BHRRC report highlights risks to defenders raising concerns about oil and gas companies in Colombia, including Toronto-based Frontera Energy

Published by Brent Patterson on

A recent Business & Human Rights Resource Centre report highlights that from 2015 to 2019 Colombia was the second most dangerous place in the world for defenders focusing on business and that 90 per cent of the attacks were on defenders raising concerns about just four industries, with the second largest category (with 43 attacks) being oil, gas and coal.

In the category of oil and gas, the report highlights a situation involving Toronto-based Frontera Energy in the community of San Luis de Palenque:

“On 27 November 2018, eight social leaders protesting the operations of the Frontera Energy oil company were arrested, allegedly for belonging to an organised crime group, and called to trial. NGOs have denounced this and requested international intervention, but the government said that they belonged to an organised crime group that used social protest as a ‘facade to harass the hydrocarbon companies’. NGOs stated that those captured in this case are ‘deprived of their freedom solely by participating in social organizations, holding meetings and promoting peaceful mobilizations’.”

The report notes: “The UNGPs [United Nations Guiding Principles] also specify that when states fail in their duty, companies nevertheless have a responsibility to avoid causing or contributing to attacks and seek to prevent and address attacks against HRDs linked to their operations and business relationships. This includes carrying out human rights due diligence that recognises the need to address risks to HRDs.”

The report then comments: “The Colombian state has taken some important steps to address this situation but has so far failed to quell rising attacks on HRDs who raise concerns about business operations.”

In its Future Outlook section, it notes: “Investment in dangerous sectors for HRDs is set to continue at current levels and in some cases expand. Colombia ranks 22nd in oil production globally and 6th in the Americas; it stood at 865,191 barrels per day in 2018 and investments are planned for expansion, which significant sections of the population see as threatening their traditional livelihoods.”

This is notable given three Canadian oil companies – Parex Resources, Sintana Energy, and Canacol Energy Ltd. – are reportedly bidding for the controversial fracking pilot project contracts to be awarded this September/October.

The report then concludes with three recommendations for companies (including Canadian companies) operating in Colombia:

1- Adopt a zero-tolerance approach on reprisals and attacks on HRDs not only in their operations but also when they are linked to such attacks through their value chain and business relationships.

2- Implement due diligence procedures for the prevention of harm and human rights abuse of individuals, communities and the environment which explicitly recognises the risks to HRDs. Companies that invest or work in districts and/or sectors with high levels of attack need to prioritise the risks to HRDs in their human rights due diligence and act consistently on their findings.

3- Respect popular consultations, indigenous communities’ right to free, prior, and informed consent; and support community-led human rights and environmental assessments and consultations that reflect the aspirations of local communities.

To read the full 8-page report, please click here.

For more, you can also read the 65-page report Human Rights Abuses by Fossil Fuel Companies released by in February. It notes that: “Some of the most severe corporate human rights abuses worldwide may be attributed directly or indirectly to the operations of fossil fuel companies.”

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