Statement to the Committee on ESCR

Statement submitted by FIAN International, FIAN Norway and the Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development on the 51st Sessionof the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Speaker: Ms. Kristin Kjæret

Mr. Chairman, committee members:

I stand before you today as an owner of the world’s largest sovereign fund – together with almost 5 million other Norwegians. And I am deeply concerned that our fund is contributing to human rights violations in India, Guatemala and elsewhere. I am reading this statement on behalf of FIAN International and the Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development (Forum), based on our ETO-reports submitted to the Committee.

We thank the Committee for taking into account the following issues in your dialogue with Norway.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund (hereafter The Fund) is valued at almost 600 billion Euros, investing in over 7000 companies worldwide. Norges Bank Investment Management (hereafter the Bank) manages this sovereign fund.

Norway has an international reputation of being a strong promoter of human rights and business. However, as reported to the Committee, the Bank has shown grave unwillingness to engage with the OECDs contact point in Norway on serious allegations of human rights violations. They argue that as minority shareholder, they cannot be said to be “directly linked” to human rights violations through their investments.

In our reports you find details of how Posco’s planned steel plant in the Jagatsinghpur District, Odisha, India, will lead to the physical and economic displacement of more than 20,000 people. You also find details on Goldcorp’s Marlin mine in Guatemala, which is a gold mine operating since 2005 despite the objections of 98% of the half a million consulted Mayas. Today, the indigenous people are facing serious health problems due to the pollution caused by the mine, serious damaging of houses and a divided community. In both cases, opposition to the mine is met with severe violence, including killings. UN Special Rapporteurs, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission have engaged in these cases stating the need of protective measures for the victims.

A report by a government appointed Strategy Council was presented last week in Oslo with recommendations on how to improve the Fund as a responsible investor[1]. The Council was however not mandated to do a review of the Funds activities – it only looks at the way ahead. Based on the evidence existing on the impact of the referred investments on human rights the Norwegian State should adopt all necessary measures, including active ownership and exclusion, to comply with its extraterritorial obligation to respect ESCR.

Furthermore, today the fund is managed with great secrecy and there is a growing mistrust between civil society organisations and the Bank.

We kindly request the Committee to discuss the measures that have been taken by the Norwegian government in order to comply with its extraterritorial obligations in the area of economic, social and cultural rights in the two mentioned cases, as well as ask which measures they will take to improve transparency and secure an independent human rights monitoring of the Fund in general. The above-mentioned Strategy Council´s have structured their recommendations within a Responsible Investment Framework, stating the need for clarity on mandate and principles. We kindly request the Committee to suggest Norway to ensure that a renewed mandate of The Fund are in compliance with Norway´s human rights obligations, including ETO.

In the report by FIAN Norway, we also address investments done by Opplysningsvesents fond in Chikweti, a tree plantation company in Mozambique. We kindly request the committee to also address this specific case. There is a need for the Norwegian government to adopt effective remedy mechanisms for victims of ETO violations. Norwegian NGOs have for years requested an Ombudsperson on corporate social responsibility, and the Norwegian government promised to explore this in their first UPR report. However, the government has not followed up on this. The reforms of the National Institution on Human Rights may also represent an opportunity to establish a strong and independent National Human Rights Commission with a mandate that includes to monitor, evaluate and follow up on ETO violations.

Follow up on previous Concluding Observations from 2005, paragraph 25:
According to par 25. “The Committee requests the State party to provide in its next periodic report disaggregated information on its official development assistance, indicating funds allocated to different sectors in the areas of economic, social and cultural rights. Information is also sought on measures taken by the State party to ensure compliance with Covenant obligations in its international development cooperation.”

We would appreciate if the Committee asks Norway on measures taken to ensure compliance with Covenant obligations in its international development cooperation.

I thank you for your attention!