UK Government set to examine Soco's activities in Virunga National Park

Date of publication: 
14 February 2014

The UK Government is set to examine the activities of Soco, a London-based oil company, over alleged violations of environmental protections and human rights abuses in a protected African World Heritage Site.

It was announced today that a complaint filed by WWF has been accepted, and issues related to respect for human rights and the environment in Virunga National Park, will be thoroughly examined for the first time. WWF officially filed an OECD complaint against Soco, the oil company threatening Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in late 2013. This announcement today is really important for local communities in the DRC, as well as for the more than 600,000 people around the world who have so far signed the petition to protect Virunga.

WWF’s complaint claimed the following:

Soco has hidden from residents who could be impacted the full details of what could potentially go wrong. State security forces have been accused of creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation at Soco community meetings. Soco has not respected international treaties aimed at protecting the environment, such as the World Heritage Convention.

The OECD’s guidelines are the world’s most respected rules governing the activities of international businesses.

WWF’s case has exposed “material and substantiated issues meriting further examination,” the UKs Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) agency said in its initial assessment published today.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, said: “This announcement demonstrates the seriousness of WWF’s complaint against Soco’s activities in a protected World Heritage Site. We, again, urge Soco to stop their exploration in Virunga and bring to an end the unacceptable level of risk this would create for the environment and local communities.”

Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park. Although 85 per cent of the park has been allocated as oil concessions, Soco is the only company moving forward with exploration.

Source: WWF UK