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Earth Rights Institute presents at the 2006 ‘Boro Day’ Observance

Earth Rights Institute
Co-Director Alanna Hartzok
Main Office
PO Office 328
Scotland, PA 17254
Ph: 1 717 264-0957
Fax: 1 717 264-5036
Co-Director Annie Goeke
West Coast Office
PO Box 5404
Santa Monica, CA 90409 USA
Phone: 310-881-7265
Cell: 310-403-6693

Co-Director, Annie Goeke with Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Nigeria P. Ebebi
News Advisory

Earth Rights Institute presents at the 2006 ‘Boro Day’ Observance and 8th Annual Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas ‘Service & Devotion’ Award Ceremony

Saturday, May 20th 2006 at the Sheraton, Newark International Airport, Newark, New Jersey

Theme: The Niger Delta Question: The Imperative for Peace & Justice

Present at this event was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Nigeria – P Ebebi and other dignitaries of the Ijaw Nation coming from Nigeria, Japan, Europe and the USA.

Earth Rights Institute was the first ever US based NGO to present at their annual meeting. Annie Goeke, co-Director of Earth Rights Institute did the presentation explaining our role in the Niger Delta region.

The other panelists were:
Dr. Victor Erekosima, Living God Community Development Corporation, Maryland; Dr. Olufemi Vaugh, Associate Dean of Graduate School, SUNY, Stony Brook, New York. Moderator was Dr. Tonyo Poweigha

Besides the above seminar, there was a 2006 INAA “Service & Devotion” Award Ceremony and a Dinner/Social with Ijaw Cultural dance program.

Francis Udisi and his family also attended the event. This event was an excellent opportunity for Earth Rights Institute to meet the new Deputy Governor P Ebebi and propose further collaboration with the people from the Niger Delta region.

Jeffrey Sklar, Francis Udisi, Deputy Governor Bayelsa State – P Ebebi, Annie Goeke
Earth Rights Institute presents at the 2006 ‘Boro Day’ Observance and 8th Annual Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas ‘Service & Devotion’ Award Ceremony

Saturday, May 20th 2006 at the Sheraton, Newark International Airport, Newark, New Jersey

Theme: The Niger Delta Question: The Imperative for Peace & Justice

Good Afternoon, your Excellencies, Majesties, Chiefs and honorable persons. I am honored to be here today to participate in your ‘Boro Day 2006’ event. It gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity to meet you and learn more about the importance of this event.

Before I begin, I would like to extend greetings from my co-Director, Alanna Hartzok. She regrets not being here but is traveling in Australia on a three week lecture tour. It has been going very well and at some of her events she was given the opportunity to speak about Earth Rights Institute work in the Niger Delta region.

Also, I want to acknowledge Francis Udisi, our Earth Rights Institute Program Coordinator for the USA/Nigeria. He has been invaluable for all the work we have done in Nigeria and it has been a very fulfilling experience to have the opportunity to work with him. He holds such passion, love and commitment to helping his homeland and his people.

And I would like to thank Joseph Ebiware for this invitation and organizing this event and a thank you to all the others that made this event possible.

And lastly, I would like to introduce to you my significant other, Jeffrey Sklar, who is also part of the Earth Rights Institute team as our General Consul and who has interest in the Niger Delta region. He is an attorney and has been very generous in advising us.

I am the co-founder/director for Earth Rights Institute. We incorporated our non-profit organization in the summer of 2001. To give you an idea of who we are, I will read to you our mission statement.

Earth Rights Institute is dedicated to securing a culture of peace and justice by establishing dynamic worldwide networks of persons of goodwill and special skill, promoting policies and programs which further democratic rights to common heritage resources, and building ecological communities.

Annie Goeke, co-Director on the Panel
With this in mind, I have been asked to speak on this panel about an NGO perspective of the Niger Delta. And it is my hope that after this presentation I will have shone a little light on some possibilities and steps that can be taken towards seeing how collaborations can help a region such as the Niger Delta and provide the seeds to shift the turbulent situation that exist today into a more peaceful period.

But let me first give you a summary of our work in Bayelsa State, how we began and the programs we have initiated with our partners from Nigeria with the objective always to assist, support and promote building blocks for peace.

Our first encounter with Nigeria was through our Program Coordinator, Gordon Abiama, who we met in Senegal at an international Green Party Congress for Africa conference in 2002 in which he presented ideas on geoclassical economics. The purpose was to bring in discussion on whether Africa could shift into such an economic reform and what would be the benefits. Both Alanna and I were there and presented what we call ‘green tax’ policies. To get further details about this you can check our website under ERI Democracy Africa program.

