Tag Archives: Harvard in Ibera

Letter to President Faust from Department of San Miguel

Corrientes Capital, December 5, 2013

Dear Harvard University President Drew Faust:

We write to you on behalf of the communities affected by your plantations in the Department of San Miguel.

We want to point out that it has been almost two months since the Oakland Institute and the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition released a report documenting the impacts that your companies generate in our communities.

At that same time, a group of students who are in solidarity with our struggle delivered to you a letter with three main points:

  • The request to stop expanding your plantations until you have completed an environmental and social impact study. This study should be cumulative, cooperative and inclusive of damages that have already been generated.

  • That timber plantations be moved immediately to a minimum distance of 2000 meters from our communities.

  • That you comply with all legally required employment practices for your workers in Corrientes.

But instead of siting down to discuss our demands and find a solution to this conflict, your companies have resorted to intimidation and scare tactics.

Mrs. Drew Faust, we have no idea how you resolve conflicts in the United States. But here, we don’t want your managers to seek us out, one by one, and pressure us in an attempt to make us abandon our struggle. We will not accept the recurrence of mysterious situations, such as being followed on the streets and seeing your company’s vehicles crash into our neighbor’s trucks.

What we want is for you to start an open dialogue with everyone who signed the letter you received almost two months ago.

We are only workers, farmers, citizens, students, and common folk, but we do not eat wood. We are not fools. Your people have met with the the Provincial Government to determine how to deal with this conflict, and there are pictures out in the open to prove it.

If there is no dialogue about how to implement our requests, we will make you personally responsible for any situation where our lands are involved and our physical or moral integrity is in jeopardy. You have been made aware of our situation. It depends on you to bring forth dialogue and disarm the conflict. We are a peaceful people, but we will not be stepped on.

We hope to hear back from you soon.

Residents of the Department of San Miguel, Corrientes Province of Argentina

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Press Release: 39 Civil Society Leaders Condemn Harvard University Land Investment Practices

Re-posted from the Croatan Institute~~FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Civil Society Leaders Condemn Harvard University Land Investment Practices:

Open letter to Harvard president demands transparency and responsible investment practices

 Cambridge, MA – April 24th, 2014 – In a letter addressed to Harvard University President Drew Faust, 39 civil society organization leaders express concern about Harvard’s large-scale investments in farmland, plantation forests, and other natural resources across the developing world.

Harvard University’s $32 billion endowment is managed by Harvard Management Company, which has come under criticism for unsustainable management of investments made through wholly-owned, opaque shell companies. Earlier this year, a manager at a Harvard-owned Romanian timber company was arrested for accepting over $1 million in bribes to acquire timberland. Harvard-owned companies have been accused of unsustainable plantation forestry in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, facing lawsuits for destroying native forest and community protests from local farmers’ associations.

“The impact of Harvard’s endowment extends far beyond the gates of Harvard Yard, into communities and ecosystems around the world where the university has secretively acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of land,” noted Joshua Humphreys, president and senior fellow at Croatan Institute.  “With this letter,” he continued, “civil society leaders from across five continents are demanding much greater transparency and accountability for Harvard’s aggressive investments in farmland, forests and natural resources.”

“As leaders of civil society organizations,” said Dan Apfel, Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, “we are calling upon Harvard, the largest educational endowment in the world, to be a leader in providing a positive model for sustainable and responsible investing in land and across all of their assets.”

The letter states, “Given the lack of transparency of Harvard’s endowment and Harvard Management Company’s deliberate strategy of investing directly in emerging markets using these kinds of surreptitious tactics, we are concerned that these incidents constitute merely the tip of the iceberg.”

Blake McGhghy, a first-year Harvard student in the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, commented on the letter: “As students who benefit directly from Harvard’s endowment, we demand that our education not be funded by exploitation or environmental degradation. This show of solidarity from civil society groups legitimizes our concerns. It is time that Harvard respond with transparency, accountability, and responsible investment.”

Harvard University has invested over $3 billion of its endowment in direct natural resource holdings, including dairies in New Zealand, timber plantations in Argentina, farmland in sub-Saharan Africa, industrial agriculture in the Brazilian cerrado, and vineyards in California.

Two weeks ago, Harvard became the first university endowment in the United States to sign the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment. According to these leaders it is essential that these recent developments are translated into more sustainable and responsible practices in the communities and ecosystems directly impacted by your land investments.

The full text of the letter can be seen here or downloaded as a PDF here.

