A complaint against London-based oil and gas company Soco International PLC has triggered an investigation into the company’s operations in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In an initial assessment published by the United Kingdom’s OECD National Contact Point, the agency said that a complaint brought by WWF International has exposed “material and substantiated issues meriting further examination” regarding the company’s behavior in the park. Virunga is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, and is the oldest national park in Africa.
In the complaint, WWF documented evidence of Soco’s alleged violations of the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises including intimidation, threats and unlawful detention of local activists, as well as withholding critical information about environmental and social risks from those likely to be impacted by the company’s activities.
Lasse Gustavsson, WWF International’s Executive Director of Conservation, said:
Today WWF’s concerns about Soco have been validated. This initial judgement is a victory for conservation and sends a strong warning to any company that thinks it can get away with disregarding international standards. We urge governments and the investment community to join us in telling Soco to leave Virunga. If it fails to do so, the company risks permanently damaging its reputation and that of the industry it represents.
The United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany have all objected to Soco’s operations in Virunga, and more than 600,000 WWF supporters have signed a petition against the company. Additionally, UNESCO has called for the cancelation of the company’s permit, and French oil giant Total has committed publicly that it will not enter the World Heritage Site.
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