Oxbridge Amnesty confront Shell

Jennifer Boon & Faye Presland 10 March 2010

Oxford and Cambridge University branches of Amnesty International met with representatives of Shell in London last week to discuss the company’s behaviour in Nigeria.

The meeting took place on Tuesday 2nd March at the Natural History Museum in London and was called in response to Amnesty’s ‘Shell Hell’ campaign. Hannah Perry, the Chair of Cambridge University Amnesty International (CUAI), and Tom Kemp, her Oxford counterpart, met with Barnaby Briggs, a strategic relations manager from Shell who is responsible for improving the framework of Shell’s operations in Nigeria.

Amnesty has criticised Shell’s behaviour in the Niger Delta, stating on its website: “Millions of people in the Niger Delta have seen their lives and livelihoods destroyed by Shell’s approach to oil production.”

On 4th February this year CUAI staged ‘Shell Hell Day’ in which protesters dressed in white jumpsuits, signed a petition and campaigned outside Senate House.

During this protest CUAI attracted 3,000 signatories to its petition which Ms Perry presented to the Shell representative on Tuesday.

On its website Shell has stated that Shell companies in Nigeria, “generate billions of dollars of income for the government, create jobs and provide energy for the country.” In the Niger Delta where most of the oil and gas is produced, they spend tens of millions of dollars a year on community development.”

Speaking to The Cambridge Student (TCS) Ms Perry commented, “We had a long and intense meeting in which we discussed the targets of our campaign and the areas which Shell has already addressed as well as what they plan to review…We discussed gas flaring, oil spills, sabotage, social conflict and the need for greater transparency as well as the need to have independent assessment of the cause of oil spills and the fair allocation of compensation.”

Ms Perry stated that the minutes of the meeting will be released soon.

This meeting is part of an ongoing process of discussion, with Shell planning to meet with other student groups from Aberdeen and, potentially, Exeter.

The company has also agreed to a follow up meeting with the Cambridge and Oxford representatives in November.

Amnesty has also been active on other issues in Cambridge recently as last week the outside of King’s College once again became the temporary sight of the Amnesty Cage.

The termly event marks a campaign by CUAI against prisoners of conscience. This particular occasion was aimed at raising awareness of the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi and the plight of Generation 88, a prominent Burmese opposition group who have been suffering reprisals since their protests against the government in 1988.

Emma Johnson, cage coordinator, told TCS, “This cage was very successful, collecting many signatures for our petition and raising about £250 for Amnesty.”

Jennifer Boon & Faye Presland