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Development banks have no business financing agribusiness
by [fr]Collectif[es]Colectivo[en]Collective[pt]Coletivo
19 October 2021

On the eve of an annual gathering of public development banks in Rome, groups from around the world have signed a letter slamming them for bankrolling the expansion of industrial agriculture, environmental destruction and corporate control of the food system. The signatories affirm only fully public and accountable funding mechanisms based on people’s actual needs can achieve real solutions to the global food crisis.


Over 450 Public Development Banks (PDBs) from around the world are gathering in Rome from 19 to 20 October 2021 for a second international summit, dubbed Finance in Common. During the first summit in Paris in 2020, over 80 civil-society organizations published a joint statement demanding that the PDBs stop funding agribusiness companies and projects that take land and natural resources away from local communities. This year, however, PDBs have made agriculture and agribusiness the priority of their second summit. This is of serious concern for the undersigned groups as PDBs have a long track-record of making investments in agriculture that benefit private interests and agribusiness corporations at the expense of farmers, herders, fishers, food workers and Indigenous Peoples, undermining their food sovereignty, ecosystems and human rights.

Our concerns

PDBs are public institutions established by national governments or multilateral agencies to finance government programs and private companies whose activities are said to contribute to the improvement of people’s lives in the places where they operate, particularly in the Global South. Many multilateral development banks, a significant sub-group of PDBs, also provide technical and policy advice to governments to change their laws and policies to attract foreign investment.

As public institutions, PDBs are bound to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and are supposed to be accountable to the public for their actions. Today, development banks collectively spend over US$2 trillion a year financing public and private companies to build roads, power plants, factory farms, agribusiness plantations and more in the name of “development” – an estimated US$1.4 trillion goes into the sole agriculture and food sector. Their financing of private companies, whether through debt or the purchase of shares, is supposed to be done for a profit, but much of their spending is backed and financed by the public – by people’s labor and taxes.

The number of PDBs and the funding they receive is growing.The reach of these banks is also growing as they are increasingly channeling public funds through private equity, “green finance” and other financial schemes to deliver the intended solutions instead of more traditional support to government programs or non-profit projects. Money from a development bank provides a sort of guarantee for companies expanding into so-called high-risk countries or industries. These guarantees enable companies to raise more funds from private lenders or other development banks, often at favorable rates. Development banks thus play a critical role in enabling multinational corporations to expand further into markets and territories around the world – from gold mines in Armenia, to controversial hydroelectric dams in Colombia, to disastrous natural gas projects in Mozambique – in ways they could not do otherwise.

Additionally, many multilateral development banks work to explicitly shape national level law and policy through their technical advice to governments and ranking systems such as the Enabling the Business of Agriculture of the World Bank. The policies they support in key sectors — including health, water, education, energy, food security and agriculture — tend to advance the role of big corporations and elites. And when affected local communities, including Indigenous Peoples and small farmers protest, they are often not heard or face reprisals. For example, in India, the World Bank advised the government to deregulate the agricultural marketing system, and when the government implemented this advice without consulting with farmers and their organisations, it led to massive protests.

Public Development Banks claim that they only invest in “sustainable” and “responsible” companies and that their involvement improves corporate behavior. But these banks have a heavy legacy of investing in companies involved in land grabbing, corruption, violence, environmental destruction and other severe human rights violations, from which they have escaped any meaningful accountability. The increasing reliance of development banks on offshore private equity funds and complex investment webs, including so called financial intermediaries, to channel their investments makes accountability even more evasive and enables a small and powerful financial elite to capture the benefits.

It is alarming that Public Development Banks are now taking on more of a coordinated and central role when it comes to food and agriculture. They are a part of the global financial architecture that is driving dispossession and ecological destruction, much of which is caused by agribusiness. Over the years, their investment in agriculture has almost exclusively gone to companies engaged in monoculture plantations, contract growing schemes, animal factory farms, sales of hybrid and genetically modified seeds and pesticides, and digital agriculture platforms dominated by Big Tech. They have shown zero interest in or capacity to invest in the farm, fisher and forest communities that currently produce the majority of the world’s food. Instead, they are bankrolling land grabbers and corporate agribusinesses and destroying local food systems.

