It is often useful for civil society groups advocating against corporate harms to target actors other than the company in question to raise awareness of their activism and seek justice for harms committed. Doing so can often be useful to change the power dynamics between (often local or national) civil society groups and multinational companies.
Local, national, and international civil society organisations are targeting financial institutions, including banks, insurers, and pension funds, to deter funding of the controversial East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). An estimated US$3 billion loan must be secured before construction of the pipeline proceeds. This means that financial institutions considering funding the EACOP’s construction have considerable leverage to ensure the project proceeds only if it meets human rights and environmental standards. This is the reason why these institutions have been targeted to deter their funding the pipeline.
The EACOP is a joint project by French oil company TotalEnergies SE (Total) and majority state-owned Chinese company China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). If completed, the pipeline would be the longest heated crude oil pipeline in the world, transporting oil from fields in Hoima, Uganda to the port of Tanga, Tanzania.
The project raises serious human rights and environmental concerns, including displacement of local communities, threats to incomes, livelihoods, and water sources, risks to biodiversity and natural habitats caused by the pipeline and possible oil spills, not to mention the EACOP’s contribution to climate change if operational. Several national, regional, and international NGOs have published reports detailing these concerns. Many of these organisations have formed an alliance called #StopEACOP, an example of NGOs banding together to put a spotlight on the risks of the pipeline and halt its construction.
Civil society has urged Total and CNOOC to cease their involvement in the project. In September 2020, more than one million people signed a petition calling on Total to cancel the EACOP. So far, both companies have resisted these calls.
In an effort to stop the financing of the EACOP, and therefore the construction of the pipeline, civil society is also targeting the project’s financial advisors and potential financiers. These entities have significant leverage over Total and CNOOC – given their need to secure a multi-billion-dollar loan prior to the pipeline’s construction – to put pressure on Total and CNOOC to respect the law, as well as human rights and environmental standards.
#StopEACOP’s campaign Go Global aims to stop the flow of corporate money funding the construction of the pipeline.
In March 2021, 263 civil society organisations signed a joint, public letter demanding the four financial advisors of the EACOP – Standard Bank (South Africa) and its Ugandan subsidiary Stanbic Bank Uganda, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC, China), and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC, Japan) – cease their involvement in the project. The letter also called on 22 other potential financier banks to publicly commit to not finance the project. Thus far, none of the four financial advisors have agreed to end their involvement. However, several other banks and insurers have publicly stated that they will neither fund nor insure the EACOP, respectively.
Civil society organisations are also calling on Total’s investors to divest from the company. In September 2022, 13 Dutch NGOs, including Mind the Gap consortium member SOMO, published a letter urging Dutch banks, pension funds, and insurers to divest from Total because of the EACOP project.
Other civil society counter-strategies related to stopping the EACOP
Opposition to the EACOP is an example of two other civil society counter-strategies identified by the Mind the Gap project:
- Bringing legal action in a company’s home state: In October 2019, six NGOs (four French and two Ugandan) jointly filed a claim under France’s Duty of Vigilance Law alleging shortcomings in Total’s vigilance (or human rights due diligence) plan. The lawsuit was the first to be filed under the Duty of Vigilance Law and is ongoing. For more information on mandatory human rights due diligence, see Mind the Gap’s counter-strategy Making soft law into hard law.
- Using international complaints mechanisms: Kenyan, Tanzanian, and Ugandan organisations are seeking a temporary injunction to stop construction of the EACOP from the East African Court of Justice. Civil society has also sought assistance from UN human rights experts. Following the filing of the lawsuit against Total under the Duty of Vigilance Law, Ugandan community members that testified to the French court about the loss of their land and the potential harms of the EACOP project reportedly experienced harassment, intimidation, and were detained, interrogated and/or arrested. Several UN Special Rapporteurs were notified. The Rapporteurs subsequently sent letters seeking further information from Total and its Ugandan subsidiary, as well as the French and Ugandan governments.
 #StopEACOP, ‘Don’t bank on EACOP: Who’s backing the pipeline and who’s ruled it out?,’ last updated May 2022, https://www.stopeacop.net/banks-checklist (20 October 2022).
 See, for example: Les Amis de la Terre France and Survie, EACOP: A disaster in the making, October 2022, https://www.amisdelaterre.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/eacop-a-disaster-in-the-making-foe-france-and-survie-oct-2022.pdf (14 October 2022); Oxfam International, Empty promises down the line? A human rights impact assessment of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, September 2020, https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/621045/rr-empty-promises-down-line-101020-en.pdf (14 October 2022).
 AVAAZ, ‘Stop this Total madness,’ 31 August 2020, https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/stop_the_total_disaster_loc/ (14 October 2022).
 #StopEACOP, ‘Don’t bank on EACOP: Who’s backing the pipeline and who’s ruled it out?,’ last updated May 2022, https://www.stopeacop.net/banks-checklist (14 October 2022); #StopEACOP, ‘Insure out future, not the EACOP: Who’s backing the pipeline and who’s ruled it out?,’ last updated August 2022, https://www.stopeacop.net/insurers-checklist (14 October 2022).
 Les Amis de la Terre France and Survie, Total Uganda. A first lawsuit under the duty of vigilance law: An update, October 2020,
https://www.amisdelaterre.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/total-uganda-legal-brief-foefrance-survie.pdf (14 October 2022).
 East African Community, ‘Court hears matter challenging the construction on East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline,’ 3 March 2022, https://www.eac.int/press-releases/2385-court-hears-matter-challenging-the-construction-on-east-africa-crude-oil-pipeline (14 October 2022).
 The matter was adjourned in March 2022 and is currently ongoing. East African Community, ‘Court hears matter challenging the construction on East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline,’ 3 March 2022, https://www.eac.int/press-releases/2385-court-hears-matter-challenging-the-construction-on-east-africa-crude-oil-pipeline (14 October 2022); East African Court of Justice, ‘Application No. 29 of 2020 (Arising from Reference No. 39 of 2020) Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) Limited & 3 Others vs. The Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda, The Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania, and The Secretary General of the East African Community,’ 2 March 2022, https://www.eacj.org/?cases=application-no-29-of-2020-arising-from-reference-no-39-of-2020-centre-for-food-and-adequate-living-rights-cefroht-limited-3-others-vs-the-attorney-general-of-the-republic-of-uganda-the-attor-2 (14 October 2022); Vanguard News, ‘Courts have a duty to play in stopping EACOP- Activists to EACJ,’ 2 March 2022, https://www.vanguardnews.ug/courts-have-a-duty-to-play-in-stopping-eacop-activists-to-eacj/ (14 October 2022).
 Letter from UN Special Rapporteurs to Mr Patrick Pouyanné, President Total France, 20 April 2020, https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25137 (14 October 2022); Letter from UN Special Rapporteurs to Ugandan Government, 20 April 2020, https://www.banktrack.org/download/letter_from_special_rapporteurs_of_the_human_rights_council_to_government_of_uganda/letter_un_rapporteurs_to_ugandan_government.pdf (14 October 2022).