Forests are key to life. Covering close to a third of the Earth’s surface, they provide food, shelter and livelihoods for millions. They protect biodiversity and are key to combatting climate change. Still, millions of hectares of forest are lost every year, many of them to corruption.
Corruption destroying forests in Peru
In the indigenous community of Santa Clara de Uchunya in the Peruvian Amazon, the forests — and people’s livelihoods and whole way of life — are under threat from companies turning farming land into palm oil and cacao plantations. They’re allegedly led by the Czech Melka Group. In July 2019, three employees of one of its companies, Tamshi SAC (previously called Cacao del Peru Norte SAC), were convicted of crimes against natural resources, forcing the company to pay compensation of around US$4,650,000. Other criminal investigations are also ongoing.
Already, the Melka Group has stripped 13,000 hectares of rainforest to make way for plantations. Corrupt government officials have allegedly helped them by invalidating land rights and seizing citizens’ land.
Farmer Ruben Díaz Quincho’s land was appropriated in 2014, and it now has palm trees growing on it. He says: “When I went to the police about it there was suddenly an attack. They were trying to kill me.”
Supported by Proética, the Peruvian arm of Transparency International, the community now wants to turn 20,000 hectares into legally-protected ancestral territory. The initiative has earned residents death threats, but — encouraged by the convictions of the three Tamshi SAC employees — they are committed to preserving the forests that they rely on.
Beating corruption to support development
Corruption like this is happening worldwide, destroying priceless forests and impeding Sustainable Development Goal 15 on protecting precious forests and Goal 13 on climate action. As people’s livelihoods are being damaged, the environmental impacts of corruption also prevent ending poverty and hunger. We need institutions that uphold good governance, rule of law and democracy, as they reduce opportunities for corruption and hold the corrupt to account.
To achieve this, governments should support peace, justice and strong institutions in line with Sustainable Development Goal 16 — which addresses corruption — and should annually review Goal 16’s progress at the Sustainable Development Goals High Level Political Forum.
Proética is supporting Santa Clara de Uchunya residents with one of Transparency International’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs), which provide free and confidential legal advice to witnesses and victims of corruption. With more than 100 offices in more than 60 countries, ALACs provide an accessible, effective way for people to report corrupt and demand action. Learn more: www.transparency.org/reportcorruption. Proética is partly funded by Global Affairs Canada under the IMPACT Grant.