Over the past 15 years the production of palm oil has increased enormously, and not without reason: palm oil, pressed from the fruit of the oil palm, is cheap and is used in many different products. It is processed in ice cream, chocolate, margarine and sauces, but also in personal care products and cosmetics such as lipstick, detergent, toothpaste, soap and biofuel. Unfortunately, the large demand for palm oil has quite some negative side effects: large-scale deforestation, pollution, 'land grabbing' and above all human rights violations are common practice in countries where palm oil is produced.
The Dutch development bank FMO and the Finnish FinnFund announced this week that they are seeking ‘a responsible and legal exit’ from the Agua Zarca project in Honduras. Last week, it was reported that four suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder of human rights activist Berta Cáceres, who opposed the project for many years. One of those arrested is the manager for social and environmental affairs of DESA, the company implementing the Agua Zarca project. Because the company is a direct client of FMO and FinnFund, the banks consider the arrest good reason to take action.
This week more than thirty representatives from organisations from all over the world are coming to Amsterdam. What do they have in common and why do they meet? They all work – in their own contexts – on sustainable development, the environment, protecting human rights or specifically on gender equality and women’s rights. And they are all somehow connected to the three organisations that work with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in ‘GAGGA’, the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action.
From April 19 to May 5 a delegation of four Indigenous Lenca activists from Honduras will be visiting five European countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Spain) to engage with Members of Parliament, policy makers and NGOs, discuss with financiers, join national protests at financiers and talk to media and the general public about the repression and impunity in their country. The main goal of the delegation’s visit is to stop the involvement of these countries in the Agua Zarca projects and other projects impacting the indigenous Lenca people in Honduras.On March 2, 2016, Berta Cáceres, the internationally-renowned Honduran human rights and environment defender and Lenca indigenous leader, was murdered, after leading for several years the struggle against a hydroelectric project along the Gualcarque River, also known as the Agua Zarca Project.
It’s hard to imagine that in our modern world communities exist who live in remote, inaccessible areas where their lives are dependent on what nature brings them. However, many of these communities still exist, for example in India. The Durwa-community in India is one of the many indigenous communities that struggles to survive in increasingly challenging conditions. Our colleague Madhu Ramnath describes their day to day struggle in his recent publication ‘Woodsmoke and Leafcups’. The book illustrates how he and his wife were taken in by the Durwa-community. Madhu describes the daily practices of life in the village, their traditions and rituals, their close social ties but also the immense challenges that face the village today.
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.
In 1959, Germany and Pakistan signed the first Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) in the world. Without knowing, they marked a new era as many countries have followed their example since then. Currently, the international legal system that governs international investment flows consists of about 3000 BITs and other international investment agreements (IIAs). While originally these treaties were thought to be beneficial for the investor and the host state in terms of economic growth, increased foreign investment and development, many host states have suffered negative consequences instead of benefiting from them.
PRESS RELEASE: Dutch dredgers ignore human rights in Suez Canal expansion
The Dutch government and the Dutch dredging companies involved in the Suez Canal expansion failed to consider the adverse impact of their activities would have on both human rights and the environment. These are the findings of SOMO and Both ENDS in their research report ‘Dredging in the Dark’. Four companies worked day and night to dredge 200 million m3 of sand in a record-breaking time of nine months, which negatively affected local residents. Financial risks were covered by the Dutch export credit insurance company Atradius DSB, on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Finance.
We are deeply shocked and saddened by the death of Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in her own home last week. Berta was the driving force behind the ‘Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indigenas de Honduras’ (COPINH), a network of Honduran civil society organisations standing up for the rights of indigenous communities in the country. This attack once again proves that these rights are virtually non-existent in Honduras. We share the fear of many in and outside the region that this assassination will further worsen the situation of local communities.
Development banks such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the German DEG and the Dutch FMO have some crucial similarities: they operate with public money, and their ultimate goal is to fight poverty and promote development. But in practice, 'development' seems to be a broad concept, as there are many people that do not profit from the projects these banks invest in. On the contrary, large groups of people are often faced with negative consequences of the investments of development banks. Under pressure from civil society organisations, including Both ENDS, a number of development banks set up a complaint desk for those that are adversely affected.