Is Sierra Leone Safe For Foreign Investors?
About 30 activists last Tuesday reportedly staged a ‘die-in’ and held billboards reading “stop toxic investments”, “reclaim human rights” and “stop green washing” in front of the ING Bank in Brussels, Belgium.
According to report, the activists, under a coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like Friends of the Earth Europe and FIAN, accuse ING of investing in palm oil in several countries, which threatens the environment and runs against a sustainable model of development, the environmentalists claim. They also blame the bank’s sustainable investment campaign, which they say amounts to “greenwashing.”
One of the more specific projects targeted by the activists involves the palm oil company, SocFin, which is active in Sierra Leone.
A representative from MALOA, an organization in Sierra Leone that supports local communities in defending their rights, was present at the demonstration. She told Euronews: “Loans given by ING bank to SocFin hurt us. We are victims of land grabs, because all of our lands have been taken away. We cannot plant, we cannot grow crops, we cannot eat food from our own land.”
Danielle van Oijen, programme officer at Friends of the Earth Netherlands calls ING one of the “dirtiest banks in Europe”. She added: “Palm oil leads to deforestation, it leads to land grabbing, it leads to a lot of human rights violations so ING should stop financing palm oil.”
In an email sent to Euronews, an ING spokesperson wrote: “ING gives a lot of importance to the respect for human rights.”
“As a general rule, when ING is made aware of problems, we engage in a dialogue with our clients in order to find a solution. We really believe in exerting influence via engagement and dialogue rather than through exclusion. Exclusion cancels all influence that we could have on this topic. And stopping this relationship will not guarantee any changes. Engagement allows us to advance together, which takes time. If there is no engagement or changes with some of our clients or sectors, we end the relationship,” she added.
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