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(en) SchNEWS 453, Friday 14th May, 2004 - PLAIN TEXT

From Jo Makepeace <webmaster@schnews.org.uk>
Date Fri, 14 May 2004 07:48:59 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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"It is easier and less costly to change the way people think about
reality than it is to change reality" Morris Wolfe, PR consultant.
Last month was the annual meeting of the UN Commission on Human
Rights where one of the hottest topics up for discussion was the
''UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Trans-national Corporations
and Other Business Enterprises with regard to Human Rights' (or
'Norms' for short). The Commission eventually decided to give the
Norms a 5-year mandate to develop and try them out further.

These norms aren't another bureaucratic attempt to bore us into
submission but are proposed decency guidelines for multinational
corporations to stick too. The norms ask companies to respect the
laws of the countries they operate in, ensure equal opportunities
and avoid racism and sexism. More troublesome for the corporations
will be the proposed clause asking them not to profit from war
crimes, genocide, torture, and violations of international law.
The norms also include workers rights (to form unions for
example), avoidance of bribery and corruption, fair business
practice, protecting consumers from harmful products and
environmental protection. Which seem pretty reasonable to us here
at SchNEWS Towers, but not of course to big business which feels
it is obviously above such silly 'red tape' and would rather
'regulate' itself.

Corporate lobby groups such as the International Chamber of
Commerce (ICC) launched a fierce campaign to kill off the proposal
in the run up to the meeting, with the 'gurus of greenwash' Shell
playing a leading role. But what is all the fuss really about when
all these 'Norms' are just a way of trying to get multinational
corporations to obey existing laws and international treaties on
the environment and human rights? Right-wing governments and
business groups have managed to get a disclaimer added to the
conclusion which means that the Norms still do not have any
official status, but at least they will stay in the pipeline for
the next five years.

In fact these regulations actually already exist in UN treaties
such as the Convention Against Torture or in human and labour
rights conventions. The idea of the Norms is to bring together
these treaties and close a loophole in the law to make them apply
to multinational corporations - who could face compensation claims
if they ignore them.


It may come as a surprise to some that oil giant Shell are leading
the opposition to these proposed norms, claiming that they don't
find them helpful because well, they already have such high human
rights standards! Their website proudly proclaims, "Shell works
hard to meet environmental commitments and we invest time and
money to improve environmental performance beyond that required by
legislation" and that, "The welfare of our staff and the
communities in which we live and work is fundamental to our
approach to business". Shell's publicity is full of this type of
drivel: "Our core values of honesty, integrity and respect for
people define who we are and how we work. These values have been
embodied for more than 25 years in our business principles, which
since 1997 include a commitment to support human rights and to
contribute to sustainable development." And you couldn't get more
sustainable than oil now could you?

In early March a scandal around Shell's overstatement of its oil
reserves forced Chief Executive Phil Watts to resign, but you
wouldn't find any Shell top brass resigning over its overstating
of green credentials. Recent reports from Friends of the Earth and
Christian Aid documents Shell's operations in the Niger Delta in
Nigeria, that are still causing serious problems for local
communities, nine years after the execution of nine people who
paid the ultimate price for campaigning for the most basic of
human rights: the right for clean air, land and water (see SchNEWS
49). The alternative annual Shell report from FoE states that "The
decades of pollution caused by Shell's rusting network of pipes
continue to blight daily life, ruining farmland, poisoning water
tables and creating the constant risk of serious fires." The
Christian Aid report also highlights that most of the community
development projects presented in various glossy Shell reports are
in fact failing.

Hospitals, schools and water supply systems remain unfinished and
new roads mainly help boost easy movement of its oil production.
But beyond the debate about how much greenwash Shell are spouting,
it is clear that the company is determined to prevent the
emergence of international mechanisms through which communities
could hold it accountable to its pledges. As those multinational
investigators Corporate Europe Observatory point out "the company
generally gets away easily with its inflated claims concerning its
social responsibility record." As Amnesty International UK
Director Kate Allen said "Any attempt to de-rail the Norms, in
particular any referral of the Norms...would effectively turn back
the clock on years of progress on corporate social


Discoveries of massive oil reserves in West Africa are condemning
the region to more greenwashing (which means exploitation and
bloodshed) by big oil companies. Angola is currently the only
nation in Africa where US oil companies currently dominate.
European oil companies such as Shell and BP have traditionally
controlled this market. In the late 90s new offshore oil
techniques were discovered (Exxon Mobil, has led this
exploration). New coastal oil has been discovered in Gabon,
Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe which will
conveniently be the site of a new US Navy Base. By 2015, it is
projected, the US could get 25% of its oil from West Africa.

But it's a risky and troublesome part of the world, "incompetent
repression" means that the oil is out of control. "Piracy
resistance" in Nigeria, where local people rise up and sabotage or
steal oil, costs big oil companies 100-300,000 barrels of oil a
day, and companies say they need military security from the US to
operate smoothly. So when the US has finished freeing Iraq from
independence... or was it making them independent from freedom ...
it looks like they might be moving in to West Africa.

