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OECD Governments Fail to Investigate Corporate Role in Congo War

OECD Governments have failed to investigate the alleged role of multinational companies in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the Oxford-based Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), in a new report released today. In October 2002, an Expert Panel set up by the U.N. Security Council accused 85 companies of violating the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises – a voluntary company code that has an obligatory government monitoring mechanism. To date there has been almost no progress in investigating these companies.

The furore created by the Panel’s reports makes the need to draw a clear line between acceptable and unacceptable corporate behaviour a top priority - not just in the tragic case of the DRC but in all conflict zones,” said RAID's Patricia Feeney.

But in October 2003 the Panel’s final report failed to make this distinction clearly. It listed many company cases in a ‘resolved’ category without publicly explaining its reasoning for doing so. Only eleven cases were forwarded on to governments for investigation under the Guidelines, but so far almost no action has been taken. Many unanswered questions remain about the allegations against companies. It’s been five months since the UN Panel of Experts completed its work. Over the past four years no fewer than five resolutions or statements have been passed by the UN Security Council urging governments to conduct their own investigations into the part played by companies in illegal resource exploitation, which helped fuel the conflict.

“So far, most governments have been long on excuses but short on action” said Feeney.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is emerging from a devastating five-year war that is estimated to have cost the lives of more than three million people. Multinational corporations have been accused of helping to perpetuate the war and of profiteering from it. In February 2002, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, promised to clamp down on companies that fuel resource wars in Africa and called for stricter adherence to the OECD Guidelines as a means of ensuring that companies behave responsibly in conflict zones.

The report by Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) examines the role of companies in the DRC conflict, their reactions to being listed by the UN Panel and the publicly unanswered questions that remain about their conduct. For the first time it frames the questions in relation to the OECD Guidelines. Governments adhering to the Guidelines have a responsibility to ensure that they are applied. It is in nobody’s interest — neither that of responsible companies, nor that of the people of the DRC — to leave these questions unresolved. This report should act as a catalyst for action by governments.

“RAID is not making allegations of its own nor does it claim that the UN’s allegations amount to proof of misconduct.1 But the Panel’s reports raise legitimate, ethical questions, which, in the interest of all parties concerned, must be resolved publicly and unambiguously. The DRC case is a crucial test of the Guidelines. If they can’t handle this they’ll be dismissed as meaningless and irrelevant”, said Patricia Feeney.

An electronic version of RAID’s full report is to be submitted to the UN Security Council, OECD Governments, the OECD’s Committee on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises (CIME) and the International Criminal Court.

1 The allegations that are restated in Unanswered questions: companies, conflict and the Democratic Republic of Congo do not purport to be based on material other than the Panel’s reports or company responses unless specific reference is made to other sources.

For further information please contact:
Patricia Feeney, RAID: 01865 436245/ 07796178447 or raid.oxford(at)ntlworld.com
The report can be found at www.oecdwatch.org
RAID – Rights & Accountability in Development – Company No. 4895859

Editor’s Notes

OECD Guidelines

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are the first international instrument on corporate social responsibility to provide a government supported (though voluntary) mechanism for monitoring and influencing corporate behaviour. Governments adhering to the Guidelines have been obliged to set up National Contact Points (NCPs) to promote the Guidelines and contribute to the solution of problems that may arise. Under the OECD Guidelines implementation procedures it is possible to file complaints against companies under a ‘specific instance’ procedure and bring matters of non-compliance to the attention of the relevant NCP. 38 countries have adhered to the OECD Guidelines: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, and the USA; adhering non-members are: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Estonia, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia.

Work of the UN Panel of Experts

The UN Panel of Experts was appointed by the Security Council in 2000 to investigate the illegal exploitation of the natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It issued a number of reports: Interim report, dated 16 January 2001 (S/2001/49); Report, dated 12 April 2001 (S/2001/357); Addendum report, dated 13 November 2001 (S/2001/1072); Interim report, dated 22 May 2002 (S/2002/565); Report, dated 16 October 2002 (S/2002/1146); Addendum, dated 20 June 2003 (S/2002/1146/Add.1); Report, dated 23 October 2003 (S/2003/1027). Its two most controversial reports were the report of October 2002 (which listed in an Annex the names of 85 companies it alleged had violated the OECD Guidelines) and its final report of October 2003, which seemed ‘to resolve’ the majority of the companies without any reasoned explanation. While the Panel did not rule out wrongdoing in the past, many companies have taken ‘resolution’ to be synonymous with exoneration.

Security Council Resolutions and Presidential Statements about the Panel’s work

Presidential Statement, Security Council, S/PRST/2000/20, 2 June 2000; Presidential Statement, Security Council, S/PRST/2001/13, 3 May 2001; Presidential Statement, Security Council, S/PRST/2001/39, 19 December 2001; Security Council Resolution 1457 (2003), 24 January 2003; Security Council Resolution 1499 (2003), 13 August 2003; Presidential Statement, Security Council, S/PRST/2003/21, 19 November 2003.

RAID and OECD WATCH

Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) was founded in 1997 and carried out a 3-year research project investigating the human rights impacts of the privatisation of Zambia’s copper mines under the auspices of the Refugee Studies Centre, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford. In September 2003, RAID was incorporated as a private, not-for-profit, limited company. RAID aims through its research to promote social and economic rights and improve corporate accountability. RAID participated in the review of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and, through OECD WATCH, an international network of NGOs, works for their effective implementation. See OECD WATCH’s website for RAID’s report and further information about the network’s activities: www.oecdwatch.org or contact raid.oxford(at)ntlworld.com.