EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader
Find Us
ADVERTISEMENT

Euroviews. Proper EBRD policies can avoid further disgrace in Ukraine and elsewhere

Smoke rises from a building in Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, May 2023
Smoke rises from a building in Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, May 2023 Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
By Alexandre Andrade Sampaio, Communities Associate, and Caitlin Daniel, Attorney, Accountability Counsel
Published on
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

As the EBRD looks to the year ahead, we urge the bank to take this opportunity to reframe its policies with human and environmental rights at their core, Alexandre Andrade Sampaio and Caitlin Daniel write.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ukraine has been under a full-scale armed attack by Russian military forces since February 2022.

In the face of these dire circumstances, it is no secret that people need food, and all hands must be on deck when they face man-made and natural disasters.

In this context, it would be easy to justify that millions of Euros and U.S. dollars are poured into a factory farming project with the potential to feed large swaths of the population.

Or would it?

This is certainly the line of argument that is being used by development banks such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the US' International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

These banks all invest in MHP, a Ukrainian agribusiness group that runs the Vinnytsia Poultry Farm, the largest in Europe, holding over 39 million chickens at a time – a capacity that is consistently growing.

To a general audience, this might mean that development banks are providing resources to guarantee food security and other basic rights for people living in a war-torn country. Unfortunately, a closer look reveals a different story.

A chain reaction causing significant damages

The problems we see in the MHP case are partially due to the under-categorisation of the project by its lenders: the EBRD and other public development banks. This has resulted in insufficient guarantees and inadequate oversight over a mega-agribusiness project.

Because the lenders failed to identify their investments in MHP as “high-risk”, they never required the company to carry out or disclose baseline studies to determine the situation of the infrastructure and the environment before the project broke ground.

That means that an operation that houses millions of animals, controls hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland, uses millions of cubic metres of water, produces hundreds of thousands of tonnes of manure and emits millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year is not able to measure its impacts on water, roads and houses.

Unfortunately, under-categorisation of projects is all too common in development institutions' pipelines, starting a chain reaction that can later result in significant damages to people and the environment.
Ukrainians, a few of them displaced from Mariupol during the war, train at rowing on the Dnipro river as the sun sets, in Dnipro, May 2024
Ukrainians, a few of them displaced from Mariupol during the war, train at rowing on the Dnipro river as the sun sets, in Dnipro, May 2024AP Photo/Francisco Seco

This miscalculation has proven to be extremely problematic. Local water testing initiatives have revealed dangerously high levels of nitrates in local wells and ammonia in the nearby Southern Buh river: just the type of pollution impact that intensive poultry farming is known to cause, especially when consistently making use of pesticide spraying, storing vast quantities of manure in open fields and using water from cleaning out poultry farms to irrigate cropland.

These operations have resulted in foul odour and dust, as well as damage to roads and buildings from heavy vehicle traffic. A bypass was finally opened in 2018 to avoid further damage, yet a cavalcade of heavy trucks from the company’s supply/purchasing chain continued to use local roads and cause damage to community members' homes.

More than a decade later, the impacted people — rather than MHP — are expected to prove that their health, housing and safety rights have been impaired as a result of the factory farming operation.

However, even when collecting water samples and demonstrating structural damages to their roads and houses, they are faced with an impossible burden of proof since no baseline study has been conducted.

Unfortunately, under-categorisation of projects is all too common in development institutions' pipelines, starting a chain reaction that can later result in significant damages to people and the environment.

ADVERTISEMENT

Undermining real, meaningful development

Even more disturbingly, since MHP first started its poultry farm operation in Vinnytsia in 2010, community members have raised serious flaws with the company’s approach to community consultation.

Rather than enabling meaningful discussions about the potential negative impacts of new proposed operations, villagers describe a company focused on busing its workers to village council meetings, packing the room, stifling any dissent and ensuring a vote in favour of each successive expansion.

Those brave enough to speak against the project have faced reprisals aimed at quashing resistance. These violations not only undermine any possibility of proper community input but also the pursuit of real, meaningful development.

A tractor collects straw on a field in a private farm in Zhurivka, Kyiv region, August 2023
A tractor collects straw on a field in a private farm in Zhurivka, Kyiv region, August 2023AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

In response to these mounting issues, including water contamination, damage to roads and houses, and air pollution, as well as flawed community consultations under threat of reprisals — a complaint was filed at the EBRD's Independent Project Accountability Mechanism (IPAM) by multiple civil society organisations.

ADVERTISEMENT

After almost six years, IPAM’s Compliance Review Report is due to be released and is expected to recognise multiple violations of the EBRD's environmental and social policies.

We urge the EBRD to accept the findings of its accountability office, agree to partner with its client in remedying the situation and guarantee that a similar situation will never happen again.

There’s still a long road ahead for communities to find reparation and ensure their safety and that of future generations, and the EBRD should partner with them to achieve this.

No more hurdles

With the EBRD wrapping up its annual meeting just last month, during which support for Ukraine was expressed as a key priority, it is particularly timely to think about the consequences of investing in companies such as MHP.

ADVERTISEMENT

The EBRD is in the process of reviewing its Social and Environmental Policy (ESP). This exercise should provide the bank with an opportunity to learn from past mistakes, and set up a process to remedy any future harms that may result from the projects it backs.

A proper revision of the ESP would go a long way to ensure that the community members in Ukraine and others never need to endure such hurdles again in order to receive the justice they deserve.

It’s commendable that the draft ESP recognises human rights as inherent rights of all human beings, setting a framework for its policies and practices that is people-centred.

Therefore, transparency and participation must be key elements of these policies, in line with the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and access to information. This means that projects not only should be properly categorised, but the EBRD should publicly disclose its methodology for this categorisation and allow for community input.

ADVERTISEMENT

The bank also needs to recognise its responsibility, if its clients do not comply with its policies, to provide remedial options and guarantee no further harms.

As part of this, it must respect the findings of its internal complaint mechanism, IPAM, and also strengthen its assessment, monitoring, and handling of reprisals rather than expect clients to police themselves.

As the EBRD looks to the year ahead, we urge the bank to take this opportunity to reframe its policies with human and environmental rights at their core.

They have a moral imperative to do so, and accountability ensures that their projects will result in maximum positive impacts.

ADVERTISEMENT

Alexandre Andrade Sampaio is Communities Associate and Caitlin Daniel is Attorney in the Global Communities program at the Accountability Counsel.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

Share this articleComments

You might also like