Syd Houghton | 28.08.2003 22:47 | London
Department office to oppose Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline;
attempt at participatory democracy fails
People protesting against the activities of the UK
Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), in
particular its likely support for the much-criticised
Baku-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, today occupied the office of ECGD boss Vivian Brown for much of the morning.
At least five people, some from London Rising Tide
, barricaded themselves into Brown's office
and, in the spirit of participatory democracy,
attempted to open a constructive dialogue with ECGD
staff over the Baku-Ceyhan project. Sadly, their
overtures were rebuffed, and a unique opportunity to
explain how this massively contentious project is in
the public interest was lost.
A banner reading 'Exporting Corruption, Guaranteeing Destruction'
was unfurled, but security guards for ECGD office building Echange Tower and police refused to allow any protest to take place (including the leafletting of local shops) on Exchange Tower's private property.
In recent years the Export Credits Guarantee
Department has come under increasing fire for using
public money to subsidise the arms trade , for
supporting projects enmeshed in gross corruption ,
and for failing to carry out sufficient research into
the benefits of the projects it supports for local
people. And the climatic impacts of projects like Baku-Ceyhan
stand in direct opposition to the ECGD's purported commitment
to sustainable development.
“The ECGD is now the single largest source of taxpayer
subsidy for big multinationals seeking to offload onto
the public the risks of their unwanted and
exploitative projects in the South. Yet nobody knows
who they are,” said Syd Houghton of London Rising Tide.
“This could have been the chance for the ECGD to tell an
interested section of the public why they should get
over £750 million a year in taxpayers’ money, and spend it
promoting militarisation, privatisation and climate change.
Frankly we’re baffled as to why they didn’t take it.”
Despite repeated requests from the activists, no-one
with any knowledge of the Baku-Ceyhan project came to
talk to them. This was especially unexpected given the
ever-increasing controversy surrounding BTC.
A consortium of oil giants led by the UK’s BP are the
sponsors of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which is
intended to take Caspian oil from Baku in Azerbaijan
through Georgia and the Kurdish regions of eastern
Turkey to American markets. BP is currently in the
middle of applying for almost $2.5 billion in public
funds to complete the project, primarily from the
World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and
The project has been dogged with allegations of
widespread human rights abuses, inadequate
compensation and consultation of locally affected
people and regional destabilisation and
militarization. In particular, activists are concerned
about the legal agreements for the pipeline, the Host
Government Agreements (HGAs), which override all local
environmental and social laws for the next half
century and effectively make BP the sovereign power
along the pipeline route.
Pictures can be found at www.indymedia.org.uk
 To find out more, about London Rising Tide’s actions against
the Baku-Ceyhan project, visit www.burningplanet.net
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
London Rising Tide is part of the grassroots Rising Tide UK network (www.risingtide.org.uk; 01865 241097), which seeks to expose and confront the root causes of climate chaos.
 Almost 50% of the ECGD’s backing goes on arms
deals, yet the arms industry, above and beyond its
horrific human costs, generates only 3% of the UK’s
 See the recent report by Sue Hawley, “Turning a
Blind Eye: Corruption and the UK Export Credits
Guarantee Department”, June 2003, available at
 The 120 day public disclosure period for criticism
of the project lasts from June to October, giving
another 6 weeks for concerned parties to raise
objections with the World Bank and the EBRD.