So it's no surprise the corporations are fighting tooth and nail
to avoid mandatory reporting on their activities, because despite
all their guff about social responsibility, there only obligation
they feel is really important is lining their shareholders
pockets. For this they rely on lax environmental regulations in
poor desperate countries and making sure the locals don't kick up
a fuss about their activities.

* To read the Christian Aid report

* For more on the Norms www.corporateeurope.org


Crap Arrest of the Week

For not putting a seatbelt on a dog...

Traffic police in Kempten, Germany slapped a fine on a dog for not
wearing a seatbelt. Bobbie the dog was traveling in the back of
his owner's car when traffic police pulled the vehicle over.

They handed his owner a £17 fine which has grown to £29 because
he's refusing to pay it. A police spokesman who defended the fine
said: "Small dogs belong on the floor and larger dogs need to be
kept in a harness or in the boot".



Is tree planting the new rock'n'roll?

Action has been taken this month against two companies who offer
to make their customers' "carbon neutral" - whether that be at
work or play. Future Forests and Climate Care claim that any
process involving CO2 emissions can be neutralized by planting a
certain amount of new trees in forests they manage. Both have had
complaints made to the British Advertising Standards Authority
over misleading adverts placed in press.

Heidi Bachram of Carbon Trade Watch: "The idea that people can
burn fossil fuels and then plant trees to clean up the carbon
dioxide that results is simply wrong. This false 'solution' will
merely keep people digging up oil instead of trying to shift to
clean energy."

This false solution has proved popular; predictably Future
Forests' corporate clients include BP and Sainsburys, but their
clientele also lists Coldplay, Atomic Kitten and Jamiroquai. Every
part of the rock star life style is catered for: long distance
flights, CD production, and touring emissions can be neutralised
if you pay someone to plant some friendly pollution eating trees
in their forest. Maybe Future Forests have a solution to the noise
pollution some of these bands emit?

* Glastonbury 2003 was declared "carbon neutral" after an
anonymous donor paid for 1,700 trees to be planted by Future
Forests. See www.tni.org/ctw-docs/aspress.pdf



Ferhat Kaya a Turkish Human Rights defender and chair of the
Kurdish DEHAP party was arrested last Wednesday after a meeting
where he was demanding proper compensation for those who were
affected by BP's Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Ferhat has been fighting to
have their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights
respected. He said he has been humiliated and beaten during his
detention, and on Wednesday began a 'death fast' hunger strike to
denounce it.

The pipeline will run through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey
connecting the Caspian Sea Coast to Turkish Mediterranean, and
providing oil and gas for European and US Markets (SchNEWS 433).
The project depends on political and financial support from
Western Governments and international financial institutions with
the World Bank and European Development Bank each approving a £300
million contribution. However the project has yet to demonstrate
real development benefits to the peoples in the Caspian region
with the World Bank's own advisers have reported that oil industry
projects often worsen rather than relieve poverty. Kurdish Human
Rights Project 020 7287 2772 www.khrp.org For more about the
pipeline www.baku.org.uk

* An Exhibition of Resistance to BP and Big Oil, June 15th-21st.
To get involved 07969 786770 www.londonrisingtide.org.uk


Inside SchNEWS

Two West Papuan tribespeople who blocked a road trying to stop
illegal logging have been jailed. Please send letters of support
to: Matius Nasira and Manase Furima - both at Lembaga
Pemasyarakatan Manokwari, Jl. Sabang No.4, Manokwari, Papua,
Indonesia. For more information about these two and the situation
in West Papua check out www.westpapua.net

SchNEWS In Brief

** Foreigners aren't welcome in Britain - unless of course they
are willing to work in the NHS. The Royal College of Nursing have
complained that this poaching of nurses from developing countries
is tantamount to people trafficking.

** Two of the 'terrorists' who we were told by the cops were going
to bomb Old Trafford, were last week invited to a game by the
Manchester United Independent Supporters Trust!

** There's a public meeting on ID Cards next Wednesday (19) at the
Old Theatre, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, WC2A
2AE. 1.30pm. If you want to go email: meeting@stand.org.uk

** 'Anti terrosim laws, Then and Now' meeting Wednesday 26 7pm,
Grand Committee Room, House of Commons. Organised by the Campaign
Against Criminalising Communities 020 7586 5892

** There's a 'Respect the Unity Coalition' festival at the Dane
John Gardens, Canterbury this Sunday (16) starting at 1pm

** Historians speak out against fascism. Tom Lineham - East End
for Mosley; Jim Wolfreys - The Politics of Racism in France and
Liz Fekete, Institute of Race Relations will be talking next
Saturday (22) 1-3pm, Senate House, Malet Street, London.

