The POSCO story: 4 deaths and a dialogue
It has been planned for several years, but had so far been postponed: the Korean steel company POSCO wants to build and operate on a large scale in Orissa, an Indian state. Local people, environmental organizations and experts strongly resisted the plan, with all the consequences that entailed. Local police and militias cracked down the protests and recently there were four deaths. Wiert Wiertsema points out the responsibility of ABP, the Dutch pension fund that invested in POSCO. Wiertsema and ABP talked recently about the issue following an official complaint by the FGG Alliance on violations of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises.
“If POSCO does not comply with social and environmental rules and continues its plans, at least 22.000 farmers and 30.000 fishermen will become internally displaced and will lose their primary source of income. Moreover, it will cause irreparable environmental damage. Recently the Mining Zone Peoples’ Solidarity Group investigated the consequences of POSCO’s plans. The results illustrate the reasons as to why the local people protested against POSCO. I deeply regret the loss of lives in this struggle. It shows that ABP and other investors have to extert influence to avoid further escalation.”
Put the pressure on
“As an investor ABP can pressure POSCO to comply with the Corporate Social Responsibility rules. This would be in line with ABP’s own CSR policy.This applies not only to ABP, but also to other investors, such as the pension fund of the Norwegian government. I urge investors to do all in their power to ensure that POSCO acts in accordance with the OECD-guidelines.”
ABP responded to the call. “In 2012 we, an international coalition of Dutch, Norwegian, Indian and South-Korean organizations, filed a complaint to the Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD guidelines and to the NCPs of South-Korea and Norway. Together with the NCP as mediator we had three talks with ABP, our partner SOMO and pension management company APG. All participants have agreed to continue their dialogue to find ways to prevent or mitigate the negative effects of POSCO’s proposed investments. A hopeful statement, but it’s only the beginning. If no action is taken quickly, the first phase of land acquisition might not work out well for POSCO. Further ignoring the situation can lead to more violence and will not benefit the investment.
Photo: Ranka Ayush
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