R 162310Z OCT 07 FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9550 C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 007423 SUBJECT: ECOPETROL OUTLINES ITS APPROACH

TO HUMAN RIGHTS REF: BOGOTA 7088 Classified By: ECONOMIC COUNSELOR LAWRENCE J. GUMBINER FOR REASONS 1.4. B & D ¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On October 10, Jose Rafael Unda, Ecopetrol's Director for Social Responsibility, confirmed his company's incorporation of the Voluntary Principles (VPs) into its human rights policies. Unda said Ecopetrol added Spanish translations of the text of the Voluntary Principles to its latest contracts with private security firms and its agreements with Colombian Ministry of Defense (MOD). He also confirmed that Ecopetrol consults on a regular basis with NGOs, local law enforcement and the MOD in the development of its risk assessments. Colombia's leading human rights think-tank has praised Ecopetrol's efforts to adopt the VPs, but told us the company faces challenges in implementation. Ecopetrol has concerns about the clarity of the VP provision regarding dismissal of employees accused of human rights violations, but believes the VPs

overall are valuable for promoting human rights. Beyond adoption of the VPs, the company invests over USD 30 million in human rights promotion annually, including protection of labor union leaders. END SUMMARY. ---------------Private Security ---------------¶2. (SBU) Colombia's partially-privatized state oil company Ecopetrol (reftel) renewed its three contracts with private security companies in December 2006. The new contracts, which are public and run through December 15, 2008, include a Spanish translation of the Voluntary Principles. (Note: Unda said that Ecopetrol considered the Spanish text posted on the VPs website of poor quality so Ecopetrol did its own translation. End Note.) Unda said the contracts included the complete VPs, but did not list them under a heading of "Voluntary Principles". -------------------------------Agreements with Defense Ministry -------------------------------¶3. (C) Unda confirmed that since 2006 Ecopetrol has also included a Spanish translation of the VPs text, again without the specific heading, in the body of the company's agreements with the MOD. He said Ecopetrol omitted the VPs heading to avoid sensitivities in some segments of the MOD that the

VPs are associated with international human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) perceived as unfairly critical of Colombia. In addition, the agreements included annexes that specifically identified the respective obligations of Ecopetrol and the MOD. Unda said the agreements were not public, but that if the USG made an official request to Ecopetrol and MOD, it may be possible to share a copy. --------------Risk Assessment --------------¶4. (SBU) Unda said Ecopetrol and other oil producers meet twice a year with the MOD and Colombian law enforcement to exchange security threat information. Ecopetrol also consults regularly, though not always, with civil society and human rights NGOs in formulating their risk assessments. He mentioned that Ecopetrol has worked closely with London-based International Alert and the Colombian-based Ideas for Peace Foundation (Fundacion Ideas Para la Paz). -------------------One Concern with VPs -------------------¶5. (SBU) Unda noted that Ecopetrol had one concern with the VPs, namely the provision that companies should dismiss individuals "compromised" on human rights was not clearly defined. He said

that Colombian companies could not dismiss employees based solely on suspicion or accusation, but only after individuals received fair and complete due process. Unda commented that many other companies had voiced concerns about the same provision. -------------------------------------------------Human Rights and Labor Union Protection Beyond VPs -------------------------------------------------6.(SBU) Beyond the Voluntary Principles, Unda reported that Ecopetrol spends USD 30 million a year on social investment projects, with approximately 85 percent dedicated to access to education, poverty reduction, and basic infrastructure. These efforts are intended to directly contribute to the protection of basic human rights in the communities near Ecopetrol operations. Unda added that Ecopetrol has also spent USD 1.75 million annually in recent years to provide protection for 108 leaders and senior officials of the three unions in Ecopetrol, including the oil-workers' union (USO) which is theoldest and largest union in Colombia. Ecopetrol contributes these funds directly to the Colombian Government's official protection program for labor union leaders. The funds cover expenses for armored vehicles, bodyguards, telephones, and air travel for leaders of Ecopetrol's unions. According to Unda, Ecopetrol is the only company in Colombia that directly funds part of the cost of this GOC program. In September, Ecopetrol concluded an agreement to increase its annual contribution by USD 1 million to a total of USD

2.75 million. In public leadership continues to efforts.

statements, the USO downplay Ecopetrol's

--------------------------------Implementing VPs is the Challenge --------------------------------¶7. (C) In a separate discussion with us, Alexandra Guaqueta, Research Director at the Ideas for Peace Foundation, called Ecopetrol's incorporation of the VPs "a major accomplishment" and praised Ecopetrol CEO Javier Gutierrez for making human rights a top corporate priority. Guaqueta said Ecopetrol's management understood the "market value" of adopting international human rights standards as the company increased its presence in markets outside Colombia. However, Ecopetrol, like most other companies, still faced hurdles in implementing the VPs. Specifically, she noted Ecopetrol's security department was largely comprised of former Colombian military personnel that preceded the current generation's extensive human rights training. This contributed to vestigial suspicion among some security officials of human rights initiatives and NGOs. Existing personal relationships between security officials and their former military colleagues also makes accountability more complicated. ¶8. (C) Guaqueta also pointed out that state-owned Ecopetrol has less flexibility in hiring personnel and has been mandated to give preference to excombatants, which complicates following VP

provisions against hiring individuals with records of human rights violations. Likewise, the sheer size of the company's presence in Colombia means it will take time to fully integrate the VPs. Guaqueta suggested that Ecopetrol should have a seat on Colombia's National Mining and Energy Human Rights Committee, which coordinates private sector, NGO, and government engagement on the VPs. She acknowledged, however, that the Colombian Petroleum Association (ACP), which represents oil producers on the committee, has previously resisted such a move. Brownfield (Edited and reading.) reformatted by Andres for ease of

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