Symbolic Action in Brussels

tl_files/aefjn-images/im_aefjn_lobby/1603 Action Socfin.jpg             Last February 24 a coalition of civil society organisations and citizens conducted a symbolic action in front of the headquarters of SOCFIN in Brussels. SOCFIN is a Belgian-Luxembourg agro-industrial group specialising in the cultivation of oil palm and hevea trees (for rubber). The company has plantations in ten African countries and Asia and wants to expand these activities to take advantage of the increased demand for palm oil. This expansion is at the expense of the social and environmental rights of communities and without adequate consultation and consent of local communities.


             The disagreements – even conflict – between local communities and the company or one of its subsidiaries have been documented by numerous NGOs. For example, in 2011 some Belgian NGOs published a report on the investments of a local subsidiary of SOCFIN, Socfin Agricultural Company Ltd. (SAC), in Sierra Leone. Despite opposition from communities (who formed a local organisation called MALOA) to the agreement signed by the government and SAC, the company went ahead and developed 12,000 hectares of plantations. On 4 February 6 representatives of MALOA paid for their resistance by being given prison sentences of 5 or 6 months – a cause for concern for defenders of international human rights.


          Other NGOs have documented similar instances in other countries, e.g. Greenpeace on deforestation and Green Scenery on land grabbing. In 2010, via the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), NGOs complained that SOCAPALM, a Cameroonian subsidiary of SOCFIN, had infringed the living space of the people, privatised their means of subsistence, grabbed their land and even acted violently. OECD’s point of contact in Belgium blamed SOCFIN for not respecting OECD’s guiding principles – but the group denies this. The Contact Point of the OECD in Belgium regrets that the company was unwilling to enter into dialogue with the OECD on this issue.


         This empty chair policy was also applied towards the International Alliance of Villagers Affected by the Plantations of SOCFIN and Bolloré, which consists of local community representatives from Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cambodia. The Alliance has tried to resolve the conflicts between the communities and the company peaceably, but SOCFIN has not co-operated with them.


Watch the video of the Action

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