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Open letter to African Development Bank and Nordic Development Fund: Address reprisals against Paten Clan

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Open letter to African Development Bank and Nordic Development Fund: Address reprisals against Paten Clan
On September 9, a group of organizations that are members of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development and other allies sent an open letter to the African Development Bank and the Nordic Development Fund, calling on them to take immediate actions to address reprisals against a community in Uganda impacted by the Wadelai irrigation project.
On August 10, 2021, sixteen members of Paten Clan, a community in Pakwach District in northern Uganda, were shot at and wounded by local police and army officers, as a retaliation for their opposition to the Wadelai irrigation project which is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and supported by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF).
Staff of the construction company in charge of implementing the project, together with representatives of the local authorities and the police, forcefully entered the community. When communities questioned and protested against the trespass, the local police and members of the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) started firing bullets and teargas to disperse them. 16 community members were injured.
After the shooting, the police refused to hand them the forms for documenting the injuries suffered, meaning they were unable to easily access healthcare in government health centres. The day after, UPDF officers arrested and beat up four women, including one pregnant woman, while they were on their way to fetch water. These attacks are just the latest example of the ongoing retaliations faced by community members and human rights defenders in Pakwach District, who are being targeted for their opposition to the government’s acquisition of their land for agricultural production under the Wadelai Irrigation Project that they are concerned will impact their livelihoods and way of life.
Nine members of the community have also been criminalised following the protests. They have been accused of sabotaging the project by local police and are currently out on bail. Two human rights defenders who volunteer with local human rights organisation, Buliisa Rural Initiative for Development (BIRUDO), who are also local civil servants have also been criminalised. They have been summoned before the District’s Award and Sanction Committee and have been interdicted from their jobs – meaning they are only earning half salary, have had to hand over their passports to the Resident District Commissioner, and are not allowed to leave Pakwach district – after having supported the community’s rejection of the land acquisition.
Buliisa Rural Initiative for Development (BIRUDO), a local human rights organisation which works to improve the quality of life of local communities through information sharing, sensitization, advocacy and networking for sustainable development, has also been suspended from operating in Pakwach District by the Deputy Resident District Commissioner following their work with Paten Clan. They have been accused of supporting the community to sabotage government projects.
The community has raised concerns about the amount of land sought for the project, which would leave them with limited use for their own agricultural and other needs. The community consented to offering 365 acres (equivalent to 145 hectares) for the project but later realized that the project would actually take up 365 hectares of their land. The community feel that they were deliberately misled regarding the amount of land needed, and therefore no longer trust the project implementers.
The Wadelei irrigation project, constructed by the Ugandan company Coil Construction Company Limited, is one of the four irrigation schemes under the African Development Banks’ Farm Income Enhancement and Forestry Conservation Project (FIEFOC-2). FIEFOC-2 is set to “improve household incomes, food security, and climate resilience through sustainable natural resources management and agricultural enterprise development.” The overall cost of this project is approximately USD 91.7 million, including approximately USD 5.9 million from the Nordic
Development Fund, USD 76.7 million from the AfDB and USD 9.1 million from the Government of Uganda.
Despite widespread opposition to further land acquisition within the local communities, and despite the recent violence and arrests, Coil Construction Company Limited continues to forcefully take land from the Paten clan. During an initial conversation with the African Development Bank about the retaliations stated above, the bank staff questioned the community’s grievances while failing to mention, let alone acknowledge, the ongoing violence
and arrests perpetrated against the community by the security forces. Action must be taken by the African Development Bank and Nordic Development Fund urgently to prevent further violence from taking place.
We, the undersigned organizations, strongly condemn the retaliations against the local community. We call on the African Development Bank and Nordic Development Fund to:
● Respond urgently to the Paten Clan and the NGOs supporting them and work closely with them in addressing their concerns
● Call on the authorities to immediately halt all violence and to drop all charges against community members and BIRUDO staff/volunteers
● Call on local authorities to lift BIRUDO’s suspension to operate in Pakwach District
● Clearly communicate to all organisations and individuals involved in the Wadelai irrigation project implementation that retaliation is not tolerated by the African Development Bank and Nordic Development Fund
● Immediately investigate the recent shooting of Paten Clan members and linkages to the project implementation partners of FIEFOC-2
● Analyse the consultation process undertaken around the Wadelai irrigation project and take action to ensure that going forward, the project complies with AfDB’s Operational Safeguard 2 – Involuntary resettlement: land acquisition, population displacement and compensation
● Ensure that a functional Project-level Grievance and Redress Mechanism is established.
Signatories:
AbibiNsroma Foundation
ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa
Arab Watch Regional Coalition
Bank Information Center
Botswana Watch Organization
Both ENDS, the Netherlands
Buliisa Rural Initiative for Development (BIRUDO)
Community Initiatives for Sustainable Development
Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network (CEMSOJ), Nepal
Community Resource Centre, Thailand
Defenders in Development Campaign
Equitable Cambodia
Foundation for Environmental Management and Campaign against Poverty (FEMAPO),
Tanzania
Front Line Defenders
Green Advocates International
International Accountability Project
International Rivers (Africa Program)
Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya
Just Associates Southern Africa
Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP)
Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement
Narasha Community Development Group
Protection International Africa
Recourse, the Netherlands
Urgewald
Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA)
WoMin African Allianc

