12 February 2004
The statement, reproduced below, by the OECD Committee on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises (CIME) reports on activities undertaken in response to the issues raised by the United Nations Expert Panel on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In June 2000, the UN Security Council asked the UN Secretary General to establish the Expert Panel. The Panel produced three reports, two of which referred to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises . In its October 2002 report (S/2002/1146), the Expert Panel claimed inter alia that 85 companies had not observed the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and challenged the governments adhering to the Guidelines to use them to promote responsible behaviour among companies active in the DRC. In October 2003, the Panel reported on its efforts to verify, reinforce and update its earlier findings. This report describes the conclusions drawn by the Panel from its dialogue with many of the companies accused of not observing the Guidelines in its 2002 report.
The Guidelines, for which the CIME has oversight responsibility, are a government-backed voluntary code of conduct for international business covering such areas as disclosure of information, anti-corruption, environmental protection, respect for core labour standards, protection of human rights and taxation. In January 2003, the Chair of the CIME wrote to the UN Security Council expressing general support for the work of the Panel and informing it that the adhering countries take seriously their role of furthering the effectiveness of the Guidelines. The Chair’s letter also stated that the CIME would welcome the opportunity to co-operate with the Panel. It hoped to receive information on which the Panel based its conclusions and offered to make it available to the National Contact Points (NCPs, government offices charged with promoting observance of the Guidelines by multinational enterprises operating in or from their territories). In Resolution 1457, the United Nations Security Council asked the Expert Panel to provide relevant information to the CIME and to the NCPs. The Panel met with the CIME Chair and relevant NCPs in April 2003 to discuss cooperation. The Panel presented its final report (S/2003/1027) in October 2003 and its mandate has now ended.
At the December 2003 meeting of CIME, three NCPs (out of the 10 NCPs from countries where enterprises accused by the Panel are based) reported having received some information from the Panel only by the end of its mandate. Two of the NCPs reported that the information received tended to be general in nature (not specific to the Panel’s accusations) and that it did not cover all the companies cited in the October 2002 report. In response to a relevant complaint, one NCP has taken up consideration of a “specific instance” in relation to MNE activities in the DRC. The “specific instances” procedure allows interested parties to call alleged non-observance of the Guidelines to the attention of the NCPs, who are then expected to facilitate discussion and assist the parties in dealing with the issues raised. In addition, some NCPs have contacted companies named in the reports (even in the absence of information from the Panel) in order to inquire about their activities and to stress the importance their governments attach to responsible business conduct in “difficult” environments such as the DRC.
The CIME concluded that, while national experiences were mixed, there is room for improved co-operation between the CIME and any future Expert Panels that might be mandated by the UN Security Council. The Chair of the CIME has written a letter that has been transmitted by the OECD Secretary General to the UN Secretary General. The letter suggests ways that future cooperation might be enhanced.
The CIME has also agreed to undertake a project that will explore some of the generic corporate responsibility issues raised by doing business in countries affected by conflict, such as the DRC. This work will build on the Panel’s reports and on previous CIME work on business and conflict. The purpose of the work will be to assist companies, NCPs and other actors to understand better what it means to conduct business responsibly in the DRC and other “weak governance zones”. This project will also draw on other OECD instruments, such as the Anti-Bribery Convention and Recommendation , Corporate Governance Principles and Guidelines for Avoiding Conflict of Interest in the Public Sector .