When vegetable oil was discovered in 1979 near the village of Sarykamys, in northwest Kazakhstan, the Soviet Union immediately considered relocating the population. These plans did not materialise, and the village remained for the adjacent 23 years. By the early 2000s, doctors said 90 % of the people of Sarykamys were ill, and the average liveliness anticipation was 46. Out of a population of 3,450, 189 people aged 24-53 died in Sarykamys between the start of development at the Tengiz oil field and the village ’ second move in 2002. This was 5.5 % of the population. besides much, the origin of natural resources comes at great cost to workers and local communities. Human rights issues, such as hazardous working conditions, labor rights abuses, effects on the health of local populations and dangerous environmental impacts, are rampant in the extractives sector. Kazakhstan is no exception.

In 2021, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre ( BHRRC ) set out to shine a fall on these issues. Our report card, Digging in the Shadows : Eastern Europe and Central Asia ’ s Opaque Extractives Industry, looked at 30 extractives companies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with a concentrate on Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan. We studied the 10 largest companies extracting resources from the earth in each nation ; in Kazakhstan, these were all in the oil industry. In Armenia and Georgia, they were by and large mining and cement projects. We recorded the highest act of allegations of human rights abuses in Kazakhstan. Many of these were accusations of dangerous abuse, including violence, killings, mass poisoning due to toxic accelerator emissions, and unpaid wages. This information came from a assortment of sources, such as journalists and NGOs, which the BHRRC compiled and analysed .

Corruption enables human rights violations

Journalists and activists who informed our findings repeatedly raised concerns about corruption in Kazakhstan ’ randomness oil sector. Corruption has meaning minus impacts on human rights, particularly in relation to business and commercial interests. Businesses engaging in corruption are less probable to face accountability and department of justice for human rights violations, with relevant state parties often ‘ dissuaded ’ from investigating, punishing and preventing abuses. As a resultant role, human rights abuses are much allowed to continue. In the ill-famed ‘ Kazakhgate ’ font, in 2010 a US court found Mobil – a rear caller of Tengizchevroil and now separate of US energy elephantine ExxonMobil – had paid millions of dollars in bribe to Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan ’ s former president. Activists claim these strong connections helped Tengizchevroil escape dangerous consequences for illegal activity, including human rights abuses. What is Tengizchevroil ? A joint speculation between the Kazakh country and french, US and russian multinational oil companies formed in 1993 to explore the Tengiz oil battlefield. Human rights advocates working on business-related issues have besides faced climb coerce and confrontation from the authorities. According to activist Sergey Solyanik, the Kazakh government makes statements in digest of homo rights, “ but when people face problems, the authorities frequently support perpetrators ( companies ), and not their own citizens and homo rights defenders who raise these problems ” .Law enforcement officer patrols the streets in oil town of Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan. (image: ITAR-TASS / Anatoly Ustinenko / Alamy) A law enforcement officer patrols the streets in oil town of Zhanaozen ( trope : ITAR-TASS / Anatoly Ustinenko / Alamy )

The interconnections in Kazakhstan’s oil sector

The top 10 extractives companies in Kazakhstan are interconnected, and nine are under partial or full government control. KazMunaiGas, a state-owned anoint and boast caller, has an interest in closely all major oil projects in the nation. In the case of its direct subsidiaries, KazMunaiGas exerts hard control over them, and has the power to prevent and address the homo rights impacts its subsidiaries cause or contribute to. Most notably, Ozenmunaigaz was the subject of striking workers ’ complaints in 2011 in the industrial city of Zhanaozen ; the strikes were met with violence by authorities. Another subordinate, Embamunaygas, has besides been accused of corruption and violating union workers ’ rights .Kazakhstan residents hold protest rallies in Republic Square Kazakhstanis hold protest rallies in Republic Square, Almaty, against measures taken by police and authorities to suppress mass disorder in the oil town of Zhanaozen on Independence Day. At least 10 people were killed in violent clashes between police and demonstrators on 16 December 2011 ( prototype : ITAR-TASS / Anatoly Ustinenko / Alamy ) In summation to its direct subsidiaries, KazMunaiGas holds shares in about every major vegetable oil stick out in Kazakhstan. It exerts control condition over these companies both through its shares and its status as an surgical arm of Kazakhstan ’ sulfur government. As such, the company has meaning power to prevent and address homo rights issues, even when it is not the exclusive owner. major allegations against extractives companies have included : the multitude poisoning of children due to toxic accelerator emissions in the village of Berezovka ( Karachaganak Petroleum Operating ) ; hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses related to Tengiz petroleum field ( Tengizchevroil ) ; risks that tens of thousands of residents in Atyrau region could be exposed to mass poisoning ( North Caspian Operating Company ) ; criminal charges against labor activists ( Mangistaumunaigaz ) ; violations of union rights and retaliation against protesting workers ( Karazhanbasmunai ) ; and dangerous contaminant of the environment ( Kazgermunai ). BHRRC contacted all the extractives companies multiple times for remark. Karachaganak Petroleum Operating and North Caspian Operating Company responded to BHRRC ’ sulfur request for comment ; KPO denied the allegations, and NCOC explained its policies related to health, water and the environment .The head office of the JSC 'KazMunaiGas', located in the city of Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan (image: Alamy) The towering building of the KazMunaiGas headquarter in Nūr-Sūltan, the capital of Kazakhstan ( persona : Alamy ) however, KazMunaiGas is not the only company involved ; western companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Eni, Shell and Total hold meaning control and possession over many of the largest vegetable oil companies in the nation. western investors, such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, have besides invested importantly in oil projects and supporting infrastructure .

The push for corporate accountability

This is not to say that everything in Kazakhstan is wholly desperate. Human rights defenders and NGOs such as Crude Accountability have worked indefatigably to bring external attention to these issues. Although pressure from the government and oil companies on these groups is growing, their activities have become increasingly long-familiar in Kazakhstani club. And although they may not always be continue, corporate policies around human rights and the environment are widespread and full-bodied – all 10 of the lead extractives companies in the area now have some form of human rights policy. When asked what the international community can do to help protect human rights defenders in Kazakhstan, Solyanik told BHRRC : “ First of wholly, to attract attention, raise issues and keep the state bodies of the Republic of Kazakhstan in good shape, stimulate them to solve problems. At the same time, it is very important that attention from international organisations helps specific citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan to solve specific problems, and not equitable be limited to another report card [ saying ] ‘ how bad everything is ’ in the country. This besides applies to human rights defenders, who are at the vanguard of protecting the rights of citizens. ”

While economic development is important, growth without human rights inherently undermines the state determination of development : to improve the lives and wellbeing of the individuals and communities within a company. Although companies and commercial enterprise activities can be key drivers of sustainable development, they can besides basically sabotage human rights through abuses and unintended impacts. Extractives companies in Kazakhstan have a long room to go to prove they are part of sustainable development, as opposed to undermining it .

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