Chevron Annual Shareholder Meeting
May 26, 2010
My name is Michelle Kinman and I am Deputy Director of the organization Crude Accountability. I would like to address the entire board of directors, but especially Senator Hagel, first as a fellow native Nebraskan, but more relevant to today’s meeting, as someone who has a longstanding interest in Central Asia.
Chevron is intensely involved in hydrocarbon projects in Kazakhstan, which have been fraught with violations of environmental law, a lack of transparency and, ultimately, scandal. Indications are that Chevron is now poised to sign a major agreement with the authoritarian government of Turkmenistan to develop the country’s largely untapped hydrocarbon reserves. Indeed, Chevron announced late last year that it is in negotiations with the government of Turkmenistan, a fact that was confirmed publicly last month by the country’s President.
Senator Hagel, you have demonstrated a clear interest in and ties to Caspian oil and gas development. You also have a clear record on transparency and anti-corruption—one that can be put to excellent use in insisting Turkmenistan dramatically and measurably improve its human rights and accountability record before Chevron invests in its hydrocarbon sector.
Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most repressive countries, consistently receiving the lowest ranking of “not free” in Freedom House’s assessment of global political rights and civil liberties across 193 countries. If Chevron engages with a repressive regime such as Turkmenistan to secure hydrocarbons without first insisting on significant, demonstrable improvements in human rights, transparency and rule of law, it will strengthen anti-democratic tendencies and stifle the development of an already severely compromised civil society, as it has in Burma, Nigeria, Columbia and in numerous other countries around the world.
I wrote to Mr. Watson in December, urging him to take a principled stance in favor of basic human rights in Turkmenistan. I—and more importantly—the courageous environmentalists and human rights defenders with whom I work in Turkmenistan—have yet to receive any response. Senator Hagel, as a new board member, you have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to raise the bar for corporate responsibility in the Caspian to a level that is in accordance with the Chevron Way, for starters, but more importantly, in accordance with international law and practice.
Senator Hagel, are you prepared to insist that your company take a principled stance in favor of human rights in Turkmenistan today?
Senator Hagel was not given the opportunity to respond to this question. Instead, Chevron CEO John Watson encouraged Crude Accountability to write to Senator Hagel at a later time. In his response, Mr. Watson confirmed that Chevron is in negotiations with Turkmenistan, adding that “I think we can do some good in Turkmenistan” even though “we may not meet your standards”.