By Gayoon Baek

(17 September 2012, Gangjeong) The issue of Jeju naval base construction was one of the most important agendas during the World Conservation Congress (WCC). Only 7 km away from the WCC venue, environment has been seriously destroyed by the naval base construction. Unfortunately, the Motion 181: Protection of the People, Nature, Culture and Heritage of Gangjeong Village was not passed at the WCC Assembly despite full support from many Korean and foreign NGOs. We are deeply concerned by unjustifiable interruption of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the IUCN Korean National Committee during the whole process of discussing and voting the Motion 181.

Open New Stage of International Solidarity Movement of No Jeju Naval Base Campaign!

During the WCC, a number of new information was revealed on the Jeju naval base construction. We found that the change of sea route turning angle to 30° interrupts four preservation zones including the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the Natural Memorial Site. The National Assembly disclosed that the standard for designing Jeju naval base was based on the U.S. Naval Forces’ request on the entry of aircraft carrier. Independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which was conducted together with the Greenpeace East Asia proved that soft coral beds which need to be preserved are existing around the naval base construction site.

Also, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression‍ (Frank La Rue), Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of associations (Maina Kia), and Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders (Margaret Sekaggya) sent an allegation letter to the South Korean government on alleged acts of harassment, intimidation and ill-treatment of peaceful protesters against naval base construction in Gangjeong village. However, the South Korean government has not yet sent their response or explanation to the Special Rapporteurs for more than 100 days while the Government is requested to submit their response within 60 days.

Since these facts were widely covered by national and international media, we raised awareness of the problems of Jeju naval base construction nationally and internationally.

Unjustifiable Intervention by the South Korean Government and the IUCN Secretariat

First, exhibition booth applied by Gangjeong Village Association to the WCC was rejected without any reasonable grounds. Local people’s right to environment is one of IUCN’s focus issues. Moreover, Gangjeong village, where the Jeju naval base is now constructed, is a buffer zone of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and major habitats of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins which is on the IUCN Red List. In this regards, we are appalled by the fact that the exhibition booth application by Gangjeong Village Association was rejected while we have serious concerns on the environmental destruction by the Jeju naval base construction

Moreover, South Korean government denied entry of foreign human rights defenders and environmental activists who have been critical towards Jeju naval base construction without any reasonable explanation. Even though these people who were denied entry were registered WCC participants, the IUCN Secretariat did not take any firm stand against the Government but only explaining the Government’s formal response on their website.

In this regards, we have sent an open letter to Mme. Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN Director-General, request for a meeting to discuss rejection of exhibition booth application, environmental destruction caused by the naval base construction and denial entry of foreign WCC participants. However, the IUCN notified us that she cannot have a meeting with us due to her busy schedule. Instead of having a constructive dialogue with villagers, the IUCN Secretariat disturbed passage of the Motion 181 by making comments that are supportive to Korean government during major meetings. The IUCN was criticized by participants and members of the IUCN due to their biased position towards the Motion 181 which called for ending Jeju naval base construction and conducting independent environmental impact assessment.

Also, the IUCN Secretariat did not even notify the Center for Humans and Nature (CHN), a main sponsor of the Motion 181, and changed time and scope of the contact group meeting. On 14 September 2012, on the day and time that 2nd contact group was scheduled, the Korean National Committee urgently brought an agenda to the Assembly to drop the motion, rather than sincerely focusing on the contact group. Since the IUCN members voted against the Korean National Committee’s suggestion to drop the motion, the 3rd contact group was scheduled on the last day morning. However, both sides could not reach an agreement and the IUCN introduced the motion that was revised by the Motion Working Group, whose urging point was different from the original draft. We were surprised that the IUCN posted only a revised version of the Motion Working Group on their website. As a result, the original draft of the motion and suggested revisions during the contact group did not even have a chance to be presented during the Assembly.

The IUCN Secretariat was also biased while moderating the session. While giving two chances to speak to the Korean government, the Chair only gave one chance to sponsor groups and did not even give a chance to speak to Gangjeong Village Association President. The President of the IUCN, Mr. Ashok Khosla, made comments on the Motion 181 sponsor groups, implying the motion cannot be justified since most sponsor groups were not Korean. In response to this, Gangjeong Village Association, Jeju Pan-Island Committee for Stop of Military Base and for Realization of Peace Island (26 Jeju based NGOs), Korea Environment NGO Network (36 environmental NGOs), National Network of Korean Civil Society for Opposing to the Naval Base in Jeju Island (125 Korean civil society organizations) sent an open letter supporting the Motion 181 which was drafted by CHN.

Result of the WCC Motion 181: Protection of the People, Nature, Culture and Heritage of Gangjeong Village

Despite unjustifiable intervention and pressure by the Korean government and the IUCN Secretariat, the Motion 181 gained a lot of support from IUCN members. NGO members voted For 269(52%)/Against 120(23%)/Abstain 128(25%) while Government members voted For 20(13.5%)/Against 68(46%)/Abstain 60(40.5%).

At the WCC Assembly, it is required to get more than 51% of votes from both NGO and Government members to pass the resolution. According to this rule, the Motion did not pass because it did not get enough votes from Government members. However, almost 40% of Government members abstained the Motion which is similar number to those who were against the motion. In total, combining both NGO and Government members’ vote, members who voted For are 289 while Against are 188 only.

Meanwhile, the IUCN Secretariat’s biased and undemocratic decision making process and its dependency on hosting country and sponsor companies were heavily criticized during the WCC. The IUCN member organizations strongly criticised the Secretariat as it did not actively deal with Jeju naval base construction issue and limited speaking opportunities during the WCC. This is a serious violation of principles and values of the WCC and the IUCN. This behaviour will continue to bring internal and external controversies on the standing principle of the IUCN.

The South Korean government expected to use the WCC as a platform to unilaterally publish government’s ‘green growth’ policy. Instead, their anti-environmental policy was published as they used undemocratic, anti-human rights, and oppressive methods to suppress voices against Jeju naval base construction. During the contact group where both sides suppose to discuss environmental and scientific impact of Jeju naval base construction, the Government addressed issues of ‘national security’ and prevented rational discussion. It created doubts on their Environmental Impact Assessment which they proudly show off as an independent and scientific assessment.

Future Steps

We will consolidate our solidarity and cooperation by using international networks that we established from this WCC.

We will continue to raise our concerns on newly discovered negative environmental impact of Jeju naval base construction and the Government’s anti-environmental and anti-human rights strategies at the WCC during the Parliamentary Inspection of the Administration, deliberation on the 2013 budget and the Presidential Election period.

We sincerely appreciate to 35 sponsor groups of the Motion, especially Center for Humans and Nature, around 150 civil society organizations in Korea, members of environmental groups and 111 organisations around the world who endorsed our statements, and peace keepers in Gangjeong village.

For further questions or media inquiries, please contact:
Ms. Gayoon Baek , Coordinator, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, +82 (0)2 723-4250 or peace@pspd.org

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