This story was supported by the Rainforest Investigations Network (RIN) of the Pulitzer Center and produced in collaboration with Kuang Keng Kuek Ser and Jelter Meers, in addition to Kevin Nfor and Madeleine Ngeunga from InfoCongo. It was originally published in Spanish in the Planeta Futuro section of El País. To read the story in Spanish, click here.
Without proper controls, well-intentioned investors around the world can end up backing projects far removed from their principles: from rainforest deforestation to labor exploitation to tax optimization for the benefit of shadowy international elites. This is happening in the forests of Central Africa, where an abusive oil palm deal exposes the failures of the European development banks that supported it and offers lessons for the protection of the most intact rainforest on the planet.
A century-old palm oil business in the DRC exposes the population to tons of toxic waste. It does so after pledging to European development banks to respect human rights in exchange for a massive cut in its millionaire debt. For the past year, Plantations et Huileries du Congo (PHC) has been owned by offshore companies.
PHC has been operating in spite of the control mechanisms of the development banks, owned by European governments. The opacity of financial institutions makes it difficult for legislators and civil society to monitor investments.