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Mission investigates involvement of European money in land grabbing

After documenting dire human rights violations and environmental destruction in Brazil, which is flanked by land grabbing and speculation, an international delegation comes to Europe to investigate links.

Last September, an international delegation of 30 human rights, rural, and development experts verified the detrimental social, environmental and human rights consequences of the massive expansion of soy and sugar cane monocultures in the Brazilian region of MATOPIBA*. The process was found to be flanked by land grabbing and speculation, as well as by the falsification of land titles. Shockingly, it is also ueled by money coming from international pension funds, notably from the USA, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

In an effort to uncover the intricacies behind the scenes, the delegation kicks off a second mission today, this time in Europe. The international team will investigate the involvement of pension funds from European countries in the ongoing land grab in MATOPIBA as well as the existing mechanisms to prevent this trend, which often goes unnoticed.

Pensions, tarnished by human rights violations?

As echoed by a recent study presented at the European Parliament, complex investment webs bring together multiple and interconnected actors that are involved in the design, financing, and implementation of land deals. Pension funds, which are required by national laws to grow their capital to secure future retirement payments, have seen land and agribusiness as safe sectors to invest in. Indeed, pension funds are currently investing over $ 32 trillion worldwide, including the region visited by the international delegation.

The role of pension funds in the MATOPIBA region leads to important questions for the delegation: are citizens aware that their own money is tarnished by environmental destruction and human rights violations of traditional peoples? What are States doing to comply with their legal obligation to monitor what national companies and funds invest in and ensure effective regulation and accountability?

Last year’s mission to Brazil observed that agribusiness is reshaping the political economy in the region of MATOPIBA and has dramatically altered the social fabric of communities and the ecosystem. Its expansion is not only leading to the grabbing of land, where traditional peoples have lived for generations, but also to the loss of livelihoods and biodiversity, pesticide contamination, dwindling water supplies, and health damage, among others. This happens at a time where globally, land, instead of being a common good for subsistence and customary right, is increasingly treated as a financial asset.

#CaravanaMatopiba lands in Europe

The international delegation, coordinated by FIAN International and its sections in the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden, will start the mission in Amsterdam and will continue on to Brussels, Berlin, and Stockholm to deepen the investigation. The visits will allow for an exchange with State and EU authorities as well as the involved pension funds, who will be confronted with the findings of last year’s mission in Brazil, known as #CaravanaMatopiba.

You can follow all developments via #CaravanaMatopiba and #BrazilLandGrab

* MATOPIBA refers to the northeastern region of Brazil comprising the state of Tocantins and neighboring areas in the states of Maranhão, Piauí, and Bahia.

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  • #CaravanaMatopiba was organized by FIAN International and Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos, FIAN Brazil and Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) Piauí, counts with the participation of: Action Aid International and Brazil, Aidenvironment; Cáritas Regional do Piauí; CPT Nacional; Escola de Formação Paulo de Tarso (EFPT - PI); Federação dos Agricultores Familiares (FAF); Federação dos Trabalhadores Rurais na Agricultura (FETAG-PI); GRAIN; HEKS/EPER International Institute of Social Studies; La Via Campesina International and CLOC- La Via Campesina Brasil, Maryknoll, Paróquia de Santa Filomena, Instituto Comradio do Brasil; Obra Kolping Piauí; Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Rurais de Santa Filomena; Vara e Procuradoria Agrária - PI, PROGEIA (Santa Filomena), as well as FIAN International’s sections in Germany, Netherlands and Sweden.
  • The mission in Europe is coordinated by FIAN International and its sections in The Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.