A message from the Director
It has been a time of tremendous growth for AIDA. We’re taking major strides in long-term cases, strengthening our team, and sharpening our strategic focus as we head toward the organization's twenty-fifth anniversary. Gladys Martínez de Lemos, our executive director, reflects on the year's major accomplishments.
AIDA by the numbers, 2021-2022
Advancing a key precedent for a healthy environment
For 74-year-old Rosa Amaro, testifying before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights was a great relief.
It released the pain and helplessness built up from decades of toxic contamination in La Oroya—the hometown she had to abandon—and from the harassment unleashed by her work to protect the health of her family and community.
The prolonged and irresponsible operation of a metal smelter in the Peruvian city, and the government’s corresponding neglect, led to La Oroya being named one of the most contaminated cities in the world.
After 20 years, Rosa and two other women—representing the community of affected people—were able to take their struggle for justice before the international court.
With pride and a high sense of responsibility, AIDA's legal and scientific team, involved with the case since 1998, presented solid evidence to the court to demonstrate that the Peruvian government is responsible for violating the rights to life, health, personal integrity, childhood and a healthy environment of La Oroya's inhabitants.
"The story of La Oroya is also the story of AIDA and our ongoing efforts to highlight the link between a healthy environment and other human rights," says Liliana Ávila, senior attorney.
The court's eventual decision represents a historic opportunity to reestablish the rights of residents, as well as to set a key precedent for the protection of a healthy environment and effective oversight of corporate activities.
"At AIDA we’ve always sought to transcend boundaries by using the law and science strategically, and by selecting cases like La Oroya, which can leave a mark and lead to the structural changes the region needs."
Our struggle is not for ourselves; it is for an entire population.
Strengthening climate action in the courts
In Ecuador, a group of nine girls from the Amazon won their lawsuit against the government for authorizing oil companies to burn gas in their community.
A court determined that the government violated their right to a healthy environment, and mandated a series of measures to repair damages done to those affected by the gas flares—a source of greenhouse gas emissions— that have long poisoned the air and water there and violated Ecuador’s climate mitigation commitments.
This is one of a growing number of climate litigation cases in Latin America and the Caribbean in which activists, organizations and environmental defenders are holding governments and corporations accountable.
"Climate litigation allows us to move forward when states are unwilling or unable to do so at the pace necessary to guarantee climate commitments and to ensure the protection of our ecosystems and communities," explained Javier Dávalos, coordinator of the Climate Program.
With a goal of strengthening the movement, and realizing the power litigation holds to promote change, AIDA created the Climate Litigation Platform for Latin America and the Caribbean.
On the Platform, more than 50 legal cases from across the region that use climate arguments are identified and categorized in a friendly and intuitive manner. It’s designed to be a tool to facilitate the exchange of strategies, experiences and arguments that strengthen the climate fight.
The cases are researched and updated by a network of 21 rapporteurs from 12 countries of the Americas.
The launch of this Platform is AIDA’s contribution to the region and to the growing global community that uses the Courts in favor of the planet.
Climate litigation has gradually become a critical tool to complement and accelerate our work in defense of the environment, territory and the rights of peoples and communities.
Supporting the resilience of the ocean, a major climate ally
The ocean is a key ally in tackling the climate crisis, and also one of its main victims.
In addition to absorbing more than 90 percent of the planet's excess heat, the ocean has absorbed 40 percent of the carbon dioxide—one of the major causes of global warming—emitted over the past 200 years.
This work has cost it dearly. By absorbing and interacting with pollutants, the ocean suffers acidification—a phenomenon that reduces the calcium needed by corals and shells of various species—and loss of oxygen, essential for marine life.
These impacts also affect the food supply and communities that depend on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods.
Supporting ocean resilience is therefore crucial to securing the future of the planet.
"The close link between ocean and climate must be at the forefront of national, regional and international public policy discussions on the climate crisis, biodiversity, fisheries, aquaculture and other ocean-related activities," says María José Gonzalez-Bernat, co-coordinator of AIDA's Ecosystems Program.
In seeking to protect the ocean, this year we contributed to a global breakthrough that is crucial to ending harmful fisheries subsidies, financial contributions from public entities that promote overfishing.
We helped achieve a binding agreement at the World Trade Organization to curb relevant harmful subsidies, part of a joint effort with governments, organizations, academia and the private sector.
These include incentives for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, overfishing of overfished stocks, and unregulated fishing on the high seas (marine areas beyond national jurisdiction).
"This will reduce threats to the ocean, promote the resilience of ecosystems and fish stocks, and reduce emissions from the fishing industry."
The agreement will contribute to the sustainability of fishery resources and help ensure the livelihoods of fishing communities.
Empowering the voice of the climate justice movement
To confront the climate crisis, we must do more than prevent and prepare for its impacts, and address the vast damages already caused.
At the same time, we also face the challenge of countering the discourses of people who deny its very existence, promote false solutions and exacerbate the root causes of the crisis.
For those of us working for climate justice, this represents a monumental undertaking. To face it, we’ve come to understand the power in collective action. When we as a movement unite our voices, and uplift each other’s messages, we can reach more people and start to change the conversation.
In this context, we formed Presentes, a Latin American alliance that brings together organizations, communities and environmental advocates seeking to change the narrative around the climate crisis and strengthen the voice of the movement for a just energy transition in Latin America.
Claudia Velarde, co-coordinator of AIDA's Ecosystems Program, explains that a just transition "consists not only of changing the current energy matrix—leaving aside fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal—but also of restructuring energy generation and distribution as part of a democratic and pluralistic process that respects human rights and the rights of nature.”
A just transition means leaving no one behind in the process.
This is the call we’re making from the Presentes platforms, aimed at expanding our audience to those in the persuadable center of our societies who have not yet taken a position.
Our content is based on our legal and scientific work, and that of our allies—presented in a clear, simple and honest way. We’re using innovative digital tools to encourage the exchange of knowledge and ideas, to build capacity among allies, and to inspire our audiences to confront the unknown with urgency and hope.
"We are empowering the voice of the continent to move forward together toward a more just world."
When we talk about energy transition, the challenge is to do so with respect for human rights and the rights of nature, taking care of all forms of life.
This year, our team has grown and diversified in line with the increasingly multidisciplinary focus of our work in Latin America.
The members of our legal and scientific team were born in Latin America and work in the continent, as do most of the people on our team. We are present in ten countries in South America, Central America, North America and the Caribbean.