Campaigners welcomed press reports issued on 13 December  that a decision on funding BP’s controversial Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is to be delayed for at least six months, until late next year. According to BP, the delays stem from difficulties in satisfying the requirements of financial institutions. The Baku-Ceyhan Campaign  has been calling on the British government not to put any public money into the project until major outstanding human rights, environmental and social issues are resolved.
The planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline would run over 1,000 miles from BP’s Caspian oilfields, through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, to the Mediterranean. BP’s Chief Executive John Browne has said that BP would only build the pipeline if “free money” were offered by governments. Only 30% of the US$3.3 billion cost of the pipeline will come from the oil companies involved, much of the remainder coming from taxpayers’ money through institutions such as the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank. 
Last month, the campaigners wrote to Clare Short, the UK government minister responsible for Britain’s contributions to the World Bank, urging her to delay any decision on funding for the project. The campaigners argued that the project had not been designed for public benefit, and therefore should not currently be eligible for public money.
In particular, the project would exacerbate poverty in the region, and add to the countries’ debts; it would undermine the transition to democracy; it would inflame conflict, and lead to human rights abuses; and it would add to greater climate change.
A letter was also written to Baroness Symons, minister in charge of the Export Credits Guarantee Department, which is discussing funding the project.
Kerim Yildiz, director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, commented that, “Perhaps this delay indicates that the financial institutions and potential funders of the pipeline are seeking answers to the deeply disturbing questions that BP has been reluctant to address. In particular, BP has failed to allay our concerns about human rights abuses, security, environmental damage, and possible breaches of Turkeys legal obligations”.
Kate Hampton, international climate change co-ordinator of Friends of the Earth, said “This delay will give public financial institutions and the UK government an opportunity to think seriously about their lending policies. They must act to prevent dangerous climate change, rather than simply supporting business as usual”.
Nicholas Hildyard, of The Corner House, added, “BP has been trying to push this project through regardless. It bullied the Georgian government into approving a flawed environmental impact assessment, in order to satisfy its commercial deadlines. We are delighted that the World Bank and other financial institutions are not prepared to be steamrollered in this way.”
In late November, BP heavily lobbied the Georgian government, warning that if the government did not approve its section of the pipeline by the end of the month, then the project would be suspended.  The Georgian environment minister only signed the approval after the personal intervention of President Shevardnadze, following a visit by the US envoy to the region. 
With BP’s funders delaying their support of the pipeline project, is indicative of the fact that BP is both fallible and answerable to an entity beyond their Board. For the past six months, the NGO coalition has worked consistently to highlight the project and its detrimental human rights and environmental consequences and has now broken significant ground.
1: AFX (Baku), ‘BP sees BTC pipeline finance delayed until Q3’, 14:50 GMT, 13 December 2002
2: The Baku-Ceyhan Campaign, is a project of the successful Ilisu Dam Campaign. It is working to raise public awareness of the social problems, human rights abuses and environmental damage that may be caused by the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. In particular, the campaign argues that public money should not be used to subsidise social and environmental problems, purely in the interests of the private sector, but must be conditional on a positive contribution to the economic and social development of people in the region. Partners of the Campaign include Friends of the Earth, the Kurdish Human Rights Project, the Corner House and PLATFORM.
5: AFX (Tbilisi), ‘Georgia approves BP-led Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline’s construction’, 2 December 2002
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director / Anders Lustgarten, Environmental Officer / Angela Debnath, Public Relations Officer
Kurdish Human Rights Project / 2 New Burlington Place, London W1S 2HP
Tel: 020 7287 2772 / Fax: 020 7734 4927 / Email: email@example.com / www.khrp.org