Anyway, we had a great meeting with Gordon and from our time together we initiated our first program in Nigeria called the Niger Delta Fund Initiative. Here are some excerpts from this document to give you an idea about the work we are building upon concerning the issues of economics, wealth and natural resources of the Niger Delta.

The objective of the Niger Delta Initiative is to establish the Niger Delta Fund, a win-win institution which will bring economic prosperity and revitalization to the region along with enhanced security incentives for uninterrupted oil production. A more equitable wealth distribution pattern will promote social stability, integrated restoration, and stimulate growth of community based sustainable economic development.

As we all know, it will take time to evolve into such an economic model but importantly we feel that initiating a dialog of this sort can only lead into a new strategic thinking concerning development in Nigeria and hopefully bring in solutions to create a more equitable time for everyone. Again, details about this NDFI can be found on our website at

Ijaw Nation Conference 5-20-06
But we didn’t stop there. Communicating with Gordon Abiama, who returned to his homeland Odi, after living for a short period in Lagos, evolved into our next program of creating the first ecovillage in Nigeria. We call it the Odi Green City Project, building a Model for Sustainable Development in the Niger Delta. To give you an idea of what this means, I will describe to you what an ecovillage is.

Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people, who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.

Ecovillages, by endeavoring for lifestyles which are "successfully continuable into the indefinite future", are living models of sustainability, and examples of how action can be taken immediately. They represent an effective, accessible way to combat the degradation of our social, ecological and spiritual environments. They show us how we can move toward sustainability in the 21st century (Agenda 21).

Soon after initiating this ecological community project, we meet Francis Udisi in Philadelphia and with him expanded our Nigerian programs to include:

Niger Delta Donation Program, consisting of shipping from the USA to Bayelsa State 6 containers of textbooks, medical equipment, supplies for the new hospital, computers, educational materials and wheelchairs.

This donation program was a successful collaboration between the Bayelsa State government and our non-profit which pulled in other partnerships and alliances with US based donors. The organizations we worked with were Drew University, CORE-CA (Congress of Racial Equality), Wheels for Humanity, Project Hope, Books for Africa, International Book Bank, Heartfelt Foundation, Atlantic Computers, and a few personal donations.

Besides providing donations, support and assistance to Bayelsa State, we have had the opportunity through our international presence to relate worldwide the real situation of the Niger Delta. With international exposure we can help build support for the people of the Niger Delta. We consider it important to ensure that there is a better understanding worldwide of the Ijaw nation and the challenges, injustices and misconceptions you face in the region.

Presently, Earth Rights Institute is asking for continuance in our partnership with the Bayelsa State and the Ijaw Nation to even further expand our programs to initiate projects and programs that will further assist and support in the advancement of the region in education, healthcare and sustainable practices. We have gathered support from professionals in the USA and worldwide who would be happy to give their time to help train and work in the Niger Delta in the medical field, law and sustainable development. Even though we are a small non-profit organization, Earth Rights Institute team feels very capable in helping the Niger Delta University expand their departments including developing a student exchange to USA Universities, a sister library program and other educational projects.

Lastly, we are working on initiating our first “Peace Conference/Fair” in the region. The focus of this event would be to bring a vision of unity, create an understanding that there are alternative solutions to development through the learning of sustainable practices, energize economic activities through hands-on workshops, and initiate a youth green team, as well as addressing women’s issues and help create a micro-financing program for start up businesses especially for the local women.

But what does all this mean to you here today? How can a small US based non-profit organization effect the situation and problems that face the Ijaw Nation?

I must say I never would have believed that the region our Earth Rights Institute has had the most success in building programs would become one of todays most talked about regions in the world.

Earth Rights Institute believes that the USA government is not approaching the current situation of the region correctly. We believe, like our two special colleagues, Francis Udisi and Gordon Abiama, that true justice and peace can only be achieved when the needs of the people and the land are met. Instead we approach the problems and challenges the Ijaw Nation faces differently.

Earth Rights Institute is about affirming that the Niger Delta can become a strong healthy vibrant region. That it is possible to develop civil, healthy green communities. That the local population can evolve into developing skills and getting the knowledge to develop community based economic activities and bring together a holistic sustainable development plan.

Like many of you here in this room, we believe that the time has come for a new dawn to create better networking, partnerships, cooperation and collaborations between NGOs, government, civil society and international groups developing deliberate programs and actions, gearing the local population to find ways to develop local economies, to sustain livelihoods and to build unity amongst the people and ethic groups and a healthy environment that there is a future for your children and many generations to come.

Thank You.