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CEDAW and Extraterritorial Obligations: PNG Activists Highlight Australia’s Role in Human Rights Violations

Papua New Guinea activists Ruth Saovana Spriggs (left) and Sabet Cox in Geneva. Image still from forthcoming IWRAW Asia Pacific video

Nikta Daijavad | IWRAW

At IWRAW Asia Pacific’s most recent From Global to Local training programme, run in parallel to the 70th CEDAW Session, we were joined by two activists from a small group of Papua New Guinea women working to expose the gendered harms of Australia’s large-scale extractive industries – which have operated across many provinces of Papua New Guinea for five decades. Dr Ruth Saovana Spriggs (left, above) is the director of the Bougainville People’s Research Center (based in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville), and Elizabeth (Sabet) Cox (right, above) is a technical advisor to HELP Resources and Voice for Change (based in the Sepik and the Highlands regions of Papua New Guinea) and an emerging women’s organisation in Hela – the site of Papua New Guinea’s controversial vast and expanding gas fields in a context of underdevelopment and armed conflict. These four local NGOs were supported by Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), to prepare and submit a shadow report to the CEDAW Committee’s review of Australia, held on 3 July.

Ruth and Elizabeth focused their advocacy on Australia’s failure to meet its extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) in relation to its financing of, and development cooperation with, risky and socially and environmentally destructive Australian extractive companies in Papua New Guinea. In recent years, activists have increasingly called upon states to fulfill such obligations. Relying on the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, they argue that states are obligated to ensure that non-state actors which they are in a position to regulate, including private individuals and transnational corporations, do not violate human rights. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, for example, submitted shadow reports on the extraterritorial obligations of SpainSweden, and France with regards to arms transfers for the 61st, 63rd, and 64th CEDAW Sessions, respectively. FIAN International similarly submitted a shadow report on the extraterritorial obligations of Germany with regards to coffee plantations owned by German transnational corporations that were illegally evicting peasant communities in Uganda (66th CEDAW Session).

In Australia’s case, the state has provided critical financial support to extractive industries that have been assessed as high-risk for social and environmental impacts. In Bougainville, for example, Rio Tinto of Australia operated the Bougainville Copper Limited mine between 1969 and 1989 – until tensions over the dumping of tailings in the Jaba River, grossly unequal benefit sharing arrangements, and an influx of migrants from other provinces eventually erupted into a decade-long civil war with the Papua New Guinea government, with military support from Australia. When a military response failed, Papua New Guinea imposed a total blockade on goods, services and supplies, resulting in the loss of an estimated 20,000 lives, and countless war crimes of sexual violence. Ruth’s research has revealed that local women lost their traditional matrilineal authority, especially in relation to land rights and decision making. They witnessed huge social and cultural upheaval, bore the brunt of a long armed conflict and barely received USD20 in cash benefits annually.

The Australian government’s secretive Export Credit Agency – the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) – provides critical loans to ‘close the deal’ on new projects operated by Australian extractive companies when risk-averse banks will not. In 2009 EFIC provided a AUD500 million loan to enable Exxon Mobil and joint venture partners Oil Search and Santos to proceed with a liquefied natural gas project in the remote Hela region, despite warnings that support for the project could exacerbate already-existing armed conflict and violence against women. The lessons from Bougainville and from a succession of mining disasters have not been learned, and the gas fields in remote Hela Province have created a nightmare situation for women. The gas project start-up ignored the land-based armed conflicts among men and the extreme forms of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls. Worsening armed conflicts have undermined Hela’s rudimentary governance, service delivery and justice systems and rising impunity for daily murders, assaults and rapes.

Ruth and Elizabeth advocated four priority obligations of the Australian government:

  1. guarantees of women’s security and access to justice in areas impacted by Australian extractive industries, including establishing a complaints mechanism to provide reparations for past harms;
  2. Australian companies to undertake substantive gender analysis and to ensure women give free, prior and informed consent prior to extractive project start-up;
  3. institution of gender-equal benefit sharing in land-owning and impacted communities; and
  4. gender-equal access to jobs and training in Australian-owned extractive industry companies.

Throughout the process, women leaders from the remote Hela province in Papua New Guinea communicated daily with Ruth and Elizabeth, expressing their great hopes that their voices would be heard. They have since expressed their appreciation to the CEDAW Committee and the process.

