Finansliv – Nordea, the oil, and ethics

 

martinmagazine2Nordea says he has increased the business ethical accountability in its fund management during the year. Simultaneously, the bank recently third largest shareholder in the oil company 
 Africa Oil, whose security depends on the Ethiopian military. Finansliv bath freelance journalist Martin Schibbye, with personal experiences from the conflict-torn region where Africa Oil seems, to find out how Nordea sees on its ownership.

Text: Martin Schibbye
For ambient music step Head of Nordea’s responsible investments out of the single-engine airplane in the Ethiopian Ogaden region. Wearing sunglasses and blue shirt, he looks curiously around in the desert with a notepad in his hand.
“Sasha Beslik have gone to Africa,” says the announcer.
The seven-minute film about Africa Oil on Nordea’s website then shows up a roasted sheep’s head, a water pump and constantly smiling black children and women. Africa Oil’s Keith Hill tells us about a new oil boom. Beslik that the company takes its social responsibility and improve the living conditions of local people.
The message is crystal clear: All will benefit from exploration in Ethiopia.
Especially those who own shares.
It’s as if the film was made before me and Johan Persson entered the Ogaden. As if we never met the Ethiopian soldiers’ bullets.
Not a word is said about that the head of security in the region, Vice President Abdullahi Werar, staged a mock execution under the scorching desert sun while he fabricated the evidence to another famous movie. Not a word about the whistle-blower Abdullahi Hussein, who worked side by side with the regime and when he realized that they were behind the genocide, rape and torture defected – and escaped with film evidence.
The attention our wallraffande in the grip of the Ethiopian military in the region might do that no one can say they did not know anything.
In passing, says Africa Oil’s Keith Hill in Nordea film that it is guarded by 250 Ethiopian government troops in the area is also a division by police officers.
When I see the movie, I get the feeling that our hardships to bring out the truth in the wilderness been entirely in vain.
Meanwhile I, despite my subjectivity, genuinely interested in how Nordea sees the problem of bringing in resources in a war and invest in a company that collaborates with the Ethiopian military.
A stone’s throw from Norrmalmstorg streams men in neat suits and out through the glass doors. Address Smålandsgatan 17 breathing all but modesty.
Before I make it to the reception I get intercepted by a press secretary that lead me away to an empty meeting room. Head of Responsible Investment, Sasha Beslik, barely have time to settle down before the Press Secretary presents his recording equipment on the table.
Beslik beats apologetic out with your hands.
– It’s not my decision.
The two days of filming in the Ogaden with Africa Oil got Beslik to conclude that the company managed their risks well. But he is critical of how unprepared the company was on the expectations that have been built up in the local community.
This is an area in which there are few independent reports from, where Human Rights Watch is not allowed to act, where foreign journalists can not travel freely. Do you see a problem with that trip embedded with the oil company in relation to what you can see and can not see?
– When journalists and UN agencies do not have free access so it is obviously not good, but we get opportunities investors to visit an area and make the assessment we make of the business, we do it. What I believe is about the businesses we invest in can take responsibility for the risks they expose locals and employees, says Beslik.
While I was listening I take out your computer and shows a clip from the SVT documentary “Dictatorship prisoners”, based on the material that the whistle-blower Abdullahi Hussein, the risk of his own life, smuggled out.
Beslik claims not to have seen the material before.
On the screen you can see an older man tell of extrajudicial killings and abductions. Then the scenes where soldiers poking at a dead man.
– Where is it here somewhere? asking Beslik.
It is in Somali region.
– Has direct bearing on Africa Oil?
That’s what I’m asking you. How do you see that this type of abuse occurs in the region of the same military units that protect the company?
– My question to you is what does this have for bearing on Africa Oil?
It …
– I have experienced the war in the Balkans! I have experienced these things from pretty close range, I’m a refugee from the former Yugoslavia. But what I want is what is its bearing on Africa Oil?
This man, you might have met him, his name is Abdullahi Werar and manage security in the region.
– I have never met him.
No, but I have. He has kept me and John in the desert for five days. He has skenavrättat me. In the picture he is standing next to a soldier from the Ethiopian national military 
 one. He is the head of this force, and these soldiers that we see committing abuse.
