STATEMENT: FMO’S EXIT TO THE AGUA ZARCA PROJECT

7th of July 2017

GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR GREEN AND GENDER ACTION (GAGGA)

STATEMENT ON FMO’S EXIT TO THE AGUA ZARCA PROJECT

The Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) welcomes the decision of the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) to divest from the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, located in the northwest of Honduras, between the Departments of Santa Bárbara and Intibucá and a few kilometres away of the Vida Silvestre Montaña Verde Reserve. The commitment to divest was expressed over a year ago and the member organisations of GAGGA view positively that the FMO has made this decision public.

Preventing the development of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Lenca territory was one of the biggest struggles of Berta Cáceres and the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras – COPINH). Berta was a prominent Lenca Indigenous woman and a strong activist for the environment, land and human rights of indigenous peoples in Honduras and the Central American region. On the 3rd of March 2016, two unknown subjects entered Cáceres’ home and murdered her. Although more than a year has passed following her murder, Honduran civil society as well as national and international organisations are still demanding a transparent and independent investigation into her death and a complete halt to the Agua Zarca project. In addition to Cáceres’ murder, other indigenous leaders working with COPINH and other organisations from the Lenca community defending their territory have suffered death threats, harassments, attacks and assassinations.

The construction of this dam is a clear human rights violation for Lenca women and men. In particular, the companies and funders involved did not follow the mechanisms and procedures that would have guaranteed the free, prior and informed consent of the Lenca Indigenous people. This consent is a key principle within Convention 169 – Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which was ratified by Honduras on the 28th of March 1995.

Infrastructure developments, such as the Agua Zarca project, have severe negative consequences on local communities. For example, the eviction and displacement of indigenous populations, the devastation of forests and lands, contamination, water scarcity, as well as the harassment and assassination of women and men human rights and land defenders.

Development banks and international financial institutions, such as the FMO, must ensure compliance with international human rights law and must listen to the voices of those communities most affected by these types of projects, particularly those communities that have been historically marginalised.

We hope that this case establishes a precedent for future investments of the FMO and other development banks. However, we are concerned that the concession still stands and other funders, such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), have the interest to invest and develop this project. At the same time, we urge relevant authorities to secure the integrity of the women and men that are members of COPINH, and of Honduran environmental activists and human rights defenders, who are living under constant harassment, persecution and criminalisation.

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