Distinguished guest, Esteemed Jury, Participants in the 1st APT, both virtually and in person, Media representatives (local and international), Comrades from FOEA and FOEI, Ladies and gentlemen.

It is our unique pleasure to welcome you to this APT, the first of its kind, but certainly, not the last. Indeed, we are grateful for your participation.

Globally, there is documented evidence that Commercial Agricultural expansion is one of the major drivers of deforestation and biodiversity loss. This is a fact.

It is also a fact that increasing expansion in plantations is likely to result in accelerating environmental degradation in the global context. Surprisingly little attention has been given to the actual impacts of global expansions in palm plantations, Eucalyptus plantations, rubber and other agro-commodities. In fact, corporate lobbyists have made every effort to greenwash these impacts by taking advantage of initiatives such REDD+, RSPO other certification schemes.

There exist cases where such investment exacerbates existing conflicts and create new ones leading to the killing of environmental and human right defenders. Research shows that, about 200 environmental and human right defender killings were reported in 2016 alone, and 207 were reported in 2017. The majority of these incidents were directly linked to contestations over landgrabbing and agro-industrial expansion projects.

We also know that, African governments have agreed to certification schemes alongside other regional policy frameworks, like the ACFTA, which are growth strategies based on aggressive exploitation of Africa’s natural resources. This, clearly, reflects high political endorsements of resource extraction in Africa as a development trajectory despite the evidence that this path will inevitably undermine local community livelihoods and basic human rights across the continent.

Today, there is documented evidence that Aggressive landgrabbing and deforestation is already causing a new wave of oppression and colonialization, with devastating impacts on local communities, especially women across African countries. We know this to be uniquely true.

Therefore, the unique purpose of our coming together in this first APT is to address this regional problem. For the next three days, we will be hearing more about the stark evidence and cases human right abuses, landgrabbing and deforestation led by plantation expansionists across the African Continent.

The intention and the expectation is that this tribunal will serve as a space to give visibility to human rights violations, to investigate and expose human rights abuses connected to profit-driven landgrabbing and deforestation in Africa.

We expect this tribunal to evolve into a regional MODEL to expose the social, gender and environmental impacts of industrial agribusinesses on African communities

We also expect this tribunal to become a regional Template to visibilise at the regional level, the struggles of local communities who are directly in the path of industrial agribusinesses in Africa, to present and testify to cases of human rights violations led by industrial plantation corporations in Africa, and to strengthen national and regional advocacy efforts of CSOs/communities against industrial plantations in Africa.

Distinguished guest, Esteemed Jury, Comrades,

In the context of plantation expansions in Africa, FOEA believes that there is a lot of work to be done. And we believe today we are laying the foundations for that work to begin.

FOEA believes that it’s time to solidify our Comradery and speak with one voice for human rights, gender rights and vulnerable communities in Africa. We believe the APT is setting up template for such collective action.

It is our hope , that this tribunal will soon become an accepted MODEL for regional advocacy, a regional template providing a voice to the voiceless, a platform for speaking truth to power in the times when corporate power and corporate impunity are on the rise in Africa. 

With that I will say, we will like to call on all CSOs, national and regional allies as well as CBOs to seize the opportunity made available through this APT to sow the seeds of change, to expose the corporate capture of our Governments. Let us seize this opportunity to, promote national and regional commitment to the UN Binding Treaty,

Let us seize this opportunity, to support the fight for biodiversity conservation, gender rights, water rights, for basic human rights, and to promote sustainable alternatives over destructive big-business models in Africa.

Once again, we are grateful to have you. We are grateful to our distinguished Panel of Jurists, who have agreed to sit on this APT. We are grateful to our community members.  And we look forward to a very fruitful APT.

Thank you very much!