in developing countries.
  • Lifting of barriers to intellectual property that facilitates technology transfer.
  • No commodification of forests.”


[Source: Communiqué by the Plurinational State of Bolivia]

By the following year, although key issues of the People’s Agreement were presented in the Durban negotiation text, (again due only to the work by the Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations), [Dec 7, 2011] the People’s Agreement, more and more was quietly being marginalized and buried by even the more legitimate climate justice groups. After Durban, the People’s Agreement was displaced, in its entirety, by a gentle call for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

The call for a “Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth” was then replaced with the call for “Rights of Nature.”

Global Alliance Rights of Nature

On April 12, 2012, in response to a Rights of Nature event, a NYC activist inquired on an International Climate Justice listserv: “The rights of mother earth enshrined in the Cochabamba Declaration. Is there a reason why Global Exchange isn’t promoting CD here? Seems like an ideal and key document to promote our fight against greed and for science-based climate policy, respecting indigenous rights and Mother Earth both inside the U.N. system and beyond.”

There was no response.

Almost immediately following the success of the 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth of, a new alliance was created named the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, which created/assigned an executive committee. “Their intention was to explore ways to expand the concept of Rights of Nature as an idea whose time has come.” [Source] This campaign is also referred to at times as The Rights of Mother Earth campaign.

A key founding partner was the heavily funded U.S. NGO, the Pachamama Alliance.

Thus, the ground-breaking declarations (The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth of April 2010) were lifted out of the hands of the people – back into the hands of U.S. foundation management/ control.

The website for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (created on September 6, 2010) is registered to Thomas Linzey, founder of CELDF and advisor to the New Earth Foundation. On the CELDF website, one finds the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights – CELDF Draft Rights of Nature Ordinance, dated April 15, 2010.

A few months later, on October 13, 2010, CELDF publishes the article Global Alliance for Rights of Nature Formed from Historic International Gathering in Ecuador: “A groundbreaking International Gathering for Rights of Nature was organized by The Pachamama Alliance and Fundación Pachamama in September, where conscious individuals and organizations who have worked to promote the recognition of Rights of Nature, met to expand this concept around the world. Out of this four-day meeting in Patate, Ecuador, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature was formed…. Fundación Pachamama and The Pachamama Alliance were active participants at the Conference and behind the scenes.”

In the December 2010 publication of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, it is reported, “In August of this year, the Legal Defense Fund co-convened an event hosted by Fundación Pachamama in rural Ecuador. Its purpose was to formalize an international organization which will advocate for legal frameworks that recognize legally enforceable rights for natural communities. The Legal Defense Fund was then selected as the organization which would provide drafting and campaign assistance to communities and nations following the lead of the over two dozen communities in the United States which have recognized rights for Nature, and the country of Ecuador, which has become the first country in the world to recognize natural rights within its constitution.

It is of interest to note that the Pachamama Alliance and its “sister organization,” Fundación Pachamama, supported the inclusion of Rights of Nature in Ecuador’s Constitution, and also endorsed the call for a World Conference of the Peoples regarding Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights. Further, despite the REDD partnerships on behalf of Pachamama Alliance and Foundation, as referenced in documents, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (with Pachamama Alliance as founder) appears, on the surface, to be against any commodification of the commons. As an example: Tweet: “July 25, 2012: Rights of Nature – The Road to Rio+20 –

It is of further interest that prior to both the formation of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (August 2010) and the World People’s Conference (April 2010), the website Rights of Mother Earth was created on February 16, 2010. It is registered to Robin Milam, Administrative Director for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and a Pachamama Alliance Journey Leader.

Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain for what other reason Pachamama Alliance would co-found Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, other than to do what foundations do best: control, manage, shape and contain movements with revolutionary potential. Perhaps CELDF, in this case, is successfully contained for the most part, in a carefully supervised box – wondering why there is so little focus/awareness on this “movement.” One thing is certain – there is very little interest in promoting this campaign.

In the real world, “likes” and “shares” offer no reprieve whatsoever to our ongoing and accelerating ecological devastation/collapse. However, what is significant in Twitter/social media is who/what organizations are chosen by NGOs and paid “activists” to “follow.” This is especially significant in respect to the first Twitter accounts chosen (to follow) as these principal choices demonstrate clearly who and what ideologies they NGO/individual align themselves with. And although it is true that social media, despite the endless attention it receives, offers no stay of execution whatsoever to our ecological/climate crisis, in the world of the non-profit industrial complex, social media is of paramount importance – precisely because it has no true impact beyond 1) collecting intelligence (in all forms) for the world’s most powerful advertising moguls, corporations and the establishment, providing an unprecedented wealth of information that previously was difficult and costly to obtain, and 2) building brand recognition (thereby increasing foundation funding). Thus, to demonstrate how there is no serious effort to promote Rights of Nature, the following information speaks a thousand words.

The Rights of Nature Twitter account is essentially dead with a total of 46 tweets and 44 followers since its inception on Earth Day, April 22, 2011. The Facebook group fares slightly better with 664 members. Compare this with the Pachamama Alliance FB page with almost 40,000 “likes” and a very active Twitter account. (Accounts accessed December 13, 2013 under the twitter name RightsOfNature. The Twitter name/link has since been changed to Rights4Nature.) [1]

The Rights of Nature Twitter account follows 16 individuals/orgs including Nature Conservancy (#1), RSPB (UK’s largest “nature conservation” charity), founding members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, the founders of Pachamama Alliance, Al Gore’s Climate Reality, Hawken’s, and Bill McKibben. As of December 13, 2013, no Indigenous groups whatsoever were followed by this account. (Accounts accessed December 13, 2013 under the twitter name RightsOfNature. [2]

During 2013, this account was used for little more than one purpose: to promote “ecological tourism” via Pachamama “Journeys. [Rights of Nature – Amazon Rainforest Wisdom Immersion Journey Leader: Robin Milam… Cost: $3,475] As of December 19, 2013, one more tweet has been issued – a request for organizations to join Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature in requesting the re-opening of Fundación Pachamama.

The address provided for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is 2036 Nevada City Hwy #193 Grass Valley, California 95945. [3] Researching this address also leads one to The Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce (128 East Main Street, Grass Valley CA 95945). Robin Milam is listed as the webmaster. Her business is listed as One World Awake, which shares the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature address.

Ecological Tourism – More Hypocrisy

“Eco-tourism, as defined by the World Tourism Organisation, represents only 2 to 4 per cent of international travel spending. Suppose it grew to the point where it dominated the tourist industry. Could such a large-scale industry be managed in a small-scale way? Can anyone who has flown half way around the world in a jet powered by subsidized fossil fuel and puffing out greenhouse gases qualify as an eco-tourist?” — David Nicholson-Lord, 2002

The hypocrisy is rich (literally). Pachamama Alliance chides the Ecuadorian Government for drilling oil in the Yasuni, all while their ecotourism boutique/niche – catering to the lifestyles of the rich – is absolutely dependent upon the expansion of fossil fuels. Travel expenses as reported on Pachamama’s Alliance’s 990 form accounted for over a cool half million in 2011 ($592,557). Here, the irreconcilability of preserving capitalism with preserving the planet cannot be overstated.