– Is he head of Africa Oil’s security?
He is head of the military in the region.
– Yeah … and?
In the film that you have done so speaks Keith Hill that they are protected by 250 Ethiopian soldiers?
– Yes, of course … Shell is protected by the Nigerian Army …
But, if we say so here, Nordea sees no problem with investing in companies that cooperate with this kind of military?
– Nordea invest in companies that we assessments 
 you based on their ability to manage risks. I actually have nothing to do with security. I can not comment on it.
And if the company uses this type of people to take care of their security?
– Then there must be a basis for these security forces, which they use, ie in relation to the making of its operations commit crimes … I have not received that information.

But you do not know all the stories from the region of abuse, people displacement and burned villages?
– I know that there is, but I find it hard to relate to the information because I look at what Africa Oil in their business makes on its exploration sites. I think that the security forces in Ethiopia is doing or not doing to the rebels and civilians is terrible, but if you have a direct connection with Africa Oil, if you can point out this man standing next to Keith Hill when they conduct their business and exploration , then I can watch it.
I let the words sink in.. Is it only when it becomes a problem for Nordea? When there is a picture from the desert on the oil company’s CEO and a soldier who abuse?
Who could take such a picture and survive?
The setting to wait until crime is committed is both dated and unserious. UN Guiding Principles also talks about the importance of recording and reporting abuse. What is required of a company is something fundamentally different than waiting until things go wrong and then sell.
Africa Oil is of course aware that if security forces commit abuses, the company may be liable. Therefore, they allowed an expert on this kind of dilemmas, Hans Peter Heinrich, director of the Geneva-based company Safestainable, to give the company advice before they entered the Ogaden. The answer was crystal clear. The researcher advised Lundin from investing in the Ogaden, “They will be dependent on the army or forced to rely on militias. They may be pressured to support them logistically, it can lead to one day be forced to answer questions about his role in the conflict, or get prosecuted. ”
I turned up on the computer screen against Sasha Beslik and shows a film smuggled from jail in the main city Jjiga, where police tell of torture, rape, and that prisoners die. In the film we see that it is the head of security in the region, Vice President Abdullahi Werar, who will chair the meeting.
Before the film has been shown clearly interrupts Sasha Beslik viewer.
– I understand this, I’m not stupid, but what is the bearing of Africa Oil?
Yes, you are investing in a company that goes into an area where the vice president and the head of the security forces participating in a meeting discussing the torture of prisoners. This material’ve got a war crime Commission to open an investigation.
– Great! When the investigation leads to Africa Oil convicted, or verified for violations of human rights, then we will exclude them from our investments. We always do. In the current situation, based on what I’ve seen, is Africa Oil is not such a company.
But here you have the person responsible for security in the region, on film, in which he commits crimes under international law.
– Apparently, it is the material that you have.
But is not it enough, he is the head of security, this is no low life militia leader, he sits in the Ethiopian parliament.
– But what I need is tying to Africa Oil knowingly, intentionally, make use of this? To protect themselves and commit …
Yes, but what are the 250 soldiers who protected your visit then? If it is not the soldiers who are under the Vice President’s leadership?
– I have not somehow had contact with either the security forces or soldiers. I’ve only been interested in what the company is doing there. It is very possible that the security forces that they use commit crimes, but I can not make that assessment. That’s what I try to explain. I do not have the capacity to do so.
No, but others, like Abdullahi Hussein, risked his life to smuggle out videos to help you with that assessment.
– Yes, but it’s also interesting how you work, I know what you went through and I have full respect for what you do, but I do not see the bearing of Africa Oil.
But I’m just trying to ask a simple question: Does not Nordea any problem with investing in a company that is dependent on the protection of this type of military?
– I have tried to answer and I will answer again. We invest in companies worldwide that in certain parts of their operations are protected in different ways in different parts of the world. Use the guard to make international law violations and it is proven, then we have a problem with it. Is the answer to your question?
The interview is quick deadlock. Sasha Beslik becomes like myself increasingly irritated. I over that he does not see the problem that the company is protected by the Ethiopian military myself met. He that I ask the same question over and over again.
