In the wake of the visit by Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to Washington DC, IPS’ Foreign Policy In Focus will host a lunchtime briefing with 2 of Liberia’s premier civil society leaders to discuss issues of corporate responsibility and worker rights in the extractive industries – Agriculture (biofuels and rubber) oil, and mining. The briefing will also spotlight issues of land rights and Green Advocates recent report documenting 2 million acres of Liberia’s land expropriated (“grabbed”) by foreign investors in the last 2 years alone.
Alfred Lahai Brownell is the Lead Campaigner and Founder of the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Liberia (Green Advocates), based in Monrovia. Green Advocates, under Alfred Brownell leadership, is leading other human rights and environmental groups calling for a halt to slave style and child labor at Bridgestone/Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia. His research work with workers on the plantation led to the filing of an Alien Tort Claim Complaint against Bridgestone/firestone in the United States. He was also successful in delaying the expansion of a multinational rubber plantation owned by SOLFINCO/Liberia Agriculture Company until the company could dialogue with local communities and meet Environmental Impact Assessment requirements. Green Advocates founded three national networks; Publish What You Pay Liberia Coalition, the Civil Society Budget Watch Network, and the Alliance for Rural Democracy for convening rights groups and local community based organizations to press for transparency and accountability in the management of Liberia’s economy and its natural resources.
Edwin Cisco is General Secretary of the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL). FAWUL represents the thousands of Liberian rubber workers who earn $3 on a good day, but whose hard labor creates the profits that Bridgestone Firestone uses to sponsor marquee events like Super Bowl half time shows and inaugural races like the Baltimore Grand Prix. Edwin was himself a child laborer in Firestone’s plantation and has now committed himself to fighting for the rights of workers in the rubber industry and beyond.