During Australia’s constructive dialogue, Committee member Nahla Haidar directed incisive questions to the Australian state delegation regarding state loan financing of Australian extractive companies in Papua New Guinea and development grants to company-led corporate social responsibility projects for women. She noted, “There seems to be a failure to learn from the conflict in Bougainville … To what extent will the [Australian] government engage with the UN Principles on Business and Human Rights?” She reminded the delegation that its 2016 Universal Periodic Review had recommended that Australia adopt a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, and Australia had responded that it would consider further measures for implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This has not yet resulted in an adequate response.

The concerns highlighted in the shadow report on Australia’s ETOs are well reflected in Australia’s Concluding Observations. The Committee recommends that Australia develop a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, incorporating a gender perspective, ensuring that all large-scale extractive projects have obtained free prior informed consent from locally affected women, and establishing a specialised mechanism to investigate violations of women’s human rights by corporations based or registered in Australia or receiving subsidies from it.

Despite the lack of a clear commitment from the Australian delegation to address this issue, Ruth remains hopeful that highlighting the nature of Australia’s extractive industries in the international arena will eventually have a positive impact. As she said in our interview, “Unfortunately I was a little disappointed, but at least [the Australian delegation] heard it … And to me, it is a plus that [the issue] is at least registered at this level.” She also believes that continuing to strengthen the relationship between academic research and advocacy-oriented spaces like CEDAW will help bring to light the depth and complexity of the human rights violations taking place in Papua New Guinea.

Elizabeth added, “It’s given me hope that we can do more back in Papua New Guinea, and because the autonomous region of Bougainville is preparing for independence, [this] can be a new starting point for them to hold their independent government accountable to address the rights of women in the new state.”

Bougainville is slated to hold an independence referendum on 15 June 2019.

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Resource Agreements Unfair: Haiveta

Mayur Resources managing director Paul Mulder signing an agreement in 2017 with Gulf Provincial Governor Chris Havieta 

Post Courier | September 18, 2018

GULF Governor Chris Haiveta has told his people that current agreements for oil, gas and forestry were not negotiated in their favour.

Delivering his independence message in Kerema last weekend, Mr Haiveta said he wants all agreements under the UBSA and LBSA re-visited and re-negotiated.

He said he felt his people – the majority resource owners – had been short changed and robbed of their resources.

Mr Haiveta and his people hosted Governor General Sir Bob Dadae over the Independence long weekend.

He said: “Our province recognises that current resource agreements in oil and gas and forestry have not been negotiated in the province’s favour.

“This has meant that essential and strategic infrastructure like ports, towns and roads in the project areas have not been built, leaving the province, Kikori district where the projects are located, particularly to miss out completely.

“Therefore we are moving in this term of parliament to ensure that all these agreements are revisited and they are legally compliable and enforceable by all parties.

“We have resolved the UBSA and LBSA agreements including the Gulf landowners and Provincial Governments benefits from the existing Oil and LNG Pipeline to Caution Bay be re-negotiated.”

He said that for the future, ‘we will ensure that resources agreements are properly negotiated and drafted to include all necessary and possible infrastructure needs for the project areas, including the upcoming LNG, coal mining, limestone, mineral sand mining and timber harvesting’.

Mr Haiveta said: “We are glad the national government has started the process of devolution of powers from Waigani to provinces, and Gulf Province is poised to receive decentralisation of powers soon.

“As a step forward to this, we will be signing the Service Delivery Partnership Agreements soon which will pave the way for a synchronised delivery of services between the two open electorates and the provincial government.”

He said his people have abundant renewable and non renewable natural resources both on the land and in the seas.

“Our sea boundaries encompass an area that is twice our land mass, we have significant marine resources with reef systems such as Pocklington and Eastern Fields that remain unexplored commercially and for tourism.

“We also have the largest prawn fishery in the country which is exploited directly from Port Moresby.

“Our forestry industry composed from Port round logging exports brings little benefit to the province as it is a nationally controlled activity.”

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As Gas Boom Falters in Papua New Guinea, China Steps In

A plant at the Exxon Mobil-led natural-gas project in Papua New Guinea. Government revenues from the $19 billion project, which began production in 2014, have fallen far short of estimates.