For more information, contact Josh Humphreys at josh@croataninstitute.org or (910) 292-9590, or Dan Apfel at Dan@endowmentethics.org or (718) 673-8669.

Rally for Justice in Iberá: Media Coverage

Check out the story  by Kristina Lorch in The Crimson this morning:

Students Rally Against Harvard’s Management of Timber Plantations in Argentina

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition held a rally Friday afternoon on the steps of Widener Library and Massachusetts Hall to protest the University’s management of timber plantations it owns in Argentina. The rally comes after much debate over the plantations, including allegations of mismanagement in the fall and the announcement of the recertification of the plantations last week.

Throughout the afternoon, students and community members chanted, marched, and held signs, which read “Harvard be transparent,” “Faust: no more land grabs,” and “We’re yelling timber, you better move.”

After several members of the Harvard community, including the Undergraduate Council President and a Harvard alumnus working on the City Council, spoke to the protesters gathered in front of Widener, the group marched to Massachusetts Hall, which houses the University’s central administration and President Drew G. Faust’s office. A delegation from the group entered Massachusetts Hall with a petition containing 1,150 signatures, formally asking Faust to change the University’s management of its plantations.

UC president Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15 spoke at the rally, voicing his support for the coalition’s efforts. The UC will be hosting a forum on responsible investment with Obregon and Spataro on Tuesday.

“It is unfortunate, it’s sad, and it’s embarrassing that Harvard is choosing to fund these efforts by damaging a community,” Mayopoulos said.

Cambridge City Council Member and Harvard Kennedy School graduate Leland Cheung also spoke at the rally.

“I’m proud to be a Harvard grad, but there’s so much that is making me ashamed,” Cheung said, citing both the campaign for divestment and the recent unionization movement of DoubleTree hotel employees.

“It’s not enough to try to educate students to go out and change the world when Harvard is going out and damaging the world,” he added.

UPDATED: Also, see the story in Open Media Boston, published on April 19:

Speaking through a translator, Spataro told the demonstrators “we’ve been suffering for years seeing the destruction of the wetlands in our community … we decided to bring the voice of the people who are suffering to the place where the decisions get made, and let them know what effect those decisions have on us.”

Also speaking through a translator, Adrian Obregon told the demonstrators, “a few years ago we tried to get reparations from Harvard for the damage they’ve done on their plantations, and we weren’t able to get anything from them.”

He explained that his own government is only listening to corporations like Harvard, and not the people, saying “they’re not listening to us in our own country.”

Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung spoke in support of the RIH campaign, saying “I’m a Harvard grad, and I’m proud to be a Harvard grad, but there’s so much that’s happening that makes me ashamed.” He says he’s speaking “too often” at similar rallies, including at the Doubletree hotel owned by the university “where workers are not being given a fair process.”

According to Cheung, “it’s not enough to try and educate students to go out and change the world when … Harvard’s actions are in complete contradiction to what they’re teaching all of us to go out and do; the hypocrisy at Harvard has to stop.”

Ed Childs, the chief steward at UNITE HERE’s union local 26 for Harvard’s dining hall workers also spoke in support of the rally, saying “we feel your struggle is our struggle.”

Calling them “two other plantations,” Childs drew attention to the similarities between the situation faced by the Argentinian communities, and workers at the Doubletree hotel and the Harvard Law School during their unionization campaigns, both of which he claims included having to face union busters hired by the university.

Join us tomorrow for a Progressive Seder at Harvard Hillel

the progressive jewish alliance
& responsible investment @ harvard
invite you to a
 
progressive passover seder
tues. april 15 | 7:30p | Harvard Hillel, Beren Hall
looking for a queer-friendly egalitarian seder 
for the second night of passover?
unsure what any of that means, 
but want to eat & learn with progressive jews?
want to combine jewish ritual with dialogue about pressing 
issues like transnational activism & responsible investment?
UNDERGRADUATES: SIGN UP HERE
OTHERS: email sandrakorn [at] college.

Tonight: Welcome Reception in HKS Faculty Dining Room

Adrian and Emilio have arrived in Cambridge, MA from Corrientes! Join us as we welcome them to the United States and launch the SHAME Tour and Week of Action.
 
We’ll have a Welcome Reception for Adrian & Emilio, tonight from 8-10pm, in the Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Dining Room. The Faculty Dining Room is off the HKS student cafeteria — enter the Littauer Building and follow signs! Refreshments will be served.
 
