New York, NY – Prompted by the recent alliance in Colombia between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and GeoPark, an oil company credibly accused of human rights and environmental malfeasance in the Amazon rainforest, an international group of more than forty organizations wrote to the UNDP Executive Board on Friday, June 4. The letter called on it to sever all ties with the fossil fuel industry and to use this week’s annual meeting to stop any ongoing and future collaboration with the fossil fuel industry.
The signatories noted that in the GeoPark case, the UNDP clearly failed in its due diligence and contradicted its own “Standard 6” for enacting projects. In general, UNDP’s fossil fuel alliances contradict the urgent need to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate change. In the letter, the signatories posed three questions to the UNDP.
“Business-as-usual for fossil fuel companies is contrary to UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals and the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” said Carlos Salinas, Executive Director of Healing Bridges, adding that “Both U.N. Secretary General Guterres and the International Energy Agency’s report on Net Zero by 2050 made this clear.”
The UNDP-GeoPark alliance was immediately denounced by the Buenavista Reservation of the Siona People and ADISPA campesino community in the Amazonian Department of Putumayo. Mario Erazo, a Siona Indigenous leader said, “Extractive industries are not in line with sustainable development or the wellbeing of the ZioBain (Siona) or other Indigenous Peoples. By aligning itself with companies like GeoPark, UNDP is disregarding Indigenous rights and governance in favor of the myth of sustainable and socially responsible extractivism. UNDP’s agreements with oil companies cause nothing but harm to Indigenous Peoples.”
A civil society campaign led by affected communities and a biting recommendation by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues forced UNDP-Colombia to cancel the alliance. A number of organizations pointed out, however: “The trust, the legitimacy, and the respect that the civil society organizations had placed in the United Nations System and particularly in the UNDP was deeply fractured.”
“GeoPark is not the only oil company attempting to launder its image with the UNDP’s imprimatur – the agency also has a global collaboration with Repsol. Although UNDP’s due diligence policy to work with the private sector excludes some industries from consideration, oil and gas are still in the mix. We say no more: the UNDP must stop blue-washing fossil fuels,” said Andrew Miller, Advocacy Director of Amazon Watch.
Read the letter to the UNDP Executive Board here.