Rising Tide Activists Occupy Export Credits Guarantee Department Offices to Protest Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline

Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 11/10/2004 - 11:10

Rising Tide Activists Occupy Export Credits Guarantee Department Offices to Protest Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline; Attempt at Participatory Democracy Fails


Activists protesting against the activities of the UK Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), in particular its likely support for the much-criticised Baku-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, today occupied the ECGD’s offices for much of the morning.

At least five members of London Rising Tide [1]hosue.org. barricaded themselves into the boardroom and, in the spirit of participatory democracy, attempted to open a constructive dialogue with ECGD staff over the Baku-Ceyhan project. Sadly, their overtures were rebuffed, and a unique opportunity to explain how this massively contentious project is in the public interest was lost.

In recent years the Export Credits Guarantee Department has come under increasing fire for using public money to subsidise the arms trade [2], for supporting projects enmeshed in gross corruption [3] and for failing to carry out sufficient research into the benefits of the projects it supports for local people.
“The ECGD is now the single largest source of taxpayer subsidy for big multinationals seeking to offload onto the public the risks of their unwanted and exploitative projects in the South. Yet nobody knows who they are,” said Jo Hamilton of Rising Tide. “This could have been the chance for the ECGD to tell an interested section of the public why they should get over £750 million a year in taxpayers’ money, and frankly we’re baffled as to why they didn’t take it.”

Despite repeated requests from the activists, no-one with any knowledge of the Baku-Ceyhan project came to talk to them. This was especially unexpected given the ever-increasing controversy surrounding BTC.
A consortium of oil giants led by the UK’s BP are the sponsors of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which is intended to take Caspian oil from Baku in Azerbaijan through Georgia and the Kurdish regions of eastern Turkey to American markets. BP is currently in the middle of applying for almost $2.5 billion in public funds to complete the project, primarily from the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. [4]

The project has been dogged with allegations of widespread human rights abuses, inadequate compensation and consultation of locally affected people and regional destabilisation and militarization. In particular, activists are concerned about the legal agreements for the pipeline, the Host Government Agreements (HGAs), which override all local environmental and social laws for the next half century and effectively make BP the sovereign power along the pipeline route.

“We were hoping the ECGD could explain to us exactly how the HGAs, especially clauses like the ones which allow paramilitary forces with long records of murder and torture to take almost any measures to protect the pipeline and force affected people to go to an industrial tribunal in Geneva under UK law to get their basic rights, fit into its commitments to go ‘Beyond Business Principles’ and respect human rights, “ said Mark Brown of Rising Tide. “It’s a shame, if not a surprise, that they chose not to do that.”

Photos of the event will shortly be available on Indymedia.

[1] To find out more, about Rising Tide’s work against the Baku-Ceyhan project, visit www.burningplanet.net or contact london@risingtide.org.uk.
[2] Almost 50% of the ECGD’s backing goes on arms deals, yet the arms industry, above and beyond its horrific human costs, generates only 3% of the UK’s gross exports.
[3] See the recent report by Sue Hawley, “Turning a Blind Eye: Corruption and the UK Export Credits Guarantee Department”, June 2003, available at www.thecornerhouse.org.uk.
[4] The 120 day public disclosure period for criticism of the project lasts from June to October, giving another 6 weeks for concerned parties to raise objections with the World Bank and the EBRD.

Leaflet text

Links to corner house studies of the role of the uk's export guarantee department. inc arms trade, The case against ECGD underwriting of arms sales. The ECGD's support for defence-related exports has lost money every year for the past 12 years. ... The case against ECGD underwriting of arms sales. ...

