In an interesting twist of the battle over oil exploration in the Virunga National Park in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, environmental protection NGO WWF has put in a formal complaint about SOCO International plc at the OECD in Paris.
WWF today has filed a complaint alleging that British oil company Soco International PLC has breached international corporate social responsibility standards. WWF contends that, in the course of Soco’s oil exploration activities in and around Virunga National Park, the company has violated environmental and human rights provisions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. – WWF press release
The WWF goes on to allege that SOCO has used state security to put pressure on local communities. SOCO denies the claims that it breached international standards in its activities in the DRC:
SOCO would like to make it clear that all alleged breaches of the voluntary guidelines raised are absolutely ill-founded, tendentious and not supported by the facts. – SOCO press release
Cynics will argue that it would be impossible for SOCO to work in “close collaboration” with the government of the Congo and still hold up international standards of good business behaviour, seeing that corruption, mismanagement and violence against opposition is deeply ingrained in the politics of the country. But even by Congolese standards, the government’s plans to let SOCO explore possible oil reserves in and around the Virunga National Park are contentious.
Virunga is a UNESCO designated Worl Heritage Site and supports a unique rainforest ecosystem. It is also home to some of the last populations of mountain gorillas and many other rare species. Recent legislation introduced into the Congolese parliament now tries to undermine the current regulations that forbid any exploration activity in national parks.
Adding to the environmental concerns, Virunga is also situated in an active conflict zone. Possibly as many as 50 different rebel groups are active in the park and surrounding provinces with the official army acting as one of the greatest human rights violators in the conflict.
H/T Jeune Afrique