“Success” Stories

Success Story One: Runa

Robin Fink is the Program Director at Fundación Pachamama (since November 2009) and Board Member at the Runa Foundation (Fundación Runa) (May 2012 to present). In her role at Pachamama Alliance, Fink works closely with the Indigenous Achuar of the Ecuadorian Amazon. [4]

Runa Corporation is a privately held company in the food and beverages industry. It’s also an excellent case study of what the new “green economy” looks and feels (as in marketing/branding) like. [“Runa LLC is a privately held organic Amazonian beverage company that processes and sells guayusa. The company is based in Brooklyn, New York with offices in Quito and Archidona, Ecuador.”][SOURCE]

In the 21st century, most every corporation has a foundation. The benefits (for oligarchs and corporate entities alike) of establishing a foundation are formidable. Securing/protecting interests under the guise of philanthropy and tax evasion represent a mere two of many benefits. [“Fundación Runa” provides tools and resources to indigenous communities and farmers’ associations working towards their vision of sustainable development in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We focus on two core areas; community development and environmental management. We provide technical assistance and financing to farmers associations and cooperatives to build capacity and inspire entrepreneurship. We work with local stakeholders to conduct participatory research and strategic planning for conservation and sustainable land management in the Ecuadorian Amazon.”]

When one observes the heavy hitters on the Runa Foundation Board of Advisors, it is certain that many are betting on this company being acquired by Pepsi or Coca-Cola in the not-so-distant future for the tune of hundreds of millions. Most recently Coca-Cola swallowed up the majority of “Innocent” Drinks for an estimated £100m. [“The three Cambridge graduates who launched Innocent Smoothies have sold the bulk of their remaining shares to Coca-Cola for an estimated £100m – 15 years after dreaming up the idea for the healthy drinks company on a snowboarding holiday.” Financial Times, February 22, 2013] The Runa Foundation Advisors include Yolanda Kakabadse, president of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) since 2010, Trustee of the Ford Foundation, President of International Union for Conservation of Nature (1996-2004); Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF (2005-2010, US Secretary of Agriculture (2001-2005), named 46th most powerful woman by Forbes in 2009; Doug Hattaway, president of Hattaway Communication since 2001, Senior Communications Adviser for Hilary Clinton (2008); Michael Conroy, Board Chair of Forest Stewardship Council since 2010, Board Chair of Fair Trade USA (2003-2010; Jacob Olander, Director of Forest Trends’ Incubator since 2008, Co-founder of EcoDecisión since 1995, Expert in conservation finance and payments for ecosystem services; Florencia Montagnini, professor of Tropical Forestry at Yale University since 2001, research advisor to the Smithsonian Institute’s PRORENA program since 2001, expert in tropical forestry and agroforesty systems.

On the Runa blog, under the post At Runa, We Don’t Actually Farm Guayusa, the company states:

“In this way, we foster the local entrepreneurial spirit, build sustainable and transparent partnerships with the farmers, and proactively work together to break a long history of paternalism and exploitation that has negatively impacted these communities.”

Yet this is not true. In reality, drawing more people into a suicidal system based on perpetual infinite growth is anything but sustainable. [“Never has failure been so ardently defended as success.” — Voltaire’s Bastards] Further, as this corporation grows (the sole purpose of the venture), the introduction of Western identities ensures the introduction of Western values into the Ecuadorian Amazon – ensuring the erosion of culture and identity. The erosion may be slow and subtle, yet it is inevitable, as Western culture has always ensured.

To seek out Earth’s last remaining peoples who are the pure epitome of true sustainability, and then introduce them to capitalism and build a dependence upon the capitalist economic system under the guise of “local entrepreneurial spirit” is paternalism and exploitation at its best. Any venture that cannot sustain itself in a local economy, sustained by local resources, contributes to further annihilation of the planet, regardless of the sophisticated language/marketing that delivers nothing more than what we wish were true.

Runa founders Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie met in an entrepreneurship class at Brown University. Together, they put together a business plan that would “turn Ecuador’s cultural heritage into an income generating opportunity for farming families.” They launched the business in December of 2009.


Runa Corporation is a business built on an Amazonian tree leaf called guayusa, native in the Upper Amazon regions of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. Traditionally, indigenous families (Achuar) wake up together at dawn to drink guayusa. They sit around the communal fire drinking gourds full of guayusa until sunrise. During this time, the village elders teach the youth about ancestral myths, hunting techniques, social values, and about what it means to be “Runa” in the Indigenous cosmovision. The guayusa ritual continues to be a cornerstone of Kichwa culture, a practice that brings the family and community together around the simple experience of drinking tea. Community shamans, known as yachaks or rukus in Kichwa, will also play a traditional bamboo flute (known as kena) and a two-sided weasel-skin drum, and sing soft rhythmic songs during these early morning hours. The shamans also interpret dreams from the previous night, and make recommendations to guide the community and help them live in harmony with the rainforest. After drinking the first gourds of guayusa, children are often sent to go bathe in the river and receive its strength and cleansing for the day to come. [Source]

Every day, Runa pays three different indigenous farmers $35 each for fresh guayusa leaves to make guayusa tea products sold through their online store to the US and Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic region. Runa states that they have raised the income of 300 farmers by 25% each, whose family income averages $30-70 per month. Runa sales are expected to surpass $1 million for 2012. [August 27, 2012 | Source]

According to Runa, every day the corporation pays three different indigenous farmers $35 each. As they have compensated 300 farmers, let us assume the three different indigenous farmers are representatives of 3 co-operatives: 3 x $35 = $105 | $105 x 365 (days) = $38,325 | $38,325/$1,000,000 *100 = 3.83% of the revenue. $38,325 of a $1 million revenue stream (2012) represents a 3.83% of revenue “shared” with the famers without whose land and labour, harvest and generosity there would be no product at all. (Note that the 3.83% of revenue received from Runa has been divided up amongst the 300 farmers. This equals $127.75 for each farmer per year. This equals $10.65 per month per farmer – which verifies Runa’s statistic of increasing the average farmer’s annual income of $30-$70 per month by approximately 25% if one uses $30 as the benchmark.) [5]

Bear the farmers’ earnings (above) in mind when, in a nod to history continuing to repeat itself, Coca-Cola buys up the majority of Runa for a cool £100m or so in the not too distant future. Runa foundation advisor Yolanda Kakabadse, of WWF, just happens to also be a member of the Environmental Advisory Board of CocaCola.