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Uganda: Resisting Industrial Oil Palm Plantations

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September 21st is the International Day of Struggle against Monoculture Tree Plantations.

Since this Day was created in 2004, its purpose has been to highlight and support peoples’ struggles to defend territories threatened by the expansion of industrial tree plantations.

Within the framework of this Day, we want to share the new video “Uganda: Resisting Industrial Oil Palm Plantations”, produced by the Informal Alliance against Industrial Oil Palm Plantations in West and Central Africa.

The video highlights the resistance of communities in Buvuma Island in Uganda where the Bidco company (partially owned by the transnational Wilmar company) is trying to expand its oil palm plantations. By making false promises including the use of smallholder schemes , the company wants to expand its control over territories and peoples’ lives.

However, communities are determined to resist and raise awareness by exposing the deceiving practices of the company so that other communities in Uganda and elsewhere do not fall into the same traps

Watch the video here: Resisting Industrial Oil Palm Plantations

Source: World Rainforest Movement

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THE NEW EU DIRECTIVE ON DUE DILIGENCE – A RELEVANT STEP TOWARDS ENDING CORPORATE IMPUNITY?

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This is a critical time at the European Union (EU) when it comes to human suffering and climate impacts caused by transnational corporations, with particular emphasis on fossil fuel corporations, who continue to take deliberate actions to burn the planet. An important new law has been put forward, called the EU Due Diligence Act, which is still being discussed.

However, this law leaves much to be desired, and in its current form, can provide companies, investor states and financial institutions with an easy tick-box exercise, and loopholes, that will enable them to continue creating devastation of the earth, climate and peoples with impunity. The case of the gas industry in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, is a concrete example of how this can happen and is already happening.

Many organisations in Europe including Friends of the Earth Europe have been fighting the passing of this law in its current form and partnered with JA!’s activists at the EU Commission in Brussels in May, to speak to Ministers in the European Parliament (MEP).

To see the full report by Friends of the Earth Europe, ‘‘INSIDE JOB: How business lobbyists used the Commission’s scrutiny procedures to weaken human rights and environmental legislation’’, click here: https://friendsoftheearth.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/INSIDE-JOB_-How-business-lobbyists-used-the-Commissions-scrutiny-procedures.pdf

The majority of players in the Cabo Delgado gas industry are international, and many are from countries within the EU, such as Total from France, Eni from Italy, Galp from Portugal and French, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish and Danish banks, to name a few.

Many of these oil, coal and gas companies register subsidiaries in the country where they operate, such as Mozambique, and because the current draft EU law says that only ‘big’ companies can be held accountable, this will enable these subsidiaries to get away with their abuses and violations at a domestic level, especially in countries with weakened systems of justice.

