Church of Sweden's international department has not been involved in criticised investment project

The diocese of Västerås, an independent part of Church of Sweden, has been the target of sharp criticism over its land investments in Mozambique. In the latest issue of the Swedish feature magazine Filter, the land investments are described as constituting "Church of Sweden's biggest aid project". We therefore find it important to explain that the investments are not part of the international development cooperation that is carried out by Church of Sweden´s International department.

It is the activities of the forestry company Chikweti in northern Mozambique that have come under scrutiny in an article in the latest issue of Filter in March 2012.

The diocese of Västerås is a part owner of Global Solidarity Forest Fund, GSFF, an investment fund which owns the forest company Chikweti. The investment is intended to contribute to economic development in the region as well as yield financial returns to the investor.

Project not compatible with the requirements of Church of Sweden’s International department
The Swedish magazine Filter has published an important article and is justified in its criticism, but we regret that its wording runs the risk of confusing the investment by the diocese of Västerås with the work carried out by Church of Sweden's International department and its partners.

At the initial phase, the Director of International Affairs at Church of Sweden was asked by Västerås diocese to support the investment.

The analysis then, and now, was that the project was not compatible with the stringent requirements of Church of Sweden's International department regarding its work in international development cooperation.

The Director of International Affairs firmly declined this invitation, and advised Västerås diocese against going ahead.

Criticism from several quarters
During the course of the company's activities since the idea was first raised in 2003, criticism has been raised a number of times from Church of Sweden's own employees and other Swedish organisations. 

Critisism has also been raised from the region. For instance, In March 2011, Justiça Ambiental & UNAC, published a report called Lords of the Land - Preliminary Analysis of the Phenomenon of Land Grabbing in Mozambique, where four of the case studies were about GSFF.

Representatives of Church of Sweden´s International department have, on repeated occasions, spoken with the diocese of Västerås about the social and ecological consequences of Chikweti's investments.

Public seminar
A public seminar on forest investments is organized by the diocease of Västerås on June 14th. Bishop Mark van Koevering from the Anglican Church in Niassa will be giving a key note speech at the seminar. Bishop Mark was chairing the board of Chikweti, but stepped down from this position in 2010 because of how the project developed.
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