Training in human rights

May 28, 1999, 10:00 CEST

A UN programme being backed by Statoil Venezuela aims to give the country's judges and public defenders a grounding in human rights.

Being organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), this project is receiving NOK 500,000 from the Statoil subsidiary.

Amnesty International and the independent state agency which appoints and trains Venezuelan judges is also involved in the educational venture.

The cooperation agreement was signed on 26 May, and the first phase is due to start during the autumn.

This involves a training programme for 30 experienced judges which covers human rights as well as international law and regulations. It will be led by specialists in international law.

All Venezuelan judges and public defenders will undergo the course during the next two phases.

The aim is to enhance expertise about human rights in the legal system and thereby prevent the breaches of international law and rules which occur in the Latin American country.

"Venezuela's new government is reforming the judicial system to strengthen the legal rights of its citizens," explains Staffan Riben, president of Statoil Venezuela. "This represents an important step in the right direction."

He adds that the company wants to show its own employees, partners and the national authorities that it takes human rights seriously.

"So we're not only supporting this UN project, but also ensuring that our personnel, partners and suppliers understand the importance of respecting such rights and living up to them in their everyday operations."

Anne Kristin Sydnes, vice president for national risk and human rights in Statoil, welcomes this move by the Venezuelan subsidiary to demonstrate that it takes its social responsibilities seriously.

"This programme is a pilot project, and as such represents a new model for collaboration between industry, the UN, Amnesty and the authorities.

"We hope to draw lessons from this, not least in enhancing the understanding our employees have about the society in which we operate."

The Norwegian authorities take a very positive view of the project, a press conference in Caracas was told by Bjørnar Utheim. He is Norway's ambassador to Venezuela.

Representatives for the Venezuelan authorities also expressed their support for the venture at the press conference.