LONDON, February 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --
The UK National Contact Point ("NCP") has issued an initial assessment explaining the context in which it will examine certain issues raised in a complaint made by WWF last October. It is made very clear that the initial assessment does not mean that the NCP considers SOCO has acted inconsistently with the voluntary Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises or that the NCP has reached any negative conclusion about the Company's activities. SOCO understands the NCP's initial assessment and the Company will cooperate with the process. Points raised in the assessment are summarised below.
The NCP rejected many of WWF's allegations:
- The NCP did not accept the allegation that the stabilisation clause in SOCO's contract with the DRC government substantiates an issue about the company's obligations.
- The NCP did not accept the allegation of a link between any human rights impact and SOCO's activities.
- The NCP did not accept the allegation that human rights risks were immediate or specific to SOCO's activities.
- The NCP did not accept that anonymous accounts substantiated allegations of a lack of consultation.
- The NCP did not accept the allegation of a lack of engagement with local stakeholders or the wider stakeholder community.
Several important points were acknowledged by the NCP:
- The NCP considers that SOCO has shown that it is engaging with and providing information to both local stakeholders affected by its activities (whose impacts are not significant at this point), and the wider stakeholder community with an interest in the Virunga National Park.
- The NCP noted that the Company has publicly committed to investigating any human rights incidents of which it has been made aware.
- The NCP accepted that SOCO has committed to environmental and social standards above the requirements of existing laws (including the OECD Guidelines themselves).
The issues which have been set aside by the NCP for further examination relate to:
1. A limited issue regarding access to information contained in the 'Environment Impact Assessment' (or Plan d'Attenuation et Rehabilitation, 'PAR'), in view of the document not being publicly accessible. (It has been noted that SOCO does not have a title over the document.)
- SOCO comment: The Company has sought permission and has received a commitment from the DRC government that the PAR will be made public.
2. The level of human rights due diligence that is appropriate to the context of SOCO's operations.
- SOCO comment: We believe the level of due diligence has been appropriate to the context of SOCO's operations, being a seismic survey (lasting approx. one month), environmental baseline studies and community investment programmes. No drilling has been planned or is even warranted. SOCO looks to the OECD Guidelines, which notes that due diligence is an on-going exercise, recognising that human rights risks change over time as operations evolve.
3. How the Company should interpret its obligation to contribute to sustainable development.
- SOCO comment: The Company looks forward to contributing to a further examination of how sustainable development can be achieved whilst addressing the views of the international community together with the DRC's legitimate right to manage and protect its own energy resources.
The NCP has confirmed that the next step of "further examination" is for a facilitated mediation process between the SOCO and WWF. We recognise that WWF is a campaigning organisation, but we would hope that they will still respect the process and allow the NCP to facilitate the mediation outside the media spotlight in this instance.
The Company looks forward to positively engaging on these issues with the aim of reaching an agreement. We respect the complaints process provided under the OECD Guidelines and take the matter extremely seriously. SOCO's policy remains one of openness, transparency and cooperation.
Notes to editors:
- OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
- SOCO is an international oil and gas exploration and Production Company, headquartered in London, traded on the London Stock Exchange and a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. The Company has interests in Vietnam, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) and Angola.
- NCP is the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The NCP's procedures for dealing with complaints can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-national-contact-point-procedures-for-complaints-brought-under-the-oecd-guidelines-for-multinational-enterprises
- The Initial Assessment will be issued by the UK National Contact Point as part of the UK Government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills who we have been liaising and fully co-operating with over this case.
- For a full review of SOCO's policies and further information please visit http://www.socointernational.com.
SOURCE SOCO International