Painful examples

Important examples of the pattern we see Public Development Banks engaging in:

  • The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank have provided generous financing to the agribusiness companies of some of Ukraine’s richest oligarchs, who control hundreds of thousands of hectares of land.
  • SOCFIN of Luxembourg and SIAT of Belgium, the two largest oil palm and rubber plantation owners in Africa, have received numerous financial loans from development banks, despite their subsidiaries being mired in land grabbing, corruption scandals and human rights violations.
  • Multiple development banks (including Swedfund, BIO, FMO and the DEG) financed the failed sugarcane plantation of Addax Bioenergy in Sierra Leone that has left a trail of devastation for local communities after the company’s exit.
  • The UK’s CDC Group and other European development banks (including BIO, DEG, FMO and Proparco) poured over $150 million into the now bankrupt Feronia Inc’s oil palm plantations in the DR Congo, despite long-standing conflicts with local communities over land and working conditions, allegations of corruption and serious human rights violations against villagers.
  • The United Nations’ Common Fund for Commodities invested in Agilis Partners, a US-owned company, which is involved in the violent eviction of thousands of villagers in Uganda for a large-scale grain farm.
  • Norfund and Finnfund own Green Resources, a Norwegian forestry company planting pine trees in Uganda on land taken from thousands of local farmers, with devastating effects on their livelihoods.
  • The Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the African Development Bank invested in a railway and port infrastructure project to enable Mitsui of Japan and Vale of Brazil to export coal from their mining operations in northern Mozambique. The project, connected to the controversial ProSavana agribusiness project, has led to land grabbing, forced relocations, fatal accidents and the detention and torture of project opponents.
  • The China Development Bank financed the ecologically and socially disastrous Gibe III dam in Ethiopia. Designed for electricity generation and to irrigate large-scale sugar, cotton and palm oil plantations such as the gargantuan Kuraz Sugar Development Project, it has cut off the river flow that the indigenous people of the Lower Omo Valley relied on for flood retreat agriculture.
  • In Nicaragua, FMO and Finnfund financed MLR Forestal, a company managing cocoa and teak plantations, which is controlled by gold mining interests responsible for displacement of Afro-descendant and Indigenous communities and environmental degradation.
  • The International Finance Corporation and the Inter-American Development Bank Invest have recently approved loans to Pronaca, Ecuador’s 4th largest corporation, to expand intensive pig and poultry production despite opposition from international and Ecuadorian groups, including local indigenous communities whose water and lands have been polluted by the company’s expansive operations.
  • The Inter-American Development Bank Invest is considering a new $43 million loan for Marfrig Global Foods, the world’s 2nd largest beef company, under the guise of promoting “sustainable beef.” Numerous reports have found Marfrig’s supply chain directly linked to illegal deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado and human rights violations. The company has also faced corruption charges. A global campaign is now calling for PDBs to immediately divest from all industrial livestock operations.

We need better mechanisms to build food sovereignty

Governments and multilateral agencies are finally beginning to acknowledge that today’s global food system has failed to address hunger and is a key driver of multiple crises, from pandemics to biodiversity collapse to the climate emergency. But they are doing nothing to challenge the corporations who dominate the industrial food system and its model of production, trade and consumption. To the contrary, they are pushing for more corporate investment, more public private partnerships and more handouts to agribusiness.

This year’s summit of the development banks was deliberately chosen to follow on the heels of the UN Food Systems Summit. It was advertised as a global forum to find solutions to problems afflicting the global food system but was hijacked by corporate interests and became little more than a space for corporate greenwashing and showcasing industrial agriculture. The event was protested and boycotted by social movements and civil society, including through the Global People´s Summit and the Autonomous People´s response to the UN Food Systems Summit, as well as by academics from across the world.

The Finance in Common summit, with its focus on agriculture and agribusiness, will follow the same script. Financiers overseeing our public funds and mandates will gather with elites and corporate representatives to strategize on how to keep the money flowing into a model of food and agriculture that is leading to climate breakdown, increasing poverty and exacerbating all forms of malnutrition. Few if any representatives from the communities affected by the investments of the development banks, people who are on the frontlines trying to produce food for their communities, will be invited in or listened to. PDBs are not interested. They seek to fund agribusinesses, which produce commodities for trade and financial schemes for profits rather than food for nutrition.

Last year, a large coalition of civil-society organizations made a huge effort just to get the development banks to agree to commit to a human rights approach and community-led development. The result was only some limited language in the final declaration, which has not been translated into action.

We do not want any more of our public money, public mandates and public resources to be wasted on agribusiness companies that take land, natural resources and livelihoods away from local communities. Therefore:

We call for an immediate end to the financing of corporate agribusiness operations and speculative investments by public development banks.

We call for the creation of fully public and accountable funding mechanisms that support peoples’ efforts to build food sovereignty, realize the human right to food, protect and restore ecosystems, and address the climate emergency.

We call for the implementation of strong and effective mechanisms that provide communities with access to justice in case of adverse human rights impacts or social and environmental damages caused by PDB investments.