“… we also receive about $500,000 from USAID, from the US government, the Andean Development bank, the German government, a couple other NGOs who were very impressed by our model.” [Source]

Runa has received grants totalling $500,000, from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (approximately $250,000) and Corporación Andina de Fomento (a Latin American development bank). Funds have also been given by the German government/GTZ. In November of 2011 the company closed a $1.6 million round of angel investments. In January of 2012 the founder sought $2 million in a Series A equity round. [Source]

One NGO that was “very impressed” by the Runa model was Fundación Natura. As a result, an alliance was formed between them to develop an “agroforestry” project to “domesticate” the guayusa plant – a crop which has never been technically managed.

 “Furthermore, we are moving along on a number of other fronts, including fleshing out our alliance with Fundación Natura (the largest conservation NGO in Ecuador) to develop our project to plant guayusa and other agroforestry trees in Ecuador….” — Founder Tyler Gage, May 6, 2009 [Emphasis added]


“Additionally, we are pioneering the sustainable cultivation of a crop that has never been technically managed, so it has taken lots of trial and error to refine our agroforestry model and planting techniques.” — Founder Tyler Gage, July 15, 2010 [Emphasis added]

Developing the Rainforests

Fundación Natura (Nature Foundation) is Ecuador’s first environmental NGO. Founded in 1978, Fundación Natura grew rapidly due to large USAID grants and money derived from debt-for-nature swaps engineered by WWF (Meyer 1993; Echavarria 2010). [Source] These swaps had an important effect: they contributed to shifting responsibility away from the government to private organizations by channelling funding via domestic (though foreign funded/controlled) NGOs rather than through the government agency in charge of managing protected areas. [Source: Globalization and Resistance: Transnational Dimensions of Social Movements, 2002] This strategy of foreign interests bypassing government is compelling considering the fact that USAID would like to see NGOs given legal recognition (further discussed in the final three paragraphs).

Fundación Natura is associated with the World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF, is a member of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), a member of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and a member of international environmental networks such as the Latin American Network of Forests (RLB), Conservation International (CI) and Climate Change Network. [Source]

When USAID, WWF et al are expanding/promoting a new “agroforestry” agenda, it means one thing – that this method serves to benefit the elites. Carbon offsets, biomass and biodiesel are just a few of the false solutions that hold promise for the agroforestry projects in developing countries. [6] In developed countries, such as Canada, the single enticement is the carbon market. [7]

 “The potential of using carbon offset credits from agroforestry projects for farmers in developing areas has become more prevalent in both Clean Development Mechanism and voluntary carbon markets.” — Carbon Credit Payment Options for Agroforestry Projects in Africa, 2011

The traditional Kichwa [8] farm in Ecuador is called a chakra. The chakra farming technique involves integrating food crops (or animals) into the trees of the forest. As an example, cacao trees are grown among other fruit trees and crops under the shade of a forest – simultaneously tending to the land for more than one purpose. Chakras have been farmed sustainably for centuries.

The term “agroforestry” was coined in the mid-1970s as part of a research study led by John Bene of Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

Agroforestry could be described as the West “modifying” / emulating the traditional chakra to accommodate their own worldview via a Euro-American lens. Agroforestry systems often involve clearing vital underbrush to plant new crops as well as the cutting of trees. Selected trees are then replanted to provide firewood, food, medicine, and other non-timber forest products (that will benefit the West) – such as Runa’s guayusa. We can also safely assume genetically engineered trees are part of many agroforestry projects. Indeed, the paper “Genetic Improvement of Agroforestry Trees” was presented at the 2014 IUFRO Forest Tree Breeding Conference in Prague, Czech Republic in August 2014. In 1991 it was noted that “the initial euphoria about agroforestry has died down…” but just two decades later with “climate wealth opportunities” abounding, the push for agroforestry is making a comeback.

“…the potential applications of biotechnology in agroforestry research are unlimited.” — The Literature of Forestry and Agroforesty, 1996

Agricultural schemes (with development programs/training provided by those in the West) are intended to “consolidate and replicate the production system of ancestral chakras, fish farming, sustainable tourism, safety and food sovereignty-oriented marketing.” [Source] But behind closed doors, it is without doubt the promise of the lucrative carbon market that has industry and the non-profit industrial complex salivating.

Not surprising, the agroforestry model is anything but a perfect reproduction of the forest in its natural state. A study by Matthias De Beenhouwer, Raf Aerts and Olivier Honnay discloses that when a natural forest is converted into an agroforest, the total species richness declines by eleven percent. For forest species, the differences were larger, with a decline of 35% (natural forest to agroforest). Faring worse are the ecosystem services* (water filtration, nutrient rich soil, and other services that the forest ecosystems naturally provide). Management intensification decreased provision of ecosystem services by a strong decline of 37%. (*Note that the research of quantitative carbon sequestration was not included in this study under ecosystem services).

“Forest species richness and total species richness were significantly lower in the more intensively managed than in the more natural land use categories. Response ratios showed that the decline in total species richness was higher when comparing agroforest with plantation (?46%), than when comparing forest with agroforest (?11%)…. Response ratios showed that management intensification decreased provision of ecosystem services with 37% when comparing forest with agroforest and with 27% when comparing agroforest with plantation. Our data suggest that species richness decline follows a concave yield function whereas ecosystem service decline follows a more convex yield function.”

The study is clear: anthropogenic disturbance jeopardizes the ability of tropical forests to sustain ecosystem services.

The loss of species, in tandem with the decline of species richness and ecosystem services in a world of accelerating ecological collapse must be considered critical losses. It is reckless to market agroforests as intelligent/progressive substitutes for rainforests in their natural state.

“Whereas the non-forest species show no significant decline, species confined to forests were the first species to be affected by management intensification, demonstrating that even in an agroforest matrix, natural forest is irreplaceable for their conservation.” (Gardner et al., 2009; Gibson et al., 2011; Muñoz et al., 2013)

However, the NPIC, working hand-in-hand with foreign corporations such as Runa, use the above study to argue that even though agroforests incur critical and significant losses, and there is no replacement for a rainforest in its natural state, agroforestry is less damaging than plantation/monoculture agriculture.

How kind of the empire, its banks and its tentacles (the non-profit industrial complex) to develop systems that are moderately less damaging than a full conversion to monoculture. Let us be clear: just as “less cancer” is still cancer, “less species loss” is still species loss, “less ecosystem damage” is still ecosystem damage. In less than one year during their first year of operations, Runa planted over 75,000 trees in more than 120 hectares of agroforesty plots.

“Runa provides direct market access, agroforestry training, and holistic development services to Amazonian farming families.” One must seriously question what the white Euro-American could possibly offer to the Amazonians in regard to holistic development and growing food in their forests.

To be clear, this leaf (the guayusa), rich in ethnic mystique, “packaged” with deep culture by the Indigenous people (to be branded/marketed to those in a commodity culture – devoid of meaning) IS the product. Yet, as sales increase (exponentially, which is the goal), the actual percentage of revenue to the farmers will decline.

