Do GPFG investments violate Human Rights in occupied Palestinian territories?

GPFG Oil fund Israel PalestineIsraeli soldiers argue with Palestinian villagers at the entrance of the torched house of of Palestinian Ibrahim Dawabsheh, the main witness in the July arson attack, in the West Bank village of Duma near Nablus March 20, 2016. Photo. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Do GPFG investments violate Human Rights in Palestine?

A human rights report goes a long way in suggesting that the practice of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) is contrary to international standards for business and human rights. The report examines whether the investments in occupied Palestinian territories – by GPFG (aka the Oil Fund) – meet international standards. It will be launched by Fagforbundet (the Trade Union of Professionals) and Norwegian People’s Aid in Oslo on Wednesday, April 24th.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global shall ensure responsible and long-term management of the revenues from the oil and gas resources, in order to secure that the wealth benefits both current and future generations. The Government wants the GPFG to comply with internationally recognized standards for responsible management.

Many violations of human rights

The report, made by human rights experts at the Essex Business and Human Rights Project (EBHR), shows that GPFG is linked to a wide range of human rights violations through holdings in companies within occupied Palestinian territory. It highlights that GPFG is inconsistent in its handling of these links. This inconsistency has led to long-term holdings in companies that other funds have pulled out of.

“The need to document how the GPFG funds are actually invested is of common interest. While other large investment funds have withdrawn from businesses that contribute to violations of international law and human rights in occupied areas, we can assert that the Norwegian Pension Fund has chosen a different path,” General-Secretary of Norwegian People’s Aid, Henriette Killi Westhrin, maintains.

The report addresses the human rights responsibility of institutional investors in occupied territories and includes a number of recommendations on what the GPFG must do to meet its responsibilities with regards to international standards; guiding principles for business and human rights from the UN, among others.

The authors (Chiara Macchi, Dr Tara Van Ho, Luis Yanes De Dominicis) recommend a more comprehensive approach to due diligence for investments in occupied areas, the rapid handling of some problematic investments in occupied areas, and the revision of the ethical guidelines.

The EBHR report mentions investments related to the occupied Palestinian territories, but the findings of the report apply to all other occupied areas – and to all Norwegian investors.

“What we see is that the Oil Fund does not fully meet the expectations of investors found in international standards, such as the guiding principles for business and human rights from the UN. The report states that failure to handle unfortunate links to human rights violations, over a prolonged period of time, can eventually be considered as a direct contribution to the violations,” Trade Union boss, Mette Nord (Fagforbundet) explains.

Other funds withdraw – GPFG remains

Among the examples in the report is GPFG’s holding in the German company Heidelberg Cement, which allegedly breaks international humanitarian law and contributes to human rights violations. This is due to their extraction activities in the West Bank. While Danish Sampensjon, as well as Norwegian Storebrand and KLP, have all abandoned the stock, the Oil Fund had a holding of more than NOK 1.3 billion in the company at the end of 2018; Something which GPFG has done for more than 10 years.

“The Oil Fund is no longer a leader in the ethics field – It has a job to do. It will not necessarily require very much to rectify the situation, but there is an obvious need for a stricter level of carefulness in conflict areas. Without this, the savings by the Norwegian population contribute to support violations of international law and human rights,” Westhrin concludes.

© Norwegian People’s Aid / #Norway Today
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