Environmental defenders from Latin America at EU Parliament stir up sustainable due diligence debate

On Wednesday the 12th of October, the EU-LAT Network together with over one hundred European policymakers, members of civil society active in the fight for environmental justice and human rights, environmental defenders and journalists gathered in the European Parliament for the avant-premiere of the documentary film The Illusion of Abundance, followed by a panel discussion on the Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD). The Directive is set to pass through the Parliament in the coming months.

Erika Gonzalez Ramirez

In their film, Erika Gonzalez Ramirez & Matthieu Lietaert introduce us to Bertha Cáceres, Carolina de Moura and Maxima Acuña, three women from Latin America defending their communities from transnational corporations – the modern day conquistadors – who aim to reduce their land and livelihood to a pile of profit-feeding raw materials. The filmmakers wanted to make a road-movie that travels today’s Latin American landscapes of extractivism. To illustrate the current reality, they decided to focus on the resistance of these women, all showing the consequences of globalisation and what “development” means in their region.

In 2021, 200 defenders of land, forests and water resources were killed across the world. According to the latest report by the organisation Global Witness, Latin America accounts for 75% of these killings. “This film was made to honour the memory of these environmental land defenders who lost their lives to protect nature” concluded the directors.

Carolina, a well-known environmental activist, and international lawyer Danilo Chammas, both from Brazil, spoke at the Parliament event, which represents the first step on their impact journey to 8 countries along with the film’s directors. They come from the region of Minas Gerais where in 2019 a waste dam from the mining giant VALE collapsed. On 19th September, hearings began in Münich for the trial of German company Tüv Süd that had delivered a stability certificate a few months before the dam collapse.

“The crisis of civilisation has reached a point very close to no return. We no longer have time for false solutions where corporations continue to profit while killing us,” lamented Carolina de Moura during her speech at the event.

Danilo Chammas and Carolina de Moura

Danilo Chammas and Carolina de Moura

Danilo Chammas added: “Being a human rights lawyer for more than 20 years I have experienced a number of cases of violations by corporations that result in shameful impunity. We are at the beginning of a value chain that involves many European companies. It is high time that the Europeans take their responsibility and create strong legislation to prevent such harm and provide effective opportunities for access to justice for victims from the Global South before European Courts.”

The film provides a real point of departure for considerations about how the CSDDD could effectively minimise the negative impacts of businesses on workers, communities and the environment, protect human and environmental rights defenders and advance corporate accountability and justice.

“Transnational corporations, including those based in Europe, take advantage of legal gaps, weak rules and insufficient international cooperation to profit from abuses in the Global South. The window into the lives of these three women and their communities shows how far corporations are willing to go and how badly EU due diligence legislation is needed,” said Maria Arena MEP (S&D).

MEP Marie Arena (S&D) & Matthieu Lietaert

The EU-LAT Network coproduced the film, together with twenty other civil society organisations concerned about the issue of due diligence in European supply chains, and supported the organisation of the avant-premiere in Brussels in cooperation with CIDSE, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Protection International (PI), International Land Coalition (ILC), OXFAM EU, CARE, 11.11.11 and the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ).

The world premiere of the film will take place on the 22nd October at the Cologne Film Festival, the first of several European festivals that will show The Illusion of Abundance. The directors and environmental defenders will then embark on a one-month impact journey, taking the film to 7 other EU countries, including several national parliaments, as well as the 8th round of negotiations of the binding treaty on business and human rights at the UN in Geneva.


This event was made possible through the support of AFD.