On October 13th 2022, FMO published the final version of its Position Statement on Impact and ESG for Financial Intermediaries (FI statement). As civil society groups which have engaged with FMO on this topic for more than four years, we are extremely disappointed with the result. In the statement, FMO does not show sufficient commitment to ensuring its investments into financial intermediaries – which represent the bank's largest investment sector* – do not violate human rights or contribute to environmental harms.
Utrecht, 5 October 2022 - Dutch development bank FMO bears responsibility for the destruction of livelihoods, economic losses and environmental damage caused by the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in Panama, according to a report by the bank's Independent Complaints Mechanism (ICM). Indigenous communities affected by the dam are pleased that their complaints have been confirmed and reiterate their call for apologies and compensation.
Members of the Indigenous Ngäbe Buglé people were brutally attacked by Panamanian police on Friday 29 October 2021 from a parcel of private land near the FMO-financed Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam. The victims, all members of the anti-dam movement M22, had peacefully occupied the land after their protest camp got dismantled in July this year.
In April 2021, the Dutch development bank FMO announced that it is no longer involved in the Barro Blanco project, a controversial dam in Panama. GENISA, the Panamanian company that built the dam, unexpectedly paid off the multi-million dollar loan early. The question is to what extent, now that the bank is no longer actively financing the project, FMO can still be held responsible for the damage and suffering that was caused when this was still the case.
2021 was a turbulent year for Dutch development bank FMO, to say the least. The bank has been under fire for many years for investments linked to human rights violations and suspected corruption. But in the past year, the Dutch press and media have reported on one new development after the other in ongoing cases involving FMO. Below we give a short summary of these cases and call on FMO to make the promised improvements in 2022.
Representatives of the Dutch and the German development banks (FMO and DEG) are in Panama today to discuss the future of the controversial Barro Blanco project with the government. Last May, the locks of the dam were closed to test the dam, in complete breach of all previous agreements. Part of the surrounding land is now flooded and some residents might soon have to be evacuated. Both ENDS, together with seven other organisations sent a letter to the directors of the two banks, urging them to assume their responsibilities as investors in the project.
On Tuesday 24th of May the locks of the Barro Blanco dam in the Tabasará river in Panama, which is partly financed by the Dutch development bank FMO, were closed. This is in complete discord with the previous agreements between the Panamanian government and the leadership of the indigenous communities. Last august these parties had agreed that the reservoir of the dam would not be filled until a new agreement had been reached which includes all affected parties. According to the Panamanian government and the company Genisa the present filling of the dam is only a test. But this ‘test’ means that the water will rise 26 meters above the predicted future level of water.
Three days after the first homes were flooded as a consequence of the Barro Blanco dam, the government of Panama signed an agreement about this dam with a number of representatives of the Ngäbe-Bugle people. The affected communities however have still not been involved in the process. Both ENDS is worried about these developments.
The Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO) has put pressure on the Panamanian government to proceed with the construction of the Barro Blanco dam. This was reported by the Dutch Newspaper ‘de Volkskrant’ on Monday the 18th of May. Construction works were suspended last February after the Panamanian environmental authority had found out that the company carrying out the construction – the Panamanian company Genisa – had violated environmental regulations and had failed to make proper arrangements with local Ngöbe communities. FMO is one of the investors in the project.