A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Oxfam welcomes the announcement yesterday by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that it has filed an official complaint with the certification body, SGS Qualifor, who carried out the certification of the UK-based New Forests Company’s plantations in Uganda.
The announcement follows a report published by Oxfam on 22 September that detailed how at least 22,000 people were evicted – some violently – without consent or compensation to make way for the New Forests Company (NFC) plantations.
According to documents seen by Oxfam, despite ongoing court cases and media coverage saying that there had been violence, the auditors said that the dispute over tenure had been ‘resolved’ and that there were ‘no reported incidents of violence’.
“The New Forests Company has relied on the FSC certification to show that there were no ongoing problems and in order to secure international investment. The evidence suggests otherwise and the FSC complaint to its certifiers shows clearly that they too have concerns that something went wrong in Uganda,” said Katia Maia, head of Oxfam’s GROW campaign.
“The New Forests Company must now end the denials and take action to bring justice to the communities in Uganda, starting by appointing an independent chairperson to lead the investigation they have committed to. Thousands of people claim to have lost their land and have seen their livelihoods deteriorate as a result of these evictions. Many say they are no longer able to adequately feed their families or send their children to school,” said Maia.
In addition to the FSC announcement, the World Bank – an investor in the New Forests Company through its commercial lending arm, the International Finance Corporation – has called on the NFC to open up to a full investigation into claims of bad practice in its Uganda forestry projects.
Oxfam is calling on NFC to ensure the investigation is transparent and led by an independent chairperson, who has the authority to appoint the investigatory body and who can ensure that the input and protection of the communities is guaranteed in the process.
Read the case study: The New Forests Company and its Uganda plantations
Download the report: Land and power: The growing scandal surrounding the new wave of investments in land
Notes to editors
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies investments for adhering to best operating practices regarding labor, social and environmental issues. The certification criteria include human rights and “demonstrated and uncontested, clearly defined, long-term land tenure and use rights (Principle 2).”
Tricia O’Rourke, +44 7876 397915 or email@example.com