@amnestyuk vs @shelldotcom
A simple Twitter message, repeated by just a few hundred users, and the world’s biggest company was scrambling to set up an online dialogue.
The request was for an opportunity to discuss Amnesty’s recent report ‘Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty’, which highlighted human rights abuses in the Niger Delta, where despite vast profits for oil companies, 31 million people are living in poverty.
The details were soon finalised. It was to happen on the Shell Dialogues site, with a parallel and open chat right here on Protect the Human.
On one side was Shell, with a panel of five senior staff, a slick introductory video and a well-oiled PR machine. On the other, the 445 individuals who had registered to take part, including experts from Amnesty, the Remember Saro-wiwa campaign, Friends of the Earth and local organisations based in Nigeria.
The stage was set.
What followed was an endless stream of questions about Shell’s human rights record, including why they continue with gas flaring despite a government ban, why they haven’t published their environmental assessments, and why they have failed to adequately clean up oil spills.
It didn’t take long before cracks began to appear in their positive PR machine, with country chair Basil Omiyi admitted that ‘Yes’, Shell does believe that pollution and environmental damage associated with the oil industry has contributed to poverty and conflict in the Niger Delta. Their assertion that ‘the oil industry’s footprint is impacting on small parts of the delta’ was an understatement of epic proportions, and their claim that ‘Shell is giving all spills immediate attention’ was completely dismissed by those working in the Niger Delta.
We should give Shell some credit for at least being willing to discuss these issues, though their rose tinted view fooled no one.
The next step is to watch this space, for a promised transcript of the dialogue, along with answers to the questions they didn’t have time to answer. In the meantime we are analysing their answers and plotting our next move.
If you’ve not yet sent an email to Shell’s new CEO, please take a moment to do this. If you have, why not send a message to @shelldotcom on Twitter, asking them to respond to the 3500+ emails that have been sent.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.