Palm oil production is widely associated with land grabs, human rights violations, large scale monoculture and severe environmental damage. Positive examples in the palm oil sector are rarely highlighted, but fortunately they do exist. Companies like Musim Mas and Bumitama in Indonesia are leading a much needed shift to a more environmentally and socially responsible way of palm oil production. Recently, Ms. Lim Sian Choo, Head of Corporate Secretarial Services and of Corporate Social Responsibility of Bumitama was in the Netherlands for an informal meeting organised by AidEnvironment and Both ENDS. Representatives from the private sector, NGOs and government were also present to discuss concrete steps taken by Bumitama to achieve sustainability in real time.
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.
The United States Senate has sent a letter to the US Treasury, calling for better enforcement of the World Bank’s social and environmental rules. These rules, the so called ‘safeguards’, are meant to prevent the World Banks projects from causing social and environmental damage. But these safeguards are not always adhered to, and are likely to become even weaker as the Bank’s Board is currently revising them. Therefore, Pieter Jansen from Both ENDS, together with different partners from civil society organisations from all over the world, informed Republicans as well as Democrats about the negative consequences of the investments of the World Bank on local communities. Successfully, as the letter shows.
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.
“5 million hectares in the Niger desert has been transformed into a lush landscape, where trees flourish, crops prosper and livestock thrives!” dr.Abasse Tougiane exclaims enthusiastically. “This is an area larger than the Netherlands!” We are present at the lecture about the successful initiative to regreen Niger, given by Abasse and his colleague Toudou Adam at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The room is almost completely full; obviously not only officials of Foreign Affairs, but also scientists, delegates from NGO’s and representatives from the private sector are interested in the subject. The question on everyone’s mind is: ‘how can this be so successful where an initiative such as the Great Green Wall so sadly failed?
Over the past 15 years the production of palm oil has increased enormously, and not without reason: palm oil, pressed from the fruit of the oil palm, is cheap and is used in many different products. It is processed in ice cream, chocolate, margarine and sauces, but also in personal care products and cosmetics such as lipstick, detergent, toothpaste, soap and biofuel. Unfortunately, the large demand for palm oil has quite some negative side effects: large-scale deforestation, pollution, 'land grabbing' and above all human rights violations are common practice in countries where palm oil is produced.
The Dutch development bank FMO and the Finnish FinnFund announced this week that they are seeking ‘a responsible and legal exit’ from the Agua Zarca project in Honduras. Last week, it was reported that four suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder of human rights activist Berta Cáceres, who opposed the project for many years. One of those arrested is the manager for social and environmental affairs of DESA, the company implementing the Agua Zarca project. Because the company is a direct client of FMO and FinnFund, the banks consider the arrest good reason to take action.
This week more than thirty representatives from organisations from all over the world are coming to Amsterdam. What do they have in common and why do they meet? They all work – in their own contexts – on sustainable development, the environment, protecting human rights or specifically on gender equality and women’s rights. And they are all somehow connected to the three organisations that work with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in ‘GAGGA’, the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action.
From April 19 to May 5 a delegation of four Indigenous Lenca activists from Honduras will be visiting five European countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Spain) to engage with Members of Parliament, policy makers and NGOs, discuss with financiers, join national protests at financiers and talk to media and the general public about the repression and impunity in their country. The main goal of the delegation’s visit is to stop the involvement of these countries in the Agua Zarca projects and other projects impacting the indigenous Lenca people in Honduras.On March 2, 2016, Berta Cáceres, the internationally-renowned Honduran human rights and environment defender and Lenca indigenous leader, was murdered, after leading for several years the struggle against a hydroelectric project along the Gualcarque River, also known as the Agua Zarca Project.
After the second shocking murder of an indigenous rights activist in Honduras in less than two weeks the Dutch development bank, FMO, and the Finish development bank, FinnFund, announced a suspension of all their operations in Honduras. They declare that they will no longer engage in new projects or disbursements in the country, including in new disbursements in the Agua Zarca Project.