USAID has “given” Runa a grant to reforest 1200 acres of degraded lands with guayusa. When one looks at this simple “gift” along with the dossiers of the advisors to Runa, there is little doubt that carbon markets and REDD – to be sought and implemented – are a goal behind the scenes in the boardrooms. There is also little doubt that Indigenous communities in many instances will not be made aware of the revenue stream that will take place under the guise of the “new economy.”

Of interest is Eliot Logan-Hines, listed as Co-Founder and Executive Director of Runa Foundation. Logan-Hines attended Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He went on to co-author Chapter 18 (REDD policy options: Including forests in an international climate change agreement) of the 2009 publication Forests and Carbon: A Synthesis of Science, Management, and Policy for Carbon Sequestration in Forests.

Of course the future Guayusa plantations will be made to sound brimming with biodiversity with a focus on environmental stewardship. In some instances, perhaps they will be. Both credibility and legitimacy are always essential elements for all such altruistic business ventures. And in many instances, where the growth is not dependent upon the actual and visible destruction of the forest (such as logging), the preservation of biodiversity costs the investors nothing while increasing their legitimacy.

One can argue that there must be increased farmer income, and with such “green” politically correct ventures as Runa’s, this can happen alongside the restoration of the Amazon. Yet, drunk on the idea of a “green economy,” there appears to be a collective amnesia in acknowledging that the sole reason the Amazon is being obliterated in the first place is due to the industrialized capitalist economy. We ignore Einstein’s common sense observation on what constitutes insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Capitalism dictates that whatever must be done to ensure green – as in dollars, not planet – must be done. It is essential that poverty (created by the industrialized capitalist system) be alleviated and eradicated throughout Latin America. Unfortunately, Western industrial capitalists believe this massive undertaking can only be realized within the confines of an industrialized capitalist system, which depends on exploitation of the World’s most vulnerable, essentially making this daunting task impossible.

True “philanthropy” would be an anonymous gift to communities to develop/create their own localized gift economies and co-operatives – entirely free of outside influence and “partnerships” – with absolutely nothing in return to the “philanthropist” nor his/her associated interests. This would be a true demonstration of sincerity in the long-awaited task “to break a long history of paternalism and exploitation that has negatively impacted these communities.” Of course, true autonomy for non-whites is of no interest to today’s “green” and “social” capitalists.

Adopting/stealing progressive language of social movements is nothing new for the elites. Note the word “participatory” (as in participatory democracy in socialist countries) below:

“It’s more fulfilling, more sustainable, more exciting, and more participatory,” said the founders in regards to the company operating a triple bottom line.

Note the rarely spoken fact that business trumps all social needs:

“Wain Collen, Education Director of Fundación Pachamama, emphasizes that ‘NGOs who aim to help indigenous communities most often end up causing more problems than they solve, ‘Our advisors and industry experts continue to remind us that above all, we need to run a successful business, regardless of how social it is. Without a strong, successful business we can’t generate any benefits for anyone.”

When asked about some challenges of running the “social enterprise” (formerly known as a corporation), the founders mentioned the process of acquiring “knowledge” as a big obstacle: “As university students we were accustomed to the ready availability of any and all knowledge any time all the time. However, in Ecuador concepts like ’email’ and ‘the Internet’ are still very, very new….”

Yet, if there is any silver lining to be found in this latest version of “white saviours empowering Ecuadorean farmers,” it is this: Runa received a $500,000 (USD) equity investment from the CreEcuador Fund – an initiative of the current Ecuador government. “The Build Ecuador Fund (CreEcuador) plans to cash out its investments in Runa in roughly 6 years, in order to use its earnings to make additional investments in sustainable businesses. However, rather than selling shares to a private investor, the fund’s vision is to sell shares to Runa employees and the farmers. [Source: Social Enterprise in Emerging Market Countries: No Free Ride, 2013] Yet whether farmers will be able to afford these shares remains to be seen.

[The source of information for Runa founders commentary is from the article The Path to Social Entrepreneurship With The Founders of Runa, August 27, 2012. It is critical to note that even the source of this “news” (“Social Enterprise Buzz”) is of North American origin.]



Surely whites “teaching” Indigenous populations how to engage in internet “knowledge” as identified and deemed necessary by Western interests (in this image above, note the obvious emphasis on Facebook “education” by an unidentified NGO) is just another example of forcing our suicidal economy, hyper-individualized/commodity culture, and “democratic” “values” on others (who up to that point were fortunate enough to be relatively free of them). As parents, we cannot deny an intense anxiety that questions the psychological impact, effects, conditioning and behavioural change resulting from the consumption/addiction of FaceBook and other social media upon our children. The anxiety weighs heavy, like a rock, as we simultaneously deny and justify our own participation. And yet we raise no objection to those most exploited, most vulnerable, being subjugated as corporate fodder and prey. We close our eyes to the sacrifice – the voracious system must be fed.

This is not to say that the protection of Indigenous rights in the Information Age and the right of Indigenous Peoples to access information and communication technology services and connectivity are not to be respected, Rather it is to challenge the fact that the dominant world view is deliberately constructed by Western ideology, which then is propagated via corporate mass-media echo chambers (internet, print, radio, television, film) – thereby framing, shaping and normalizing predetermined social and cultural concepts that constitute the status quo. Not only is the ingestion of controlled doctrine unhealthy, these ideologies/formal doctrines, conceptualized by the elites, serve to protect the interests of hegemony. [9] And although we like to convince ourselves that internet technology has been a massive success, as we stand on the precipice of planetary collapse, one could quite easily argue that this “success” is illusory, and perhaps the truth is in stark contrast to what we would like to believe in more ways than one. In the lecture “The Limits of the Web in an Age of Communicative Capitalism,” Jodi Dean makes the sound argument that the web has formed part of a profoundly depoliticizing shift in capitalism, which has enabled the marriage of neoliberalism to the democratic values of participation and the reduction of politics to the registration of opinions and the transmission of feelings.

Moreover, upon any formerly isolated person’s introduction to the web, having no prior scope or alternate influence outside of the non-profit trainee/volunteer from the West, how can one not be overwhelmed and ultimately absorbed by the elites’ dominant cultural hegemony? Aside from paternalism and colonialism, this also constitutes a rabid academic imperialism.

