Rights Group accuses European Banks of aiding abuse in Congo

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused four European development banks of not doing enough to prevent human rights and environmental abuses by a palm oil company they finance in Congo.

The accusation is contained in a report released on Monday.

HRW said Feronia – and PHC, its subsidiary in Congo – “exposes its workers to dangerous pesticides, dumps untreated industrial waste into local waterways and engages in abusive employment practices that result in poverty wages.”

Though Belgium’s BIO, Britain’s CDC Group, Germany’s DEG and the Netherlands’ FMO banks have invested almost 100 million dollars in development aid, they are “sabotaging their mission” by failing to ensure human rights are upheld on three plantations that they finance, said Luciana Tellez, the author of the report.

“The development banks have touted the investment as a success story in poverty-stricken Congo,” however many of the plantation workers are struggling to make ends meet on meagre wages, she said.

HRW found that, in spite of numerous complaints, workers are exposed to hazardous pesticides because of the company’s failure to provide protective equipment.

At least two of the company’s palm oil mills dump tons of untreated waste every week.

This affects both air and water quality.

“The development banks have considerable leverage over the companies in which they invest, given the numerous conditions they attach to their lending,” HRW added, calling for the banks to reform their operations in the central African country.

Feronia was due to hold a shareholders meeting in London on Monday to discuss its social and environmental track record with the four banks.


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