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Digging Deeper: Mapping western investments and allegations of human rights abuse

Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Armenia are all resource-rich, leading foreign financial institutions and corporations to invest significantly in extractives projects.

Although financial institutions and parent companies have significant influence over the extractives projects they invest in, they have rarely intervened in serious allegations of abuse. Even when communities alert investors and parent companies about the human rights issues they have experienced, they are often ignored, allowing abuses to continue. By failing to adequately address complaints, companies and financial institutions often violate their own social, environmental, and human rights standards. However, there is some hope in this regard, as some extractives companies have lost funding from investors over human rights violations and community opposition.

By the numbers

Of the 30 companies profiled, we found...

14

Western Investment

Many have ties to investment in Western Europe, Canada, and the U.S.

16

Western Ownership

Over half have owners based in Western Europe, Canada, and the U.S.

100%

Allegations of Abuse

All of the investee companies have allegations related to human rights and access to information.

80%

Investor Response

Most Western investors we reached out to responded to the allegations in the company profiles.

Digging in the Shadows

Extractives projects, such as mines and oil fields, are one of the main sources of human rights abuses in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with hazardous working conditions, labour rights abuses, effects on the health of local communities, and severe environmental impacts.

In June 2021, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre released Digging in the Shadows, an analysis of the human rights policies and performance of the largest extractives projects in Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. The report found serious allegations around violence and killings, labour rights violations, environmental destruction, displacement, and poisoning from toxic emissions.

You can view our three-page investor summary here. See the extractives dashboard and key takeaways for more information on human rights issues related to extractives companies in Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan.

Western Investments and Human Rights Allegations

Among these companies, at least 14 have received Western investments in the past twenty years, with 11 companies currently receiving Western investments. Additionally, 16 have owners based in Western Europe, Canada, or the U.S.

Notably, most companies in Kazakhstan have not received direct investment from Western investors. However, Western investors have issued bonds and loans to KazMunaiGas, which fully or partially owns 9 out of the 10 companies we researched.

Among the 23 companies with Western ownership or investment, only 16 had a publicly available policy related to human rights.

100% of companies with Western ownership and investment have faced allegations related to human rights and access to information.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Financial institutions and parent companies have significant influence over the extractives projects they invest in. Investors and shareholders set a variety of requirements for the projects they invest in, including human rights policies and impact assessments. However, the quality of these assessments and policies varies widely, and investees may continue to perform poorly on human rights despite investor requirements.

Investor Outreach

In late November 2021, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reached out to Western investors and shareholders with current investments in projects with particularly serious human rights allegations. We also narrowed the list to exclude intermediary companies, and did not contact investors who exclusively invested in projects where we did not find significant human rights allegations.

Of the 20 investors we contacted, 16 responded. An additional 3 investors indicated they intend to respond later on.

You can find the letters we sent each of these investors, as well as their responses, here. We further engaged with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development via video conferencing.

List of Investors

Below, you can find a list of owners, shareholders, and financers for these projects. You can sort and filter by company, investor, country, etc.

Digging in the shadows

Read our full key takeaways report on Eastern Europe & Central Asia's opaque extractives industry summarises the key issues uncovered, presents case studies and maps ownership structures.

Detailed company profiles

Explore the research behind 'Digging in the shadows' with our detailed company profiles. Each profile reviews the publicly available information for each company, including human rights policies, corporate ownership structures and allegations of abuse.