* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
On 18 July 2016, the Thomson Reuters website featured an article entitled Why is the EU funding Ethiopia’s repression of land rights defenders? by Nyikaw Ochalla.
The article suggests that the European Union (EU) and the German government are colluding in “human rights abuses and brutal repression” through the land governance project (SRAI - Support to Responsible Agricultural Investments in Ethiopia) we launched on 15 July, 2016. The exact opposite is true.
Responsible investments in agriculture have the potential to unlock rural growth to the benefit of local communities. At the same time, the Ethiopian agricultural authorities recognise the challenges they face in the administration of land used for agricultural investments. The SRAI project is helping to establish an accountable and transparent framework for socially and environmentally responsible agricultural investments in Ethiopia based on international standards, including the Food and Agricultural Organisation's Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests. These guidelines revolve around respecting and safeguarding all tenure holders and their rights. The implementation principles include human dignity, equity, justice, transparency, accountability, consultation and participation.
The SRAI project will support the establishment of a regulatory framework for equitable access to land. It will also secure land tenure rights for local communities in areas surrounding commercial farms.
There are a number of factual errors in Ochalla’s piece, two of which we would like to set straight:
1) The EU and the German government are not providing EUR 3.8 million to the Government of Ethiopia; the project is being implemented by Germany’s GIZ and consists mainly of technical advice and capacity building.
2) The SRAI project has no links to European businesses' interests: activities and principles will apply indistinctly to all land investors, some of which come from abroad (Asia, Middle East, Europe) but most of which are in fact Ethiopian.
The ultimate purpose of the EU and German support to the project is to assist Ethiopians to achieve food security in the future, in particular through secure land tenure and responsible agricultural investments. This project is part of the European Union’s broader cooperation portfolio aimed at creating the conditions for Ethiopians to generate new job opportunities and lift themselves out of poverty. The EU and its member states work with civil society, governments, the private sector and NGOs to achieve these goals.
Opinion pieces have an important place in on-line sites such as this, but we are of the view that they should be grounded in evidence rather than gratuitous fabrications. A simple verification with the undersigned could have better served the cause of land rights.
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