Partnership or PR stunt? – Katy Gardner on Chevron and villagers in Bangladesh

Katy Gardner in Bangladesh

Writing on Open Democracy, Katy Gardner, author of Discordant Development: Global Capitalism and the Struggle for Connection in Bangladesh, reports on the ‘corporate partnership’ between the multinational oil and gas company Chevron and the villages surrounding the Bibiyana Gas Field in Bangladesh. Based on first-hand research, she finds the ‘partnership’ to be problematic:

It sounds good. But before rushing to congratulate multinational energy corporations for their progressive investments, we need to look closely at the relationships they glibly describe as ‘partnerships’. If the ability to hear and be heard is a basic component of a healthy partnership, we saw little in the way of Chevron hearing the concerns of the poor.

People told us that although initially there were ‘community consultation meetings’, once the land acquisition process was complete, community liaison staff retreated behind the high wire fence of the enclave and only the elite leaders had any means of contacting them. There are no grievance procedures and no open meetings. Whilst the company did respond to farmers’ complaints of damage to the environment, they acted without consulting the farmers.

The main issue was the installation’s high banked roads, which prevent water from flowing evenly over rice fields during the wet season. Chevron built culverts in the roads, but these were too small and became blocked with weeds. A year later, no further action had been taken.

In contrast, Gardner outlines what authentic ‘corporate partnerships’ should involve:

This surely, is where multinationals could make a real contribution to social progress: publishing what they pay, supporting the government and other agencies in anti-corruption measures and being accountable to the populations where they work, would be real steps towards supporting human rights and justice, rather than funding NGOs to carry out small scale projects that provide plenty of photo opportunities for the PR machine, but little in the way of real partnership.

Visit Open Democracy to read the article in full.

Visit Katy’s website for a free sample chapter from the book and more photos from her research in Bangladesh.

Discordant Development

Global Capitalism and the Struggle for Connection in Bangladesh

Katy Gardner

Based on extensive field work, looks at the impact of a multinational mining company on four densely populated villages in rural Bangladesh.

“Katy Gardner treads a finely judged line, keeping both neoliberal developers and anti-globalisation activists at arm’s length in order to describe relations at a human scale, thereby doing for development what anthropology ought. She addresses a number of highly topical issues include the paradoxical developmental effects of extractive industries, Corporate Social Responsibility as a form of neoliberal governmentality (handled especially well), microfinance and corruption. This is an extremely rare opening up of the world of ordinary people affected by such schemes.” – David Mosse, Professor of Social Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

£21.99 only £19.50 on the Pluto site

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