“We should then build a society that is capable of co-existing in a just manner, in a dignified manner, and in a way that protects life.” – Berta Cáceres, Indigenous Rights Activist (1971-2016)
Having recently joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 2021 Earth Day, we wanted to dedicate this edition of the DACoP newsletter to highlighting the connections between environmental justice and Dynamic Accountability, in terms of how voice, collaboration and inclusion are all essential for achieving far-reaching and lasting change on this pressing issue.
There’s no denying that our Earth and our home is no longer able to sustain the strain that we are putting on it. There’s an imminent need for us all to act on climate change and environmental issues if we are to protect our home for ourselves and generations to come. As civil society, in designing programmes that address climate change and in evaluating the environmental sustainability of programmes, we must ensure that these actions are just, equitable and intersectional.
Both the causes and effects of the climate crisis are inherently linked to social justice (or lack thereof). Climate breakdown is driven primarily by richer nations, and the fact that wealthier people within national populations consume way more natural resources than their fair share. Its effects also exacerbate existing economic inequalities, hitting women, people of colour, and refugees the hardest. Effective action on climate justice must therefore be intersectional – feminist, anti-racist, class conscious, and centre human rights.
For us, Dynamic Accountability plays a huge role in ensuring equity and justice when it comes to tackling climate related issues. We believe that a people-centred approach, that emphasises relationship building, listening and continuous dialogue – is crucial for organisations working to halt, mitigate or reverse climate degradation and its corresponding socio-economic consequences. In practice, this includes listening to and involving local, indigenious and tribal communities who possess a wealth of intergenerational knowledge about their lands. It means actively building coalitions and horizontal partnerships to share knowledge, collaborating for joint decisions with communities who are affected by environmental changes and by the actions taken to adapt to those changes. Our focus should be on leaving no one behind in our work as we strive towards a more sustainable future.
To better demonstrate how Dynamic Accountability can be incorporated into action on climate and the environment, we’ve rounded up a few great examples of initiatives within the sector that really centre engaging people to produce just and equitable solutions.
The Commons Movement
The commons refers to resources that are cultural or natural, that are held in common by everyone, for example – the atmosphere, air, water, land and Earth. It could also refer to resources that groups manage for collective benefit, and are not owned privately. As Greenpeace puts it – ‘Commoning is driven by collaboration and cooperation, basic values being rediscovered in a time of crisis. It supports the construction of social and environmental value and enhances global solidarity, through building new systems for bottom-up, locally-based provisioning and care using methods that are peer-governed, fair, inclusive, and participatory. And the value created in commons systems helps empower people to reclaim and redistribute power through Peer to Peer (People to People) networks.’
It is less an organisation or a project, and more of a way of thinking about how we organise ourselves. Commoning therefore shifts the power towards the collective, enabling all stakeholders to collaboratively find solutions, maintaining shared resources to become more sustainable and leaving no one behind.
At the end of their article Greenpeace also included ways that people can participate and take action – and so we recommend checking it out! Moreover, a number of businesses and partnerships are working to prioritise and protect the commons, for example the Global Commons Alliance, who is in the process of designing an accountability framework.
The Transition Network
Starting in the UK, but having now spread now to towns, villages, cities, Universities, schools in over 50 countries, the Transition Network is a movement of communities who have come together to reimagine and rebuild the world around them. The approach focuses on crowd-sourcing solutions and building a culture grounded in collaboration and support for one another. Examples from places using this “bottom-up” approach include urban food production schemes, community energy projects, and local currencies. A strong emphasis is also placed on telling powerful stories about what is learned and can be achieved through collective local action, to close the loop with the wider community as well as inspire new groups to take action.
Earth Rights International
Earth Rights International is an organisation that “challenges the injustices of the legal, economic and political systems that favor wealthy and powerful institutions at the expense of local communities and sensitive ecosystems around the world”. Through litigation, advocacy and capacity training, they support environmental activists, communities, indigenous leaders and everyday citizens to hold powerful entities accountable. Their approach pivots on engaging and amplifying the voices of people who are affected by climate injustice, supporting them to be included in development decisions that will impact their lives and environment, and ensuring just compensations for the damage done.
As part of their work, they supported the Collegiate Body of Guardians of the Atrato, who are a coalition of riverbank communities, to advocate for the environmental personhood of, and to become the legal representation for the Atrato River. This community-led action is a great example of actions born out of collaboration, shared knowledge and local expertise. Lastly, they also put out a report titled “Fighting Back: A Global Strategy for Earth Rights Defenders” – which showcases their strategy to support communities in standing up and raising their voices against climate injustices.
Berta Caceres, whose words open this piece, was a Lenca woman, indigenous rights activist and general coordinator of Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Indígenas Populares – COPINH (Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organisations). She was assassinated in her work to protect her community’s land and resources. As we celebrate April as the month for environmental actions, we cannot forget activists like Berta who lost their lives in the pursuit of environmental and social justice.
Does your organisation incorporate dynamic accountability into environmental actions? If not, we hope that the examples above were useful for you to reflect within your organisations and guide your actions in the future! Don’t forget to spread the word, and let us know if you have any questions via the comment box below!
Join our Dynamic Accountability Community of Practice to learn and share resources with like-minded practitioners! We also have a newsletter if you would prefer to receive monthly updates – subscribe here!