Faced with revenue crunch, country is relying on Chinese loans to develop ports, airports, roads and power stations; Beijing expands influence in Pacific

 Rob Taylor and Rachel Pannett | Wall Street Journal | August 11, 2018

When Papua New Guinea joined the ranks of the world’s significant energy exporters four years ago, the government was betting on a revenue windfall it hoped would transform the impoverished South Pacific nation better-known for jungles, violence and corruption.

But the payday from a $19 billion Exxon Mobil Corp. -led natural-gas project has so far been a trickle, crimped by a downturn in gas prices that allowed Exxon and its partners to claim losses against royalty payments.

To bridge the revenue gap and revive its slowing economy, Papua New Guinea has increasingly turned to China. The government now owes the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China close to $1.9 billion in low-cost loans for infrastructure and other construction projects, almost a quarter of its total debt. That has raised concerns the country’s growing indebtedness is allowing Beijing to further expand its influence in the Pacific.

China’s stamp on Papua New Guinea will be on show in November when Pacific Rim leaders, including President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping, gather in the capital, Port Moresby.

Delegates attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will meet in a convention center built by Chinese workers and paid for with a Chinese grant. Official motorcades will travel on a six-lane boulevard constructed and financed by Chinese loans.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing on June 21. Almost a quarter of the country’s debt is owed to the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China. PHOTO: POOL/GETTY IMAGES

“We took on APEC knowing it would be a massive challenge for such a small country,” said Charles Abel, Papua New Guinea’s treasurer and deputy prime minister. “It is a bold undertaking by our small country to introduce ourselves to the world.”

A former Australian colony of eight million, Papua New Guinea has long relied on foreign aid. The country has minimal infrastructure outside Port Moresby and companies typically negotiate terms with local landowners to gain access to resources—a knotty problem in a country with hundreds of ethnic groups.

The government has historically looked to Australia for assistance. The country, along with other APEC members, is also chipping in for the summit, covering about a third of the cost. Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said the country wants to be the “natural partner of choice” for Papua New Guinea and other Pacific countries.

But China’s presence is becoming much more visible. Chinese loans have helped redevelop a port and airport in the second largest city, Lae. In November, China promised to build $3.5 billion of roads, a commitment that if realized would make it the country’s biggest aid donor, according to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute’s Pacific program. It also imports natural gas from Papua New Guinea and has invested in nickel mines, power stations and other projects.

During a visit by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to Beijing in June, Papua New Guinea became the first Pacific country to sign up to China’s One Belt One Road, an initiative to build a global network of ports, railways, roads and pipelines. For Beijing, the program is a way to expand business and trade and extend strategic influence, in part by distributing loans.

Mr. Xi said during the visit that relations between the two countries had “entered a fast track, and political mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation have both reached a new level in history.” In July, Mr. O’Neill invited Pacific leaders to a meeting with Mr. Xi in Papua New Guinea ahead of APEC.

But China’s infrastructure push in the region has raised some alarms. A Chinese-financed building spree in Pakistan has been dogged by concerns about the country’s growing debt burden to Beijing. Sri Lanka’s government, unable to repay a Chinese loan for a port, last year granted a Chinese state company a 99-year lease on the facility.

The International Monetary Fund said Pacific nations including Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu have significant debts to China and face repayment pressures. Papua New Guinea is no exception.

“The speed and scale with which China is acquiring natural resources and amassing debt raise long-term concerns,” foreign-policy scholars Gabrielle Chefitz and Sam Parker wrote in a May paper for Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Standard & Poor’s in April lowered Papua New Guinea’s credit rating to B from B-plus, citing slower economic growth and expanding government deficits. It expects the ratio of government debt to gross domestic product to reach 40% by 2021 from 30% now.

Papua New Guinea’s Treasurer, Mr. Abel, said he has been closely following the loans offered by China to small Pacific nations. “There remains some concerns about the way that they do conduct business,” he said. “But in PNG’s case, we quite strictly manage our debt.”

A road damaged by a February earthquake near Mendi in Papua New Guinea’s highlands region. The earthquake killed more than 100 people. PHOTO: MELVIN LEVONGO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its assistance to Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island nations has been welcomed by their governments. “China has provided assistance, especially assistance without any political conditions, to the Pacific Island nations, including Papua New Guinea,” the ministry said. “It is not targeting on any third party.”

