Reaction to FMOs position statements on human rights, land and gender
On September 20th FMO published its new position statements on human rights, land governance and gender. We appreciate that FMO takes human rights serious and applaud the efforts that have been made to come to an improved position on human rights, land and gender. However, to truly have a positive impact on people and the environment, some important follow up steps are necessary.
Strong language on Human Rights Defenders
In the position statement on human rights FMO includes some strong language on human rights defenders (HRDs). FMO states that it does not "tolerate any activity by our clients that amount to the oppression of, violence towards, or any other violation of the human rights of those who voice their opinion in relation to FMO activities and the activities of our clients". FMO also commits to developing an internal protocol in the event that opponents of a project are facing threats. We strongly support the development of such a protocol and call upon FMO to include external stakeholders in the development of it to make sure it will outline steps and measures that truly protect the safety of HRDs. Additionally FMO should further protect the safety of HRDs by including a risk analysis in their impact assessments and by developing an early warning system to detect possible threats in high risk projects.
On human rights, FMO also states that "we are actively working on more systematically including human rights in our environmental & social due diligence and client engagement." The best way to do this would be for FMO to commit to the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs) as a leading framework for their human rights due diligence and include human rights impact assessments in their project and client selection processes. It is not quite clear why FMO is reluctant to commit to the UNGPs as the principles are more firmly embedded in human rights law than the IFC Performance Standards, which are leading for FMO, and are moreover actively promoted by the Dutch government, the majority shareholder of FMO.
FMO should commit to FPIC
In the position statement on land governance FMO clearly seems to understand the social and environmental impact of land acquisition or projects that change the use in land. They also added some clarity on what they expect from their clients and how they monitor this. However, to truly respect the land rights of the people in the countries they invest in, this is not enough. We strongly encourage FMO to follow international best practices and commit to respecting the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) not only for indigenous people but also for all other communities that collectively own land and are dependent on this land for their livelihood. This is the only way to make sure communities that are affected by FMO's projects are not only consulted but also truly participate in the decisions and have a strong voice in what happens to their land and resources. FMO should furthermore acknowledge the responsibility of financial institutions in obtaining FPIC and the importance of monitoring this throughout the entire project cycle. If communities do not agree with the developments on their land, FMO should not get involved in such projects. As a recent report published by Fern (and supported by Both ENDS) showed, FMO will remain involved in land grabs and human rights violations if it does not strengthen its land policy further (link to report).
Separate position statement on gender
Finally, we appreciate the inclusion of a separate position statement on gender. It is an improvement that FMO explicitly states that they not only assure women's rights but also "understand" the gender specific impact their investments can have. FMO can be much stronger though in explaining how they assess such impacts and also in what they do to prevent negative impact on women's rights in their projects. To start with, the position statement should describe how gender will be incorporated into a broader assessment of human rights impacts, and include the roles, wishes, needs, rights and access to natural resources women have in that specific region and context. Crucial for this is to include gender disaggregated information, not only on job creation, but pertaining to the economic and socio-economic condition of affected persons.
These position statements are part of the revised sustainability policy that went through a process of public consultation – the first ever for FMO – in which SOMO and Both ENDS provided extensive comments.
FMO certainly took some positive steps. But to truly become leading in the development finance world some serious next steps are necessary. We will closely follow these next steps and will continue our engagement with FMO to strengthen its accountability even further.
- Report by FERN on European development finance, with the input of, among others, Both ENDS: European Development Finance Institutions and land grabs: the need for further independent scrutiny
- FMO's position statements on on human rights, land and gender
- Press release by Global Witness, 26 september 2017: Dutch Development Bank takes step forward on human rights, but must do more to protect defenders
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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.
Both ENDS works with partners around the world to ensure that land is governed fairly and inclusively and managed sustainably with priority for the rights and interests of local communities.
News / 11 May 2017
A year ago, the Senegalese NGO Takkom Jerry filed a complaint with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Dutch Development Bank FMO, with support from Both ENDS. These banks finance the Sendou coal power station, right next to the fishing village of Bargny. The AfDB has now recognized the complaint. FMO is already processing the complaint and will publish an official response shortly.
News / 17 May 2018
Today, three representatives of the Honduran indigenous people's organisation COPINH, together with the family of environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in March 2016, announced that they are preparing to press charges against the Dutch development bank FMO. COPINH accuses the FMO of complicity in human rights violations in connection with the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project.
News / 1 December 2018
On Thursday, November 29, seven suspects of the murder of Berta Cáceres (in March 2016) were found guilty. Members of the indigenous human rights organisation COPINH, of which Cáceres was the leader, and close relatives of Cáceres herself see the ruling as the first step towards justice for her murder and the recognition that the company DESA is co-responsible for this. They also point out, however, that the process was permeated with corruption, intimidation and other abuses from the very beginning, and that the masterminds behind the murder are still walking around freely.
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.
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.
Publication / 11 February 2016
Video / 18 March 2015
Senegal is one of the countries with the highest amount of effective sunshine on earth. Instead of using the 3000 hours of sunshine a year as a source of energy, 2 new coal fired power plants are now being built with the help of the Dutch development bank FMO, using public money. This video shows the consequences for the local population.
External link / 31 May 2018
Sometimes things must go terribly wrong before big players start to move. In March 2016, Honduran activist Berta Cáceres was murdered because of her leading role in the protests against the Agua Zarca hydro dam, co-financed by the Dutch FMO. One and a half year later, FMO changed their policies to prevent such events in the future.
News / 30 July 2019
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has published its new policy for energy investments. In the new draft policy, the bank states to stop investing in fossil fuel related projects from 2020. This is good news for the climate, so Both ENDS and partners are happy with this draft policy. The shareholders of the bank, the member states of the European Union, still have to approve it.
External link / 10 December 2018
An Open Letter to States and Development Financiers on the need to ensure that development interventions support the realization of human rights, safeguard human rights defenders and guarantee meaningful public participation
Publication / 30 June 2017
Together with civil society organisations from all over the world, the Fair Green and Global (FGG) Alliance aims for socially just, inclusive and environmentally sustainable societies in the Netherlands and the Global South.
Publication / 10 December 2018
News / 23 May 2018
This week, the African Development Bank (AfDB) holds its 2018 Annual Meetings. A large group of African civil society organisations calls on the bank to ensure social and environmental protection, to involve civil society, to pay attention to gender issues and to make sustainable choices in their energy access ambitions.
Publication / 25 December 2015
Blog / 24 June 2019
The European Investment Bank EIB should get rid of its gas-investments, and the Netherlands can take the lead in this. The Netherlands appears to be relying less and less on gas in its energy policy, and also seems to focus on gas-free investments at the EIB. Now it is important to maintain this position and also convince the other EU countries.
News / 6 July 2017
Both ENDS and SOMO welcome the announcement done today by the Dutch and Finnish development banks, FMO and FinnFund, to exit the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Honduras. Conflict about the project has led to violence in the region, including the murder of three leaders who opposed the project. In March 2016, renowned human rights defender Berta Caceres was murdered for opposing this project in indigenous Lenca territory.
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?