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Will Norway withdraw from Repsol because of indigenous people?

 
Indigenous Peoples

Women from Ecuador’s Amazon region join a march in Quito in support of the government’s proposal to allow oil drilling in a section of the Yasuní national park. Photograph: Dolores Ochoa/AP

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Will Norway withdraw from Repsol because of indigenous people?” was written by David Hill, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 18th September 2013 14.45 UTC

Some years ago, the Council on Ethics within Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) began investigating oil and gas company Repsol. The council’s stated aim is to evaluate “whether or not investment in specified companies is inconsistent with the [Fund´s] established ethical guidelines” before making recommendations to the Ministry of Finance, and the reason it was interested in Repsol was because of its operations in a remote part of Peru’s Amazon inhabited by indigenous peoples living in “voluntary isolation” who have no regular contact with anyone else.

What, if anything, did the Council conclude? According to Anders Krogh, from the NGO Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN), the Council presented a report to the Ministry in 2011 recommending that Norway disinvests from Repsol.

Krogh, relying on several anonymous sources, tells me:

We have now got it 100% confirmed that the Council on Ethics of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, which sits within the Finance Ministry, has sent a recommendation to the Finance Minister and the Norwegian Central Bank to withdraw all investments from the company because it threatens isolated indigenous peoples living between the Napo and Tigre rivers in Peru.

If this is true, it’s a Big Deal and should set an important precedent – for capitalism and human rights in general, and for the GPFG, which handles over US$700 billion and is reportedly considered by some to be the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, in particular. But what does it matter if the Ministry ignores its own advice? Says Krogh:

Norway’s government boasts that its Pension Fund has the highest standards of ethical investments in the world, and, in addition, Norway is a high profile country on rainforest protection and human rights. Why then does it continue to support these severe encroachments on indigenous peoples and rainforest in the Napo-Tigre region? It is double standards. The Council made its recommendation to withdraw from Repsol two years ago, but nothing has happened.

In addition to the financial ramifications, any such recommendation would also be a Big Deal for Repsol as well as another company operating in the Napo-Tigre region, Perenco, because both defend opposition to their operations from indigenous organizations and NGOs by claiming there is no evidence that the “isolated” people really exist. Indeed, Peru’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has claimed the same in correspondence with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights following an appeal to the Commission by national indigenous organization AIDESEP.

According to the Council on Ethics’ website, “The Ministry [of Finance] makes the decision on exclusion of companies from the Government Pension Fund’s investment universe based on recommendations from the Council. [Our role is to] evaluate whether potential investments in financial instruments. . . are inconsistent with the Fund’s ethical guidelines.”

These guidelines include excluding companies that cause “severe environmental damage” and perpetrate “particularly serious violations of fundamental ethical norms.” The list of excluded companies currently stretches to 55 and includes Boeing Co, Barrick Gold Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp, Rio Tinto Plc, Samling Global Ltd, Vedanta Resources Plc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Krogh doesn’t say the reason the Council has given for its possible Repsol recommendation, but the people living in “voluntary isolation” – as Peruvian law calls them – lack immunological defences and therefore could easily be decimated by disease if any contact is made between them and the company’s workers.

According to Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), Repsol’s concession in the Napo-Tigre region, called “Lot 39”, has “probable” oil reserves larger than any other concession in the country.

 

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