Another major issue is that the topic of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) needs to be clear and strong. For one, it is only mentioned in an annex, and uses the term ‘consultation’ rather than consent, meaning that communities will only have to be informed of the project. It fails to ensure a clear right to say ‘no’, when local communities do not accept a specific project in their territories for fearing its foreseeable impacts. Secondly, it does not take into account the difficulties that come with actually obtaining this consent, the fact that even consent can be bought, coerced or threatened into. This related to what is meant by ‘a legitimate consultation’. For example, in Cabo Delgado, Total’s consultation process with affected communities has been a sham. When Total representatives visited and visit communities for these consultation meetings, they are accompanied by a military entourage. This, along with the presence of leaders who have a beneficial relationship with the company, means that community members are too afraid to speak out and dissent, even if they disagree, and ultimately many signed compensation agreements in public and in a language they did not understand. Yet Total was able to tick the boxes required for a legitimate process.

In general, there is not enough emphasis on preventing harm, and far more on remedy. It does not deal with what should be the foundation of the discussion, which is that there should be no harm or violations committed in the first place, and that appropriate punitive and coercive sanctions must be put in place when they are committed.

Burden of proof is too high.

In many laws, including in this draft EU law, the burden is on the claimant to prove the crime, which in this case means that corporations are innocent until proven guilty, and the assumption is that communities are not telling the truth. Communities are expected to show that their human rights were violated, amongst all difficulties linked to the asymmetry of power and complicity with national governments, while companies will only need to show that they followed the required processes needed for a project to be developed in that area. In order for community complaints to be considered ‘credible’, they are expected to provide information that is not easy for them to come by, such as written documentation and emails, video and photographic evidence, and named testimonies and witnesses, to show that the companies did not act in compliance with the law and international norms and standards. Amidst global overlapping crisis strongly linked to the power and impunity of these transnational corporations, the burden of proof should be on the companies to prove they are not responsible for the harm, or that they cannot control companies in their global value chains.

The legislation does not recognise that people cannot provide this information – they often do not have access to technology, knowledge of the language used, information in writing and in many cases their lives would be at risk for speaking out.

In the case of Cabo Delgado many mainstream media articles coming out toe the government line and there have been instances where journalists who tell the truth have been arrested and tortured, or even disappeared. Media, civil society and government officials who enter the gas area are accompanied by a military and government entourage, which makes it unlikely that communities will talk about their experiences honestly. These obstacles are not taken into account.

And on climate change

The draft EU law is not clear about companies’ compliance with the Paris Agreement and keeping below the 1.5 oC degree emissions target. Instead, it speaks of ‘compatibility’ which leaves much room for industry to claim that the agreement is ‘open to interpretation’ as they have done before several times.

As long as essential issues in the draft EU law are not addressed, including binding law on compliance with climate agreements, the reversal of the burden of proof and the establishment of clear provisions to deal with neocolonial power dynamics and systemically exploitative nature of big transnational companies , it will be yet another stamp with which the industry will show off its deceiving processes to ‘meet requirements’.

When governments are questioned on their unwillingness to sanction companies and financiers, they often claim that ‘holding dialogue’ with these companies is more effective in the long run. They have said, in several instances, that sanctioning companies should be the last resort, and will lead to them having no input into companies’ actions whatsoever. This system of continued dialogue is clearly not working -companies are continuing to act with impunity – and instead, institutions like the EU need to take ‘take responsibility for the harms of its companies, with great impacts in the global South, and take a step further to actually sanctioning them.

The insufficiency and limitations of a regional legislation

At a broader level, and even though EU corporate regulation laws are undoubtedly needed, this Due Diligence directive will not solve the global problem of corporate impunity. A regional directive – especially one linked with such a weak concept as ‘due diligence’ – must complement the process towards a UN legally binding instrument to regulate transnational companies in international human rights law (the ‘UN binding treaty on TNCs’), ongoing since 2014. Surprisingly enough, the reluctance of the EU and most of its member States to adequately engage in the UN binding treaty negotiations has been reaffirmed session after session and, unsurprisingly, heavily criticized by civil society from across the world.

