Amnesty International urging oil companies to respect rights of indigenous people
By a Staff Reporter
Canadian companies in the oil industry in other parts of the world are accused of violations of Human Rights – destroying crops of land and indigenous economies.
Amnesty International’s (AI’s) business is to make sure these companies respect these human rights. These issues were discussed at an Amnesty International forum titled “Business and Human Rights” addressed by Fieldworker Matthew Ponsford in Halifax in November 2011.
The Niger Delta is now a priority. Bill C-300 is about the rights of people abroad and the abuse of these by Canadian companies, Ponsford said. “In the case of the Niger Delta, three issues are at stake: 1. Environment and Human Rights 2. Poverty and Human Rights 3. Government Failures.”
He said 60 per cent of those who live in the Niger Delta depend on natural environs for their livelihood.
But spills and gas flaring associated with oil extraction have damaged the environment. “The polluted environment has resulted in violations of their rights,” he said.
Bodo in Niger Delta have asked Shell to clean up the spills, but Shell has, reportedly, refused to cooperate. It has also refused to do so. AI’s request to submit information on their oil infrastructures in Niger Delta has not got a response.
Oil spills affect drinking water, vegetation, crops and wildlife. As a result their jobs are lost. Ponsford says youth are leaving their skills and trades in fishing and other such occupations. “So a cultural shift is taking place. On the other hand, oil-related pollution has made residents vulnerable to exploitation. Destruction of livelihoods and lack of accountability fuels frustration and conflict.”
AI’s view is that the governments in these countries have failed in regulatory frameworks – especially the oversight of company clean-up efforts. It’s clear that companies have exploited weak regulatory systems.
Pollution is the major hazard. People’s independence is threatened. Boda’s young people have few job opportunities and so are getting involved in illegal activity.
Ponsford says Shell compensates minimally in Niger Delta giving away food staple items. Under Human Rights law Shell is obliged to rehabilitate victims – plus engage in public disclosure of the truth – the steps being taken to clean up, and a report on how spills have affected people of the region.
AI is now undertaking Global Action Objectives, Ponsford says. In Phase 1, it’s looking to support clean-up operations of the Niger Delta and introduce effective regulation of the oil industry.
In Phase 2, it’s seeking a commitment by the companies for a clean-up operation in the Niger Delta.