Monday, November 19, 2007

Socially Conscious Gas Guide, Part 3: Human Rights

Without further ado, I'm finishing my Socially Conscious Gas Guide by compiling some info for you on the international human rights records of some gas companies. This adds onto the info in Parts 1 and 2 on workers' safety and rights (which are also human rights, of course!) and the environmental records of the companies.

Here are human rights incidents involving various companies, in no particular order:

  • Shell
    • Nigeria: More than 10 years after nine local activists involved in protesting Shell's environmental and human rights violations in Nigeria were framed for murder (allegedly with Shell's assistance) and executed, Shell continues to contribute to violence in the Niger Delta. For example, Amnesty International documents how in 2005 the Odioma community was burnt to the ground and many community members (including children and the elderly) tortured and/or killed; the violence was over the disputed ownership of oil-rich land which Shell had purchased from one community while bypassing the other.
  • Chevron:
    • Nigeria: Chevron is also involved in violence in Nigeria. In one example from 2005, locals came to a Chevron oil terminal to protest (apparently peacefully) Chevron's failure to live up to their agreement to provide jobs and development projects for residents; in response, government security forces killed one and injured 31 others, while Chevron did not report the incident or provide medical aid. Chevron is also being sued for an earlier incident in which security forces fired on and killed protesters.
    • Burma (Myanmar): While most U.S. companies do not invest in Burma because of U.S. sanctions, Chevron was grandfathered in. Chevron is a major investor in the Yadana pipeline project; Unocal (which is now part of Chevron) paid $30 million in 2005 to settle claims of murder, rape, and forced labor as part of the pipeline's construction. Chevron continues to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties to the brutal regime for its share in the project.
    • Ecuador: Chevron is accused of intentionally dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon over several decades; aside from the environmental damage, illness and cancer are increasing, and some indigenous groups from the areas where the dumping occured are on the brink of extinction.
    • Chad and Cameroon: Along with Exxon-Mobil, Chevron is a key stakeholder (25%) in the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project, which is causing environmental damage and increasing poverty along its path, while enriching the cruel and corrupt government of Chad. Not only that, but the legal agreements signed between the companies and the governments of Chad and Cameroon provide financial disincentives for the governments to intervene if the human rights of their citizens are being violated.
  • Exxon-Mobil
  • BP
    • Colombia: BP has a partial stake in the Ocensa pipeline; in the late 90s it allegedly helped arm a notoriously brutal army unit to defend its interests.
    • Indonesia: BP's Tangguh project is being developed in West Papua, which was annexed by Indonesia in the 1960s and whose people generally do not support Indonesian rule; BP's dealings have been with the Indonesian government, and human rights groups worry how the project will effect the already violent and volatile region.
    • BP also previously owned a portion of PetroChina, which was involved in human rights violations in Tibet; it sold its shares in 2004.
The case of Venezuela and Citgo:
  • This will depend on your perspective; Citgo is owned by Venezuela, which may be a good thing or a bad thing in your book. Its profits go to the Venezuelan government/the Venezuelan people (depending on how you look at it), which could be seen as good, bad or mixed for human rights-- I personally think it's mixed but on balance a good thing, but make up your own mind (based on reading as much as you can about Venezuela from a variety of different perspectives, I hope!)
Am I missing anything? Please comment and I'll add it to the post. This research has taken a lot longer than I expected, and yet I still feel like I'm missing stories. Sadly, there are probably all sorts of human rights violations out there that I haven't documented, but I think I've done a pretty good job at compiling those generally thought of as the most egregious...

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