Norway’s Ministry of Finance is being urged to withdraw its investments from oil and gas company Repsol because of its operations in a region in the Peruvian Amazon inhabited by indigenous people who have no direct contact with outsiders, according to Norway’s largest commercial TV channel.
The recommendation was made to the Ministry by the Council on Ethics within Norway’s ‘Government Pension Fund Global’ (GPFG) whose stated aim is to investigate if investment in certain companies meets the GPFG’s ethical guidelines, reported TV2 recently. Said a voice-over by reporter Kadafi Zaman:
The oil fund [the GPFG] has shares worth 1.7 billion Norwegian kroner in Spanish oil giant Repsol, a company that the Council of Ethics thinks Norway should withdraw from. Repsol is operating in the rainforest in Peru. According to [the Norwegian NGO] Rainforest Foundation, this could make indigenous people living without contact with the outside world extinct. . . After investigating Repsol for one and a half years, the Council on Ethics presented its report to the Ministry of Finance on 1 December 2010. The conclusion was unquestionable: the oil fund must withdraw from Repsol because of human rights violations. Three years later nothing has happened.
The broadcast briefly featured the Ministry of Finance’s Paal Bjørnestad who was told by Zaman, ‘The Council on Ethics believes that you should withdraw from the company Repsol. Why isn’t this advice being followed?’
Bjørnestad’s response: ‘I can’t comment on specific cases.’
Zaman went on to say that, ‘Reports by the Council on Ethics are highly confidential until they are made public by the Ministry of Finance, but never before has a recommendation from the Council been under consideration for three years. . . The head of the Council will not comment on the Repsol case, but he is not hiding his dissatisfaction with how cases are being handled within the Ministry.’
‘It’s difficult to understand why it should take longer than six months to make a decision on the basis of a recommendation by the Council,’ the Council’s chair, Ola Mestad, told TV2.
According to the broadcast, ‘TV2 has confronted Repsol with the Norwegian research and their answer is that they have not found any isolated indigenous tribes in the area where they are exploring.’
Zaman subsequently told The Guardian that the Council followed its recommendation three years ago with another report sent to the Ministry this year. He says:
The Council investigated Repsol for 18 months and after that submitted its report to the Ministry of Finance on 1 December 2010. In June 2013, the Council upheld its conclusions in another internal report to the Ministry. The dates I am mentioning are secret until the report is public, but we have them confirmed from sources.
TV2’s broadcast follows claims made by Rainforest Foundation Norway’s Anders Krogh, based on ‘several anonymous sources’, to The Guardian in September that the Council has recommended that the Ministry withdraw from Repsol.
According to both Krogh and now Repsol itself, the Council’s concern centers on a concession called Lot 39, a 745,141-hectare area between the Napo and Tigre rivers in northern Peru where the Ministry of Energy estimates ‘probable’ oil reserves to be greater than any other concession in the country.
However, huge swathes of Lot 39 overlap a proposed reserve for indigenous people living in what Peruvian law calls ‘voluntary isolation’ (IPVI) and who could be decimated by contact with oil workers or other outsiders.