Right to Say No
What is the Right to say ‘No’?
We understand The Right to Say No (RTSN) as the inalienable and collective right of a community to say No to extractive projects on the territories / lands they are living within. The Right to Say No can be pursued in many different ways and should therefore be understood as a pluralistic and heterogenous concept. The pursuit of this right can never be limited to what existing international, national or local normative bodies guarantee for these communities.
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Why the RTSN?
We recognise that there are specific groups of people that are disproportionately affected by extractivism, like women, indigenous, working class, peasant and racialized communities. The Right to Say No does always include the right to decide about one’s body, especially for these communities or groups of people who historically have had the autonomy over their bodies taken away. We and our bodies are not separate but part of the natural surroundings we have the right to decide on.
The Right To Say No includes the right for the communities to decide: to say yes to their chosen way of living and relation with their surroundings. To live and create realities and futures not based on extractivism, but on reciprocal, interdependent and caring relationships of communities with the territory/land they are living within.
For this yes, many ways of living exist and can be found, like Buen Vivir in the Latin American context or Degrowth in Europe. We believe communities have been imagining and actively embodying alternative relations in many forms for generations, without the need to name or categorize them. We believe that there is not one, but many ways to live in harmony within the web of life, many of which are futures we are only just beginning to build and dream into existence.
We understand the Right to Say No as a continuous right. The Right to Say No is not limited in time. The Right to Say No can be pursued a preventive level (eg. bans or moratoria on mining, no go zones), at an early level (eg. popular referendum banning mining before activities start), during activities (eg. halting a mine through legal procedures or occupations, procedures because of human rights violations caused by extractive projects) and post activities (eg. demands for reparations for the community and remediation and restoration of the land and life).
The RTSN and CATAPA
In Catapa our focus is to defend the Right to Say NO of communities against metal mining projects on the lands/territories they are living and depending on. However our understanding of the Right to Say No as stated above is not confined to mining alone. Our fight is only a part in a bigger struggle to defend communities affected by all types of extractivism. We are part of a pluriverse of movements and initiatives aimed at bringing down and transforming power systems based on the oppression of lands and people. On a systemic level we defend the Right to Say No to a destructive economic system which harms people, land and nature for profit. We believe other worlds are possible and within our reach if we join collective forces to realize them.
This concept was inspired by the thoughts of, and exchanges with, our partners in Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, as well as lessons learned from activists all over the globe participating in the Yes to Life No to Mining network. We build further on the contributions and developments of the concept of the Right To Say No by the feminist collective Womin in South Africa as well as on the sessions and the Final Declaration of the Thematic Social Forum on Mining & The Extractivist Economy held in 2018.
1 These normative bodies are historically written and made for and by groups in power and protect the systems of profit that to survive will oppress and destruct the targeted communities and their lands. We therefore do not limit the Right to Say No to existing laws or treaties.
2 Here, the meaning of body is the human body. Inside of the systems of colonial capitalism and patriarchy certain groups: women, racialized people, indigenous people, working class, people with disabilities,… have had their bodily autonomy taken away. The people in power in these systems have made these groups their property and/or have limited their bodily autonomy, including their reproductive rights.