Written by 15 h 41 min Environment and Climate, Strategic litigation

Procedures & milestones : Socapalm

Precisions :

On 3 December 2010 Sherpa filed a complaint with the CED, FOCARFE (two local NGOs) and Misereor against the Bolloré Group (France), Financière du champ de Mars (Belgium) and SOCFINAL (Luxembourg and Intercultures (Luxembourg).

The object of the complaint was to condemn environmental pollution in violation of OECD guidelines as well as violations of the rights of local communities and workers resulting from the activities of Socapalm, their subsidiary in Cameroon.

The matter was referred to the National Contact Point (NCP) and the Bolloré Group agreed to enter into mediation following the NCP’s report. An action plan was finalised after long negociations and two organisations were chosen to follow its implementation. It aims to ensure that rights are respected and reinforce the communities’ capacities to help them to exercise their rights on a lasting basis.

Procedures & Milestones :

3 December 2010: MISEREOR (Germany), the Centre for the Environment and Development (Cameroon), FOCARFE (Cameroon) and the Sherpa association (France) submitted a complaint to the national contact points of France, Belgium and Luxembourg against the companies Bolloré (France), Financière du champ de Mars (Belgium), SOCFINAL (Luxembourg) and Intercultures (Luxembourg) — all four of which in concert exercised control over SOCAPALM. The different NCPs quickly acknowledged receipt of the complaint.

2 May 2011: SHERPA sent a further note to the French NCP in support of the specific instance regarding the Bolloré group.

29 July 2011: The French NCP informed us that they had agreed to investigate the specific instance (which included the two other specific instances submitted in Belgium and Luxembourg).

Socapalm plantation, Cameroon

12 July 2012: Submission of documents by Sherpa to the NCP:

– Report by Martine Orange on Médiapart: “Investigation of the hidden face of the Bolloré empire”, 2009, http://www.mediapart.fr/files/Bollore_iliad.pdf;

Le Monde article, 22 May 2012: “Indigenous People in Africa and Asia Oppose the Socfin/Bolloré Project”, http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/les-populations-indig%C3%A8nes-dafrique-et-dasie-contestent-le-projet-socfinbollor%C3%A9;

Le Monde article, http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2012/05/22/les-populations-indigenes-d-afrique-et-d-asie-contestent-le-projet-socfin-bollore_1704875_3232.html;

– Oakland report,


24 July 2012: Submission of documents by Sherpa to the NCP:

– FOCARFE report on the monitoring of the situation since the complaint;

– Bolloré’s defamation complaint;

– The Survie article, http://survie.org/billets-d-afrique/2011/202-mai-2011/article/l-exasperation-des-riverains-des

30 July 2012: Hearing of Sherpa and the Centre for the Environment and Development by the NCP.

The NCP consisted of two individuals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, two from unions that were part of the CGC (General Confederation of Executives), one from FO (Workers’ Force), one from CGT (General Confederation of Labour), one from CFTC (French Confederation of Christian Workers), one from CFDT (French Democratic Confederation of Labour), two from MEDEF (Movement of the Enterprises of France), the secretary and the president of the directorate of the treasury.

The Bolloré company, represented by Ms Darmaillac, joint general secretary, and Mr Chavanne, officer responsible for plantations, were also heard.

November 2012: The NCP informed Sherpa of the intention of the Bolloré group to accept the NCP’s mediation.

7 February 2013: First mediation meeting between the group, represented again by Mr Chavanne and Ms Darmaillac, and Sherpa. The NCP was a more restrained presence: the president, secretary and a representative of the unions.

Agreement was reached on the broad outlines, listed below, of the plan of action that would result from the mediation, and these were little different from the detailed measures that were presented by Sherpa to the NCP in November.

  1. Dialogue with the local residents
  2. Extensions, property issues
  3. Environment
  4. Public service mission
  5. Local development (local hiring, and support for village plantations)
  6. Workers et sub-contractors
  7. Transparency
  8. 8.    Indemnification of local residents for the losses they suffered owing to Socapalm’s activities

3 September 2013: After six months of mediation, presentation to the collected NCP of the plan of action developed by the parties on the basis of a number of different negotiation meetings.

November 2013: With Misereor and other Cameroonian partners, Sherpa developed a system of monitoring for the plan of action, which was based on funding by the Bolloré group for monitoring by a European body, and external funding of a local NGO which would work in tandem with the European body.

December 2013: The parties sent out a call for expressions of interest in an agreed selection among the parties, consultant offices and NGOs, to carry out the assessment and the monitoring of the implementation of the plan of action by Socapalm.

3 March 2014: Final selection of GRET (Group for Research and Technology Exchanges) as the partner for implementation of the plan.

15 May 2014: Meeting between GRET, the Bolloré group, Sherpa and Socapalm to update the methodology that would be used by GRET to implement the plan, and to decide on the terms of reference for the local association. Drafting of what the role of the local NGO could be.

10 June 2014: The National Justice and Peace Service (SNJP) accepted the role of local actor, as had been suggested in the planning letter.

22 October 2014 : Participation in a meeting about  land-grabbing with all the local residents’ representatives from the Socfin plantations in Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Cambodia.

23 October 2014 : Gret, React and Synaparcam meeting on  to agreement upon the best way to implement the action plan and the participation of the local populations.

24 October 2014 : Participation with Bolloré and Synaparcam


Last modified: 18 December 2019