“It is an electronic mass media driven phenomena [sic] which over time will not only expand the frontiers of the multi-national communication firms but will far exceed even the vast reach of the once powerful and hegemonic British Empire. eColonialism outlines the hegemony of the USA as global American media and communication conglomerates seek out and view the global economy as their market to dominate.” — Tom McPhail, eColonialism Theory: Hegemony and the Role of American Media

Video: Academic Imperialism – Claude Alvares (Running time: 12:40)


On March 22, 2012 Pachamama highlighted the Alliance’s latest “success” in introducing/providing Apple iPads to build communications in the Achuar communities citing an “unprecedented opportunity for coordinated communications throughout the logistically isolated, far-flung communities with films that are about Achuar, by Achuar and in the Achuar language.” iPad-type devices and hand-held mobile phones play a vital role in furthering eColonialism. [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South, A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]


Image: Pachamama website: “iPads Offer a Link for Far-flung Communities” – Westernized education, religion, business values and technology, built upon Western ideologies, globalization and capitalism, continue to penetrate and expand throughout the Achuar communities.

Success Story Two: Fundación Pachamama Projects

“Excluding the role missionaries have had on Achuar culture may serve to satisfy the ecotourists’ imperialist nostalgia by convincing them that the Achuar have what the West has lost: an isolated, pristine ‘indigenous’ culture that has not been tainted by the negative influences of industrialization.” Source: “Take a Picture with a Real Indian”: (Self-) Representation, Ecotourism, and Indigeneity in Amazonia, 2011

Pachamama Alliance highlights CEKSA (Complejo Ecoturistico Kapawi S.A.) and Aerotsentsak as two examples of sustainable development, stating “With the partnership of Fundación Pachamama, the Achuar nationality formed and continues to own and manage two very successful companies… [B]oth companies demonstrate the potential for generating income and leadership capacities to support the autonomous development of the Achuar and other nationalities.”

CEKSA is the corporation that manages the award-winning Kapawi Ecolodge.

Aerotsentsak is the only Achuar-owned airline flying to Achuar territory.

It is critical to question the wisdom (and perhaps also the sincerity) of creating an industry that is completely dependent on fossil fuels – and the capitalist system itself (a system dependent upon infinite growth where violence upon Earth’s most vulnerable peoples and life forms is inherently built into the system) – and then calling it sustainable. Not to mention, it’s an industry that rather than catering to the needs of a localized economy and her people, is dependent upon the 1% percent of the world who created/create 50% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2007, the partnership between Makusar, Fundación Pachamama, TrekEcuador, and Mentefactura presented a successful project profile to the Interamerican Development Bank (IADB).) In May 2010 the Tiinkias Ecotourism Center (TEC) received its first visitors group: a 16-member tour from The Pachamama Alliance, in what could be considered a scouting trip to an eco camp that was still missing several components and finishing touches. In January 2011 the TEC started welcoming periodic groups, and received about 100 visitors, which more than doubled in 2012 and is slowly and steadily growing. The TEC also started combining its adventures with visits to Kapawi Ecolodge.

“But the benefits of tourism have a corollary, and Mr. Tsamarin [Luis Vargas) lamented them: the loss of communal values and a new market mentality, alcohol abuse, litter, men cutting off their traditional ponytails. The Achuar now want to expand a controlled form of tourism farther into their territory, and have built a camp in the forest near the remote community of Tiinkias to offer visitors a more rustic experience than Kapawi. I would be the first tourist there.” [Source]

There is no doubt that such “success stories” are modern day fairy tales for the progressive left. Real life utopias where the 1%, including the liberal left, can immerse themselves in the lair of absolute opulence: “a haven of ease, good taste, and understated luxury” – both literally and metaphorically. [Source] [1998: “Kapawi is targeting the high-end market, with an all-inclusive price of nearly $300 per person, per day, cost that includes transportation from Quito.”]

What exactly underlies the Pachamama statement that “both companies demonstrate the potential for generating income and leadership capacities to support the autonomous development of the Achuar and other nationalities.”

Here it is critical to recognize that the geographic areas deemed necessary for development by Pachamama and corporate interests are populated by Indigenous people who literally live off (and on) the land. These are Earth’s final remaining lands that have been untouched by industrialized civilization, and are still, in many instances, absolutely abundant where climate change has not yet induced drought and devastation. Lynne Twist, co-founder of Pachamama, confirms this in her book The Soul of Money: “Twist lived for a time with the Achuar people, who for thousands of years have lived a rich life in the rainforest with no need for actual money.” [Soul of Money Book Review]

Yet, vital critique regarding the underlying ethnocentric and capitalist standards for initiating, managing and evaluating such “sustainable” developments appears to be of little to no interest – to anyone. Like the warm golden sun, beautiful and intoxicating as it shines upon our skin, collectively we bask in the lies that allow us to continue insanity without reflection – uninterrupted. The embraced ignorance, like the warmth of the sun, is luxurious.

Nature Tourism Gold Rush

 “The most important factor to remember as a conservation organization is that when you start approaching the tourist market, business is business or you are out.” — Bezaury-Cree, 1991

Responsible travel, sustainable tourism, ecotourism, nature-based tourism, adventure travel, experiential tourism, voluntourism, educational travel, etc. etc. etc. The rhetoric may change (and does), but the facts do not. Consider that in 1950, international tourists numbered approximately 25 million. Further consider that on December 13, 2012 the UN celebrated international tourism surpassing the one billion mark. This asinine celebration followed the failure of yet another United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP18), making the “celebration” of burning carbon for leisure all the more delusional as the Earth continues to pass planetary tipping points. While celebrating tourism increasing from 25 million to over 1 billion in a mere six decades (a clear example of exponential growth), just one glance at the narcissistic Facebook page created to further promote travel demonstrates the predominantly white Euro-American majority – the very ones creating 50% of all GHG emissions. [Another example of ecotourism’s exponential growth is the recognized statistic that tourism to reserves and national parks in Costa Rica grew from 63,500 to 273,400 foreign tourists, exceeding a quadrupling in a mere six years, between 1985 and 1991.]

In the 1980s, with the growing interest in ecotourism worldwide, Galapagos tourism professionals and tourism companies began to look to the mainland for new tourism destinations. Ecuador had been an established nature tourism destination for over two decades as a result of the early popularity of the Galapagos Islands. (2005) [Source]

According to a 1991 USAID study, at that time, the number of foreign tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands was 50,000-60,000. Approximately 24,000 tourists traveled to the Oriente region (Ecuador’s El Oriente occupies the lowlands of the Amazon basin) for an average of 5 days (in 1990), while foreign tourists traveling to the Amazon region were found to be under 3,000. The Oriente stats represented an increase exceeding 50% in a mere 3 years (between 1987 and 1990), with over half of all Oriente tour operators having started their operations within those last five years (1985-1990). In addition, in 1991, a 40% increase in hotel and lodge capacity in the Oriente took place and continued to expand. The rapid development became known as the “Nature Tourism Gold Rush.” With fewer than 3,000 foreign tourists visiting the Amazon region, this would have been considered an incredible untapped market, ripe to be exploited. [Source]

