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Considerable criticism has been directed at Norwegian authorities on development aid the past few years, due to their involvement with Norwegian business. The question that many people have raised is who is supposed to benefit from this aid, poor countries or Norwegian share holders. Led by the Minister of International Development and Human Rights, Hilde Frafjord Johnson, the recently stepped down government addressed the issue. An attempt was made to direct the aid focus away from business interests. At the same time, a non-acceptance principle in terms of corruption was introduced. Whether it is called bribes, financial incentives, or return commission, corruption is a widely used instrument in a number of countries where Norwegian aid funds are supporting Norwegian business involvement.

Scancem, a former Aker RGI company, are initiating activities in Bangladesh. They are helped along by Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation) and Norfund (Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries), who own a 25% share in the company. The cement is sourced from the island paradise of Langkawi in Malaysia. Scancem are optimistic regarding their future in Bangladesh. Still, the question remains whether this is an appropriate allocation of Norwegian aid funds?

Carbon credit trade may be seen as an oldfashioned sale of indulgences, where the rich is given an opportunity to buy their way out of trouble. A while ago, NorWatch came across another peculiar way of paying indulgences.
The human rights situation concerning the building of the American Enron's gas fired power station on the Indian west coast, has met with massive criticism from a number of human rights organisations. Kvaerner is currently carrying out work for the project, such as the building of facilities for unloading and storage of LNG. On a number of accounts, assisted by local police and authorities, the developer is violating the rights of the local population.
For a long time, Kvaerner has maintained that the partly owned arms company in South Africa is inactive. During a recent visit to South Africa, NTB (a Norwegian news agency) sought to interview the general manager of Techno Arms, Ratomir Andrejevic. NTB was not allowed to visit the office, but managed to reveal that the arms factory is still in operation. The address of the factory is identical to that of Cementation Africa, Kvaerner's main company in South Africa. Furthermore, the company has now opened its own arms sale.
Saga Petroleum's rusty property left in Benin is about to become an environmental disaster. Production on the Seme field, initiated by Norwegian state guarantees and loans, became a fiasco for the poor, West-African country. 97% of the minimal incomes from the production took its way into Norwegian pockets. The nearly 20 year old installations must be removed safely, but who shall pay for it?
After waiting for 7 years, it appears that the last 59 families who had to move when the oil refinery in Melaka was established, will finally get their compensation. However, the amount is less than their claim, and it is given ex gratia, not because Petronas thinks they are entitled to it, but because the company wants to finish the case. At the same time, both the refinery and the local environmental authorities receive a stream of complaints about air pollution and noise problems. The head of the refinery's environmental department is not satisfied. The employees at the refinery are not allowed to establish independent, national trade unions, and Statoil obviously does not have a problem with that.

During an official visit to India in January, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Knut Vollebæk, discussed the human rights aspect of Norsk Hydro's planned bauxite project Utkal Alumina with among others the Indian prime minister, with Norsk Hydro and with different NGOs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes that Vollebæk's visit has contributed to improved communication between the parties. But locally, tension increases again in Utkal Alumina's project area. On 13 February, more than 5000 representatives of the affected local population demonstrated outside Utkal Alumina's local office.

 

Only after NorWatch's report on Mustad's social security fraud in the Philippines (see NorWatch no. 13/99) reached the Norwegian press, the company acted according to its conscience.
Values for at least 140 billion rupiah (152 million Norwegian kroner) were lost when angry villagers set fire to hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of wood as well as equipment on the factory premises of the cellulose giant PT Tel in Indonesia just before New Year. The management of the controversial company, to which Kværner has delivered equipment worth hundreds of millions kroner, dismissed 860 workers after the riot. A few days after the sabotage, which took place when production was about to start at the new plant, security guards found four molotov cocktail bombs in the workers' residential area.
An increasing amount of Norwegian ships end up on beaches in Bangladesh for scrapping. Ominous reports on life-threatening working conditions and extensive damages to the local environment have come earlier from similar activity in India. Last December, NorWatch went to Bangladesh to look into the situation there. The results are summed up in the report "Stuck in the mud".
In a letter to bishop Gunnar Stålsett, Mindex writes that the company is disappointed with his uncritical adaptation of allegations against the company's nickel project on the Philippine island Mindoro. The Norwegian mining company says that their project will be socially and environmentally acceptable, and that the bishop should be careful in order to avoid being used by "coalitions of radical, leftist extremists", of which NorWatch allegedly is a part of.