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18 Nov 2019

Human rights concerns in Qatar and the UAE behind decision to exclude G4S from Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund ; includes response from G4S

The Council of Ethics of Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) recommended divesting from the UK-headquartered security company G4S, “due to an unacceptable risk that the company is contributing to systematic human rights violations” against workers in Qatar and the UAE.

The decision by the Council of Ethics is partly based on interviews with migrant workers on their conditions of employment conducted between 2016 and 2018. Investigations uncovered that workers faced restrictions on their freedom of movement, the charging of exorbitant recruitment fees, misleading information in relation to the length of their contracts and salaries, unacceptable long working days and in some instances harassment.

The Council concluded many of these practices contravene international law and standards including ILO conventions, and highlighted the potential impact of these abuses on around 18,000 migrant workers employed by G4S in Qatar and the UAE.

While acknowledging some improvements introduced by G4S since 2016 including in relation to the withholding of passports, the Council concluded that the company had not taken sufficient steps to address the “systematic and deep-rooted challenges” of its operations in the Gulf, despite awareness of its negative human rights impact. At the close of 2018, the GPFG owned about 2.33% of G4S shares, but has since sold most.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted G4S inviting them to respond to the decision. Their statement, confirming their commitment to respecting migrant worker rights, is available below.