Communities attend Royal Dutch Shell’s AGMs in London/The Hague and raise their concerns

24 April 2003 - Royal Dutch Shell’s concurrent annual general meetings in The Hague and London yesterday were attended by surprise new shareholders in the form of activists from communities neighbouring Shell facilities around the world. Local community based organisations from around the world recently decided to buy single shares in this multi-national corporation in order to gain direct access to Shell shareholders with the hope of raising awareness of the environmental destruction and human suffering Shell is causing worldwide.

In The Hague, Netherlands, environmental activists constructed a giant “leaking fuel pipeline” in front of the entrance to the Shell AGM. This mock leaking pipeline represented the leaking pipelines at the Shell/BP oil refinery in south Durban. Shareholders attending the AGM had to walk under the “leaking pipeline” in order to gain access to the AGM. A giant banner was also erected declaring “Shell stop polluting South Africa” (see attached photo).

Inside, Ardiel Soeker of groundWork, a new Shell shareholder, asked questions about the leaking fuel pipelines from the Shell/BP refinery in south Durban. He also raised concerns around communities’ lack of access to information and the frustration of dead-end dialogue taking place with Shell at the local level.

Friends of the Earth (Netherlands, EWNI and SA) used the opportunity of this AGM to launch a new report entitled “"Leaking pipelines – Shell in South Africa" (see www.foenl.org).

In London, Heeten Kalan (representing groundWork) and Desmond D’Sa (representing the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance) joined other community representatives from the USA, Philippines, and Niger Delta [1] at the London Shell AGM.

At the AGM, Chair of Shell's Board, Sir Phillip Watts opened the meeting saying that Shell wants to earn people's trust; wants to be transparent; and wants to respect people. Responding to his remarks, Tony Juniper, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth UK, asked Watts if he would give time to the community representatives to voice their concerns to the AGM. Watts agreed to hear these concerns and the community representatives challenged the Shell Board and Watts to pay close attention to the problems on the ground at these Shell facilities.

Responding to Watt's claims that dialogue on a local level will solve these issues, Hope Esquillo-Tura from Philippines said, "After numerous failed attempts to dialogue with local plant managers, we are flying across oceans and continents to let you know that local dialogue is not working." The group sent a strong message to Shell saying that the international office has to get involved, as it did in the successful relocation of members of the Diamond Community in Norco, Louisiana, if trust needs to be built to remedy local concerns.

Heeten Kalan, representing groundWork, reminded Watts that dialogue was not enough and that eventually, Shell will be judged by its actions and not only their words.

Along with Friends of Earth, UK, the representatives held a press briefing prior to the AGM to tell their stories to the media and to release "Facing the Challenge: The Other Shell Report 2002". This report documents the stories of fenceline communities in six countries and tells the stories not told in Shell's glossy reports and brochures.

Desmond D'Sa, Chair of SDCEA, pointed to the striking comparisons between the Shell refinery in South Durban and the one in Denmark which are highlighted in a recently published report “A 2002 snapshot – Comparison of refineries in Dennmark and South Durban” [2].

"Why does Shell operate with better and cleaner technologies in Denmark than in South Africa? Are our lives worth less? We are asking Shell to clean up so we in South Durban do not have to continue suffering," D’Sa asked.

Hilton Kelley, representative from Port Arthur, shared that after a major recent chemical release from Shell in his community, Shell sent a letter offering people a free carwash. "They are willing to clean my car -- but what about my lungs, my liver, my heart? Shell cannot disrespect and disregard us this way," he exclaimed.

In private meetings and discussions with Shell in London on Monday, the community coalition expressed the strong need for the international office to become involved in these local issues. The coalition now has an independent and direct communication link to the London office which they will use to highlight the failures of local processes.

The delegation also met with major institutional shareholders to express their concerns and highlight the discrepancies between the Shell reports and brochures and the reality on the ground.

For more photographs of the UK or Dutch Shell AGM please contact Linda Ambler or Bobby Peek on 033-3425662 or Eugene from Milieudefensie at eugene@milieudefensie.nl.

For more information contact:

Bobby Peek (groundWork, SA): 033 3425662 or 082 4641383

Heeten Kalan (SAEPEJ): 0944 77 3697 9647

Tony Juniper (Friends of the Earth, EWNI): 0944 20 7490 0336 and 0944 77 1284 3207

Myrthe Verweij (Milieudefensie, Amsterdam): 0931 62 959 3876

“Failing the Challenge - The Other Shell Report 2002” can be downloaded here.

“Leaking Pipelines – Shell in South Africa” can be downloaded from: www.foenl.org

 

NOTES

[1] Civil society organisations and their representatives: Desmond D’Sa, Chair of SDCEA, Durban, South Africa; Hope Esquillo-Tura, United Front to Oust Oil Depots, the Philippines; Oronto Douglas, Friends of the Earth Nigeria; Hilton Kelley, Director of the Community In-power and Development Association, Port Arthur, Texas; Margie Richard, Concerned Citizens of Norco, Louisiana, USA; Judith Robinson, Environmental Health Fund, USA; Denny Larson, Refinery Reform Campaign and Global Community Monitor, USA; Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth (EWNI); Myrthe Verweij, Milieudefensie; Heeten Kalan, the South African Exchange Programme on Environmental Justice.

[2] This report was published by SDCEA and the Danmarks Naturfreningsforening (DN). It can be downloaded from: http://scnc.udw.ac.za/~ub/cbos/sdcea/dnmain.htm