  • Fundación Plurales - Argentina
  • Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) - Argentina
  • Foro Ambiental Santiagueño - Argentina
  • Armenian Women For Health &Healthy Environment NGO /AWHHE/ - Armenia
  • Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance - Australia
  • SunGem - Australia
  • Welthaus Diözese Graz-Seckau - Austria
  • Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights - Austria
  • FIAN Austria - Austria
  • Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Organization Public Union - Azerbaijan
  • Initiative for Right View - Bangladesh
  • Right to Food South Asia - Bangladesh
  • IRV - Bangladesh
  • Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation [BAFLF] - Bangladesh
  • NGO “Ecohome” - Belarus
  • Eclosio - Belgium
  • AEFJN - Belgium
  • FIAN Belgium - Belgium
  • Entraide et Fraternité - Belgium
  • Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN) - Belgium
  • Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements - Belgium
  • Eurodad - Belgium
  • Friends of the Earth Europe - Belgium
  • Alianza Animalista La Paz - Bolivia
  • Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (Inesc) - Brazil
  • Centro Ecologico - Brazil
  • FAOR Fórum da Amazônia Oriental - Brazil
  • Articulação Agro é Fogo - Brazil
  • Campanha Nacional de Combate e Prevenção ao Trabalho Escravo - Comissão Pastoral da Terra/CPT - Brazil
  • Clínica de Direitos Humanos da Amazônia -PPGD/UFPA - Brazil
  • Universidade Federal Fluminense IPsi - Brazil
  • Associação Brasileira de Reforma Agrária - Brazil
  • Rede Jubileu Sul Brasil - Brazil
  • Alternativas para pequena agricultura no Tocantins APATO - Brazil
  • CAPINA Cooperação e Apoio a Projetos de Inspiração Alternativa - Brazil
  • Marcha Mundial por Justiça Climática / Marcha Mundial do Clima - Brazil
  • MNCCD - Movimento Nacional Contra Corrupção e pela Democracia - Brazil
  • Marcha Mundial por Justiça Climática/Marcha Mundial do Clima - Brazil
  • Support Group for Indigenous Youth - Brazil
  • Comissão Pastoral da Terra -CPT - Brazil
  • Equitable Cambodia - Cambodia
  • Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community - Cambodia
  • Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE) - Cameroon
  • Synaparcam - Cameroon
  • APDDH -ASSISTANCE - Cameroon
  • Inter Pares - Canada
  • Vigilance OGM - Canada
  • SeedChange - Canada
  • Place de la Dignité - Canada
  • National Farmers Union - Canada
  • Corporación para la Protección y Desarrollo de Territorios Rurales- PRODETER - Colombia
  • Grupo Semillas - Colombia
  • Groupe de Recherche et de Plaidoyer sur les Industries Extractives (GRPIE) - Côte d’Ivoire
  • Réseau des Femmes Braves (REFEB) - Côte d’Ivoire
  • CLDA - Côte d’Ivoire
  • Counter Balance - Czech Republic
  • AfrosRD - Dominican Republic
  • Conseil Régional des Organisations Non gouvernementales de Développement - DR Congo
  • Construisons Ensemble le MONDE - DR Congo
  • Synergie Agir Contre la Faim et le Réchauffement Climatique , SACFRC. - DR Congo
  • COPACO-PRP - DR Congo
  • AICED - DR Congo
  • Réseaux d’informations et d’appui aux ONG en République Démocratique du Congo ( RIAO - RDC) - DR Congo
  • Latinoamérica Sustentable - Ecuador
  • Housing and Land Rights Network - Habitat International Coalition - Egypt
  • Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO) - Fiji
  • Internationale Situationniste - France
  • Pouvoir d’Agir - France
  • Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF) - France
  • Amis de la Terre France - France
  • Médias Sociaux pour un Autre Monde - France
  • ReAct Transnational - France
  • CCFD-Terre Solidaire - France
  • CADTM France - France
  • Coordination SUD - France
  • Движение Зеленных Грузии - Georgia
  • NGO “GAMARJOBA” - Georgia
  • StrongGogo - Georgia
  • FIAN Deutschland - Germany
  • Rettet den Regenwald - Germany
  • Angela Jost Translations - Germany
  • urgewald e.V. - Germany
  • Abibinsroma Foundation - Ghana
  • Alliance for Empowering Rural Communities - Ghana
  • Organización de Mujeres Tierra Viva - Guatemala
  • Campaña Guatemala sin hambre - Guatemala
  • PAPDA - Haïti
  • Centre de Recherche et d’Action pour le Developpement (CRAD) - Haiti
  • Ambiente, Desarrollo y Capacitación (ADC ) - Honduras
  • Rashtriya Raithu Seva Samithi - India
  • All India Union of Forest Working People AIUFWP - India
