Thursday, May 7, 2009

Amnesty, SHARE set sights on Chevron

As part of its annual Share Power campaign, Amnesty International is supporting a resolution urging Chevron to address investor concerns regarding its operations in Burma.

Chevron, in partnership with Total of France, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), holds equity in the largest investment project in Burma: the Yadana gas field and pipeline that transports gas to Thailand and has reportedly paid millions of dollars to the Burmese regime, Amnesty’s Ian Heide notes.

“Human rights organizations have documented egregious human rights abuses by Burmese troops employed to secure the pipeline area, including forcible relocation of villagers and use of forced labour on infrastructure related to the pipeline project.”

Chevron is the last major American company with active operations in Burma, according to the Shareholder Association for Research in Education (SHARE). “When Chevron purchased U.S. oil company UNOCAL in 2005, it acquired a minority stake in the Yadana pipeline,” SHARE says. A “grandfather” clause exempts Chevron from current U.S. sanctions on commercial activity in Burma.

Ongoing human rights issues, as well as mounting legal and reputational risks, have shareholders, unions and civil society groups calling for the company’s withdrawal from the country, SHARE adds.

The broad resolution – drafted by a diverse coalition of U.S. investors –­ calls on Chevron to submit a report by 2010 explaining the company’s criteria for investment in; continued operations in; and withdrawal from specific countries.

In its latest corporate social responsibility report, Chevron does not specifically mention its operations in Burma. “We are committed to respecting human rights in the countries and communities where we operate,” the report states.

SHARE says SRI investors can express support for human rights in Burma by asking mutual fund investment managers and advisors to consider voting in favour of the resolution.

Results will be announced at Chevron’s annual meeting on May 26, 2009.

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