Socfin - Liberia

The Liberian Socfin plantation SRC opts out of conflict resolution process

03.06.2020

In 2008, the World Bank subsidiary International Finance Corporation (IFC) granted a loan of ten million US dollars to the Liberian Socfin subsidiary SRC or to undertake the expansion of its rubber plantation. In May 2019, the Liberian NGO Green Advocates filed a complaint with the IFC on behalf of 22 village communities, pointing out serious human rights violations in the vicinity of the SRC plantation.

 

The IFC Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) accepted the complaint in June 2019. Representatives of the CAO visited the SRC plantation in Liberia to access the situation and held talks with people from the affected villages who had filed the complaint. The CAO’s report published in March 2020 describes, for example, cases of land evictions and violence on the plantations and reports on the difficulty faced by people to earn enough to live on. The account of the situation by those responsible for the SRC plantation also forms part of this report. 

 

Based on this situation analysis, the CAO wanted to initiate a conflict resolution process in early summer 2020. However, this requires the consent of both conflict parties. While the people affected agreed to it despite all they had experienced, the plantation company rejected this process. SRC’s reasoning is that the CAO is biased in favour of the complainants and they cannot trust it. The CAO is the ombudsman of its own lender, the World Bank subsidiary IFC. Green Advocates, a partner organisation of Bread for All and complainant, has commented on this in a leading online journal (see article). Bread for all shares this assessment.

 

The complaint not only cites misconduct on the part of SRC, but also criticises in principle the fact that the IFC, as a donor, has not sufficiently observed and monitored its own standards. Without the IFC’s loan, many of the human rights violations and expulsions of which the people on the ground report might not have taken place at all. It is remarkable that the plantation company SRC now accuses the ombudsman of its own lender for favouring the affected people in its investigation, and going against its client. Both Green Advocates and Bread for All see the IFC as jointly responsible for the land and human rights violations, which Bread has all already made public in February 2019 in a detailed report.

 

Alfred Brownell, Director of Green Advocates, states in the above-mentioned article that “the affected communities are upbeat about the evidence of wanton abuses perpetrated against them by SRC and are prepared to go at any length to get the Company to pay for the damages, but they also are prepared to exhaust all the dispute resolution mechanisms available”.

 

More links about other recent activities of Bread for all, Green Advocates, Alliance for Rural Democracy and Natural Resource Women’s Platform:

  • Open letter demanding justice and safety for workers on Socfin’s rubber/oil palm plantations during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Op-ed by many organisations on the occasion of Socfin’s General Assembly: “Business as usual” at Socfin and Bolloré!

 

June 3rd, 2020.