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UK Students Urged: Vote Against Coca-Cola Contract

UK Students Urged to Vote Against Coca-Cola Contract Renewal

Group Calls Briefings "Woefully Inadequate" and Process "Extremely Biased"

London: The India Resource Center is urging delegates to the National Union of Students in the UK to vote to end business relationships with the Coca-Cola company.

The National Union of Students is holding its Annual General Meeting in Blackpool from March 27-30, and the issue of whether to renew contracts with the Coca-Cola company is expected to be debated widely at the conference.

The Coca-Cola company is the target of a significant student movement in the UK and the US where students have campaigned to end contracts with the Coca-Cola company for its continued crimes in India and Colombia. More than 15 colleges and universities have already taken steps to end their contracts with the Coca-Cola company.

In India, communities living around Coca-Cola bottling plants are experiencing severe water shortages, and government authorities have confirmed that the water and soil around Coca-Cola bottling plants have been polluted by the company. One of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants in India has been shut down since March 2004.

At last year's Annual General Meeting, it was resolved that NUS would educate its members about the pertinent issues surrounding Coca-Cola in India and also research the validity of the allegations in India.

NUS has failed to meet its obligations.

The National Union of Student Services Limited (NUSSL), the procuring agency for the NUS, has developed a series of briefings on the allegations in India, entering into what it terms "constructive engagement" with the Coca-Cola company.

As part of its engagement with the Coca-Cola company, NUSSL has met with the Coca-Cola company 10 times since December 2003, and not once with community representatives from India.

"The briefing developed by NUSSL to educate its members is woefully inadequate, and it is not reflective of the reality on the ground in India," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization. Mr. Srivastava is in Blackpool to bring attention to the growing campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable.

Describing the process undertaken so far by NUSSL to look into issues in India as extremely biased, Amit Srivastava said, "How can there be any constructive engagement when the primary stakeholder-the communities in India-have been completely left out of the process to resolve the issue?"

The India Resource Center is also faulting NUS with not meeting its obligations to educate its members sufficiently to make an informed decision on the matter. An emergency motion was passed at last year's NUS AGM that resolved that NUS would distribute materials from the India Resource Center to members and also work with the India Resource Center to research the validity of the allegations in India. One year later, not a single NUS official has contacted the India Resource Center.

We expect much better from the NUS, an organization representing the interests of over 5 million students in the UK," said Amit Srivastava. "They can choose to be part of the problem or be part of the solution. Not renewing its contracts with the Coca-Cola company is the right move forward."

The letter from India Resource Center to the National Union of Students outlining their concerns can be viewed at http://www.indiaresource.org/news/2006/1043.html

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