Investigation into Uganda “land grab” must be genuinely independent and transparent
Oxfam concern that company continues to dismiss people’s allegations of abuse
Oxfam welcomes the World Bank’s1 call that UK-based New Forests Company (NFC) must open up to a full investigation into claims of bad practice in its Uganda forestry projects.
This follows a report by Oxfam and the Uganda Land Alliance on September 22 that said more than 20,000 people had been evicted without compensation or consent to make way for NFC plantations, in breach of international guidelines. Many of these people are now living in destitution. Some claim the evictions were violent.
NFC has stated it will investigate. However, Oxfam is concerned about the nature of the investigation because NFC continues to discredit people’s allegations. It most recently described the claims as “fictitious” and “irresponsible and one-sided propaganda.”
“The company’s remarks are ill-judged and unprofessional”, said Oxfam GROW campaign coordinator Katia Maia. “NFC continues to refer to ‘peaceful and non-violent voluntary vacations’ as fact. This makes us sceptical about the investigation that it intends to set up,” she said.
Oxfam has since asked NFC to ensure that the investigation is genuinely independent, transparent and takes into account the experiences of affected communities.
“Oxfam rigorously defends its research. We spoke with hundreds of individuals from affected communities and with government authorities. We presented NFC’s position accurately in our report. NFC can’t simply dismiss our research because it disagrees with it,” Maia said.
“Many of those evicted can no longer feed their families or send their children to school. They are living in destitution. The World Bank and NFC must ensure that any investigation will be credible and meaningful.”
Oxfam says that:
- No-one was compensated for their loss of land, crops and belongings. Oxfam says that NFC operates under international guidelines designed to protect people’s right to adequate compensation. NFC cannot dodge its responsibilities and blame solely the government.
- Many evictees describe violence during the evictions, of houses burnt and crops destroyed. A recent New York Times article quoted a woman who said her son died in a fire during the evictions.
- There are still two legal suits active today that describe the evictions as violent and that outline people’s own legal claims to the land. The suits also seek compensation and damages.
NFC also claims that the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the commercial lending arm of the World Bank) and the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC, the gold standard of forestry certification) had both passed its projects as ‘clean’. However Oxfam believes that neither organization has provided sufficient evidence to support NFC’s claims that the evictions were ‘legal, voluntary and peaceful’2.
Oxfam engaged with NFC for a number of months before publishing its report. In March, April and July Oxfam made several attempts to get the company's reaction but it refused to respond. Since August, Oxfam has engaged extensively with the company's management.
Notes to Editors
- The World Bank has a financial interest in NFC via an equity investor. The World Bank insists that its investees must operate in a responsible manner and meet certain social standards.
- Oxfam says that the IFC report was not an “audit” but was instead a field appraisal that only took place after the evictions. The IFC officer who undertook the appraisal did not talk to affected communities and only reviewed one of the two districts. Similarly, the FSC certification audit only reviewed one plantation, Mubende not Kiboga. And despite the legal suits and media coverage saying that there had been violence, the FSC said that disputes over tenure had been ‘resolved’ and that there were ‘no reported incidents of violence’.
Scandalous: $18.5 trillion hidden in #taxhavens = $156bn lost in revenue which could help fight poverty http://t.co/8cc9k6F9d6 #taxdodging3 hours 27 min ago
Apple under scrutiny for #taxdodging, shows “unbelievable chutzpah.” http://t.co/XIL06OCU1A @nytimes #taxhavens9 hours 56 min ago
#Lille France-UK #Transparency Conference: Follow our @benphillips76 @LucLampriere @HannahStoddart. See also @pcanfin #landgrabs #taxdodging11 hours 49 min ago
Pls consider donating to our #SyriaCrisis Appeal. $10 covers basic needs items for 1 person for a month http://t.co/HtJ1uzYBpa12 hours 30 sec ago
UN has now registered +1.3m #refugees. One of them, Leka'a, has kindly shared her v personal story w us http://t.co/TQHewOBFIc #SyriaCrisis12 hours 33 min ago
#Hunger will be the face of the future without govt & aid policy reform http://t.co/ryFcadlsXF MT @TR_Foundation via @katymigiro14 hours 8 min ago
RT @OxfamEAfrica: The great @Oxfam team at the #AUSummit this week - @mynassah @ShuksG @MuleyaM @JMwanjisi @NicholasNgigi @assodesire @Ja…14 hours 33 min ago
#Cyclone Mahasen: we're working with #Bangladesh govt & other agencies to assess needs http://t.co/I1orTbX0HJ #humanitarian15 hours 28 min ago
RT @oxfamgbpress: The most fearless women on earth http://t.co/72kW0cBMdW via @Fabulousmag includes an Afghan woman who works with @Oxfam15 hours 46 min ago
#India communities most affected by #climate change learning to adapt using #renewable energy http://t.co/QuNn1H8MDe #resilience15 hours 58 min ago
Disasters happen but the #inequality of risk is no accident. Our new report on #resilience http://t.co/XDMrZ3eK7r #climate16 hours 57 min ago
No accident millions at risk 2 disasters: Fundamental shift needed in power/politics http://t.co/NgcQrVEFfy #climate #inequality #resilience17 hours 22 min ago
More on the global land rush: @Global_Witness report on logging in #Cambodia http://t.co/2G6Qm7vHgx @TheEconomist #landgrabs19 hours 44 min ago
How to avoid 'sustainability fatigue': short hit-list for business leaders via @GuardianSustBiz http://t.co/GavVllQYkw #susdev20 hours 44 min ago
RT @revenuewatch: New @Oxfam post explains what works in the fight against #corruption! http://t.co/1nF9FWykjL via @fp2p1 day 8 hours ago