Anouk Franck, Senior Policy officer, Both ENDS (+31) 20-5306600, email@example.com, www.bothends.org
Kristen Genovese, Senior Researcher, SOMO - Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, (+31) 20-6391291, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.somo.nl, www.grievancemechanisms.nl
Goejet Miranda, President Movimiento 10 de Abril (M-10), (+507) 62660949, email@example.com
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FMO's Independent Complaints Mechanism (ICM) determined that the complaint submitted by Panamanian indigenous communities has met its admissibility criteria and will move on to the next phase. The complaint, filed on May 5 2014, alleged that FMO failed to ensure free prior and informed consent was obtained before financing the Barro Blanco hydropower project that would result in the flooding of indigenous lands.
"We are pleased that the ICM has acted so quickly to move the complaint to the next phase. Time is of the essence now, as the construction of the dam nears completion," said Kristen Genovese of the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO). The ICM's independent experts will next begin to discuss the issues with the parties and review available documentation related to the project. Following this preliminary review phase, the ICM will determine whether to convene a dialogue, conduct an investigation, or both.
"The fact that independent experts will look into the grievances of the Ngöbe communities is of enormous importance. The affected communities have raised the failure to obtain free prior and informed consent on many occasions and in many different fora. The fact that the ICM of the Dutch development bank FMO, although late in the process, will now engage with them and look into the responsibility of the bank is definitely an important step forward," said Anouk Franck, senior policy officer at Both ENDS.
In a recent letter addressed to the FMO, the Movimiento 10 de Abril (M-10), a group that represents members of the indigenous community directly affected by the Barro Blanco Dam, reiterated their demand that FMO withdraw their funding from the project.
"We were never consulted on this project. The things that will be lost because of this dam, cannot be compensated by money. No adequate environmental and social impact study was done and the respect of the human rights of the population cannot be guaranteed", states Manolo Miranda from M-10.
Awaiting the finalization of the dam, community members remain in their encampment along the banks of the Tabasará River to prevent machinery from entering their land.