When me and Johan Persson traveled to Ogaden was our angle not to desperately seek evidence that would stand in a trial for committing crimes under international law or say that oil extraction will lead to peace. What we wanted was to travel questions about what will happen when one begins to drill for oil. See what effects they had on the civilian population.
A proactive journalism instead of an accusation.
That the companies are in need of military protection is not the result of any unwarranted paranoia. Rebel group ONLF opposes any plans for oil exploration in the Ogaden during the current forms, arguing that land and what is in it belongs to the people of the area and not the Ethiopian occupation forces. April 24, 2007 stormed several hundred ONLF rebels a Chinese oil installation in Abole and had killed at least 74 oil workers. Human Rights Watch’s 108-page report, Collective Punishment, establishes consequences: “The oil companies demanded guarantees from the Ethiopian government to not pull out, which led to an explosion of violence in the area. Villages were burnt down, civilians were arrested and tortured, thousands of people were forced to flee. ”
I remember many of their stories: Houda, who was raped by eight soldiers and had a miscarriage a month before she would give birth to her child in prison, Mohammed who could not sit because he has testicles were smashed, Abdi who had severe chest pains after months of torture and Abdullahi who saw his brother is killed when he refused to move from their home.
In particular, I remember an interview with a refugee who had previously worked for the oil companies, “Good God, you have placed the oil there, you can not be kind enough to remove it again.”
Does it have to go so far that the company tried in a court and blacklisted by the UN to Nordea will see it as a problematic investment? Handlers ethics just to avoid what is clearly illegal and it is also about what is immoral?
Do not extend the moral and ethical responsibilities beyond the purely legal and international law? If you do not like the owner a further responsibility?
– It is clear that we have, but if I would have some kind of own standard of ethics, then I would of the 7000 companies that we invest in the right lot where I morally could have opinions. We are not a legal authority. If it is the case that Africa Oil because they use the security forces can not act locally, thus making money, and production of oil in a fair way, then they can not operate, then it is a business risk for me. When investing, I do not.
So if the security forces are committing such violations so that oil extraction is threatened – only then is it a problem for you?
– Yes, if they commit abuses against the local population, helping the security forces, or because of security companies’ presence, presence, then we have challenges in investing in them so clearly says Sasha Beslik.
Is not there a risk that the conflict is exacerbated if you enter before it is peace?
– I can look at Africa Oil’s operations and ensure that through their presence creates economic development is a prerequisite for peace if they share locally. I see opportunities for Africa Oil to build infrastructure: roads, schools, water and electricity networks that contribute to economic development that leads to peace.
But we arrested the pretty deep in the Ogaden, and were transported by car up to the main town Jjiga and on these roads is the curfew, curfew. It’s just the military who will travel on these roads.
– It is very possible, the ways in which I was traveling, I conceived not think it was in any way restricted to transport, but you build the infrastructure so you can safely assume that they will be used for a lot of different things. So what do you suggest? That Africa Oil will not build roads for the locals, so they can move from A to Z?
But why are waiting until there is peace in the region, why has there been such a rush and getting into while there rages a conflict?
– Yes, but this area of ​​the world is not the only thing in which we operate where there is war. Suppose this, to Africa Oil pulls out! They are one of few companies with operations there. Who will be able to go there and watch it here at all?
But do you think that you can get something out of such a journey?
– Yeah, why could not you get it?
Yes, do you think they would show ills?
– They do not show us anything, you, I’ve been doing this stuff for twenty years and I can see in two hours about the evils that exist.
So you can make that assessment in two hours?
– In two hours I can make the judgment if the company can manage these risks, says Sasha Beslik.
Why do you think there is between 6,000 and 7,000 refugees in camps in Kenya who have fled from the area? Why do you think they have fled?
– Is there a bearing on Africa Oil?
I ask you why do you think they have fled?
– I have no idea why they have fled!
If you do not want to go there to the camps and ask them?
– I’ve said this 300 times now, I think it is appalling that they have fled their country. That they have been murdered. I think it’s terrible, and there is a bearing on the company that I purchase so I act.