Mr. Abel, speaking of the Exxon-led gas project, conceded that for the hundreds of millions the government paid for its stake — through a state-owned oil company — “we have not had the corresponding revenue growth.”

Before production began in 2014, the country’s Treasury department estimated the project would boost government revenue by roughly $600 million, or two billion Kina, a year through 2021, rising to more than $1 billion, or 3.5 billion Kina, a year between 2022 and 2030. Instead, as of September 2017, roughly $45 million in royalties and development levies had been paid, according to the IMF.

“When commodity prices are depressed like they have been for the last few years, revenues to all joint venture participants, including government, are reduced,” Exxon said in a statement.

The shortfall has weighed on the commodity-dependent economy. The IMF in a December report estimated GDP grew 2.2% in 2017, down from 2.4% in 2016, far below the government’s predictions a few years ago that the country would grow 21%.

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Hides Landowners Unhappy Over K15M Disbursement

Hides Gas Conditioning Plant

Post Courier | August 1, 2018

The Hides Petroleum Development Licence 7 area facility owners in the Hela province are disgruntled over the manner in which the K15 million was paid out by the PDL 7 Local Level Government Special Purpose Authority.

The legitimate landowners on the ground claim to have missed out on the project security funds delivered by the national government to the PDL 7 landowners. The landowners said that the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant and the pipeline facility owning clans have missed out on their share of the funding where the funding had disappeared in the hands of the PDL 7 authority board members.

“The funds delivered by national government has gone to the Hides PDL 7 LLG Government SPA and its executives and not to the affected landowners”, said Mr.  Alembo Paliawe of the principal facility owning Tuguba Tagobali clan. The PNGLNG project facility landowners namely, Alembo Pliawe, Chief Mathew Yape, Chief Tara Paliwa, Chief Tiki Juli, Chief Parapu Mukani, Chief Enopi Haralu and Henry Parila, said that the funds were paid by the government to the government itself and not to the legitimate landowners.

They said that this approach taken by the government is a wrong precedence and that the clan vetting exercise should be put on hold until funds are made available to the legitimate landowners.

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O’Neill promises more delays for LNG payments

Landowners face more delays before receiving promised benefits

Royalty payments to be released after proper clan-vetting process done

The National aka The Loggers Times | 18 July 2018

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill says royalty payments for landowners of the PNG LNG project will only be released after proper landowner identification is completed through the clan-vetting process.

O’Neill said this in Parliament yesterday when responding to questions from Sinasina-Yongomugl MP Kerenga Kua.
Kua said the Government had not honoured most of its landowner commitments under the umbrella benefit sharing agreement (UBSA).

That included non-payment of royalties and equities, infrastructure development grants, business development grants and the seven per cent equity participation.

Kua asked O’Neill whether Government had delivered all these commitments to the people of Hela and Southern Highlands.

The prime minister said his Government was committed to honour all commitments made by previous governments, “some of which are very misleading to landowners”.

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Exxon’s Papua New Guinea Gas Project Is Dead In The Water

Tim Daiss | Oilprice | 16 July 2018

As liquefied natural gas (LNG) markets mature, trying to establish itself against decades of crude oil dominance, developments far removed from most of the action are taking unusual turns that could in time impact the entire LNG value chain.

Until recently, tiny Papua New Guinea (PNG) was the envy of the world’s LNG producers. Not only did its PNG LNG export project come online without much delay but it also avoided the quandary, affecting nearby Australia whose LNG development has been marred by budget over runs running into the billions, continual project start delays and industry troubling feuds between worker groups and project developers.

PNG LNG project loses its shine

The ExxonMobil-led $19 billion PNG project came online in mid-2014 and started shipping LNG to markets in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for 72 percent of all global LNG demand. By 2017, the project was producing some 8.3 million tonnes of LNG, an increase of 20 percent from the original design specification of 6.9 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).

By last year, ExxonMobil’s PNG project looked as if its success would be endless. However, that storied beginning has crashed and burned.

The first crack appeared just after a destructive 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the country’s oil and gas rich interior, triggering landslides and flattening buildings, killing at least 100 people, prompting the PNG government to declare a state of emergency.