By the early 1990s, ecotourism had exploded, with hundreds of ecotourism ventures being developed within the planet’s most pristine and isolated areas. Dozens of these “ambitious experiments”* were financed by USAID, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Investors from Europe lined up to partake. An explosion in investment in CBE (community-based ecotourism) projects was well underway with 161 “donor projects” taking place in Latin America, Africa and Asia. By 1996, Conservation Corporation (South Africa) had designated $60 million to the development of 60-100 luxury lodges in East and Southern Africa. This trend coincided with the emergence of neoliberalism, the corporate greens, and the free-market “environmentalists,” with obfuscation, co-optation and steadfast denial ruling ever since. [*”You wonder whether the fate of the Achuar – the indigenous group that owns the lodge and the land that surrounds it – will be different, whether an ambitious experiment in alternative development could allow the tribe to make its peace with the modern world while preserving a way of life so different from – and alien to – Western sensibilities.” Source]

Of the 40 CBE projects in the Ecuadorian Amazon, more than half of them were owned and managed by foundations “representing” local communities. [Community-Based Ecotourism in Ecuador and Its Contribution to the Alleviation of Poverty, 1990]

Dialogue about the inevitable consequences of neoliberal and capitalist ideologies that are being woven strategically into the fabric of Indigenous communities is, almost without exception, deliberately evaded. Rather, the Indigenous communities are presented to the world as the latest beneficiaries of Western development. The West is viewed as the generous white saviour, which by default, assigns the Indigenous peoples (again) to the role of passive “objects” to be saved. To avoid the label of modern-day, full-blown colonists, foundations (via NGOs) and private institutions created the ultimate altruistic image by offering engagement and even full partnerships to selected communities. This would lend much legitimacy to those who deserved none.

Not of interest is the fact that evaluations of management and “success” would/will be observed through, almost exclusively, the eyes of the Euro-American. Zoning, consulting, advertising, and other constructs of the Western world will be deemed as the “correct” path to success, with “success” defined by Western standards (i.e., profit and Western constructs/ideologies). What is lost in this unabashed bravado, buried just beneath the beloved rhetoric of autonomy, diversity and democracy, is that no foreign outsider possesses the intimate knowledge of both land and culture that is imperative to any so-called success in the competitive field of ecotourism.

It is a rare instance when the capitalist encounters something he must possess, but which cannot be purchased. Although the white saviours could now (and still do) bask in the newly appointed cloth of generosity, the reality was (and remains) that the knowledge required to exploit these pristine lands for tourism (i.e., for profit) could not be obtained without the generosity of the Indigenous Peoples of those lands. By framing the foreigners as the saviours, private enterprise would capture rewards of access to land and forests, resources, knowledge and (essentially) free labour – a free-market capitalist’s paradise. NGOs, par excellence, fulfilled their highly financed role of expanding neoliberalism and Western ideologies.

Neoliberalism, Colonialism and Imperialism and in the Caribbean

The multi-million dollar ecotourism projects (“social experiments”) normalized the hierarchies established under colonialism by obscuring the capitalist agenda behind the rhetoric of “community-based tourism” projects. Concealed was the role of economic processes that shape and mold the boundaries between Nature, the market, corporate power and state. Facilitated by the non-profit industrial complex was the task of privatization and marketing of state-society relations behind the concept of the (neoliberal) conservation mode of production. All roads lead to the commodification of Nature, culture, spirituality, and even fantasy. Even symbolism must be considered symbolic capital.

As an example of the imperial and colonial mindset in regards to states of the Caribbean, in a 2006 USAID document (USAID Sustainable Tourism Training), it is noted that “modernization of the public sector is therefore necessary and has been influenced by the growth of the middle class, the diversification of the private sector, and pressure from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” This document explains that “the continued impetus for public sector modernization requires public education and bi-partisan support for reforms. One major aspect of public sector modernization in the Caribbean concerns the need for transfer of several activities, in part or in full, from the public sector to the private sector. The move towards heavier reliance on the private sector as the engine for change and development …. The transfer of appropriate activities from the public sector to the private sector and NGO’s will release governmental financial and managerial resources…. Caribbean governments are a long way from satisfactorily fulfilling all of these functions.” [Emphasis added.]

The same USAID document goes one step further, suggesting that NGOs should be given legal recognition “as an important element in the development of sustainable community development as associated with ecotourism.” The fact that elite interests would like to see NGOs granted legal recognition (this means protection) reveals how critical, and understood, NGO involvement actually is for the further expansion of neoliberalism and US foreign policy.





[1] Update January 9, 2015: The Rights of Nature FB group now has 1,205 members. The Pachamama Alliance FB page now has 112,460 “likes.” The Rights of Nature Twitter account now has a total of 126 tweets and 118 followers.

[2] Update January 9, 2015: The Rights of Nature Twitter account now follows 41 individuals/orgs.

[3] More recently an alternate address has been added: Rights of Mother Earth, PO Box 88, 6317 Oberwil b. Zug,
Switzerland ” [Source]

[4] Prior to this position Fink was a Project Coordinator and Grants Writer for Ayuda Directa USA (July 2006 – Sept 2009) where she “worked directly with indigenous communities of the Ecuadorian Highlands in identifying local needs and then advocating for them in project descriptions, grant proposals, and community service projects.”

[5] Update, May 13, 2014: “Runa currently works with over 2,000 indigenous farmers in the region and has generated over $125,000 in income for them.” [Source]

[6] “The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UNFCCC creates new oppor­tunities for developing-country farmers to benefit from their contributions to carbon sequestration and renewable energy. Inter­est in agroforestry has increased since a report by the Inter-Centre Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2001) indicated that changes in land use from annual crops to agro­forestry is one of the most promising ap­proaches for sequestering carbon through CDM-approved afforestation. Although the carbon sequestration value of agroforestry has received greater attention to date, there is also evidence that agroforestry has good potential to generate renewable energy in the form of biomass and biodiesel that could qualify for the CDM if it can be shown to replace non-renewable sources (Venema and Cisse 2004). ” – World Agroforestry Into the Future, 2006

[7] “Once an offset system is in place, agricultural producers could implement carbon sequestration projects and sell their reduction credits to large industrial emitters. Emitters would be willing to buy credits from the agriculture sector when the price of those credits is lower than the cost of implementing measures to reduce their own emissions.” – Carbon sequestration potential of agroforestry practices in the L’Ormière River watershed in Quebec, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, November 2008

[8] The largest of the many indigenous populations who have resided in the Amazon for centuries.

