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Global Witness celebrates agreement on EU investor due diligence

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Global Witness celebrates significant agreement and shift in mind-set from the EU on investor due diligence

Thursday 7th March 2019 – The European Parliament and Council have today reached a provisional political agreement on a new set of rules requiring European investors such as banks, pension funds and insurers, to carry out due diligence.

This means investors will need to disclose the steps they have taken to address the adverse impact of their investment decisions on people and planet.

The agreement, which was reached in the early hours of this morning, also fundamentally redefines the risks that investors must consider when decision making – moving away from pure financial risk to their profits, and towards risks to human rights and our global environment.

Global Witness, who have been long campaigning for a more ethical and sustainable financial sector in the EU, today celebrated the historic agreement.

The anti-corruption NGO has previously highlighted how Europeans’ money – and EU-based investors – far too often play a key role in funding projects linked to human rights abuses, land grabs and large-scale environmental destruction. They have highlighted examples from oil exploration in Africa’s oldest national park to a mining project in India which sparked violent protests.

Investors across Europe play a powerful role in improving the overseas and European operations of the companies they invest in. By using their significant leverage, they can insist on higher environmental, social and governance standards in the companies and projects they invest in.

Richard Gardiner, EU Campaigner, Global Witness said:

“This agreement is an important step forward in ensuring EU investors can no longer be blind to the environmental and human rights abuses carried out by the companies they invest in. It will lead to greater investor accountability and understanding of the impact that investors have on climate change and human rights abuses.”

The NGO pointed towards the recent Brumadinho dam burst in Brazil, which left over a hundred people dead and hundreds missing. Following the disaster, Brazilian regulators have ordered mining company Vale, who operated the dam, to suspend activity in this and two more of its mines. On Friday Vale’s CEO also resigned.

This example makes it clear that voluntary mechanisms are not enough to tackle the corporate damage done to communities, and our environment, is no longer cost-free. – Rachel Owens, Head of EU Advocacy, Global Witness

Rachel Owens, Head of EU Advocacy, Global Witness said:

“80% of investors in Vale, the company at the heart of this devastating mining dam disaster, were signed up to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investing – but missed major red flags such as concerns around the land being secured illegally. The EU has today agreed to rules for investors to ensure they no longer bankroll projects and companies who cause harm to people and planet.”

“It is also especially encouraging to see pension funds in scope – which huge amounts of ordinary people’s funds flow through.

“What’s more, this EU decision sets a global example for other governments to follow suit. For the UK, to remain competitive in a post-Brexit landscape it must implement similar or more stringent rules for investors.”

The rules still however, the NGO said, have weaknesses.

On top of this, investors will initially only be subject to a ‘comply or explain’ compliance mechanism, although it will become mandatory for large investors after 18 months. This means that investors themselves will need to determine whether they consider the adverse impacts of the investment decisions or not.

‘There is a real risk that investors intent on putting profit before people could continue to ignore the substantial environmental, social and governance risks as regulators will have fewer tools to challenge those investors that do not comply with the rules. The Commission and Regulators must strictly enforce these rules, and challenge those investors that do not comply, and do not satisfactorily justify why their investments are not contributing to human rights or environmental abuses. Only through strict enforcement can the goals of these rules be fully achieved,” Owens confirmed.

The new rules are a cornerstone of the EU’s Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth which was launched in March last year. The EU is currently leading the way on ensuring finance is re-orientated towards sustainable economic activity.

Original Source – FarmLandGrab

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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.

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By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES

Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes

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The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.

Source: www.monitor.co.ug

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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels

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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.

From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.

The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.

In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.

The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to

  • fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
  • avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
  • strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.

Source: iisd.org

Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf

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