Human Rights, an issue that attracts the attention of the oil and gas companies operating in the region

  • The Social Responsibility Committee of the Regional Association of Oil, Gas and Biofuels Sector Companies in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARPEL) organized the Workshop "Business and Human Rights," held August 6-7 in Rio de Janeiro.  This workshop was specially designed to deepen the application of the Guiding Principles of the United Nations with a focus on the oil and gas industry.

    The training brought together 70 experts from Ancap, BP Energy do Brasil, Cenit Transporte, Cepsa Perú, Ecopetrol, Gran Tierra, IBP, Petroamazonas EP, Petrobras, Petroperú, Pluspetrol, Repsol, Repsol Sinopec, YPF and YPFB.

    Two consultants of Shift Project, David Kovick and Lloyd Lipsett, participated as facilitators in the Workshop.  It was also attended by Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States Emilio Álvarez Icaza.

    Shift Project is an independent, non-profit  center  for business and human rights practice, which is chaired by the renowned professor John Ruggie.

    During these two days, the workshop focused on the pillars of the "Protect, Respect and Remedy" framework, the relationship between existing and growing international expectations about companies in regard to the respect for human rights, and the various environmental, social, political and security issues facing the extractive industry in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Sandra Martinez, Manager of Environmental Affairs of Pluspetrol and Chairperson of the Social Responsibility Committee, stated that the management of social risks has been a key issue within the Committee since its creation in 2001.

    The relations with indigenous, rural and urban communities, conflict management, human rights, and cultural diversity and gender are some of the topics addressed by the working group.

    As regards the Workshop "Business and Human Rights," Martinez said that "it is the first step in this direction."

    "This has been a workshop where industry has understood the general framework of human rights, and we now have to work on how to approach and how to take forward this framework in the value chain, in contracts with service companies and toward the inside of our companies with workers and organizations. It is essential to take  the context of human rights into account in the designs of projects," she said.

    For her part, Marcela Fajardo, Head of the Corporate Social Responsibility Unit of Ecopetrol, stressed the importance of creating these spaces for discussion and of sharing practices developed by other companies of the same industry.

    With respect to the subjects addressed at the Workshop, Fajardo said that "the first challenge is to see how a company can manage and contribute to the subject of human rights, which has become a universal issue."

    During the opening ceremony of the Workshop, the CEO of Social Responsibility of Petrobras, Armando Tripodi, stressed the importance of incorporating Social Responsibility issues in the management of companies in the oil and gas industry.

    "The main challenge is to disseminate and incorporate within our companies the culture of social responsibility in the hearts and minds of our people, from operators to the top echelon of management.  

    I expect that the fruit of this dialogue and exchange of experiences will strengthen us all so that this culture increasingly becomes a culture of corporate value closely linked to our business," Tripodi said.

    On the other hand, Benito Piñeiro, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of ARPEL, stated that the association, in its almost 50-year long existence of mutual assistance, cooperation and innovation among public and private companies, has always been an ideal forum, unique due to its regional scope, to address issues relevant to the industry.

    "Human rights, a subject pertaining to all of us here today and to those "to come" is not only a question of States.


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