Albania: Activists opposing hydropower plants face consistent harassment from local authorities & companies, says new NGO report; incl. company statements

The report "Communities under Pressure - Findings from Valbona, Albania” by The American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights alleges that activists and community members who object to proliferation of hydropower plants in Valbona, Albania are facing consistent harassment from local authorities and companies.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies mentioned in the report to respond. Gener 2 has responded. Tplani SHpK and Brecani Security have not yet responded. We did not invite Valbona Project Company and 4A- AL as contact information was not available. The  American Bar Association Center for Human Rights sent a rejoinder to the Gener 2's response. Gener 2 provided a response to the rejoinder. 

Materials with full information and the responses & non-responses are below.

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Company response
29 July 2019

Gener 2 response to ABA Center for Human Rights' rejoinder

Author: Gener 2

...In its Rejoinder, the Center has directly accused Gener 2 of being dismissive and showing no concerns for the complaints presented. Gener 2 has not dismissed the concerns of the community and it has been working diligently for years with them –with and without the presence of third parties such as diplomats, NGO officials, and others...Regarding individual complaints and grievances listed in the report, Gener 2 would like to start by providing this link (http://gener2.al/about/code-of-conduct-and-business-ethics/) which has been on our website for years now.  It is public and accessible by anyone with an internet connection. This is a good starting point for any type of grievance with regard to any violations of law and ethics.  In addition, Gener 2 has also a contact page where anyone can contact us regarding any issue.  We have already stated in our previous response that we have a grievance mechanism in place.  For the Dragobia Hydropower project, many communications and complaints have been received and addressed during the course of the project works. Statistics and grievance content must remain confidential to protect parties and cannot be published as public information, but we can offer a meeting on the site with members of the community that have participated in any grievance process if the members consent to such a meeting...

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NGO rejoinder
29 July 2019

Rejoinder by American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights to Gener 2

Author: The American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights

The American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights welcomes Gener 2’s engagement with its report, “Communities under Pressure – Findings from Valbona, Albania” and its written commitment to respect human rights, to consult with impacted communities, and to remedy any harm caused by its activities in the region...Gener 2 asserted that they are in continuous consultations with the communities,...have a grievance mechanism..., and have addressed all of the complaints... The Center notes that at the time of its report, and up until this response, there has been no information about such a mechanism on Gener 2’s website. Nor were any interviewees aware ... [of] such a mechanism... The Center urges Gener 2 to ensure that their grievance mechanism is...public and accessible to impacted communities [and for the] company to disclose:  1. The details of the process: how are communications received, who reviews complaints and decides on a course of action, whether members of the community are involved...at any stage, and what, if any, appeal process is available; 2. The number of complaints received to date and the percentage of those...resolved or generated a company response...Center urges Gener 2 to disclose the results of its consultation process, including how many members of impacted communities participated and in what way, the response and input they received..., and how the company resolved any issues raised...

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Report
1 July 2019

Communities under Pressure - Findings from Valbona, Albania

Author: Center for Human Rights, American Bar Association

The Center for Human Rights of the American Bar Association (the Center) investigated reports that activists and community members who objected to the proliferation of hydropower plants (HPPs) in Valbona, Albania were facing consistent harassment from local state and company actors...A rapid increase in the construction of small HPPs in Valbona has raised concerns among members of the impacted communities. There are three HPPs under active construction in Valbona, with reports of 11 additional HPPs underway...This report describes instances of alleged harassment as reported by respondents...Gener 2, along with its subsidiary Dragobia Energy, is the company in charge of the two largest HPPs in Valbona that are under active construction. Activists and community members who are outspoken against the company reported that these companies have been actively pressuring them. For example, Gener 2 has filed a lawsuit against the local environmental NGO, TOKA and its Director, Catherine Bohne, for defamation over their public reporting and organizing on the issues surrounding the HPPs...The security company hired by Gener 2, Brecani Security (Brecani), was responsible for physically assaulting one of the crew members of a TV station as they filmed Gener 2’s construction crews continuing to build an HPP despite a court order to stop work...

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Company response
1 July 2019

Response by Gener 2

Author: Gener 2

The report is inaccurate in its conclusions, as it starts with wrong figures (11 HPPs) and the author has made little or no effort in truly understanding the issues or simply does not understand the problems. The report portrays a community under threat by a company and by the government but it does so using the beliefs and opinions of unknown people...The report also misrepresents court decisions, omits information, and appears to favor one side by cherry picking information...While the report claims to be an investigation on allegations of harassments, in reality it reads more like a selection of opinions and beliefs chosen by the author...Gener 2 always complies with the law on every aspect and it conducts public consultations as required. The report makes the wrongful assumption that Gener 2 does not comply with its responsibilities...Gener 2 has in a place a grievance mechanism which has been active and functional since the beginning of the project. We have addressed all the claims that have been presented to us, including human rights impact and continue to do so effectively...Gener 2 has not, it is not, and will never retaliate or consider retaliating against TOKA or any of the community members...Gener 2 has taken many steps to resolve any issues and is in constant discussions with representatives of the community, with the community members, with the local authorities, the central government, and environmental experts. 

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Company non-response
30 June 2019

Brecani Security did not respond

Company non-response
30 June 2019

Tplani SHpK did not respond