UK oil company Soco’s exploration in Virunga violates OECD guidelines, WWF alleges

Posted on 07 October 2013

WWF files OECD complaint against Soco International alleging human rights and environmental violations in Virunga National Park.
Brussels, Belgium – Today WWF filed a complaint to the UK government alleging that British oil company Soco International PLC has, in the course of its oil exploration activities in and around Virunga National Park, violated environmental and human rights provisions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) within its “Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises”. 
“Soco’s operations are putting Virunga’s people, animals and habitats at risk. The only way for Soco to come into compliance with the OECD guidelines is for the company to end all exploration in Virunga for good,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Conservation at WWF International. “We urge the company to stop its activities immediately.”
Soco allegedly has used state security forces to intimidate opponents and has failed to disclose, during community consultations, vital information about potential environmental and health impacts of its exploration. Further, the company’s contract contains a clause effectively exempting it from future laws aimed at protecting human rights and the environment. 
Virunga National Park is the most biodiverse protected area in Africa and one of the continent’s oldest World Heritage Sites. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee maintains that oil exploration is inconsistent with the World Heritage Convention, and has called for the cancellation of all Virunga oil permits. 
Even Soco’s own impact assessment shows that oil exploration could cause pollution, damage to habitats and encourage poaching in this fragile ecosystem. It could also harm residents’ health and damage the natural resources upon which 50,000 people depend. 
“By nominating Virunga as a World Heritage Site, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government made a legal commitment to the international community to conserve the park for future generations,” WWF’s OECD complaint states. 
The UK, as well as the majority of EU Member States are signatories to the OECD guidelines and the European Commission recognises this as the most comprehensive, internationally endorsed set of rules governing the activities of multinationals. 
 “The EU must tighten its legislation to ensure that companies are adopting highest standard business practices within Europe and abroad.  The EU is a leading advocate of non-financial corporate disclosure, including environmental and social reporting. Now is the time to turn these fine words into action and put the spotlight on companies that are aggressively pursuing natural resources for profit at the expense of people and the environment in other parts of the world” said Tony Long, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office.
The OECD guidelines apply to all multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. UK is a founding member of OECD, which was established by governments in 1961 to advance economic and social wellbeing worldwide. The UK government’s OECD guidelines representative will now evaluate the complaint filed by WWF and decide whether to proceed with further investigation.

(Source of the article)

Stefania Campogianni,, +32 499539736


Photos for media use are available here:

A SOCO vehicle, with Congolese military escort, enters Virunga National Park.
© WWF / Coalition Soc. Civil North Kivu
Residents living around Virunga National Park are concerned about oil exploration causing pollution in the lake where they fish.