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Report

A Dirty Investment - European Development Banks’ Link to Abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Palm Oil Industry

This report examines the responsibility of four European development banks for abusive practices on oil palm plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These banks – BIO, from Belgium; CDC Group, from the United Kingdom; DEG, from Germany; and FMO, from the Netherlands – are among the ten largest bilateral development financial institutions in the world...Human Rights Watch found that the banks have failed to ensure that the palm oil companies they finance in Congo are respecting the basic rights of the people who work and live on or near their plantations...

Since 2013, the four banks have invested a total of nearly US$100 million in the palm oil company Feronia and its subsidiary Plantations et Huileries du Congo S.A. (PHC)...which operates three oil palm plantations spanning over 100,000 hectares in northern Congo...In addition to being an investor, CDC Group is also a shareholder in Feronia: it currently owns 38 per cent of the company. The three plantations employ a total of nearly 10,000 workers. Approximately 100,000 people live on or within five kilometres of their property...

During field research in Congo between November 2018 and May 2019, Human Rights Watch visited the company’s three plantations and interviewed more than 200 people, including 102 PHC employees residing on or near the plantations, 20 Feronia and PHC executives and company managers, and 25 government officials...

Human Rights Watch found that lack of proper oversight by the banks has enabled Feronia and its subsidiary PHC to commit abuses and environmental harm that infringed upon health and labour rights. These abuses include exposing more than 200 employees to toxic pesticides without adequate protection; not providing employees exposed to hazardous materials with the results of medical examinations; and engaging in abusive employment practices that place many workers under the extreme poverty line. The plantations’ palm oil mills also routinely dump untreated industrial waste and may have already contaminated the only drinking water source of local communities...Recommandations...

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