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August 21, 2011
Investors Call on Oil Companies to Consider Halting Operations in Syria
    by Robert Kropp

Institutional investors that are members of the Conflict Risk Network, referring to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, ask oil companies to condemn the harsh crackdown on demonstrations by the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

The coalition of more than 100 institutional investors that are members of the Conflict Risk Network (CRN) have called on 11 oil and gas companies doing business in Syria "to halt operations or take other steps in response to the government's ongoing violent crack down on civilian protestors," according to a press release.

The Network, whose founding members include Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Investments, and Domini Social Investments, also requested that the companies "make public or private statements to the Syrian regime to condemn the violence."

The violence in Syria had thus far resulted in 2,000 deaths, most of them of protesters who have been demonstrating since March. More than 10,000 people are in custody or missing in a government crackdown that has been widely condemned by the international community. On August 18, an alliance of nations led by the United States publicly called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

The oil companies with operations in Syria that received letters are Gulfsands Petroleum (UK), INA Industrija DD (Croatia), Maurel ET Prom (France), MENA Hydrocarbons Inc (Canada), Petrofac (UK), Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands), Saipem (Italy), Sinochem (China), Suncor Energy (Canada), Tatneft (Russia) and Total (France).

Constantina Bichta, Principal ESG Researcher at Boston Common, stated, "The companies' financial support of the government links them to the regime’s ongoing human rights abuses."

Referring to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed in June by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Bichta continued, "Companies must show they are respecting human rights and act towards mitigating human rights impacts even if they have not contributed directly to them."

In February, 26 institutional investor members of CRN called on oil companies to stop payments to the Libyan government, where conflict between the government and rebels has raged since January. According to CRN's press release on Syria, oil firms in Libya "scaled down operations and evacuated staff immediately following uprisings in February."


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