For more information on the SHAME tour, please visit https://responsibleharvard.com/shame-tour/.
Also click here for the week’s schedule of events.

Media Advisory: SHAME Tour of Harvard Next Week

MEDIA ADVISORY: SHAME TOUR OF HARVARD

Two organizers from Corrientes, Argentina will visit Cambridge, Mass.

Cambridge, MA—On Saturday, April 5, two organizers from the communities most affected by Harvard’s timber plantations will arrive in Cambridge, Massachusetts for an 11-day tour and week of action sponsored by the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition.

In spring 2013, RI@H launched its responsible ownership campaign, demanding that Harvard take responsibility for the ethical practices of the companies it owns fully as part of its endowment.

After learning of ecological, land rights, and labor rights violations in Corrientes, Argentina near the plantations of Harvard-owned companies EVASA and Las Misiones, RI@H published an investigative report and mini-documentary, delivered letters to Harvard administrators, and held demonstrations on campus.

Community organizations in Argentina want Harvard to
1) stop expanding plantations within their communities,
2) remove plantations within 2,000 meters of their homes, and
3) comply with all legally required employment standards.
Although Harvard has responded to both students and Argentinian organizers, Harvard’s timber plantations have not yet complied with these demands.

With the support of Food and Water Watch, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, XminusY, and the Oakland Institute, as well as over 70 individual donors, RI@H has invited Emilio Spataro, an organizer working with local farmers in Corrientes, and Adrian Obregon, a leader in the local small producers association and a liaison to the larger Argentine campesino movement, to come to Harvard’s campus from April 5 – 16 for the SHAME tour (Stop Harvard’s Argentine Mismanagement and Exploitation).

Over the course of the week, the two delegates from Corrientes will speak to student groups, Harvard administrators, and student leaders about their experiences living under the shadow of Harvard’s plantations.

Spataro and Obregon have a scheduled meeting with Harvard administrators including Jameela Pedicini, Vice-President for Sustainability for Harvard Management Company; Lars Madsen, Office of the President of Harvard University; and Katherine Murtagh, Director of Compliance for Harvard Management Company.

The week of action will also include the following public events:

Wednesday April 9, 7–9PM:  “From Harvard Yard to the Ibera Wetlands” (CUNY Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue Room C-203).

Thursday April 10, 8:30–11:00 AM: “A Conversation about Transnational Movement Building with Organizers from the Campaign to Save the Ibera Wetland’s in Corrientes Argentina” (New York City, location TBA)

Friday April 11, 2–3PM: “Rally for Justice in Iberá” (Convening on the steps of Widener Library, Harvard Yard)

Tuesday April 15, 4–5PM: Harvard College Undergraduate Council “Forum for Responsible Investment” (Harvard Yard, Room TBA)

 

Save the date: Rally at 2PM on April 11th

*Save the date* 
For seven years, Harvard-owned plantations in Corrientes, Argentina have been
 increasingly jeopardizing Emilio and Adrian’s communities and way of life
squeezing out profits in the name of Harvard students’ benefit – OUR benefit. 
 
Join Responsible Investment at Harvard
 for an epic RALLY on FRIDAY, APRIL 11th at 2PM
 to honor Emilio and Adrian’s visit to Cambridge and hear their account firsthand. 
 
Harvard needs to hear the message from us LOUD AND CLEAR: 
end the abuses. 
ONE Harvard brand, ONE Harvard community, 
ONE set of standards. 
 
Inline image 1
 
Will you join us to on April 11th as we unite across the 4000 miles between Corrientes and Harvard Yard to demand an end to the injustice? 
 

Announcing the SHAME tour of Harvard

SHAME stands for Stop Harvard’s Argentine Mismanagement & Exploitation (clever, right?) but it’s also how Harvard administrators are going to feel when confronted by the stories of those who are most affected by their irresponsible investments.

Last semester, we sent letters, signed petitions, and demonstrated outside in the rain and cold. We even published an investigative report and produced a mini-documentary. But Harvard President Drew Faust has refused to enact responsible ownership policies, ignoring the requests of people who suffer every day from Harvard-owned plantations.

We don’t think she can ignore community leaders who travel 4,884 miles to defend their way of life. It’s one thing to read about Harvard’s out-of-control companies halfway around the world, but it’s another thing to hear about them from the people who suffer the consequences.

We’ve estimated that it will cost $4,000 for visa fees and international airfare, and we want to buy tickets by February 19th. Please help donate now so we can bring Harvard’s neighbors in Argentina to Harvard Yard this spring!