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Palm oil companies Sime Darby & Golden Veroluem accused of landgrabs in Liberia

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Company response
5 February 2013

Golden Agri-Resources Response

Author: Golden Agri-Resources

Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) takes its sustainability commitments seriously and will adopt these for all plantations that we own, manage or invest in regardless of the stake. We believe that multi-stakeholder platforms such as the RSPO can find solutions for sustainable palm oil production.

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Company response
5 February 2013

Golden Veroleum Liberia response

Author: Golden Veroleum Liberia

Golden Veroleum (Liberia), Inc, ("GVL") began operating in Liberia in late 2010 and currently employs 2,471 Liberians, of whom 2,212 in the County of Sinoe. As a business, we comply with Liberian national laws and regulations and as a member of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil, (RSPO), we comply with its Principles and Criteria to produce sustainable palm oil....But much of this is new for Liberia and we therefore understand that concerns and mistakes will arise. We take concerns and complaints seriously, especially from our stakeholders, the Liberian communities and rural citizens. Where mistakes occur, we take responsibility, and make the necessary changes to the way we work and continue to improve our practices. As part of our continuous engagement with stakeholders, we have invited a recognized, independent not-for-profit organization, The Forest Trust, (TFT), who have experience of development concerns and issues around the world, to meet the relevant constituents in Sinoe and to carry out an independent assessment.

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1 February 2013

Land grabs and human rights violations exposed in Liberia ahead of global development summit

Author: Friends of the Earth Intl.

Palm oil companies are grabbing more than 1.5 million acres of land in Liberia and are violating the human rights of local communities, warn Liberian NGOs including Friends of the Earth Liberia (SDI - Sustainable Development Institute), Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU) and Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDev)…Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby and Indonesian Golden Veloreum have entered into long term land leases with the Liberian Government. Investigations into Sime Darby’s operations reveal that communities…had little warning or consultation of this land grab. Many of the inhabitants, especially women, say they have lost their farms and food sources, livelihoods, as well as culturally sacred sites to oil palm plantations…[There is] also concern…about large scale conversion of primary and secondary forest to palm oil plantations…[Civil society organizations]…are demanding a halt to any further planting and further deforestation and environmental degradation in any of the concession areas. [Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies to respond. Sime Darby referred us to a previous statement. Golden Agri-Resources, Golden Veroleum Liberia respondes provided.]

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Company response
31 January 2013

Statement on UN High Level panel

Author: Sime Darby

Sime Darby is proud to be a significant investor in Liberia…Friends of the Earth (FOE) has made false allegations about Sime Darby Plantation Liberia’s (SDPL) operations…Roslin Azmy Hassan..[of] Sime Darby said: "Sime Darby is proud to be a significant investor in Liberia. We believe our investment will bring about positive change to the people of Liberia. We will continue to work closely with community groups, government organisations, responsible and credible NGOs and civil society groups to ensure that all genuine stakeholders in the development of Liberia remain engaged and are working towards a common good. We believe that our actions are in compliance with RSPO, the UN Global Compact and The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)."

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23 January 2013

Liberian farmers take on Indonesian palm oil giant

Author: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Liberian farmers…are…fighting lucrative property deals with....palm oil companies that threaten the land they live on…In 2010, GVL [Golden Veroleum Liberia] acquired a 63-year lease on 220,000 hectares...of land...GVL's lease was signed…without…[local] representatives…Alfred Brownell…who founded...Green Advocates…filed a complaint on behalf of local inhabitants…with the international organisation RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)…In late 2011, RSPO upheld a complaint…against Sime Darby (SD)…“SD recognised the right of the communities to their food security and livelihoods…along with rights to compensation for shrines, and water resources affected by the practice of clear-cutting that wiped out the villagers' food supplies”… Brownell is…worried about the situation with GVL…"The way they operate is…threats, intimidation, illegal arrests,"…GVL manager Jeff Benzin…[said]: "When we made mistakes we admitted it…[we] pay compensation to any person who accepts it. When they specifically show us sacred sites, we stop everything"…But he also argued that palm oil "can save this country economically" [Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies to respond. Sime Darby referred us to a previous statement. Golden Agri-Resources, Golden Veroleum Liberia respondes provided.]

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27 December 2012

Palm oil industry accused of landgrabs in Liberia

Author: Ethan Baron, Global Post [USA]

In 2009, Liberia leased 771,000 acres of land to the Malaysian palm oil company Sime Darby for 63 years. In 2010, Golden Veroleum [Golden Agri-Resources is a major investor of Golden Veroleum] …received 865,000 acres for 65 years. No reliable estimates exist regarding numbers of people displaced. Villagers aren’t…directly forced off their land, but the companies “are cutting down so much cropland that people choose to leave,” said Jonathan Yiah, spokesperson for Liberian NGO Sustainable Development Institute (SDI)…[T]he Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI)…is currently investigating $8 billion in natural resource deals…for possible fraud and mismanagement…Opponents call the oil palm agreements land grabs and say many villagers are losing their livelihood…Sime Darby spokesman Carl Dagenhart acknowledged that the concession area belongs to those living in it…Dagenhart admitted that Sime Darby made mistakes early on, but said it is consulting communities and will allow them to decide where development takes place within the concession. [Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies to respond. Sime Darby referred us to a previous statement. Golden Agri-Resources, Golden Veroleum Liberia respondes provided.]

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