Anouk Franck on visit UN Rapporteur James Anayo to Panama
We were very pleased that James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, visited Panama to speak with the indigenous Ngäbe Buglé community and to take a close look at the developments around the Barro Blanco dam.
In his final report Anaya pays quite a lot of attention to Barro Blanco, calling the operation symbolic of the way in which indigenous peoples in Panama are affected by mining projects and large dams. He also mentions that involvement and participation of indigenous people are insufficient and that they rarely share in the profits of these projects.
Reading his report only confirms that the Ngäbe community strongly opposes the project and hardly gets any information. Anaya’s strongest conclusion is that although this is mandatory, the indigenous communities have not been sufficiently consulted before the concession was issued. He also notes that not only the Panamanian government must respect the Ngäbe rights, but Genisa, the company building the dam, has an independent obligation to do so as well.
Anaya does not specifically mention the banks financing Barro Blanco, including the Dutch development bank FMO. But in my opinion this is no reason for these banks not to comply to international rules and standards, including Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Anaya's report confirms that complaints and protests of the Ngäbe Indians, especially those of people directly affected must be taken serious.
James Anaya calls for the suspension of the actual usage of he dam, at least until an agreement is reached. He urges the Round Table, which has been negotiating on this matter, to continue and find a solution based on real consensus.
The full report of James Anaya (Spanish)
Last year, questions about the Barro Blanco dam were asked in the Dutch Parliament , following a programme which was broadcast on Dutch radio.
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The Barro Blanco dam project in Panama, which has Dutch financial support, is causing indigenous lands to disappear under water. Both ENDS is working to protect the rights of indigenous communities living near the dam.
News / 27 July 2021
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.
Indigenous Hondurans are resisting the construction of the Agua Zarca hydrodam. Their fight has cost several lives, including that of Berta Cáceres. After considerable public pressure, Dutch development bank FMO withdrew from the project.
Development banks should comply with strict environmental and human rights rules to ensure that their projects benefit and do not harm the poorest groups. Both ENDS monitors the banks to make sure they do.
Large-scale infrastructural projects have detrimental effects on local people and the environment, while their benefits are felt elsewhere. Both ENDS is working to ensure that local people have a greater say in decision-making and is investigating the way these projects are funded.
News / 6 April 2017
The closing of the Barro Blanco dam last year caused not only material but also cultural damage in the affected Ngäbe-Buglé communities in Panama. So far, funder FMO is not taking responsibility for the human rights abuses caused by the project. So, what now?
News / 30 August 2016
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.
News / 6 July 2016
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.
News / 1 June 2016
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.
News / 1 June 2015
Dutch development bank FMO did not sufficiently take into account the rights of the local population and effects on the environment before approving a $ 25 million loan for the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in Panama. This is not in accordance with FMO’s own standards. This was revealed in the long-awaited report by the independent complaints mechanism (ICM) of the FMO and the German development bank DEG, released on May 29. The report was published in response to a complaint filed by the M-10, the movement representing the affected indigenous Ngöbe population, in May 2014. Both ENDS has been supporting the M-10 in its struggle against the dam for years, and was one of the organisations that supported the complaint.
News / 18 May 2015
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.
News / 6 May 2015
Although the Panamanian government decided to suspend the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in February of this year, it now appears that construction will be resumed after all. This has been announced by the government on Monday May 4th. The contract with the original developer, Genisa, will most probably be terminated, and other project developers will be sought. However, according to representatives of the indigenous Ngöbe Buglé community, new developers will not solve the problem: the dam will inevitably damage their territory and surroundings. Out of protest, they left the roundtable dialogue with the Panamanian government which started in February with the aim to find a solution to the problem of the controversial dam.
News / 10 February 2015
Following years of community protest the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in Panama is finally suspended. This was publicly announced by Panama’s Environmental Agency ANAM yesterday. The suspension of the project has been a request of the Ngöbe community, represented by the Movimiento 10 de Abril (M-10), for years. The dam is projected to flood homes, schools, and religious, archaeological, and cultural sites in the indigenous traditional territory, and convert the Tabasará River from a running river to a stagnant lake ecosystem. The suspension of the project is just in time, as the dam’s construction is near to completion,
News / 16 June 2014
For the very first time, the expert panel of the independent complaints mechanism of the Dutch development bank FMO will handle a complaint. It was filed on May 5 by residents of the area where the Barro Blanco dam is currently being built. These people form part of the indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé tribe. They feel that FMO has not adhered to its own social and environmental standards when they lent 25 million US dollars to build the dam. Anouk Franck of Both ENDS has been keeping a close eye on the situation.
News / 7 May 2014
Residents belonging to the indigenous Ngäbe-Bugle people living on the traditional indigenous territory surrounding the Barro Blanco dam in Panama, have filed a complaint against the Dutch development bank FMO. The bank has invested $ 25 million in the dam that is currently under construction in the river Tabasará. The Ngäbe-Bugle blame FMO for not adequately following its own social and environmental standards. FMO also violates international agreements relating to indigenous peoples. For Both ENDS, Anouk Franck is closely following FMO’s activities.
News / 8 April 2014
The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development regrets the fact that part of the Ngäbe-Buglé tribe is unhappy with the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in the river Tabasara in Panama. Ploumen said this in reply to parliamentary questions filed by Jasper van Dijk (SP). The Netherlands is involved in the construction of this controversial dam because of the loan provided by the Dutch development bank FMO. The minister does not have the intention of forcing the FMO to withdraw the loan, even though the basic human right of "free, prior and informed consent’ has been violated. A part of the Ngäbe tribe has not been informed before the plans were carried out. Anouk Franck of Both ENDS looks at the impact of the FMO loans.
News / 28 February 2014
Yesterday Jasper van Dijk, MP of the Socialist Party (SP), submitted written parliamentary questions to Minister Lilianne Ploumen for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation about the construction of the Barro Blanco dam in Panama. The construction of this controversial dam continues despite violent protests in Panama against human rights violations and environmental damage. What does the Netherlands have to do with it? At the end of 2012 the SP also asked parliamentary questions about this issue. Anouk Franck of Both ENDS explains why.
News / 18 February 2014
The construction of the Barro Blanco dam in Panama is entering the final stage. Project developer Genisa is planning to bring the dam into operation in May. The indigenous Ngäbe people that live in the area, a tribe of about two hundred thousand, are opposed to the construction of the dam. They have entrenched themselves in the areas where the building of the dam is being completed. All of them are afraid of the security forces, who acted with a lot of violence in the last confrontation.
News / 19 June 2013
And will James Amaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, ask the Panama government to halt the construction of the disastrous dam for the time being? This is what Both ENDS calls for in a letter to mr. Anaya, together with 12 civil society organizations, including four from Panama. It’s urgent because the Barro Blanco Dam, planned in the Tabasará river, is destructive to the Ngäbe indians.