OPIC Raises Concern over BRE Failed Project

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The United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has published a plan to address widespread failures at the agency that contributed to a failed energy project in Liberia, which resulted in a serious human rights, labor and environmental abuses, an OPIC document has reported.

  According to a release from the Accountability Counsel, SOMO and Green Advocates International, the brief plan outlines a number of important institutions and operational communities suffered.

  But those communities, according to the release, are still waiting for OPIC to reveal critical details about how these reforms will translate into meaningful change in Liberia.

  “In provisions attached to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Congress gave OPIC 90 days to submit a plan to implement recommendations from an independent investigation report about the agency’s role in the project in Liberia,” the release said.

  The report, according to the three rights groups, identified range of institutional failures and they are demanding accountability and redress.

   “In compliance with its 90 day deadline, OPIC presented Congress with a brief summary of actions aimed at closing the agency’s accountability gaps and overcoming its institutional failures,” the release added.

   We are hopeful that this plan represents forward-looking, positive change at OPIC,” said Kindra Mohr of Accountability Counsel, a legal organization working with Liberians.

  Mohr noted that “although we are disappointed that OPIC’s plan does not address the harmful situation in Liberia, we will continue to look for ways to engage with OPIC in its efforts to protect vulnerable communities in the future.”

   The plan provides a cursory overview of various reforms, ranging from dedicating adequate resources for high-risk projects to requiring more robust project-level grievance mechanisms.

  OPIC, however didn’t seek input from project-affected communities or the public when developing the plan, which omits details on the substance and impact of these reforms, the release indicated.

  “Although OPIC deserves credit for creating this plan, the agency failed to consult with Liberians, civil society groups, or the general public about how it could best implement reforms that directly affect OPIC’s approach which has been thus far non-transparent and non-responsive to the Liberians harmed by the project,” said Cllr. Alfred Brownell of Green Advocates International, a Liberian organization representing the victims.

  “Without input from those who lost their livelihoods and experienced abuses because OPIC’s failures, Liberians are unsure that the agency can truly reform itself so that other communities do not suffer the same fate,” added Francis Colee of Green Advocates International.

     Tim Steinweg, Senior researcher investigating the project for Dutch Organization, SOMO said, “it is unclear whether the changes that the plan describes will lead to actual, perceivable improvements for the stakeholders of OPIC’s projects, in Liberia or elsewhere.”

    Steinweg added that “we hope to be included in refining the details of OPIC’s implementation of these reforms, not only to advocate for repairing the damage that this project caused, but also to ensure that OPIC has positive and sustainable development impacts.”

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