UN warns Vinci and others over human rights abuses in $3bn Indonesian mega resort

Vinci Construction Grands Projets, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other investors have been warned by UN human rights experts that they could be complicit in violating human rights in a $3bn tourism project on the Indonesian island of Lombok.

Last week the experts issued a statement raising alarm over forced evictions of locals and indigenous peoples, and threats against human rights defenders, to make way for a Grand Prix motorcycle circuit, parks, resorts and hotels in Mandalika, in Lombok’s impoverished West Nusa Tenggara Province.

The project is partly financed by the AIIB and has attracted more than $1bn from private investors, of whom France’s Vinci Construction Grands Projets is the largest.

The experts said Vinci was in charge of the Mandalika Circuit, hotels, a hospital, a water park, and other facilities. 

The joint statement claimed there have been expulsions of local communities and destruction of houses, fields, water sources, cultural and religious sites, as the Indonesian government and the country’s Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) "groomed Mandalika to become a ‘New Bali’."

"Credible sources have found that the local residents were subjected to threats and intimidations and forcibly evicted from their land without compensation. Despite these findings, the ITDC has not sought to pay compensation or settle the land disputes", the experts said.

They added: "In light of the dark history of human rights violations and land grabs in the region, the AIIB and businesses cannot look the other way and carry on business as usual. Their failure to prevent and address risks of human rights abuses is tantamount to being complicit in such abuses."

They also criticised a lack of due diligence by the AIIB and private businesses to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address adverse human rights impacts set out in the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.

Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, tweeted: "Farmers and fisher folks have been expelled from their land and seen the destruction of their houses, fields, and cultural sites for the construction of a mega tourism project in Indonesia. Vinci, Club Med and Accor should make sure they are not complicit." 

Last month UN experts highlighted their concerns in joint communications to the government of Indonesia, the ITDC and the AIIB, as well as to private companies and their home states: France, Spain and the US.

Vinci has been contacted for comment.

"The time has passed for racing circuits and massive transnational tourism infrastructure projects that benefit a handful of economic actors rather than the population as a whole," De Schutter said.

"Post-COVID economies should focus on empowering local communities, enhancing their livelihoods and participation in decision-making. We urge the Indonesian Government to ensure that the ITDC respects human rights and the rule of law, as well as the AIIB and private businesses not to finance or engage in projects and activities that contribute to human rights violations and abuses."

Image: Kuta Beach at Mandalika on the Indonesian island of Lombok (Saepul Jr/Unsplash)

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