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Earth Rights Institute Presents at the US Congressional Black Caucus Hearing on Energy and West Africa

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

July 19, 2005 - Alanna Hartzok, Co-Director of Earth Rights Institute, addressing Energy in West Africa Forum sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Jefferson Building, Washington.
News Advisory

Earth Rights Institute Presents at the US Congressional Black Caucus Hearing on Energy and West Africa

Tuesday, July 19th 2005
Washington D.C.

Alanna Hartzok, co-Director/Founder of Earth Rights Institute and Francis Udisi, Earth Rights Institute Program Coordinator for Nigeria/USA will be speaking today at the US Congressional Black Caucus hearing on Energy and West Africa in Washington D.C. The purpose of this hearing is to discuss the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation proposed paper titled "Breaking the Oil Syndrome".

Earth Rights Institute was asked to respond to this paper with a focus on energy and the NGO perspective on development for West Africa. Alanna will be speaking briefly about our Earth Rights Institute's Niger/Delta Fund Initiative and together with Francis present information about our NGO programs we have initiated in Nigeria in the context of sustainable development.

A formal report will be available on our website after the event. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Earth Rights Institute co-Director Alanna Hartzok.

See: Breaking the Oil Syndrome: Responsible Hydro Carbon Development in West Africa (Agenda for July 19, 2005 hearing)

Report on participation in Congressional Black Caucus - Breaking the Oil Syndrome Forum

On Tuesday, July 19th the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation held a symposium on the launch of an important policy paper - Breaking the Oil Syndrome: Responsible Hydrocarbon Development in West Africa. The new study argues that the U.S. must form a strategic alliance with West African hydrocarbon states that can help secure U.S. energy needs while advancing human and infrastructure development goals in West Africa.

"The U.S. must embark upon a mutually beneficial alliance that increases U.S. energy security while promoting sustainable development in Africa oil-producing countries," said Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, former CBCF Vice President of Research and Programs.

The lead author of the study, Paul Michael Wihbey, President of Global Water and Energy Strategy Team, said that "The U.S. has a very important opportunity at this critical juncture in world history. The country could benefit tremendously if it recognizes that good governance, infrastructure, and human development goals are keys to the security and sustainability of oil-exports form West African hydrocarbon states."

As Co-Director of Earth Rights Institute I had the opportunity to be the only NGO voice on the panel following remarks by members of Congress and the authors of this policy paper. Other panelists included the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. and representatives of the Council on Foreign Relations, World Bank, Shell and Marathon oil companies.

In my ten minutes of comment I focused on the aspects of the Breaking the Oil Syndrome paper that referred to the distribution of (resource) rents and the importance of using such revenue for poverty reduction and infrastructure development. I said that Earth Rights Institute viewed such policy approaches as an emerging new form of democracy, one that captures the value of land and natural resources for the benefit of the people as a whole while removing the tax burden from economically productive and beneficial activities.

I also talked about the Niger Delta Fund Initiative, our Odi Ecovillage project in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, the ecovillage development model in general, and our work with US donor agencies as facilitated by Earth Rights Institute Program Coordinators Francis Udisi and Gordon Abiama in association with ERI Co-Director Ann Goeke and the Bayelsa State government of Nigeria.

Mr. Udisi, also present at this event, was instrumental in bringing to the floor a statement by Professor Joseph M. Ebiware, Vice President of the Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas. Professor Ebiware urged the Congressional Black Caucus to do everything possible "to let justice roll down like water and righteousness, like a mighty stream" in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria where the Ijaw people number 14 million inhabitants who have suffered environmental degradation and ongoing impoverishment in this area of intensive oil production.

See the West Africa Paper Press Release and the Agenda of this policy paper launch day. If you would like an electronic copy of Breaking the Oil Syndrome: Responsible Hydrocarbon Development in West Africa (1 MB) email

I distributed the following written statement and other material to the estimated 150 people who attended this Congressional Black Caucus event:

Relevant work of Earth Rights Institute:

Guiding Policy Statements: Land and natural resources are not created by human beings but are necessary to maintain life. Therefore, the peoplešs right to equal access to and enjoyment of the land and natural resources shall be secured. No persons or corporations holding title to land shall be deprived of such land without due process of law, but the rental value of all lands and natural opportunities shall be paid to the community. Land and resource values shall be assessed and collected in a manner prescribed by law. Assessment data shall be updated annually and made public, and landholders shall have the right to appeal their assessments in a court of law. The rental value of land and natural opportunities, being the rightful property of the community, shall not be construed as the property of any individual or group, and the public collection of such rental value shall not entitle the resource holder to compensation.

Substantial oil revenue should be targeted to fund needed infrastructure development for transportation, energy, sanitation, etc. in West Africa. Successful infrastructure development, combined with a legal system of property rights and land registry, results in an increase of land values which should be captured back to the community in order to provide a secure, strong and sufficient basis of public finance for education, health care and other needed social service. This "land value capture" approach to public finance also curbs land speculation and maintains land affordability for housing and enterprise development. To promote private enterprise on all levels - individual, family, small and medium sized business - productive activities and wages should not be burdened with taxation.

Earth Rights Institute is currently in consultation with UN HABITAT Land Tenure Center to develop training programs for this policy approach, as recommended in the HABITAT II Action Agenda attached.

Care must be taken that development funds result in a balance of urban and rural development. The Ecovillage Development Model is a holistic, integrated and village based approach to rural development that is gaining great appeal throughout West Africa. Note attached Odi Ecovillage photos and description.

As an NGO, Earth Rights Institute is also facilitating partnerships between the Bayelsa State government (Nigeria) and US donor agencies which are contributing books, medical supplies, computers and other materials. These contributions are being made within an integrated, holistic rural and urban development framework aimed at steadily building the economic and social empowerment of the people of the Niger Delta. We are also building dynamic working relationships with the African American community in the medical and legal fields.

For further information contact Alanna Hartzok, Co-Director, Earth Rights Institute, 717-264-0957 or email: and website: