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RDC: Selon un rapport, des banques européennes financent une entreprise d’huile de palme qui viole les droits de ses travailleurs et pollue l'environnement

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Article
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Author: Espoir Olodo, Agence Ecofin (Suisse)

Dans son nouveau rapport publié ce lundi et baptisé « Un sale investissement : Rôle des banques européennes de développement dans les abus commis dans le secteur de l’huile de palme en RD Congo », l’ONG Human Rights Watch accuse [Feronia] et sa filiale locale Plantations et Huileries du Congo (PHC) de violer les droits des travailleurs et de porter préjudice à l’environnement. « PHC sous-paie souvent ses travailleurs et se sert de contrats temporaires qui n’offrent pas de règlements en espèces, ce qui semble violer la loi congolaise. Des travailleurs des trois plantations sont exposés à de grandes quantités de pesticides dangereux parce que l’entreprise ne leur fournit pas d’équipements de protection adaptés », souligne l’organisation.  

Sur le plan environnemental, d’après HRW, le groupe pollue les réserves en eau au niveau de son périmètre d’activité s’étendant sur 100 000 hectares de palmeraies réparties à Boteka (province de l’Équateur), Lokutu (Tshopo) et Yaligimba (Mongala). « Au moins deux des moulins à l’huile de palme que possède l’entreprise, rejettent chaque semaine des tonnes de déchets non traités. Dans une des plantations, l’odeur pestilentielle envahit les domiciles des travailleurs, situés près du canal à ciel ouvert où sont rejetés les déchets », ajoute HRW.

Au-delà de ces questions liées au travail et à l’environnement, l’ONG dénonce l’implication des banques allemande (DEG), néerlandaise (FMO), britannique (CDC) et belge (BIO) qui ont injecté depuis 2013, près de 100 millions $ dans Feronia. 

 

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Report
25 November 2019

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

Author: Human Rights Watch (HRW), USA

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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Article
25 November 2019

A joint statement from CDC Group, BIO, DEG and FMO on the long-term role of Development Finance Institutions in poverty-stricken regions of the world

Author: FMO, CDC, BIO and DEG

As Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), our principle purpose is to deploy long-term investment in some of the poorest and most challenged regions to bring about positive social, environmental and economic change. In many instances we are challenged to do “the hardest things in the hardest places". Today’s Human Rights Watch report concerning our shared investment in PHC/Feronia, a palm oil producer for the domestic DRC market, highlights the need for further investment to improve environmental and working conditions at the company. Realising improvements to working conditions and community infrastructure is central to DFIs’ engagement with Feronia...

Today, worker wages at Feronia have more than doubled, and protective clothing is mandatory. Housing is constantly being renewed and restored, 72 wells have been drilled or renovated to provide clean water, and restored medical facilities are helping thousands of workers and non-workers every year...Throughout our engagement with HRW, we have been transparent about the company’s challenges. Complete access has been provided to the company’s operations - as can be seen by the detail in their report - and we had provided detailed answers and context to their questions... 

To be clear, the issues raised by HRW in its report are important and the company, owners and lenders are committed to tackling them. Actions we are taking are detailed below... 

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Item
25 November 2019

Annex: Use of Pesticides in PHC Plantations

Author: Human Rights Watch (HRW), USA

The nine pesticides PHC uses on its three plantations have a total of six active ingredients, according to the company’s social environmental impact reports that the Congolese Agency for the Environment (ACE) approved in November 2017 and that are valid for five years. Of these nine, the report provides brand names for eight, and for the remaining one only the active ingredient is listed: glyphosate. Human Rights Watch researchers also photographed the original containers or labels of four brand-name pesticides in Lokutu and Yaligimba plantation, which were consistent with the pesticides listed in the social and environmental impact assessment. Half of the active ingredients in pesticides used in PHC plantations are considered hazardous by the WHO...

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Article
25 November 2019

DR Congo: Development banks linked to palm oil abuses failed oversight enables labor, environmental harm

Author: Farmlandgrab.org

Four European development banks are financing a palm oil company in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is violating workers’ rights and dumping untreated waste, Human Rights Watch said in a report...[The report]...documents that investment banks owned by Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom are failing to protect the rights of people working and living on three plantations they finance. Human Rights Watch found that Feronia and its subsidiary in Congo, Plantations et Huileries du Congo (PHC), exposes workers to dangerous pesticides, dumps untreated industrial waste into local waterways, and engages in abusive employment practices that result in extreme poverty wages...

“These banks can play an important role promoting development, but they are sabotaging their mission by failing to ensure that the company they finance respects the rights of its workers and communities on the plantations,” said Luciana Téllez, environment and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The banks should insist that Feronia remedies the abuses and commits to a concrete plan to end them.”..

Workers on the three plantations are exposed to large amounts of hazardous pesticides due to the company’s failure to provide adequate protective equipment, Human Rights Watch found...Many described skin irritation, pustules, blisters, eye problems or blurred vision – symptoms consistent with what scientific literature and the pesticide’ labels describe as health consequences of exposure. Some pesticides used on the plantations can also have long term effects, like cancer, from repeated exposure... 

 

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Article
25 November 2019

Interview: A Toxic Mix of Abuses on Congo’s Oil Palm Plantations - How European Development Banks Fail the Very People They Claim to Assist

Author: Human Rights Watch (HRW), USA

The largest agricultural employer in the Democratic Republic of Congo is Plantations et Huileries du Congo S.A. (PHC). In a country where two-thirds of the population live in poverty, PHC employs thousands on its oil palm plantations. The company, a subsidiary...Feronia...has received millions of dollars from the development banks of four European countries – Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The employment provided by PHC could be critical in lifting people out of poverty and improving their lives. However, many workers are exposed to toxic chemicals, paid extremely low wages, or housed along streams of industrial waste. Birgit Schwarz speaks to researcher Luciana Téllez-Chávez about her new report, the role of development banks, and what needs to change to keep development money from funding labor abuses and pollution...

[Birgit Schwarz]: What abuses did you find?

[Luciana Téllez-Chávez]: We spoke to more than 100 workers across the company’s 3 plantations and found that workers who applied or mixed pesticides didn’t have adequate equipment to protect them from toxic chemicals, abusive employment practices resulted in extremely low wages, especially for women, and the company dumps untreated, foul-smelling waste in rivers and next to workers’ homes, a practice that appears to have contaminated the only drinking water source for hundreds of villagers downstream...

[Birgit Schwarz]: What kind of pesticides are being used on PHC’s plantations?

Half of the active ingredients in the pesticides PHC uses are considered hazardous by the World Health Organization (WHO). Most have properties that cause skin problems and severe eye damage. One of the pesticides used can cause cancer, and Germany is planning to ban it by 2023. European regulators recently recommended revoking the permit for another pesticide used on PHC plantations because it can affect the nervous system.

[Birgit Schwarz]: Was the plantation workers’ health affected by these pesticides?

[Luciana Téllez-Chávez]: Over 200 workers spray or mix pesticides on PHC plantations. Each day, sprayers will treat between 300 and 600 palm trees and mixers will blend 200 gallons (approximately 757 liters) of pesticide formula. They are handling huge volumes of toxic chemicals. We interviewed more than 40 of these workers. Two-thirds of them told us that they had become impotent since they started the job. Many suffered from skin irritation, itchiness, blisters, eye problems, or blurred vision – all symptoms that are consistent with what scientific texts and the products’ labels describe as health consequences of exposure to these pesticides...  

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Author: Farmlandgrab.org

Quatre banques de développement européennes financent actuellement une entreprise d’huile de palme en République démocratique du Congo qui viole les droits des travailleurs et rejette des déchets non traités, a déclaré Human Rights Watch... 

Le rapport...intitulé « A Dirty Investment: European Development Banks’ Link to Abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Palm Oil Industry » (« Un sale investissement : Rôle des banques européennes de développement dans les abus commis dans le secteur de l’huile de palme en RD Congo »...décrit en quoi des banques d’investissement d’Allemagne, de Belgique, des Pays-Bas et du Royaume-Uni négligent de protéger les droits des personnes qui travaillent et vivent dans trois plantations qu’elles financent. Human Rights Watch a constaté que Feronia et sa filiale en RD Congo, Plantations et Huileries du Congo S.A. (PHC), exposaient les travailleurs à des pesticides dangereux, rejetaient des déchets industriels dans les cours d’eau locaux et se livraient à des pratiques d’emploi abusives qui se traduisent par des salaires correspondant à l’extrême pauvreté...

« Ces banques pourraient jouer un rôle important pour favoriser le développement, mais elles sabotent leur mission en ne s’assurant pas que l’entreprise qu’elles financent respecte les droits de ses travailleurs et des communautés vivant dans les plantations », a déclaré Luciana Téllez, chercheuse auprès de la division Environnement et droits humains de Human Rights Watch et auteure du rapport. 

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Author: Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Ce rapport examine la responsabilité de quatre banques de développement européennes à propos des pratiques abusives dans des plantations de palmiers à huile en République démocratique du Congo. Ces banques, à savoir BIO (Belgique), CDC Group (Royaume-Uni), DEG (Allemagne) et FMO (Pays-Bas), comptent parmi les dix plus grandes institutions bilatérales de financement du développement au monde, contrôlant des milliards de dollars d’investissements répartis dans plus de 2 000 projets menés dans des pays en développement. Selon Human Rights Watch, les banques n’ont pas réussi à s’assurer que les entreprises productrices d’huile de palme qu’elles financent en RD Congo respectent les droits fondamentaux des personnes qui travaillent et vivent sur leurs plantations ou à proximité...

Depuis 2013, les quatre banques ont investi au total près de 100 millions de dollars américains dans l’entreprise agricole productrice d’huile de palme Feronia et sa filiale Plantations et Huileries du Congo (PHC)...qui exploite trois plantations de palmiers à huile sur plus de 100 000 hectares dans le nord de la RD Congo...En plus d’être un investisseur, le CDC Group est également actionnaire de Feronia ; la banque détient actuellement 38 % de l’entreprise. L’ensemble des trois plantations emploie au total près de 10 000 travailleurs. Environ 100 000 personnes vivent sur ces sites ou dans un rayon de cinq kilomètres...

Human Rights Watch a constaté que l’absence de supervision appropriée de la part des banques a permis à Feronia et à sa filiale PHC de commettre des abus et de provoquer des dommages environnementaux portant atteinte au droit à la santé et au droit du travail. Il s’agit notamment des abus suivants : exposer plus de 200 travailleurs à des pesticides toxiques sans protection adéquate ; ne pas fournir aux travailleurs exposés à des pesticides résultats de leurs examens médicaux ; et adopter des pratiques en matière d’emploi qui placent de nombreux travailleurs sous le seuil d’extrême pauvreté...En outre, les moulins à l’huile de palme situées sur les plantations rejettent régulièrement des déchets industriels non traités et qui ont peut-être déjà contaminé la seule source d’eau de boisson de centaines de personnes...

Principales recommandations à la BIO, au CDC Group, à la DEG et au FMO Les quatre banques européennes de développement devraient entreprendre des réformes structurelles afin de respecter leurs obligations en matière de droits humains, et ainsi pouvoir prévenir et atténuer les abus commis par les entreprises dans lesquelles elles investissent, tels que ceux exposés dans ce rapport...

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