News / 21 July 2020

Is the Netherlands insuring a controversial gas extraction project in Mozambique?

At the end of last week, oil and gas company Total announced that, through its export credit insurer Atradius DSB, the Dutch government is participating in a funding package for a controversial gas extraction project in Mozambique. The project, in which various Dutch and foreign companies are involved, is having a deep impact on the local population and the natural environment in the area. Which Dutch companies the government will be insuring is not yet clear.

Fishers and farmers already affected

The approval of the funding package means that the government assumes that all the companies involved in the Total-led gas project are complying with international human rights and environmental agreements. Both ENDS, however, has serious doubts about this. "The preparations for the project are in full swing and the people who live in the area are already paying the price," says Anne de Jonghe of Both ENDS, who has had contact with the fishers' and farmers' organisations in the area. "Although the project provides work for some people and brings facilities to the area that were not there before, most of the local inhabitants are seriously concerned. Many have had to move to places where they have no access to land or fishing grounds, so that they can no longer make a living. Although agreements were made within the project to ensure that fishers can continue to fish, their fishing grounds at sea are now much less accessible."

Violence in the region

In the region where the investments are being made, there is also increasing violence by 'insurgents'. Dutch ministers Sigrid Kaag and Stef Blok recently informed the Dutch House of Representatives about this issue. In July, the gas developments were explicitly threatened in Al-Naba, the newspaper of the Islamic State (IS). IS propaganda focuses mainly on who benefits from the exploitation of natural resources in the area. The Mozambique government, the investors and the companies in the area do not speak openly about the increasing violence, and rely on (para)military support to protect the project.

Agreements not open to the public

To ensure that the project is implemented responsibly, Atradius DSB and Total have made agreements on how Total is going to comply with international guidelines and how Atradius DSB is going to monitor that compliance. "But these agreements are unfortunately not open to the public," says De Jonghe. "Transparency is crucial for the farmers and fishers in the area, so that all stakeholders know what is going to happen and can preferably have a say in what that is. It is, after all, their living environment and their future."

Multi-Stakeholder Platform

The Dutch government has set up a Multi-Stakeholder Platform in Mozambique so that the Mozambique and Dutch governments, donors, the private sector and civil society can exchange information and coordinate their plans. The local people have not yet had any real benefit from the Platform, as it is dominated by the private sector, there is a language barrier and the majority of the people at the table do not come from the area where the project is taking place. Moreover, partly because of the violence between different parties in the region, it can be dangerous for local inhabitants and organisations to speak out.

Local people's interests

Both ENDS has been calling on the Dutch government for many years to stop supporting the fossil fuel sector. "If the Netherlands does decide to provide public support," De Jonghe says, "it has a responsibility to ensure that it is does so properly. Atradius DSB should, at the very least, take strict measures to ensure that the companies involved comply with the rules and are transparent about their plans, the consequences for local people and how they will be compensated. In addition, the concerns and interests of all farming and fishing communities must be taken seriously in the Multi Stakeholder Platform."

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