Without a global level playing field, companies will continue choosing the best places to violate human rights and cause economic, social, environmental and climate impacts. Or choosing the best jurisdiction to register their parent companies. Both the EU and UN laws must include direct legal obligations to companies, affirm the primacy of human rights over trade and investment agreements, and establish judicial enforcement mechanisms. The negotiations of these or any laws aimed at regulating corporate activities should logically be protected from corporate capture and influence. The EU must include several key elements in its new directive in order for it to be meaningful – and this effort must be accompanied by the EU finally taking up its responsibility to start engaging actively and constructively in the negotiations for an ambitious and effective UN binding treaty.

Ending corporate impunity must necessarily mean that we close the legal loopholes and gaps which allow transnational corporations to evade responsibility – at national, regional and international levels.

Source: ja4change.org

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#StopEACOP campaign calls on Standard Bank to come clean about its funding of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline

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The #StopEACOP campaign has noted media reports that PR firm Edelman has ended its relationship with Standard Bank over Edelman’s refusal to provide reputation management services to the bank relating to its funding of TotalEnergies (Total)’s proposed controversial East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

#StopEACOP commends Edelman for distancing itself from the bank over its role in the project.

Although Standard Bank remains tight-lipped in relation to its funding of EACOP, the media reports regarding Edelman appear to confirm #StopEACOP’s understanding that Standard Bank does intend to finance the pipeline.

The risks of funding EACOP are intensifying. Edelman’s withdrawal illustrates that these include significant reputational risks. #StopEACOP urges all Standard Bank customers, service providers, employees and shareholders to speak up against the project and the bank’s involvement in it.

The risks

The severe environmental, human rights, climate, legal, and commercial risks and impacts of EACOP are summarised in this series of finance risk briefings. Globally, 20 banks (including Total’s seven largest financiers) have made clear they will not finance the project, as have eleven insurers or reinsurers, several development finance institutions and four export credit agencies. Growing opposition to EACOP will continue to intensify the reputational and other severe risks it poses for Total, and the banks, investors and insurers backing the project.

Duncan Meisel, Director, Clean Creatives, says: “Fossil fuel projects like EACOP are a threat to the reputation of any company that promotes or funds them. Edelman’s decision not to work on this project is the right one, because it separates them from the countless local disasters caused by pipeline construction and operation – not to mention the carbon pollution EACOP will produce. During a climate emergency, ending support for life-threatening projects such as EACOP, and the fossil fuel companies behind them, is the cornerstone of responsible business practice.”

Standard Bank evasive

For several years now, Standard Bank has been evasive regarding the status of its financing of the project. Together with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), it acts as a financial advisor for the project.

Standard Bank has publicly stated that its participation in EACOP remains subject to the findings of environmental and social due diligence assessments of the project’s compliance with the Equator Principles.  At its 31 May 2022 AGM, the bank’s CEO, Sim Tshabalala, committed to making public the long-awaited Social and Environmental Consultant’s report into the EACOP project, commissioned by Standard Bank and conducted by Golder Associates. The bank has so far failed to meet this commitment and the bank has not responded to recent requests from organisations within the #StopEACOP campaign for an update on the status of this report.

A recent report by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Inclusive Development International (IDI) and BankTrack demonstrates that banks supporting EACOP would be in non-compliance with their commitments under the Equator Principles, a risk management framework for financial institutions to identify, assess and manage environmental and social risks.

In other words, irrespective of what the yet-to-be-disclosed environmental and social report states, EACOP has now been shown to violate the Equator Principles. Given the bank’s commitment only to support the project if it complies with these Principles, this finding provides a further compelling reason for Standard Bank to back away from financing EACOP.

It is time for transparency. #StopEACOP calls on Standard Bank to publicly confirm – and explain – its position, and to end the prevarication and evasiveness which has characterised its responses to civil society for a number of years.

Source: justshare.org.za

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