Civil society organizations urge sponsors of Baku 2015 to consider human rights impacts

Update: 17 March 2015: Response from Coca-Cola to NGO letter

Azerbaijan will host the Baku European Games in June 2015.  As it prepares for the games, the government has stepped up its crack-down on human rights activists - many are now in prison or have left the country.

In August 2014, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business wrote a letter to four "Official Partners" of the Games - BP, Nar Mobile, P&G and Tissot (part of Swatch Group), as well as to two companies listed as "Official Supporters" - McDonald's and TicketHour.  The letters asked the companies the extent to which they had taken into account the human rights situation in the country in their decision to sponsor / support the Games.  Signatories of the letter include Article 19, European Coalition for Corporate Justice, International Service for Human Rights, World Organization Against Torture, and many NGOs based in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

First the coaltion of civil society organizations, then Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, invited the companies to respond.  BP, Tissot, McDonald's and P&G have responded - all the letters and responses are available below.

Update: In January 2015, Coca-Cola also became an Official Partner - the NGOs' letter to Coca-Cola and the company's response of 17 March 2015 are also below.

Within the letters, the organizations asked if the company:

  1. Took into consideration the political situation in the country, particularly the long-lasting repression nor civil society in the country and the wave of arrest of human rights defenders in July and August 2014?
  2. Analysed the impact of development of sports infrastructure on local communities, particularly bearing in mind the unlawful evictions in various Baku districts that have preceded this event e.g. for the Eurovision contest?
  3. Required the Games organizer to conduct and disclose the results of the human rights and environmental impact assessment of the new building/infrastructure projects?
  4. Required inclusion of a human rights clause that would enable BP to terminate the sponsorship agreement if the organization of the Games gave rise to increased human rights violations?
  5. Has in place adequate policies, processes and grievance mechanisms to enable those negatively affected by the Games, in organization of which it is financially involved, to seek effective remedy and justice in case adverse human rights impacts occur?

Official partners

Letter to BP - BP response - NGO rejoinder to BP

Letter to Coca-Cola - Coca-Cola response

Letter to Tissot (part of Swatch Group) - Swatch Group response

Letter to Nar Mobile - not yet responded

Letter to P&G - P&G response

Official supporters

Letter to McDonald's - McDonald's response - NGO rejoinder to McDonald's

Letter to Tickethour - not yet responded

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All components of this story

Company response
16 September 2014

McDonald's response re support of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Download the full document here

13 September 2014

Leyla has sent a letter to Arif about recent events — her family asks that this be widely shared in international media

Author: Leyla Arif Yunus

Yesterday on September 11, I clearly realized that authorities set a goal to destroy me physically by using humiliation, tortures and beatings. Yesterday Nuriyye Huseynova assaulted me again in the period that UN representatives were on the territory of Kurdakhani in our building… After 6-7 minutes that UN representatives left our cell, Nuriyye Huseynova attacked me again. I rushed to the door and started banging it; the worker of guard personnel Nazakat Mamedova did not fulfill my request to invite UN representatives to my cell...

Read the full post here

Company response
12 September 2014

Swatch Group response re sponsorship of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Download the full document here

5 September 2014

Letter to BP re sponsorship of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Download the full document here

5 September 2014

Letter to Procter & Gamble re sponsorship of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Download the full document here