MAC: Mines and Communities

ome funny things happened on the way to the forum

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

ome funny things happened on the way to the forum

Rio Tinto takes its divide-and-rule strategy to the heart of London NGO's.

Statement from PARTiZANS, London July 16 1998

Rio Tinto held its second "forum" for NGO's on July 20th in London. Its first - highly selective - forum, with only a few privileged NGO's invited - had been in May, when the company's business policy document "The Way We Work" was first circulated for comment. Ostensibly held under the auspices of the Green Alliance, the second forum was much better attended, but - according to reports from some who were there - equally shallow and even more "loaded" with company personnel. Any pretence at a thorough, objective, appraisal of the company's operations and intentions went out the window from the start.

Partizans was not invited to the Forum. Indeed, we were the only group specifically excluded - not by the supposed organisers, but by the company itself, which declared it could not have "constructive engagement" with us. This decision meant that at least one NGO - the World Development Movement - refused to attend in solidarity with ourselves. Others - Friends of the Earth, Minewatch, the Women's Environmental Network - agreed with at least some of Partizans views and boycotted the event. Survival International and Down to Earth were among those who, while expressing reservations, decided to attend. Bewilderingly, Oxfam which had decided not to go, because of the failure to involve partner organisations in the exercise, turned up after all.

Partizans' London-based collective was unanimous in calling for a boycott of the Forum: our reasons are outlined in the letter (shortened, below) which was circulated to a large number of the forty groups and individuals invited to the meeting. Given the way the Forum was pre-arranged by the company, and its multiple failures to confront and answer its critics, we are now even more convinced we were right in our boycott call. We had predicted that Rio Tinto would try to divide its critics into the "acceptable" and the "unacceptable" - and this was confirmed.

The ICEM and CFMEU - our partners in the network which produced this year's alternative report ("Tainted Titan") - have called on the company to agree to an open forum, at which Rio Tinto's operations can receive the scrutiny they deserve. So far the company has rejected the request (one almost identical to the demand Partizans has been making since 1986).

It would be both saddening and extremely worrying if those who attended the July forum with Rio Tinto did not now support this demand as a minimum precondition for any further meetings with the company.

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