  • Centre for Financial Accountability - India
  • People First - India
  • Environics Trust - India
  • ToxicsWatch Alliance - India
  • Food Sovereignty Alliance - India
  • Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) - Indonesia
  • kruha - Indonesia
  • Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) - Indonesia
  • JPIC Kalimantan - Indonesia
  • تانيا جمعه /منظمه شؤون المراه والطفل - Iraq
  • ICW-CIF - Italy
  • PEAH - Policies for Equitable Access to Health - Italy
  • Focsiv Italian federation christian NGOs - Italy
  • Schola Campesina APS - Italy
  • Casa Congo- Italy
  • ReCommon - Italy
  • Schola Campesina - Italy
  • Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC) - Japan
  • Team OKADA - Japan
  • taneomamorukai - Japan
  • VoiceForAnimalsJapan - Japan
  • Keisen University - Japan
  • 000 PAF NPO - Japan
  • Missionary Society of Saint Columban, Japan - Japan
  • Migrants around 60 - Japan
  • Mura-Machi Net (Network between Villages and Towns) - Japan
  • Japan Family Farmers Movement (Nouminren) - Japan
  • Pacific Asia Resorce Center(PARC) - Japan
  • A Quater Acre Farm-Jinendo - Japan
  • Friends of the Earth Japan - Japan
  • Alternative People’s Linkage in Asia (APLA) - Japan
  • Mekong Watch - Japan
  • Family Farming Platform Japan - Japan
  • Africa Japan Forum - Japan
  • ATTAC Kansai - Japan
  • ATTAC Japan - Japan
  • Association of Western Japan Agroecology (AWJA) - Japan
  • Mennovillage Naganuma - Japan
  • Phenix Center - Jordan
  • Mazingira Institute - Kenya
  • Dan Owala - Kenya
  • Jamaa Resource Initiatives - Kenya
  • Kenya Debt Abolition Network - Kenya
  • Haki Nawiri Afrika - Kenya
  • Euphrates Institute-Liberia - Liberia
  • Green Advocates International (Liberia) - Liberia
  • Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) - Liberia
  • Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) - Liberia
  • Frères des Hommes - Luxembourg
  • SOS FAIM - Luxembourg
  • Collectif pour la défense des terres malgaches - TANY - Madagascar
  • Third World Network - Malaysia
  • Appui Solidaire pour le Développement de l’Aide au Développement - Mali
  • Réseau CADTM Afrique - Mali
  • Lalo - Mexico
  • Tosepanpajt A.C - Mexico
  • Maya sin Fronteras - Mexico
  • Centro de Educación en Apoyo a la Producción y al Medio Ambiente, A.C. - Mexico
  • Mujeres Libres COLEM AC - México
  • Grupo de Mujeres de San Cristóbal Las Casas AC - México
  • Colectivo Educación para la Paaz y los Derechos Humanos A.C. (CEPAZDH) - México
  • Red Nacional de Promotoras Rurales - México
  • Dinamismo Juvenil A.C - México
  • Cultura Ambiental en Expansión AC - México
  • Observatorio Universitario de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional del Estado de Guanajuato - México
  • Centro Interdisciplinario de Investigación y Desarrollo Alternativo U Yich Lu’um AC - México
  • The Hunger Project México - México
  • Americas Program/Americas.Org - México
  • Association Talassemtane pour l’Environnement et Développement (ATED) - Morocco
  • Espace de Solidarité et de Coopération de l’Oriental - Morocco
  • LVC Maroc - Morocco
  • EJNA - Morocco
  • NAFSN - Morocco
  • Fédération nationale du secteur agricole - Morocco
  • Association jeunes pour jeunes - Morocco
  • Plataforma Mocambicana da Mulher e Rapariga Cooperativistas/AMPCM - MOZAMBIQUE - Mozambique
  • Justica Ambiental - JA! - Mozambique
  • Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network (CEMSOJ) - Nepal
  • WILPF NL - Netherlands
  • Milieudefensie - Netherlands
  • Platform Aarde Boer Consument - Netherlands
  • Both ENDS - Netherlands
  • Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth,FOCONE - Nigeria
  • Lekeh Development Foundation (LEDEF) - Nigeria
  • Nigeria Coal Network - Nigeria
  • Spire - Norway
  • Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum - Pakistan
  • Gaza Urban Agriculture Platform (GUPAP) - Palestine
  • Union of Agricultural Work Committees - Palestine
  • WomanHealth Philippines - Philippines
  • Agroecology X - Philippines
  • SEARICE - Philippines
  • Alter Trade Foundation for Food Sovereignty, Inc - Philippines
  • Association pour la défense des droits à l’eau et à l’assainissement - Sénégal
  • Biotech Services Sénégal - Sénégal
  • Association Sénégalaise des Amis de la Nature - Sénégal