The refugees are telling you that it is the Ethiopian military that has driven them. They also tell of the vice president.
– It is very possible.
He handles security.
– It is very possible that this is so and that these people through their strengths, abusing the power they have, but they do so in relation to the company I invest in?
Then we can watch the movie again. Here at the picture we see the president.
– Ok.
Here are the security forces.
– Mmmm.
Here they discuss past crimes.
– Ok, fine, where’s Africa Oil?
This is the security forces that protect the foreign companies in the region.
– Well, apparently, they are. But give me concerning them.
The connection is this man, vice president, Abdullahi Werar, he is the top dog for security forces in the region.
– Fine, but is there a direct link between them? Can I see a direct link, it is precisely this strength that commit these particular crimes.
There’s a movie in which they themselves recognize torture, recognizing that people die. There are movies abuses by security forces, security forces used by Africa Oil.
– I get it, you spin the around this. Nigerian security forces in the delta are committing a lot of crimes, Shell uses the security forces, in the Delta, how do we do that?
I ask you!
– And I ask you too!
But it’s you who invested in the company!
– Yes, I have invested for me to do the assessment in the case of Shell, as in this case, I look at whether the company manages its risks, says Sasha Beslik and leans back.
Press Secretary leans forward.
– I think we answered that question. You do not run the same query over and over again. We’ll see citations before it is printed.
– You’ve got your own recording, sputters I reply.
After I go out in the sun after the interview, I feel confused. Is not the link there or want Sasha Beslik just do not see it?
Do all investors that it is so easy and straightforward to work with the Ethiopian military for all we know?
I’ll call Carina Lundberg Markow, head of responsible investment at Folksam.
In 2012, she chose to recommend Folksam to sell their shares in Lundin Petroleum after the board stopped the requirement for an independent review of the work in Sudan and Ethiopia. They were not alone. Eight Swedish funds and institutions that handled our pensions sold more than 20 million shares of Lundin Petroleum in 2012.
Because Africa Oil this year plans to register on the OMX list becomes automatically a possible location for many managers – if they do not actively put your foot down. Carina Lundberg Markow calling the situation a “dilemma” and therefore chose to participate in the spring on the oil company’s investor trip. But the short visit and meeting with some “byföreträdare” did not so much.
– The company works very much “hands on”, but there is not any structure to manage the risks associated with the business, says Carina Lundberg Markow.
The smuggled evidence that the whistle-blower Abdullahi Hussein took with him when he fled to Sweden, Folksam feel well. Similarly, to Africa Oil themselves say they rely on the Ethiopian military for its security.
– Of course it is a big problem that does not exonerate them directly. We have Folksam ethical investment criteria, but the main track when we work is not exclusion without influence. In many cases it is better advantage if one stays than picking away at an early stage, but some are so much more difficult to digest than others. Safety issues are definitely problematic.
When you say that “it does not speak to their advantage,” is the cooperation with the army of such importance that it could make you discouraged Africa Oil?
– We see great risk absolutely. I can feel instinctively that if you need this kind of support from the military indicates that there are major problems, but it’s not that we automatically say we do not want to have with companies engaged in oil in East Africa to do.
While mean Folksam to the need for development in the area is great and that responsible companies can contribute to a development which may be of great benefit to the population.
– It is important that a company is not fueling conflict or through their activities contribute to human rights violations. We want the company to show that the prior exploration in Ethiopia starts, has an internal system in place to ensure that the activities do not abuse the locals.
But when the stock this year lands on the OMX Nasdaq can you in the position to go out with a recommendation to actively opt out.
– Yes, we can do that, and then we gain a little more risk in portfolios, but there is one thing that we like to take. Before that we are testing various advocacy methods. We had a meeting with them later in the day before yesterday and when we summarized the meeting as we understood it was not like you had embraced our recommendations, says Carina Lundberg Markow.
If Africa Oil was on the OMX list today what advice would you give?
– It takes more than what we’ve seen so far for me to recommend them to the Committee. We have not set foot down yet, but our view is that you do not have the control system, control mechanisms or the right policy package, to be a company that is located on the OMX. The company has ambitions and has begun work on sustainability issues, but they need to do a lot to get rid IPOs