The quake also caused PNG LNG operators to stop operations to perform safety checks and repair damaged project infrastructure, which also impacted LNG markets in Asia at the time, particularly spot prices for the fuel.

PNG LNG swung back into operation by mid-April, but not without damage to the project partners’ reputation among villagers in the area which blamed gas drilling as either the main cause of the massive quake or at least as one of its main contributors. The region was also hit with a number of severe tremors in the weeks after the original earthquake.

PNG straddles the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire, known for its geological volatility and earthquakes. Project partners, along with geologists, disputed the claims, but the goodwill that had been carefully won more than a decade ago has been lost and will be hard to win back, which has also leads to another point of contention.

Local angst

PNG government officials are now claiming that they received an unfair deal ten years ago when negotiating the terms of the PNG LNG project, and have vowed that any new projects going forward would not suffer the same fate. Peter Koim, head of the country’s Gas Project Coordinating Office and a member of the original negotiating team, said “there is a general view that Papua New Guinea gave away too much for the first LNG project. For the next round the country will not away concessions as was the case in the PNG LNG project.” 

Continuing the fallout, on July 5 Exxon Mobil said that it had stopped construction in late June on its Angore gas pipeline in the country’s strife-hit highlands, after building sites were vandalized.

“All work at the Angore well pads and pipeline construction has been suspended and all impacted personnel are in the process of being demobilized or reassigned,” an ExxonMobil PNG spokeswoman said. The 7-mile (11 km) pipeline is being built to connect the gas field with the Hides gas conditioning plant, and the stop work does not affect production there, she added.

Radio New Zealand also recently reported that Angore Tiddl Appa Landowners (a PNG landowners group) has advised the government that it must resolve a dispute over unpaid LNG gas project royalties by July 18 or the venture would be “closed permanently”.

The association is demanding from the government an “infrastructure development grant” of ($9.6 mn) 32 million-kina, equity shareholder certificates for traditional landowners, 2 percent royalties every month, and for the government to complete official clan vetting for the PNG LNG project.

The government has already offered 20 million kina to the land-owners and ordered the group to halt the protesting and unrest in Angore. The landowners, however, say that if their demands aren’t met they will permanently close the LNG project by blockades and destruction of its pipeline and other infrastructure.

The danger for ExxonMobil is not only how it will handle immense PR damage in the country, but also that local unrest and demands could spill over into future LNG development projects there. If PNG landowners can forge ahead and set a precedent, local landowners in other turbulent locations even globally, particularly in Mozambique, could follow, creating more difficult negotiations for affected oil majors and their projects.

In fact, not only do Western oil majors have to contend with landowners and decades of government bureaucracy and corruption in gas rich but still undeveloped Mozambique, casting doubt over the future of the country’s fledgling LNG sector, but Islamic militants are also striking back. The U.S. embassy in the country in late June said Americans should consider leaving a northeastern district close to a major gas field as imminent attacks are likely after suspected Islamist militants beheaded 10 people and killed seven others since May.

More than $30 billion is expected to be invested in Mozambique’s natural gas sector to build capacity to produce 20 million tonnes per year of LNG, with the first exports from the fields discovered seven years ago due to start after 2021.

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Exxon halts work on PNG gas pipeline amid civil strife in highlands

Construction equipment in flames in Angore. Image courtesy of ATALA.

Reuters | 6 July 2018

Exxon Mobil Corp stopped construction on its Angore gas pipeline in Papua New Guinea’s strife-hit highlands late last month after building sites were vandalized, the company said on Friday.

“All work at the Angore wellpads and pipeline construction has been suspended and all impacted personnel are in the process of being demobilized or reassigned,” an ExxonMobil PNG spokeswoman said by email, adding it was halted late in June.

The 11-km (7-mile) pipeline is being built to connect the Angore gas field with the Hides gas conditioning plant, and the stopwork does not affect production there, she added.

Papua New Guinea’s government declared a state of emergency in the region last month and sent in troops after rioters went on a rampage protesting a failed court challenge to a provincial governor’s election.

Pictures on PNG’s EMTV Online in June showed burnt out heavy machinery and a fire burning in a shipping container at the site in Angore, which suffered “significant vandalism,” Exxon’s statement said. It gave no timeframe for the resumption of work.

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