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  • Activists calling for divestment from the Dakota Access Pipeline

    Activists calling for divestment from the Dakota Access Pipeline | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 March 2017

The public sector union fund said it was divesting "due to an unacceptable risk of contributing to serious or systemic human rights violations."

On Monday a USD$70 billion pension fund owned by Norway's public sector employee unions announced that it would divest from four companies involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline Project "due to an unacceptable risk of contributing to serious or systemic human rights violations."

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The announcement came just one day before San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to divest from banks funding the massive pipeline project which violates the treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and threatens the drinking was of millions in North Dakota.

KLP, which is also Norway's largest life insurance company, announced that it would divest itself of almost USD$67 million in shares in Energy Transfer Partners, the company which owns the controversial pipeline project, as well as Phillips 66, Enbridge Inc. and Marathon Petroleum Corp which are all major investors in the project.

In announcing the decision KLP said it placed significant weight on the March 3 report by the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples which concluded that the project violated the U.N. declaration on the rights of Indigenous people because it was approved "without an adequate social, cultural or environmental assessment" and in "the absence of meaningful consultation or participation by the tribes."

While KLP made explicit references to the multiple reports of state and local law enforcement violence against peaceful, unarmed protesters, the company explicitly noted that this was not the reason for its decision, saying it required independent "documentation that a company knew or should have known that the authorities would violate human rights."

Perhaps most significantly, the company noted that the failure to adequately consult the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe "under international guidelines" in and of itself constituted a "serious violation of human rights."

The company's 14-page explanation of their decision also stated that U.S. President Donald Trump's January decision to approve the pipeline without the completion of an environmental assessment previously ordered by the Obama administration played a key role in their divestment.

"The decision to begin immediate construction is, at a minimum, inconsistent with the responsibility to respect human rights under the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights," the company wrote in its full press-release.

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The company noted that it had spent months following the protests against the pipeline and even sent representatives to the U.S. to meet with Tribal members and water protectors.

"We have had a long and thorough process on this case. It has been complicated, but I am confident that we have now reached the right conclusion," said KLP's CEO Sverre Thornes in a press release.

The KLP decision came just one day before a U.S. federal judge denied an emergency injunction request from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to halt the release of oil into the pipeline, which is expected by the end of the month.

In his decision the judge acknowledged "that the tribe is likely to suffer irreparable harm to its members' religious exercise," if the pipeline is completed, but ruled that the "financial and logistical injuries" to the pipeline company if an injunction were granted outweighed the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux.

KLP's decision to pull out of the project is just the latest in a wave of divestments from the US$3.6 billion project.

A worldwide campaign pushed two other Norwegian bank funds to divest in late February, and just last week Santa Monica became the second U.S. city to vote to withdraw its money from a bank heavily invested in the project.

Last week thousands of Indigenous peoples and their allies marched on Washington D.C. in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and their demands.

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