FMO’s suspension of activities in Honduras is just the first step
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.
Human rights defenders
Nelson García, who was murdered on March 15, was a member of COPINH and was supporting indigenous Lenca people from the Río Chiquito community who were being evicted from their land. He got killed less than two weeks after co-founder and leader of COPINH, Berta Cáceres was assassinated. Cáceres is known internationally for her struggle as a prominent human rights defender to protect the rights of the Lenca people from harmful development projects, specifically the Agua Zarca project, financed amongst others by FMO and FinnFund.
Both ENDS has engaged with FMO for the past years to point out the problems around Agua Zarca and other controversial projects. While we welcome this important and necessary step from both financiers, further steps are urgently needed to prevent similar human rights violations from happening again, both in Honduras and beyond.
Further steps are urgently needed
Firstly, FMO and other financiers, must permanently withdraw from the Agua Zarca project. Only a full withdrawal from the project may help stop the violence around it. FMO has to take a strong stand and give out a clear signal to the Honduran authorities and the rest of the world that the ongoing violations of the rights of indigenous people and repression of human rights defenders is unacceptable.
Furthermore, all actors involved, including FMO and the Dutch government, must continue to do everything in their power to protect the families of the victims, the members of COPINH and all other human rights defenders in immediate danger, including Gustavo Castro from Mexico. Castro was with Berta Cáceres when she got murdered and got injured in the attack. As the sole witness he is still not allowed to leave Honduras.
To bring those responsible for these terrible acts to justice, FMO and the Dutch government must also urge the Honduran authorities to support a full and impartial independent investigation, one that involves international human rights organizations, is coordinated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and pursues all authors of these crimes.
Prevent further tragedy from happening
While the above has immediate priority we have to keep realising that unfortunately the situation in Honduras is not a stand-alone case. What has been happening in Lenca territory has happened before, is currently happening, and will happen in the future, both in Central America and elsewhere. The recent events stress once again that current safeguards are not enough.
To prevent further tragedy from happening the Dutch government and FMO have to take their full responsibility and thoroughly revise their current investment portfolio as well as their safeguards and investment policies. This will ensure that Dutch government policies and FMO operations fully respect the rights of those affected, in particular the rights of indigenous peoples, and no longer prioritise development objectives over human rights.
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Photo from Goldman Prize, taken from Living on Earth.
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