Elite perceptions of ethical problems facing the Western oil industry in Azerbaijan
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Original versionNUPI-rapport nr. 256. NUPI, 2000
This is a study of the Azerbaijani political elite’s perceptions of Western oil companies and their contribution to – or hindrance of – the development of democracy and human rights. Twenty oppositional figures, including most of the party leaders and presidential candidates, plus some media, NGO and academic personalities, were subjected to an in-depth interview. There was a consensus that the Western oil industry was at best irrelevant and at worst inimical to the cause of democracy and human rights in Azerbaijan. This is because short-term commercial considerations have led it to kowtow to the dictatorship, ignore the political opposition and boycott the free media. There is also pay discrimination against Azerbaijani labour. Above all, it was almost universally agreed that the Western oil industry is aggravating the corruption of Azerbaijani life. Nobody thought Statoil worse than the other foreign oil companies, but only a minority thought it better. The result of this undesirable behaviour is likely to be the severe displeasure of any new government based on the current political opposition, which may prefer Japanese and Chinese investment. At worst, the population’s acute disillusionment with the West and the social misery caused by corruption and mismanagement may override Azerbaijan’s secular and moderate traditions and bring about an Islamic Republic. The elite makes many suggestions for what the Western oil companies can and should do to improve the situation: such as not being bluffed by the president, insisting on transparent accounting, cultivating alternative centres of power, facilitating scientific, educational and cultural exchange and supporting the Azerbaijani cause in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.