  • Alliance Sénégalaise Contre la Faim et la Malnutrition - Sénégal
  • Association Sénégalaise des Amis de la Nature - Sénégal
  • Alliance Sénégalaise Contre la Faim et la Malnutrition - Sénégal
  • Green Scenery - Sierra Leone
  • Land for Life - Sierra Leone
  • JendaGbeni Centre for Social Change Communications - Sierra Leone
  • Sierra Leone Land Alliance - Sierra Leone
  • African Centre for Biodiversity - South Africa
  • African Children Empowerment - South Africa
  • Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre - South Africa
  • Fish Hoek Valley Ratepayers and Residents Association - South Africa
  • Consciously Organic - South Africa
  • Wana Johnson Learning Centre - South Africa
  • Aha Properties - South Africa
  • Sacred Earth & Storm School - South Africa
  • Earth Magic - South Africa
  • Oasis - South Africa
  • Envirosense - South Africa
  • Greenstuff - South Africa
  • WoMin African Alliance - South Africa
  • Seonae Eco Centre - South Africa
  • Eco Hope - South Africa
  • Kos en Fynbos - South Africa
  • Ghostwriter Grant - South Africa
  • Mariann Coordinating Committee - South Africa
  • Khanyisa Education and Development Trust - South Africa
  • LAMOSA - South Africa
  • Ferndale Food Forest and Worm Farm - South Africa
  • Mxumbu Youth Agricultural Coop - South Africa
  • PHA Food & Farming Campaign - South Africa
  • SOLdePAZ.Pachakuti - Spain
  • Amigos de la Tierra - Spain
  • Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores/AS - Spain
  • Salva la Selva - Spain
  • Loco Matrifoco - Spain
  • Entrepueblos/Entrepobles/Entrepobs/Herriarte - Spain
  • National Fisheries Solidarity(NAFSO) - Sri Lanka
  • Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) - Sri Lanka
  • Agr. Graduates Cooperatives Union - Sudan
  • FIAN Sweden - Sweden
  • FIAN Suisse - Switzerland
  • Bread for all - Switzerland
  • Foundation for Environmental Management and Campaign Against Poverty - Tanzania
  • World Animal Protection - Thailand
  • Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact - Thailand
  • PERMATIL - Timor-Leste
  • Afrique Eco 2100 - Togo
  • AJECC - Togo
  • ATGF - Tunisia
  • Forum Tunisien des Droits Economiques et Sociaux - Tunisia
  • Agora Association - Turkey
  • Uganda Land Rights Defenders - Uganda
  • Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment (CECIC) - Uganda
  • Hopes for youth development Association - Uganda
  • Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability - Uganda
  • Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment &Management (CECIC) - Uganda
  • Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO)) - Uganda
  • Twerwaneho Listeners Club - Uganda
  • Alliance for Food Soverignity in Africa - Uganda
  • Global Justice Now - UK
  • Friends of the Earth International - UK
  • Compassion in World Farming - UK
  • Environmental Justice Foundation - UK
  • Fresh Eyes - UK
  • War on Want - UK
  • Friends of the Earth US - US
  • A Growing Culture - US
  • Center for Political Innovation - US
  • GMO/Toxin Free USA - US
  • Friends of the Earth US - US
  • Thousand Currents - US
  • Local Futures - US
  • National Family Farm Coalition - US
  • Community Alliance for Global Justice/AGRA Watch - US
  • Bank Information Center - US
  • Seeding Sovereignty - US
  • Yemeni Observatory for Human Rights - Yemen
  • Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity - Zambia
  • Zambian Governance Foundation for Civil Society - Zambia
  • Urban Farming Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe
  • Centre for Alternative Development - Zimbabwe
  • FACHIG Trust - Zimbabwe
  • Red Latinoamericana por Justicia Económica y Social - Latindadd - América Latina
  • European Coordination Via Campesina - Europe
  • Arab Watch Coalition - Middle East and North Africa
  • FIAN International - International
  • ESCR-Net - International
  • International Alliance of Inhabitants - International
  • Society for International Development - International
  • ActionAid International - International
  • International Accountability Project - International
  • Habitat International Coalition - General Secretariat - International
  • CIDSE - International
  • Transnational Institute - International
  • World Rainforest Movement - International
  • GRAIN - International


October 18, 2021


[fr]Collectif[es]Colectivo[en]Collective[pt]Coletivo