Oxfam welcomes independent process to address community grievances in Uganda land dispute

By bgrossmancohen

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Oxfam has welcomed the announcement of an independent process to resolve complaints from communities who were evicted from their land without compensation to make way for two forestry plantations in Uganda.

The Office of the Compliance Adviser/Ombudsman (CAO) handles complaints from communities affected by investments made by the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC). It has confirmed that it will launch an independent process to find a resolution to the dispute involving the UK’s New Forests Company (NFC). The IFC has invested in an agribusiness fund, Agri-Vie, which has an equity stake in and seat on the board of NFC.

Oxfam has been calling for an independent investigation since September when it published its research into the evictions in Mubende and Kiboga districts, based on extensive consultations with hundreds of individuals from the affected communities. The CAO has accepted the eligibility of the complaints that were filed by Ugandan communities and co-signed by Oxfam and the Uganda Land Alliance. This is the first step in a process which Oxfam believes could secure redress for the communities, who have lost their homes and the land they relied on for their livelihoods.

The CAO process aims to find a negotiated resolution between the complainants, the company and any others relevant to the process. NFC has already confirmed that it will participate in this process.

“This is an important step towards giving a voice to the thousands of people left destitute,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “We hope it will lead to securing the redress they deserve.  We welcome New Forests Company’s commitment to participate in this process and look forward to finding a resolution as soon as possible.”

Oxfam’s focus on this case is part of the organization’s GROW campaign, which aims to secure a future where everyone has enough to eat. Oxfam is concerned about the accelerated rush for land, especially in Africa, and the lack of effective international rules to protect the poorest people who depend on the land for food.

In the next stage of the CAO process, up to six months will be spent on clarifying the issues and concerns raised by the complainants and gathering information on how others involved see the situation. This will help the CAO and all relevant parties to determine whether and how they might be able to resolve the issues. The CAO will then publish a report containing its assessment of the situation, which will describe the proposed course of action that has been agreed by all.

Notes to editors:

Complaint letters were sent to the CAO from the affected communities in Kiboga and Mubende on December 20, outlining the adverse social impacts related to the NFC operations. Both Oxfam and the Uganda Land Alliance were co-signatories. To view the letters, visit: http://www.cao-ombudsman.org