Swedish climate compensation led to violence and food shortages among the local population in Uganda. It is a scandal that it can happen without anyone being held accountable. Now the Swedish government must demand that companies respect human rights - even abroad, writes Mona Monasar at the organization FIAN.
The Swedish Energy Agency has since 2011 been involved in a forest project in the Kachung region of Uganda. The project was about climate compensation. This would provide climate benefits as the trees that are planted bind carbon dioxide.
The Swedish Energy Agency had an agreement with the Norwegian company Green Resources and they have paid money to the company that managed the afforestation project in Kachung. But the project has been debated and heavily criticized in recent years. People in the area have reported that they have been forcibly prevented from entering the forest area that they previously used to grow food and let their animals graze. Testimonies from the local population also say that the project did not take place in agreement with them. They say that Green Resources promised a lot, but did not deliver the improvements that the locals around Kachung would benefit from.
Last winter, during my dissertation, I did an interview with a student who visited Kachung. The student testifies that the residents in the area describe that they are starving. In March elected Ethe energy authority to suspend its involvement in the project as they believed that the land disputes that had arisen between the Norwegian forestry company Green Resources and the local population in Kachung could not be resolved satisfactorily. Unfortunately, their decision slipped a bit unnoticed as the news flow mainly focused on the covid-19 pandemic this spring.
Many believe that the project in Uganda carried out land grabbing, ie land grabbing where companies invest in land used by local people. The land grabbing has been financed by, among others, the Swedish Energy Agency, but carried out by the Norwegian company Green Resources.
Many injustices can be pointed out in this type of forest project. How fair is it that we pay for our climate destruction by buying up land in low- and middle-income countries and letting people who live there take the brunt? Climate justice and land grabbing are two issues that will be difficult to avoid discussing when looking at this project, but also others similar. Green Resources is today largest on the market in Africa and conducts many similar forest projects in countries around Uganda.
The forest project in Uganda is interesting to discuss based on the question of what responsibility both companies and the Swedish government have in this type of project. For example, has Sweden now chosen the right path out of the project? And what really protects the people of Kachung from companies and companies like Green Resources?
Many organizations - including FIAN - are currently working to get Sweden to support the proposal for the UN agreement 'Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights'. The agreement would mean that transnational companies that violate human rights could be brought to justice. It would make it more difficult for companies to act unethically in low- and middle-income countries.
Multinational companies that do not respect human rights should not be able to operate in countries with weaker legal protections or corrupt regimes without being held accountable for how they conduct their activities. The Swedish government does not support the bill on the 'Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights'. The Swedish government hopes instead that companies will follow UN Voluntary Guidelines for Entrepreneurship and Human Rights.
Sweden's unwillingness to support the bill - which is intended to be a protection for those who are exposed to the corrupt and destructive behavior of multinational companies - is puzzling. Why does the government not want to ensure that entrepreneurship goes right to and respects human rights? This is a chance to do the right thing, which I hope the Swedish government does. The inhabitants of Kachung have today had reduced opportunities for sustenance and food security. In addition, they have lost the right to their own land. This should not have to happen again.