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The Belgian National Contact Point (NCP) received a complaint on 24 November 2004 from the non-governmental organization “11.11.11”, representing 15 NGOs, concerning the operations of the George Forrest International Group (Forrest Group) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).
The complaint alleged, inter alia, a failure by the Forrest Group to take steps to provide healthy and safe work conditions at its plant in Lubumbashi (processing radioactive minerals); a conflict of interest and improper interference in political affairs; a loss revenue for Gécamines, SA (in the GTL-STL “Big Hill” project); and a lack of disclosure of information.
The NCP took the case, having found jurisdiction over the complaint, and played a role as a mediator. The NCP analyzed the parties’ submissions in accordance with the procedures laid out in the OECD Guidelines and met five times to discuss the case (on three occasions in the presence of the parties).
Additional Info: The Belgian NCP is chaired by a representative of the Minister of Economic Affairs. It has a “tripartite” structure including management, labour, and government representatives (from the federal public service and regional governments).
The NCP ruled that the Forrest Group had complied to the best of its abilities with the OECD Guidelines both in its direct investments in DR Congo and in its indirect investments (e.g. joint ventures with other firms in which the Forrest Group had a minority interest). Additionally, the NCP recognized Mr. Forrest’s determination, on behalf of his group, to continue promoting and upholding the OECD Guidelines in all firms in which he owned a minority interest and/or sat on the board of directors. The NCP recommended that the Forrest Group adopt a similar policy vis-à-vis its suppliers and customers.
The NCP also recommended the following:
The Forrest Group should regularly disclose reliable and relevant information regarding its activities, structure, financial situation and performance (consistent with Chapter III of the OECD Guidelines).
The Forrest Group should disclose employment-related information within the framework of applicable laws and prevailing labour relations and employment practices (Chapter IV of the OECD Guidelines).
The Forrest Group should provide reliable, relevant, and regular information on its activities and the steps taken to comply with environmental provisions (Chapter V).
The Forrest Group is a major player in the market, but not the only one; as such, the Forrest Group should assist international institutions and DR Congo government in implementing appropriate economic and industrial mechanisms given the problems of communities living in the vicinity of industrial sites.
The NCP believes that these recommendations, with support from NGOs and trade unions, would encourage transparency and thus complement the efforts already made by the Forrest Group to foster a climate of trust vis-à-vis the local population.
The parties expressed a determination to continue their dialogue and asked international bodies, such as the WHO, to conduct independent studies.