** Greenpeace USA is in the dock next week for the actions of two
of its activists who boarded a ship carrying timber illegally
exported from Brazil and hung a banner saying "President Bush:
Stop Illegal Logging", but rather than prosecute the smugglers,
the US Justice Department has charged the whole of Greenpeace USA
with "conspiracy and illegally boarding the ship" under an
obscure, rarely used 1872 law. www.greenpeaceusa.org/trial

** 155 people who were arrested at the World Trade Organisation
protests in Seattle in 1999 (SchNEWS 240) could be entitled to a
share of $250,000 for wrongful arrest. The police had photocopied
the arrest warrants from one original which effectively said that
one police officer had warned and arrested all 155 people! If you
are one of these people contact Allison@hagens-berman.com. A
second class action suit for people arrested inside the allegedly
unconstitutional "no-protest zone" is still underway and awaiting
the result of an appeal. WTOARREST@riseup.net.

** "Why the great surprise over Abu Ghraib?" asks Jennifer
Harbury, a human rights lawyer whose husband, was tortured for two
years and then either dismembered or thrown from a helicopter by
Guatemalan military officials who were receiving generous CIA
payments. "This has been standard operating procedure for years."

** Mark Thomas has organized a Coca Cola - Nazi advert challenge
to highlight the links between the company and the Nazi regime
24th to 30th May ,The Nancy Victor Gallery, 36 Charlotte Street,
London W1T 2NA, tube: Goodge Street & Tottenham Court Road and
10th to 30th June at The Foundry, 86 Great Eastern Street, London,
EC2A 3JL. Tube: Old Street. www.foundry.tv


Brighton Briefs

Busy Saturday in town -

** Festival of resistance against the corporate takeover of
Brighton. Meet 12 noon at Pavillion Gardens

** There's also a funeral march to Defence Minister Ivor Caplin's
surgery meet 11.30am North end of George St., Hove. Wear black for
a march to Hove Town Hall. At 2pm assemble at Churchill Square to
protest against local arms company EDO. 07973 228335

** Later some of the SchNEWS crew will be speaking at the Cowley
Club, 12 London Road at 4pm, so come and find out all about
Brighton's premier direct action news sheet (ok it's the only

** And don't forget Brighton's premier pirates Radio 4A on the
airwaves this weekend celebrating their 5th birthday party
featuring all kinds of people that we have played with them over
the last 5 years. 101.4 FM web streams

** There's a Mad Pride Night happening at the Cowley Club next
Thursday (20) 6pm including a showing of the short film 'With
Endless Love' about Mad Pride legend Pete Shaughnessy.

** The World Bank will be recruiting students from Sussex
University on 17th of May. In 2000, their attempts to recruit were
disrupted by people acting in solidarity with those imprisoned for
their role in the demonstrations against the World Bank/IMF Summit
in Prague Sept 2000. Make sure you get along to their career day
for some work experience!


Haw Thorn

Brian Haw has been protesting at a continuous picket in Parliament
Square against Sanctions and the war on Iraq. Clearly fed up with
his presence the police had said that they wanted to remove him,
but didn't know what bit of legislation they would use. This
followed a landmark High Court ruling which found in favour of Mr
Haw and his right to protest.

At just after midnight on Monday police moved in and formed a
cordon under the Terrorism Act because of "suspicious" parked car
in the vicinity. Police arrested Brian Haw for failing to leave a
security cordon and assaulting a police officer, but Brian
suffered injuries from handcuffs and was held face down in a
police van by four coppers suggesting he was the one assaulted.
Just after Brian's arrest the car was (conveniently) identified as
just being some tourists who had parked in the wrong place and the
security threat disappeared.

The police also decided to rip down all his placards for
"safekeeping", this is despite one of Brian's supporters who was
luckily in the area at the time saying she would look after them.
Later that evening after being released the police dumped all the
placards back on the pavement and Brian resumed his protest.

Brian is in court at Bow St Magistrates Ct on 18 May at 10am and
would welcome support. Info: emma@drifting.demon.co.uk



This week Monsanto announced that it would abandon plans to
develop genetically modified wheat anywhere in the world. This is
despite investing years and hundreds of millions of dollars into
researching and developing wheat to be resistant to its own
Round-Up pesticide. Massive consumer resistance to GM crops in
Europe and Japan have meant that the Canadian and American farmers
growing the crop would have had very little export market making
the crop commercially unviable. Monsanto have also announced that
they are pulling out of developing GM oil seed rape in Australia
and sugar beet in Europe (with Syngenta).

This is yet another massive blow for the GM industry and comes hot
on the heels of the Spanish government withdrawing the consent for
Syngenta's Bt Corn, the only GM crop being commercially grown in
Europe, because of fears that it could lead to anti-biotic
resistant super bugs, and Bayer backing out of growing GM crops in
Britain (SchNEWS 448). www.biotechimc.org


..And Finally...

What does a French policeman do to get an extra bit of income?
Prostitute himself! That's what one copper admitted to doing after
being arrested after a car chase on the outskirts of Paris,
wearing nothing but a pair of fishnets tights!



SchNEWS warns all readers... normal service will be resumed as
soon as possible. Honest!



What's On? Check out out Party and Protest guide at
www.schnews.org.uk/pap/guide.htm - it's updated every week, has
sections on regular events, local events, protest camps and



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