Oxfam rejects SGS report findings into its Forest Stewardship Council certification of New Forests Company

Oxfam rejects the findings of this report. We stand by our research that indicates at least 22,500 people were evicted from their homes and the land they relied on for their livelihoods in the Mubende and Kiboga districts of Uganda without compensation, and - in some cases - violently, to make way for New Forests Company plantations. We note that in response to the SGS report, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has not concluded its complaint but is undertaking further investigation.

Oxfam questions the scope and validity of this report, which is based entirely on an investigation carried out by SGS, the same certification body whose original assessment of the eviction process we believe to have been flawed. We believe this investigation has been superficial and that SGS has not taken proper account of the significant weight of testimony from the affected communities, which was gathered by Oxfam over many months during a detailed consultation process involving more than 600 people.

That evidence includes legally witnessed testimony from named individuals attesting to acts of violence during the eviction process.  SGS does not appear to have spoken to any of these individuals or dealt with questions raised by their testimony.

In concluding that the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) standards have not been breached, SGS relies heavily on its own assessment that the evicted individuals were ‘illegal occupants.’ and therefore have no right to residency. However, the communities believe they did have rights and brought cases before the Ugandan court which asserted these rights. Their claims have not yet been determined by the court.  SGS acknowledges no one has been paid any compensation, making the report’s conclusions all the more difficult to understand, as the FSC standard requires the provision of compensation to local people for losses or damages, including to their livelihoods.

It is crucial that any further FSC investigation considers objectively the full weight of evidence that we have provided. Wider than this, we continue to call for a separate and truly independent investigation of these claims by affected community members so that they get the redress they deserve.

Read the full Oxfam response to the SGS investigation into the Forest Stewardship Council complaint (pdf, 227kb)

Contact information: 

Lucy Brinicombe, Senior Press Officer, Oxfam
tel +44 (0)1865 472192
mob +44 (0)7786 110054
Twitter: @lucybrinicombe