[9] “Moreover, because the working class own no mass communications media, they are overwhelmed by the bourgeoisie’s cultural hegemony, and, because they have no intellectuals of their own, they adopt the imposed bourgeois worldview (Weltanschauung), which thus constitutes a false consciousness about their own economic exploitation by the strata of the upper classes; with that false awareness the working class lose their social and political, economic and cultural independence as a social class.” [Source]








Palawan: Stop Blaming Indigenous Peoples’ Farming Practices (Kaingin) for Deforestation

Look Instead to Boom Crops, Oil Palm Plantations and Mining

Intercontinental Cry

April 28, 2015

by Coalition against Land Grabbing and United Tribes of Palawan


Batak ancestral land, sustainably managed through traditional kaingin practices

Recent years have seen an exponential increase in land deals across the Philippines with the conversion of large expanses of land with crops mainly intended for export. Meanwhile, traditional upland farming practices implemented through swidden (‘slash-and-burn’) technology–known locally as kaingin or more appropriately uma–are demonized and antagonized through restrictive legislation. This is despite the fact that the latter fosters local self-sufficiency and plays a fundamental role in the livelihoods and worldviews of Indigenous societies.

Palawan, known as the “Philippine last Frontier”, in spite of its unique recognition as a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve, has not been spared from massive investments in extractive resources and industrial agriculture, especially oil palm and rubber. And yet, Indigenous Peoples and upland dwellers continue to be blamed for causing massive deforestation and ecological disaster.

Not surprisingly, the recent front cover of a well known Philippine Newspaper (The Daily Inquirer, May 9 issue) holds a headline accompanied by a powerful image that easily conflates all upland peoples as criminal agriculturalists.

“Images are powerful and can be damaging,” says Wolfram Dressler, a Research Fellow from the University of Melbourne (Australia), who has carried out extensive anthropological research in Palawan. “They can direct blame without nuance and context. The masses (and government) absorb such images to reinforce centuries-old narratives demonizing kaingin—a term that many farmers avoid because of its pejorative nature,” Dressler adds.

The Inquirer‘s article was triggered by an aerial survey carried out by the Center for Sustainability (CS), a nonprofit organization that supposedly works for sustainable development in Palawan. The group spotted key locations from the air, previously covered by forest, which have now been cleared as a result of external forces such as mining, oil palm plantation development and shifting agriculture. According to the group, in addition to clearing by ‘poor farmers’, forest burning in the south has been linked to the proliferation of palm oil and rubber plantations, and the main target of ‘slash-and-burn’ activities is the clearing of primary forests for development.

Ironically, for carrying out its photo survey, CS conservationists borrowed the private plane of multimillionaire Jose Alvarez, the present Governor of Palawan, who is a well-known supporter of large-scale agro-industry development (especially rubber which accelerates deforestation and deprives more traditional indigenous communities of their resource-base). He is a member of the same family that logged Northern Palawan’s forest in the eighties. He also chairs the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD). In principle, this government body is mandated to ensure the sustainable development of the whole province through the implementation of a Strategic Environmental Plan or SEP (R.A. Republic Act 7611). Under the SEP, no development project should take place in Palawan unless the proponents secure a so-called SEP clearance. In reality, massive oil palm expansion and related forest clearing takes place without the requisite SEP clearance.


Massive forest clearing for oil palm plantations in Sandoval, Municipality of Bataraza

Marivic Bero, Secretary General of the Coalition against Land Grabbing (CALG), comments,

“Here in Palawan, we have the best laws in place to protect both the environment and the rights of our Indigenous Peoples. However, the limits of law lie within the implementation process, wherein rules and regulations are conditioned by the inability of concerned government agencies and their officials to stand by their own mandates”.

She further argues that the government prohibition to ban kaingin represents a blatant violation of the major tenets of the ‘Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997’ (Republic Act no. 8371) which recognizes, protects and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communalities. “This is a very powerful law… and should not be undermined by ‘minor’ laws and municipal ordinances banning shifting cultivation”, says Bero.

While Palawan’s environment is being ravaged–by agribusiness (mainly oil palm and rubber), mining enterprises and various forms of land grabbing–state agencies such as PCSD (as well as some Palawan NGOs) still view Indigenous kaingin as ‘illegitimate agriculture’ and as the primary cause of deforestation. “Turning a blind eye to the plunder of forests by industrial logging, mining activities, agribusiness, and livestock production, state agencies continue to label and classify kaingin farmers as primitive, backward and unproductive who waste valuable forest resources, particularly timber”, Dressler points out. “In this way, government agencies have unleashed anti-kaingin campaigns that justified the resettling of kaingineros and adoption of permanent forms of agriculture that are not suited for the uplands. In turn, kaingin is coercively regulated with fines or jail time, while indigenous upland farmers are frequently harassed by forest guards.”

In 1994, a ban against shifting cultivation (bawal sa kaingin) was enforced by former Mayor Edward Hagedorn through the so-called ‘bantay gubat’: an implementing arm composed of poorly trained forest guards. Sadly, when this happened, no murmur of dissent was raised by Palawan NGOs, in spite of the severe hardship experienced by hundreds of Indigenous communities because of the ban. The latter, however, was strongly opposed by Survival International (SI). An international campaign by SI resulted in a partial lifting of the ban. In the end, the former Mayor decided to allow Batak as well as Tagbanua tribes continue their traditional kaingin practices with a ‘controlled burning’ in place of the previous ‘zero burning’ policy. However, as the years passed by, the ban on kaingin was renewed with gusto. It is now being implemented under the current administration.

“Ever since the ban on shifting cultivation was implemented in PPC Municipality, Survival has been lobbying for the government to exempt Indigenous communities, such as the Batak, from the ban”, explains Sophie Grig, Senior Campaigner at Survival International.

“We are disappointed that in spite of international pressure, the local government still continues to implement a law which is creating food-shortage and malnutrition amongst the previously self-sufficient tribes of Northern Palawan”. In spite of its failure, the ‘ban on kaingin’ initially implemented in Puerto Princesa Municipality, is now being emulated by others. Recently, the Government of Brooke’s Point has proposed the implementation of similar restrictions in its own municipality and, if the ban will push through, hundreds of upland Pala’wan communities will be threatened with food insecurity and malnourishment.

The CS aerial survey added more fuel to the fire, through the production of dramatic photos that are presented without due context. These images prompted Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez to declare war on kaingin by proposing the creation of a “forest conservation task force that will undertake a 10-year plan to arrest the problem of slash-and-burn farming”.

“We are extremely worried about these new developments,” says John Mart Salunday, an Indigenous Tagbanua who is presiding NATRIPAL, the largest Indigenous federation in Palawan.

“There are several indigenous communities’ conserved areas (ICCAs) in our province where traditional kaingin has been sustainably practiced from [generation to generation]. Unfortunately, the ‘anti-kaingin policy’ and the ‘bantay gubat’ implementing it, make no distinction between unsustainable ‘kaingin’ done by Filipino migrants and the traditional ‘kaingin’ still practiced by many Indigenous Peoples.”

“Upland rice is such a strong part of our identify and our people have selected more than 80 varieties of rice over hundreds of years, not to mention the diversity of other crops: cassava, ubi, sweet potato, banana and many others. If all this is taken away from us, our tribes will have no future.”


