“I have been doing advocacy work in the community and find that when people know their rights they are able to defend their livelihood. I really appreciate DTP and the work they have done over the last 30 years, and say money is not wasted in this cause.”
Jonathan Mesulam is the Founder and Coordinator of the West Coast Development Foundation, a local PNG NGO working with communities addressing issues relating to Climate Change and to promote conservation of their local environments.He participated in DTP’s 29th Annual Human Rights and Peoples’ Diplomacy Program in Timor-Leste in 2019. Jonathan then worked to bring the DTP course to PNG in November 2019, for a special national capacity building program on Business and Human Rights and the SDGs.
“The topics on indigenous people and environment are relevant to our work as well. I think this is the biggest issue which is currently faced by most communities around the world.”
Jonathan works in his home province of New Ireland, advocating on the Deep-Sea Mining Campaign, Illegal Logging and Climate Change. He has also been the spokesperson of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors (an alliance of churches, environmental NGOs, and local coastal communities around the Bismarck Sea) for the last six years.
Since working in this area, the main changes Jonathan has experienced is how multi-corporation companies, the government, and politicians now continue to defend their practices concerning climate change and environmental destruction, despite the evidence of their harmful impacts. He has also seen recently judicial cases being manipulated to defend companies, and the government against people and local communities.
Jonathan has been campaigning about Experimental Deep-Sea Mining since 2011. He and other activists have received threats and have sometimes felt lost, but they have never lost hope. Through the Alliance of Solwara Warriors they have built a solidarity network, whose members fight hard to defend their livelihood. They have been joined in their struggle by the Pacific Council of Churches and the PNG Council of Churches. While they have had wins in 2019 when the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum called for a 10 years moratorium on deep-sea mining in the Pacific, the PNG government announced a moratorium and the company wanting to begin deep-sea mining abandoned its plans. The Alliance wants a total ban on deep-sea mining and will continue to fight for this.
“I am very happy to attend the training as the skills and knowledge obtained are very useful for my work area. The training covers every-day issues we faced whilst dealing with communities… the importance of recording human rights issues [is one of my key takeaways from the program] so we can share with concerned authorities who are willing to assist but may have difficulty with getting this information.”
It was not only the skills developed during the DTP program that have benefitted Jonathan and his work, but also the networks that were established on the training. Being connected to others who share common issues and struggles across the Asia-Pacific region has been very important to him.
“I have found that we really have the passion to contribute in helping each other and support them in their struggles.”
Jonathan helped to bring DTP back to PNG, as he saw the need for other advocates in PNG to receive training. He helped to organise and secure funding for the Business and Human Rights and the SDGs program, even though he could not himself participate as he had been invited to speak at a major mining conference in Canada.
“I can confidently say DTP is very committed to the cause of human rights… To me DTP is now a key partner in addressing human rights through the effective organisation of conducting successful capacity building to empower human rights practitioners go an extra mile in their fight for justice.”
A new PNG network on Business and Human Rights was established by the participants in the program, including Jonathan and other DTP alumni.