Three members of the European Parliament’s Development Committee, travelled to Cameroon in May, to assess the EU’s involvement in natural resource management. The delegation focused on EU support to combat illegal logging and halt deforestation in this Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) country with poor forest governance.
The EU-Cameroon VPA is currently in crisis and Fern and our partners hope that the Parliament mission will help get VPA implementation back on the right track. During an exchange with the MEPs, Cameroonian civil society organisations spoke of the danger of closing down the space for dialogue that the VPA has opened up and requested that the current barriers to the VPA-process be discussed at the highest political level.
The MEPs also met with communities mobilising action against the plantations of European company SOCFIN, a leading palm oil and rubber producer in Cameroon.
SOCFIN hascommitted to zero deforestation and adopted a moratorium on expanding plantations until appropriate high conservation value-mapping could be carried out and a free prior and informed consent (FPIC) approach established. For several years, however, communities in Cameroon have complained about SOCFIN’s failure to respect rights and its refusal to enter into a dialogue with villagers living near the plantations about how to protect their living space and environment.
The annual general meetings of the SOCFIN Group and of Bolloré, one of its main shareholders, took place on 31 May and 1 June. Villagers living near SOCFIN plantations marked the dates by campaigning against the company, and international NGOs supported them with actions at their offices in Luxemburg and Paris. Before the summer, the National Contact Point for the Belgian Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is expected to come out with a response to the complaint about the company filed by NGOs in Cameroon and Europe in 2010.
Photograph: REACT Protests against SOCFIN in Cameroon in 2015.