Soco failed to assess human rights risks before Virunga exploration, paper alleges



Posted on 29 August 2013  | 
About 27,000 fishermen make their living in Virunga's Lake Edward, which is ground zero for Soco's oil exploration.
© Brent Stirton / WWF-International Enlarge
British oil company Soco International PLC has been criticized for an alleged “failure to conduct a proper human rights due diligence before it started its activities” in an African World Heritage Site. In a newly released paper, the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) says the company should have taken into proper consideration the impacts local communities may experience due to its oil development activities in Virunga National Park.

According to a paper by IPIS researcher Gabriella Wass, Soco has “not yet been able to present convincing evidence of a systematic attempt to consider human rights impacts upon [its] initial engagement or thereafter.”

The company’s activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) park have been protested by local communities and are the focus of a global outcry by European lawmakers and conservationists, the paper says. It notes Soco’s argument that its operations are legitimate because it is in DRC at the “express invitation” of the government.

IPIS challenges the company’s assertion, however, stating that “when operating in a country like DRC where the human rights record is so traumatized, it is not acceptable to maintain that the government is behind you and it is no one else’s business.”

“The UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights stress that human rights due diligence is the key way in which businesses can ensure that they respect human rights during their operations,” the paper says. Adding that “strategies should be put in place to ensure that risks are mitigated, results tracked, and the lessons learnt integrated into ongoing practice.”

IPIS is an independent research institute that focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa. “Why businesses should assess human rights impacts from the outset of projects” was published on 22 August 2013.

WWF is calling on Soco to abandon all exploration and exploitation activities in Virunga, which is the most biodiverse protected area in Africa. The organization also urges the company to make a global commitment not to operate in World Heritage Sites.
 
About 27,000 fishermen make their living in Virunga's Lake Edward, which is ground zero for Soco's oil exploration.
© Brent Stirton / WWF-International Enlarge
Residents rally to protect Virunga National Park from oil exploration.
© IDPE Enlarge

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