December 6, 2022
Perenco: The social and environmental impact of the French oil company’s activities abroad
Congo (the Democratic Republic of the)TunisiaAccess to justice and developmentBusiness & human rights
Perenco has been in the news for several weeks. An environmental investigation carried out by EIF (Environmental Investigative Forum) with the support of the media Investigate Europe and Disclose has led to the publication of damning information on the French company’s activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And the NGOs Sherpa and Friends of the Earth have taken legal action against the company for failing to carry out due diligence on its oil exploration and extraction activities abroad.
Poor governance in the management of natural resources, conflicts of interest, pollution and environmental damage linked to its activities, failure to involve the affected communities in the decision-making processes linked to the management of their land, lack of accountability with regard to the normative framework in force, etc. The list goes on.
In the field, Avocats Sans Frontières has monitored numerous violations of the fundamental rights of communities affected by the poor governance of natural resources linked to the company’s activities, particularly in the Muanda territory in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Several studies and reports (RENAD, CEPECO, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, and even a report by the Congolese Senate) reveal devastating practices, both for the environment and for the health and livelihood of local communities. Among the violations reported: infringements of the right to a healthy environment, the right to health, the right to work and the right to dignity.
In the Muanda territory, the company has build power dynamics that systematically are to the disadvantage of local communities. The company does not fulfil its obligations under Congolese law and does not respect relevant international principles.
There are serious failures to consult and dialogue with the populations affected by its activities. The company has refused to respond to letters and requests for meetings from various civil society organisations and community members on many occasions.
The company famously refused to be involved in the discussions that took place during a round table organised in Kinshasa in July 2022 on the theme of natural resource governance which was attended by local, institutional and civil society actors.
This is a clear violation of Congolese law, which requires Perenco to consult the various stakeholders, including the affected communities.
In this regard, ASF commends the action initiated by Sherpa and Friends of the Earth before the French courts for ccological damage.
ASF would like to remind all stakeholders, including economic actors, the Congolese state and local representatives, of their obligations and their duty of accountability, in particular to promote and ensure a system of governance based on the fundamental rights of local populations.
In this regard, ASF makes the following recommendations:
– Implement the ministerial decree that organises the functioning of the mechanism for managing funds dedicated to community development (Cecetem);
– Implement the ministerial order for the implementation of a follow-up to the recommendations of the tripartite round table (communities, companies and government);
– Strengthen the mechanisms for collecting and processing community complaints, particularly by making them transparent and accessible to all;
– Strengthen the state’s technical services to ensure transparency throughout the oil and gas industry’s value chain and to suppress all forms of impunity for economic actors.
ASF’s action and role regarding Perenco’s activities
The multinational oil company has been under scutiny for many years because of the opaque and controversial management of its activities in several countries.
ASF, in partnership with Sherpa and Friends of the Earth, had tried in vain to demand that the company be transparent about its activities abroad.
In 2018, ASF submitted a complaint to the French National Contact Point (NCP) of the OECD to ensure that the company fulfils its duty of transparency in relation to its oil and gas exploration and production operations. In March 2021, ASF and IWatch finally decided to withdraw from the procedure, highlighting the structural dysfunctions of this tool from the OECD.
In January 2022, the French NCP published its final statement in which it specified that Perenco did not comply with several recommendations of the OECD Guidelines regarding its activities in Tunisia, in the Kebili region.
The NCP made a series of recommendations to the company:
– Perenco must comply with its due diligence in its exploration and exploitation activities;
– Perenco shall prevent and further mitigate social and environmental risks arising from the activities of its operating subsidiaries;
– Perenco should follow up on appropriate remedial or corrective actions in the event of adverse environmental, labour and human rights impacts, including through the transparent sharing of information on its activities.
Avocats Sans Frontières reaffirms its commitment to the fight against the impunity of economic and industrial actors. In the field in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tunisia or Uganda, our teams continue to support and accompany communities affected by human and environmental rights violations suffered in the context of industrial extractive activities.
 Perenco : révélations sur les ravages du groupe pétrolier en RDC, https://disclose.ngo/fr/article/perenco-revelations-sur-les-ravages-du-groupe-petrolier-en-rdc, 9.11.2022 ; Perenco files: Les secrets toxiques d’un géant du pétrole, https://www.investigate-europe.eu/fr/2022/perenco-files-petrole/, November 2022.
 Renad, Cris d’alarme des Communautes Locales : Impacts de Perenco Rep sur le cadre de vie des communautés de Muanda en r.D.Congo, https://congominespdfstorage.blob.core.windows.net/congominespdfstorage/CRIS%20D%E2%80%99ALARME%20DES%20COMMUNAUTES%20LOCALES%20(2).pdf;
CEPECO, Rapport sur l’exploitation pétrolière à Moanda Bas Congo, https://vdocuments.mx/rapport-sur-lexploitation-petroliere-a-moanda-bas-congo.html?page=1;
CCFD, Pétrole à Muanda: la justice au rabais, https://ccfd-terresolidaire.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/petrole_muanda_201113.pdf ;
Commission d’enquête sur la pollution causée par l’exploitation pétrolière à Muanda dans la province du Bas-Congo : https://www.amisdelaterre.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/201310-rapport-senat-rdc-commission-enquete-senatoriale-pollution-perenco.pdf.