19 June 2013

Poyri Off the Hook for Xayaburi Work, Finnish Government States Publicly

Looks like the assessment done by the Finnish group Poyry is legit, despite European's call to the contrary. The Finnish government has stated officially that the Poyry group followed standards and protocol in their work in Laos. They had a scope that is not inclusive of all vulnerable elements in the dam site and also were not as transparent as they could have been, but were within legal bounds. I am not sure what started off this accusation that the group did not do it's work correctly, but it seems that groups wanting Xayaburi off the table are being super critical of any aspect involved. Including the competence of the engineers and scientists working on the project.

The reality is the project is going to go through. I believe that instead of working against the project, people who are opposed should look to find ways to help mitigate social and environmental costs and suggest them to the Lao government. Also, I believe this dam highlights some very critical environmental, social, and climate issues in the region that need further research and understanding. Without the advent of the dam, would these issues have gone unnoticed until a point of no return?

Ministry of Employment and the Economy
18.6.2013 10.15

Statement of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy: Pöyry Oyj complied with OECD guidelines in Laos dam project

Pöyry Oyj did not violate OECD Corporate Social Responsibility Guidelines in its dam project in Laos. However, companies should assess the risks of similar projects more carefully and act more transparently in the future. This recommendation is contained in the statement issued by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.
The statement concerns the actions of Finnish consultants, Pöyry Oyj, and its Swiss auxiliary Pöyry Energy AG in the Xayaburi dam project in Laos. Commissioned by the government in Laos Pöyry has carried out a technical comparison of the original project plan for the hydropower plant and the recommendations given by the Mekong River Commission. Pöyry has not done any project planning or environmental assessment or social impact assessment relating to the project. A year ago, a total of 15 non-governmental organisations filed a complaint to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, claiming that Pöyry Oyj had not complied with OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The NGOs felt that when studying the environmental and human rights impacts of the dam project, the company had not paid sufficient attention to its negative effects.
The statement states that as a leading company in the sector, Pöyry had influence on the progress of the project. However, Pöyry operated within the confines of a relatively limited assignment, which for example restricted its possibilities of hearing the statekholders.
Pöyry should have addressed the ambiguities related to environmental issues and human rights more clearly in its report to the government of Laos. However, the company made an effort to mitigate the environmental risks and negative impacts of the project by means of several detailed recommendations, even if the various parties disagree upon whether or not these actions were adequate.
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy recommends that in the future, companies should assess the risks of similar major projects more carefully and give more consideration to stakeholders' views. They must ensure adequate communication about risk prevention measures.
The statement only evaluated compliance with OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and not, for example, the scientific basis and adequacy of the studies produced by Pöyry. The OECD recommendations provide voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct consistent with applicable laws in international business. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy, together with the Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, is the Finnish National Contact Point with the duty to promote compliance with the guidelines. The Ministry requested the views of the Committee for its statement.
The statement can be accessed on the Ministry of Employment and the Economy website at www.tem.fi/OECD-yksittaistapaukset (The English translation will be published later.)
For more information, please contact:
Senior Counsellor Jorma Immonen, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, tel. 029 506 4689

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