WASHINGTON -- A leading advocacy group has taken the Bush administration to
task for failing to include human rights considerations in its new national
energy plan, according to a letter obtained by Reuters yesterday.
The letter, from Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth to Vice
President Dick Cheney, expresses serious concern that the plan "proposes no
strategy to keep necessary oil investment from perpetuating dictatorships
or fueling conflicts" as he said it has in Angola, Nigeria, Sudan and Iraq.
"The world needs to hear that when it comes to advancing human rights, the
United States will not give oil and gas producing countries a pass," it said.
Cheney chaired the task force which developed the national energy plan, a
major initiative of President George W. Bush's five-month-old
administration. Bush's plan is aimed at raising the output of coal, oil and
"Remarkably, the report's 170 pages and 105 recommendations do not once
acknowledge the impact energy development may have on human rights," Roth
said in his letter.
"On the contrary, the report suggests making energy security an even
greater priority in U.S. relations with some of the worst violators of
human rights around the world," Roth said.
"The misuse of energy revenues by abusive governments is a problem that
plagues this industry globally," he added.
Specifically, the letter notes that the central Asian country of Azerbaijan
was "positively featured" in Cheney's energy report yet it is an "autocracy
(that is) among the five most corrupt nations in the world."
Similarly, the report also highlighted Kazakhstan, another central Asian
country ruled by an authoritarian leader that is "a prime example of the
connections between energy development, corruption and political
repression," Roth said.
He said the question is "not whether energy companies should do business in
these countries but whether their engagement yields repression or progress
for ordinary citizens."
Roth said at the least basic standards of transparency and respect for
human rights should be a condition for any financing for energy development
that the U.S. government approves of or supports through the U.S.
Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the World
Bank or regional development banks.
Also, he insisted corporations must be encouraged to adhere to the highest
human rights standards when doing business in these countries, including
the Voluntary Standards on Security and Human Rights which the United
States and Britain developed last year along with several multinational
energy and mining companies.
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