In the last weeks, prior to the annual BNL shareholders meeting that will be held later this month, there have been a number of meetings between the OCP campaign representatives either with the President of the Bank himself, Luigi Abete or with other high profile officials.
The issues addressed were both the OCP project follow up (i.e. what is the BNL position after one year of public high profile campaign against BNL participation in the OCP project and the more general problem of adopting better standards for the future.
On the OCP project
the situation is the following: BNL has obviously felt the effects of our campaign
and has spoken - vaguely - of "verifications" with the other Italian
partners (Agip, Unicerdito and Banca Intesa), whose reaction, however, seems
to be that the project is OK.
BNL has also told us to have taken an independent advisor (name unknown) to review the situation and in several occasion stated that they where monitoring the project. In public statements and letters, Mr. Abete said that the BNL was ensured by the other partners that World Bank environmental and social standards were respected. BNL; he stated several times that this was the condition for their participation.
During the past months there have been several times when the BNL said - unofficially- that they where looking to sell their share. Lately BNL is publicly saying that they do not want to do it anymore, because it will be an unethical move to get rid of the image risk but not to solve the problem of OCP construction. Latest meetings between the OCP and the BNL showed a will from the Bank to move towards adoption of standards and legal recession clauses, in order to avoid the involvement on projects with environmental and social impacts in the future.
In the light of those still unsatisfactory developments on OCP, the campaign has asked Mr Abete to take a public stand during the next annual shareholders meeting on the 24th of April. The OCP Campaign asked Abete:
A) to take a public position on the project at the shareholders meeting, acknowledging the problems created by its high social and environmental impacts.. Mr Abete seems not to be contrary to a public declaration, but the actual wording is extremely important and not defined yet. Up to now, the Bank attitude seems to be that the problems with the OCP are mainly due to civil society protests and campaigns, here and in Ecuador, and that BNL is unhappy with it and wants to do something in order to avoid them for the future. Is not clear if Abete will talk about violation of World Bank standards and real negative impacts.
B) To take a precise commitment to monitor the OCP pipeline. Even if now practically built, one cannot overlook the consequences on local people and environment. Therefore BNL should promote the creation, among the project partners, of a monitoring panel, as proposed to Westland Bank by Robert Goodland last March 26th. The panel should monitor environmental damages, human right violations, the use of royalties made by the Ecuadorian government and the strategic environmental impact assessments on the whole Ecuadorian Amazon.
For what concern the adoption of ethical standards Mr Abete and his staff informed us of the intention of subscribing to the UNEP Financial Initiative and to the UN Global Compact and to adopt an ethical code.
Our reply has been that no adoption of voluntary international principles would determine a change in the Bank policies, until the Bank itself adopts internal mechanism to ensure the screening of its projects and of the environmental and social impacts of its portfolio. This, of course, must be accompanied by full transparency. We added that the ethical code (that we are told will be adopted and published with the next Social Report issued by the Bank), should include, to be credible, precise commitments on implementation and transparency and indications of the type of investments to be excluded in any case (the so called "no go zones").
Finally, we have
been told that, as result of our pressure on OCP and standards, Mr Abete has
written to the President of ABI (Italian Banks Association), asking the organisation
to take the following steps:
· to promote Corporate Social Responsibility and due diligence standards ,
· to encourage co-operation among banks in order to start working on environmental standards and project financing
· to establish working groups to review contract clauses, legal clauses for lending, and, for project financing, the issue of environmental and social clauses.
We have welcomed this development (we have been shown the exchange of letters, noting that ABI has already answered manifesting interest, but all expressed in terms still too vague). To show his commitment to this process, BNL appointed two high level person to co-ordinate the ABI working group on project financing standards. NGO have had a first meeting with one of this people to understand better the intention of BNL inside this ABI process and to give guidance for a fair participatory and effective process. In the light of this , we have asked, to avoid that the ABI process takes ages or comes to nothing, that BNL should in any case proceed independently from this process and come up with an internal process to the same effect, which should have as deadline the next contract term with the trade unions.
This is extremely important, because the main Unions of bank workers (CGIL CISL UIL and FABI) support the OCP campaign requests and we can count on their advocacy in the course of their labour negotiate.