 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/subsidy.html - 10k
The case for removing arms from the ECGD's portfolio

The Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) and other Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) should end support for military goods. The Corner House. ...
 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/armsecgd.html - 11k

Export Credits: What is the public policy aim?
The UK government's Export Credits Guarantees Department (ECGD) supports British exporters. Using public money to support private ...
 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/aimecgd.html - 14k

Recommendations for the Export Credits Guarantee Department ( ...
... Recommendations for the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) on Debt and Export Credits. ... 3. ECGD Annual Report and Resource Accounts 2000/01. ...
 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/debtecgd.html - 15k

Recommendations from Friends of the Earth to the ECGD regarding ...
... Recommendations from Friends of the Earth to the ECGD regarding Sustainable Energy and Climate Change. ... 2. Why should ECGD support sustainable energy? ...
 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/climate.html - 11

Corner House Document
... UK Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) Minimum Conditions For Reform. ... The Urgent Need for Reform. Reform of the ECGD is long overdue. ...
 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/ecgdmemo.html - 18k

Corner House Document
... the controversial Ilisu Dam in Turkey, which the UK government is provisionally supporting through its Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD), have obtained ...
 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/ilisurap.html - 37k

The Corner House - Documents
... Recommendations for the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) on Debt and Export Credits. ... The ECGD and the Human Rights Act. ...
 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/ - 77k

The ECGD and the Human Rights Act
Since October 2000, the UK Export Credits Guarantees Department (ECGD) has been bound by the UK Human Rights Act. ... The ECGD and the Human Rights Act. ...
 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/hraecgd.html - 20k

... This report focuses on the UK's Export Credits Guarantee Department
(ECGD). Its assessment of nine ECGD-backed projects reveals ...
 http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/document/ summary/correcgd.html - 6k - pages


What’s wrong with the Export Credits Guarantee Dept?
(And why shouldn’t it back BP’s Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan [BTC] pipeline?)

Exporting Corruption, Guaranteeing Destruction: so what is the ECGD?

The ECGD is a shadowy, taxpayer-backed government agency which gives financial guarantees (c£760m per year) to UK companies operating abroad. Arms companies supply up to 50% of its business, and are also heavily subsidised. It is now the single largest source of taxpayer support for private sector companies seeking to offload on to the public the financial risks of their business projects in the South and Eastern Europe. Ultimately, it is the poorest in these countries who end up paying the bill. ECGD-backed projects - from arms and oil pipelines to dams and polluting power stations - are environmentally destructive, socially oppressive and often financially unviable.

Burning Planet: BP’s Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline

BP is seeking ECGD and public banks’ backing for a huge new oil pipeline from its Caspian Sea oilfields, through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, to the Mediterranean. The BTC pipeline, likely to be guarded by the US military, would carry 1 million barrels of oil every day. It would cause serious human rights abuses, could spark or reignite regional wars, would rob local people of their land and livelihoods, and would deliver yet more oil to already saturated Western markets, further contributing to climate chaos. The pipeline legal agreements make BP the effective governing power over a strip of land 1,750 miles long, overriding all environmental, social, human rights or other laws, present and future, for the next 40 years. BTC fails spectacularly the ECGD’s own social, environmental and human rights guidelines.

Who are we and why are we here?

This protest is being carried out by London Rising Tide and friends, and is part of a wider campaign to stop BTC, as well as a chance to point a much-needed spotlight at the dodgy activities of the ECGD in general. We’re here today to disrupt the ECGD, as well as to say “let’s scrap the BTC pipeline, dismantle the ECGD and build a global community based on justice, peace and a real (not lipserviced) respect for the environment’. Not much to ask, eh?

3 things you can do:
1.) Let the ECGD know what you think:  mbrown@ecgd.gov.uk or  help@ecgd.gov.uk
PO Box 2200, 2 Exchange Tower, Harbour Exchange Square, London E14 9GS
Phone: 020 7512 7000; Fax: 020 7512 7649
2.) Get involved in the campaign to stop the BTC pipeline:
London Rising Tide:  london@risingtide.org.uk www.burningplanet.net
Rising Tide UK: www.risingtide.org.uk
Baku Ceyhan Campaign: www.baku.org.uk
See also: www.earthfirst.org.uk/manchester/baku/ & www.thecornerhouse.org.uk
3.) Get yourself down to the protests to shut down the DSEi arms fair at the Excel Centre from September 8-11th: www.dsei.org