News in brief - March 2016

15 março 2016

A group of more than 50 international organisations have written to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández to demand an independent international investigation into the murder on 3 March of the environmental and indigenous rights campaigner Berta Cáceres. In a letter, they expressed their shock and concern at Berta’s death and demanded guaranteed protection for her family and colleagues, including the Mexican activist who witnessed her assassination. Berta, founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, was killed barely a week after she was threatened for opposing a hydroelectric project. She was shot dead by two gunmen at her home in La Esperanza; police said it was an attempted robbery, but Berta’s family said they had no doubt she was assassinated because of her high-profile opposition to dams, illegal loggers and plantation owners. She was awarded the Goldman Prize last year for her opposition to the Agua Zarca cascade of four giant dams in the Gualcarque river basin, one of Central America’s largest hydropower projects. Our thoughts are with her family and colleagues.

In a move that could open its rainforest to large-scale exploitation and devastation, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has suggested it may lift the moratorium on the allocation of new industrial logging concessions, imposed in 2002. More than a dozen NGOs, including Fern, issued a statement warning that the expansion of industrial logging will likely provoke environmental destruction, social abuse and corruption in the world’s second largest tropical rainforest, undermining efforts to prevent climate change. Donors, including the EU, should be aware that lifting the moratorium casts substantial doubt on the DRC’s REDD+ efforts and any future efforts to develop a Voluntary Partnership Agreement under the EU-FLEGT programme.

Having considered moving to avoid tougher British regulation, banking giant HSBC’s decision to maintain its headquarters in the UK may be good news for European-based forest campaigners. A Fern blog explains that the bank’s decision to stay in London makes it much easier for campaigners to hold it accountable. HSBC is a major source of finance for large-scale tropical agriculture projects. Soon-to-be-published research by Fern suggests that, in the five years to 2015, the bank provided $4.8bn in loans and underwriting services to some 25 companies possibly involved in land-grabbing; it was also found to be the largest European provider of loans and underwriting for Asian companies engaged in palm oil production and operating in areas where deforestation is a concern.

FERN works to achieve environmental and social justice with a focus on forests and forest peoples' rights in the policies and practices of the European Union.

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