Dutch and German development banks discuss Barro Blanco project in Panama
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 letter also calls upon the banks to push the Panamanian government to immediately stop the ‘flood tests’ and to repair the damage already done. In addition, future decisions concerning the project should be based on the voices of all local communities involved. Banks should properly monitor whether rules and agreements are complied with and they should send an independent fact-finding mission to the country.
For more information:
Report of National Human Rights Coalition of Panama (In Spanish)
More news on this matter on the Both ENDS website:
2 June 2016: Indigenous land submerged by illegal closure of dam
6 May 2015: Construction of Barro Blanco dam will be resumed
11 Feb 2015: Construction Barro Blanco dam finally suspended
7 May 2014: Complaint against FMO on grievance mechanism.org
14 Feb 2014: Filing a complaint with the FMO?
Background information on Barro Blanco can be found here.
Read more about this subject
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 / 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 / 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 / 12 August 2013
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.
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 / 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 / 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 / 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 / 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.
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,
Press release / 5 December 2022
Groups react with dismay to FMO’s position statement on Financial Intermediaries, pointing to outstanding human rights and climate concerns
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.
News / 8 November 2021
Both ENDS and SOMO condemn violence against Indigenous community near the Barro Blanco dam in Panama
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.
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.
News / 9 December 2016
As we celebrate both the 30th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development (December 4th) and Human Rights Day (December 10th), Both ENDS joins with communities and civil society groups around the world to call on development finance institutions, governments, and businesses to take 3 steps to stand up for Human Rights in development.
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?
Press release / 5 October 2022
Independent research confirms FMO’s responsibility for destruction caused by Barro Blanco dam, recommends compensation
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.
News / 23 December 2021
2022 is the year for FMO to make good on its promises and provide financial support only to sustainable development
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.