More than 30 young Cameroonian activists crowded in front of the headquarters of the European Union Delegation in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, this morning to demand the end of the EU support for rubber originating from rainforest destruction. The mobilization took place while the European Commission in Brussels is drawing up the articles of a new law on commodities linked to deforestation and forest degradation.
“Cameroonians rally today for a bold EU policy: rubber products linked to deforestation must be kept out of the European market. Europeans cannot vote with one hand for a Green New Deal and use the other one to buy commodities or finance plantations that erase our forests and displace our people,” said Nkolo Thade, a Baka indigenous leader who spoke at the rally.
The rally marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, after 10,000 hectares of rainforest in the South of Cameroon (an area about the size of Paris) were trashed by the multinational rubber company Halcyon Agri and the previous owner of its local subsidiary Sudcam. This operation, from 2011 to 2018, resulted in the displacement of Baka Indigenous People and the threatening of the Dja Faunal Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Demands for restoration of the forest and compensation of the Baka community have been consistently flouted by Halcyon Agri’s management.
Nevertheless, rubber from plantations such as this is being processed and marketed undisturbed to markets around the world, including the EU’s. Furthermore, European banks are financing such plantations: in July 2020, Deutsche Bank’s scandalously described a $25 million loan to Halcyon Agri as a “sustainability loan.” For over a year, the bank has refused to reconsider its loan after Greenpeace Africa and Greenpeace Germany have shared reports concerning its client’s human rights violations, environmental crimes, and lack of transparency.
“The people in the EU unwittingly consume rubber from deforestation areas, and EU banks are financing the land grabs. If the rubber industry gets away with trashing our rainforest, it will continue to do so with rainforests everywhere,” said Marie Grace Ngo, a Cameroonian activist from Greenpeace Africa and a student at the Institut des Relations Internationales du Cameroun (IRIC).
While youth activists rally today, the Greenpeace European Unit and Greenpeace Africa handed over a letter to the ambassador of the EU delegation in Yaoundé, calling for the adoption of ambitious and effective legislation on forest-and-ecosystem-risk commodities (FERCs).
New EU legislation is urgently needed to regulate the placing of forest-and-ecosystem-risk commodities on the EU market. Greenpeace Africa calls to include natural rubber as a key risk commodity in the upcoming EU law to halt deforestation and forest degradation driven by EU consumption.
- Sustainability requirements for all risk commodities – including meat, soy, palm oil, and rubber – must address human rights impacts, deforestation, forest degradation, and the conversion or degradation of natural ecosystems other than forests.
- The new legislation should apply to natural rubber as a key forest and ecosystem risk commodity in particular and set sustainability requirements for all forest and ecosystem risk commodities and products placed on the EU market, and address human rights impacts, deforestation, forest degradation, and the conversion or degradation of natural ecosystems other than forests;
- The new law should cover the financial sector, obliging financial actors to abide by due diligence obligations and sustainability requirements equivalent to those for commodities and products;
- Finally, it must establish requirements for supply chain transparency and traceability, as well as a comprehensive enforcement framework as laid out in this briefing by the Greenpeace European Unit .
 UNESCO, Rapport de la mission de conseil d’experts indépendants de l’UNESCO à la Réserve de faune du Dja (Cameroun), 18 February – 4 March 2019; Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), Palmed Off: an Investigation into three industrial Palm Oil and Rubber Projects in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, May 2019; Earthsight, Cameroon women denounce “destruction” of forests and community by agribusiness giants, April 2020; The Coming Storm: How Secrecy and Collusion in Industrial Agriculture Spell Disaster for the Congo Basin’s Forest, March 2018; Norway Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) Annual Report, February 27, 2019; Rainforest Foundation Norway, Press Release: Norway’s Government Pension Fund acts against deforestation: divests major agricultural companies, February 28, 2019; CIFOR, Socioecological responsibility and Chinese overseas investments The case of rubber plantation expansion in Cameroon, 2015.
 Greenpeace European Unit, A new EU Law to protect the World’s Forests, August 2020.