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USA: Bush Energy Plan Faulted, Ignores Human Rights

May 31st, 2001

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 nuclear power.

"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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