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Cablegate: The Voluntary Principles Process in Colombia

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. 05 STATE 38469

B. 04 BOGOTA 3373
C. 04 BOGOTA 10071

1. Summary. On March 29, Vice President Santos hosted a
meeting on the Voluntary Principles (VPs) process in
Colombia. Present at the meeting were the Ambassador,
members of the National Committee on Voluntary Principles,
and representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the
Presidencia, and the Netherlands Embassy. Items discussed
were the 2005 VPs work-plan, NGO involvement, and the
creation of a technical team. End Summary.


2. As stated in reftels, the GOC has embraced the VPs
framework and developed a work-plan, which focuses on three
areas: a risk assessment, relations between hydrocarbon
companies and public security forces, and relations between
hydrocarbon companies and private security forces. In
addition, a National Committee on Voluntary Principles was
formed to advance the VPs process in Colombia. The committee
currently consists of representatives from the Vice
President's office, the embassies of the U.S. and the U.K.,
the Colombian Association of Petroleum Producers (ACP),
ChevronTexaco, Occidental and British Petroleum (BP). The
committee expects to incorporate a representative from the
Netherlands Embassy, the Inspector General's Office, the
Ministry of Defense, Ecopetrol and other hydrocarbon
companies, and a few NGO's. The Ambassador made it a point
to attend the meeting personally to emphasize the importance
we place on this program in Colombia.

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Highlights of the Meeting

3. ACP began the meeting with a presentation outlining the
importance of the VPs, a review of the VPs process in
Colombia, and the work-plan for 2005. To date, the National
Committee has developed a draft risk assessment, which was
formulated after 11 regional workshops with the Armed Forces,
the Justice Department, the Inspector General's office, the
Department of Security, the Ministry of Mines and Energy,
Interior, and Defense, as well as more than 40 companies in
the energy sector. Best practices meetings were also held to
develop the risk assessment. On the margins, econoff spoke
to committee members regarding factoring in equipment
transfers and human rights records to the risk assessment
process (responses were favorable).

4. ACP outlined actions already taken concerning relations
between hydrocarbon companies and private security forces.
Over the last year, ACP held workshops to discuss best
practices among the hydrocarbon companies in Colombia. From
these workshops, companies developed internal guidelines to
promote linkages between the protection of human rights and
security. In some cases, these guidelines are articulated in
the contracts signed between the hydrocarbon firms and
private security companies.

5. The 2005 work-plan focuses on the three major aspects of
the VPs as well as strengthening democratic institutions.
Looking forward, the risk assessment will consist of an
exchange of information and analysis from the National
Committee members and a promotion of best practices.
Relations with public security forces will focus on promoting
human rights and the VPs among the Armed Forces, identifying
procedures within the committee to call attention to human
rights violations in the field, and increasing transparency
of the VPs process. Relations with private security forces
will focus on promoting the VPs and human rights among the
private security firms and sharing best practices among the
hydrocarbon companies. Strengthening democratic institutions
is a new, but important aspect in promoting the voluntary
principles. Under this theme, the committee is looking to
promote more Casas de Justicia in towns near extractive
industries to increase access to government services for the
local community. The Casa de Justicia in Yopal is a USAID/BP
funded project, which continues to be funded by BP.

NGO Involvement

6. During the meeting, Vice President Santos asked about NGO
involvement and requested the committee to focus on including
NGOs in the VPs process. ACP plans to meet with
International Alert in early April to discuss the VPs process
and solicit their support. Other potential NGOs are the
International Crisis Group and Transparency International.

Technical Team

7. At the conclusion of the meeting, Vice President Santos
agreed to the formation of a technical team, which will meet
monthly to discuss the VPs process and hold additional best
practices meetings. The technical team will be made up of
representatives from the National Committee and other VPs
stakeholders. In an effort to show leadership of the VPs
process, Vice President Santos instructed Carlos Franco,
director for the presidential program for human rights, to
lead the technical team.

8. During the meeting, Vice President Santos seemed focused
on the image of the VPs program, to which the Ambassador
commented that the image is only a byproduct of the process
and not the goal. He added that the National Committee needs
to focus on concrete steps, such as publishing the work-plan
on the web. Santos reacted favorably and directed ACP to put
it on the internet.

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