(First published in Norwegian 27 Apr 2006)
By Pia Gaarder
In July 2005 more than 20 Brazilian organizations sent a letter to the Ministry of Finance and to the Bank of Norway, demanding that the Government Pension Fund withdraw its investment from Aracruz Celulose. The case was routinely sent to the Advisory Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund – Global (the “Oil Fund”).
While the Indians were landing at Gardermoen airport, the Ministry of Finance made its preliminary position in the case known by means of a note at its web site. This shows that the Ministry of Finance endorses the Advisory Council’s assessment to await the developments in Brazil before it decides whether to carry out a more thorough examination of Aracruz.
In practice, therefore, for the present no changes will be made in the portfolio. Aracruz remains in the Government Pension Fund – Global. But a continued investment in the company will now depend on, among other things, how Aracruz acts with regard to the legal processes that are under rapid development in Brazil.
As earlier reported by Norwatch, Aracruz suffered a stinging defeat in February this year, when the national Indian directorate, FUNAI, concluded that the disputed 11,009 hectares of land belong to the Indians. Aracruz had until 20 May 2006 to present its objections to this conclusion. Then the case will again be considered by FUNAI and sent on to the Brazilian Minister of Justice. In accordance with the plan, the final decision will be made in August or September.
One of the Indians visiting Oslo, Paulo Henrique Vincente de Oliveira, told Norwatch that he is certain that the Brazilian Minister of Justice will issue a decree in the Indians’ favour.
“The Minister of Justice himself came to us during the campaign in January and promised us a decree returning our original territory. If he doesn’t keep his word, there will be enormous reactions,” de Oliveira said. He is certain the Minster of Justice does not want such an open confrontation with the country’s indigenous population.
During the visit in Oslo, the Indians met with the Advisory Council and the Ownership Group of the Bank of Norway. De Oliveira believes that pressure should be exerted on Aracruz. The Tupinikim and Guarani Indians are afraid that Aracruz will not accept the Minister of Justice’s decree to return their territory and that Aracruz will take the case to the court system.
“I believe that the Bank of Norway and Norwegian politicians can contribute to influence Aracruz, so that the company does not resist the Minister of Justice’s decree and causes the case to be pending in the court system for many years,” de Oliveira said.
In its preliminary recommendation the Advisory Council writes that Aracruz is accused of having illegally acquired territory that traditionally has belonged to the Indians in the area. These groups have demanded to have the territory returned on the basis of the indigenous people’s constitutional rights. Aracruz claims that the territory was purchased legally from the legitimate landowners and that this is documented in public registries.
“In the view of the Council, the case is primarily a conflict about territorial rights between Indians and Aracruz, even though environmental questions and employee rights have been brought into the conflict. Indigenous people’s right to territory is an important problem,” the Council writes.
In this case the Council based its decision on the fact that a process has been established with a view to resolve the conflict. The Council also emphasises that the Brazilian authorities have become involved in the case and that all parties affected seem to be involved in the process.
The Advisory Council will therefore await the development of the case, before a possibly more thorough examination is considered.