Photo: Oakland Institute
Oakland, CA—The Oakland Institute, along with 39 organizations from 16 countries, is calling on United Nations (UN) entities, agencies, and programs to immediately cease all business relationships with the France-based Bolloré Group and its different subsidiaries.
The Bolloré Group is a major supplier to the United Nations. The UN pays Bolloré over US$50 million every year for logistics and other services. Between 2015 and 2019, different UN entities — including the UN Procurement Division, the World Food Programme, and UNICEF signed over 200 contracts with the Group for a value of over a quarter billion dollars. In addition to providing logistics, the Bolloré Group is, however, also involved in rubber and oil palm plantations through its 39.4 percent shareholding of the Luxembourg-based 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 subjected 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 agreed to pay a fine of €12 million to have legal proceedings against them dropped in the criminal case surrounding the Lomé port concession. The presiding judge, however, threw out their offer, insisting that the corruption charges were too serious to disappear in a plea deal and that they will stand trial under criminal charges.
Given the 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 to be 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.
It is the duty of the United Nations agencies and programs, which use public funds to provide relief and development aid to countries in need, to respect and uphold the above principles and code. They must be held accountable for their business practices.