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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Press release / 5 October 2022
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