A group of indigenous Pala’wan planting upland rice in the Municipality of Brooke’s Point.
The richness and complexity of indigenous upland farming systems in Palawan has not gone unnoticed to both local and foreign researchers such as Roy Cadelina, James Eder, Melanie McDermott, Nicole Revel, Charles Macdonald, Wolfram Dressler and Dario Novellino who have carried out in-depth studies on indigenous farming practices and their relevance in local cosmologies, worldviews, identities and ethnobiological knowledge.

“If one compares the wisdom of Indigenous upland farmers to the ignorance of most foresters, politicians and conservation biologists in the same field of knowledge, the gap is striking,” observes Dario Novellino, an anthropologist from the Centre for Biocultural Diversity at the University of Kent (UK), who has lived in Palawan for almost 30 years. Novellino maintains that the government ban on kaingin in Puerto Princesa, rather than protecting the environment, has placed insurmountable pressure on the forest and altered the sustainability of the indigenous farming system.

“I have seen forest guards (bantay gubat) advising Indigenous farmers to cut only very small trees for their ‘uma’ (upland fields) and to cultivate the same plots of land continuously… These indications are based on a very poor understanding of forest ecology. If you clear areas where only small trees are found, it means that you are going to plant land that has not yet regenerated its soil nutrients. When you cultivate these fragile soils, over and over, you cause them to become infertile. Ultimately, only cogun (Imperata cylindrica) will thrive in these areas… the forest will never grow back.”

Well-known scholars have argued that traditionally practiced kaingin (or integral kaingin) involves the intermittent clearing of small patches of forest for subsistence food crop production, followed by longer periods of fallow in which forest re-growth restores productivity to the land.

Dressler explains,

“Kaingin can yield complex assemblages of forest and other vegetation in unique mosaics comprised of open canopy tree associations to mature closed-canopy forest systems best understood at the landscape scale. As a complex system of agriculture and forestry, integrating production from cultivated fields and diverse secondary forests, kaingin farming may yield a wide range of ecosystem services and resources integral to livelihoods and forest environments in the mountains of Palawan.”


IPs victim of the ban against ‘kaingin’. This child is forced to eat small quantities of purchased rice since his tribe can no longer plant it.

However, when such a complex system is altered–for instance, through the implementation of punitive policies–the repercussions on forest ecology and people’s sustenance becomes dramatic. According to Novellino, when Indigenous upland communities are not allowed to procure carbohydrates (rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, etc.) necessary for physical survival, through their farming practices, they are forced to increase pressure on commercially valuable NTFPs (non-timber forest products) such as rattan, almaciga and honey which they must in turn sell to purchase rice. This can result in the swift depletion of non-timber forest resources and place even more pressure on the forest itself. Indeed, this is exactly what happened because of the implementation of the ‘zero burning policy’ by former Mayor Edward Hagedorn.

One can only speculate why the Government of Palawan is so quick to raise its voice against kaingin while remaining silent about the huge expanses of forest and fertile land that the agro-industry receives. We know the official explanation: oil palms are only planted on ‘idle’ and ‘abandoned’ land to enhance the province’s economy while increasing job opportunities and transforming unused areas into productive plantations. But are such lands truly ‘idle’ and ‘abandoned’? A recent study by ALDAW (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) indicates that the answer is ‘No’. According to the study, most of the so-called ‘idle’ and ‘unproductive’ lands include areas that have been used since time immemorial by Indigenous societies.

“The removal of natural vegetation and of previous agricultural improvements by oil palm plantations is leading to the total collapse of traditional livelihoods, thus fostering communities’ impoverishment and increasing malnutrition”, says Novellino. He sustains the Government has failed to consider that most of the so-called ‘idle’ and ‘underdeveloped’ lands include areas that are being utilized by rural and Indigenous populations for different purposes (gathering of NTFPs and medicinal plants, kaingin, etc.). He believes that a direct relationship exists between oil palm/cash crop expansion, the impoverishment of people’s diets, the progressive deterioration of traditional livelihoods and the interruption of cultural transmissions related to particular aspects of local knowledge.

Dressler argues,

“In contrast to commercially oriented monocultures, mixed swidden systems benefit Palawan’s Indigenous Peoples by offering a variety of timber and non-timber harvests for subsistence and commercial sales to diversify production and spread risks, thus avoiding the ecological and economic shocks associated with relying on one product too heavily.”

Apparently, this is not perceived by the Government as a strong enough reason to switch its development agenda towards more sustainable forms of agriculture. Instead, local food security continues to be sacrificed in the name of oil palm and rubber development while anti-kaingin policies are strongly implemented with no distinction between traditional Indigenous farming practices and migrants’ unsustainable slash-and-burning.

Welly Mande, a Tagbanua of CALG, comments,

“If the government is serious about ensuring the welfare of its constituents it should enhance the capability of upland farmers to produce enough food, rather than fostering cash crop[s] such as [oil palm] and rubber that are not for local consumption but for export.

What we would need instead are lower risk models of agricultural development that give a greater share of benefits to the poor while improving and fostering the production of endemic crops such as coconuts and rice.”

For the sake of fairness, we should now ask ourselves whether Indigenous shifting cultivation practices throughout Palawan are sustainable (based on long fallow periods). At present, they are not sustainable; nevertheless, the blame for forest destruction should not be placed on upland dwellers. One need only look at the historical process that led to unsustainable kaingin practices such as the dramatic reduction of Indigenous ancestral domains due to massive migration of landless farmers, encroachment by mining and plantation companies, insurgency and militarization just to mention few.

It is a rather nice irony that official propaganda against kaingin–coupled by NGOs’ market-based conservation approaches–continues to provide additional incentives for international institutions to finance more of the same (e.g. reforestation of indigenous fallow fields which are wrongly classified as ‘degraded areas’). Often, such reforestation programs deprive local communities of areas that are necessary for field rotation, thus jeopardizing the sustainability of their farming system.

It will require detailed and multidisciplinary studies to determine where, and to what extent, the conditions for optimal long fallows in Palawan are still present and how many Indigenous communities are still practicing long rotation cycles. In turn, the law should move away from coercion and demonization of kaingin towards more culturally-sensitive approaches that provide incentives to Indigenous cultivators for increasing and fostering production of local genetic varieties of rice and other traditional cultivars. In places where swidden practices have become irreversibly unsustainable, specific strategies should be developed in close coordination with local communities, rather than imposing top-down technical solutions and enforcing legal persecution.

In other words, upland farming strategies should be evaluated through an integrated and interactive long-term process of research and development in close partnership with local upland farmers. This process should identify Indigenous best farming practices, taking care to understand them and the contexts in which they are used. Meanwhile, in the short term, it would wise if journalists and their ‘zealous’ conservationist allies refrain from publishing images that uncritically depict upland dwellers as ‘environmental criminals’, putting the blame of deforestation on those who suffers from it most.