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Call to the United Nations to End Business Relationship with the Bolloré Group and Its Subsidiaries

May 24, 2021
Protest against SOCFIN in Pujehun District, Malen Chiefdom, Sierra Leone.

Protest against SOCFIN in Pujehun District, Malen Chiefdom, Sierra Leone.

TO:
Ms. Grete Faremo, Executive Director, UNOPS, Chair High Level Committee on Management (HLCM)
Ms. Kelly Clements, Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, Vice-chair HLCM
Ms. Katinka Rosenbom, Chief Contracting, UNICEF, Chair HLCM Procurement Network
Ms. Elisabeth Eckerstrom, Head, Procurement Division, ITU, Vice-chair HLCM Procurement Network
Ms. Neris M. Baez Garcia de Mazzora, UN Procurement Division Director
Mr. El Cid Butuyan, Ethics Office Director, UNICEF
Ms. Bonnie Green, Chief Ethics Officer, World Food Programme
Ms. Ella Yi Armstrong, United Nations Secretariat Ethics Office Chair
Mr. Helmut Buss, Ethics Office Director, UNHCR
Ms. Kathryn Higgs, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, UNOPS
Mr. Walter Grandpré, Chair, Strategic Vendor Management Working Group
Mr. Dante Pesce, Chair, Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises
Ms. Anita Ramasastry, Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises
Mr. Emilio Rafael Izquierdo Miño, Chair-Rapporteur, Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights

Dear Sirs, Dear Madams,

The Bolloré Group is a major supplier to the United Nations which pay Bolloré over US$50 million every year for logistics and other services. Between 2015 and 2019, different United Nations entities signed over 200 contracts with the Group for a value of over a quarter billion dollars. The main clients were the United Nations Procurement Division (US$74 million), UNICEF (US$45 million), and World Food Programme (est. around US$100 million). These numbers are very conservative estimates as data is not available for a number of United Nations entities such as the World Health Organization.

In addition to providing logistics, the Bolloré Group is also involved in rubber and oil palm plantations through its 39.4 percent shareholdings of the SOCFIN Group, which controls close to 400,000 hectares of concessions for plantations in Asia and Africa. For years, SOCFIN has been accused of land grabbing and widespread human rights violations. After losing their lands to the company for oil palm and rubber exploitation, local communities in Africa and Asia have reportedly been subject to violence, intimidation, and severe distress.

Furthermore, the Bolloré Group has been accused of corruption and illegal practices in a number of deals allowing it to secure port concessions in Africa. On February 23 2021, pleading guilty on corruption charges, Vincent Bolloré and other company executives accepted to pay a fine of €12 million to have legal proceedings against them dropped in the criminal case surrounding the Lomé port concession. However, the presiding judge threw out the offer, insisting that the corruption charges were too serious to disappear in a plea deal and that they stand trial under criminal charges.

All documentation and references for the above are available at [LINK TO THE REPORT].

Given its documented history of accusations of human rights violations, illegal practices, and corruption, for the United Nations services, agencies, and programs to do business with the Bolloré Group appears like a blatant violation of the United Nations Supplier Code of Conduct, the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the agreement signed with the Group under the United Nations Global Compact.

We, the undersigned organizations, therefore call on all United Nations entities, agencies, and programs to immediately cease all business relationship with the Bolloré Group and its different subsidiaries.

Sincerely,

Signed:

  1. ActionAid France

  2. ActionAid International

  3. ActionAid USA

  4. Africa Faith and Justice Network, International

  5. A Growing Culture, USA

  6. Alliance des Riverains des Plantations Socfin-Bolloré, International

  7. Association pour la défense des droits à l'eau et à l'assainissement (ADDEA), Sénégal

  8. Bread for all, Switzerland

  9. Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Organization (CIPO), Cambodia

  10. Cercle pour la defense de l'environnement (CEDEN), Democratic Republic of Congo

  11. Centre tricontinental-CETRI, Belgium

  12. Creatives for Justice, Switzerland

  13. Culture Hack Labs, USA

  14. Environmental Defender Law Center (EDLC), USA

  15. FIAN Belgium

  16. FIAN Switzerland for the Human Right to Food

  17. Food Empowerment Project, USA

  18. Food Sovereignty Ghana

  19. Food Tank, USA

  20. Global Forest Coalition, international

  21. Grain, International

  22. Green Advocates, Liberia

  23. Green Scenery, Sierra Leone

  24. Groundswell International, USA

  25. Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria

  26. Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya

  27. Jendagbeni Centre for Social Change Communications, Sierra Leone

  28. Kalpavriksh, India

  29. Malen Land Owners Association MALOA, Sierra Leone

  30. Milieudefensie, the Netherlands

  31. Paul K. Feyerabend Foundation, Switzerland

  32. Platform aarde Boer consument, the Netherlands

  33. Rainforest Rescue, Germany

  34. ReAct Transnational, France

  35. Réseau des Acteurs du Développement Durable, Cameroon

  36. Sherpa, France

  37. SYNAPARCAM, Cameroon

  38. The Oakland Institute, USA

  39. Transition Resource Circle, USA

  40. Zimbabwe People’s Land Rights Movement, Zimbabwe