Overrated Standards of International Financial Institutions

by Sofia

At the end of 2016 the boycott of Ameriabank started in Armenia because of the contract signed between the bank and Lydian Armenia for providing the latter with a loan of 24 million USD to purchase equipment for construction of the gold mine and heap leach facility in Amulsar. This was particularly enraging since this is one of those banks in Armenia that presents itself as a green bank, while two of its boarding members are actively involved in charity and development projects in Armenia.

As the boycott was becoming more popular, the employees of the bank started a self-defense. They argued that World Bank’s (WB) private-lending arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) do not distribute loans to everyone, and if this project received the support of these institutions, then it is a trustworthy project. They insisted on this on the Facebook rating page of the bank (as the rating of the bank was going down), as well as during individual meetings with some of the dissatisfied customers. (more…)


Privatized Rivers of Armenia

by Sofia

Argitchi SHPP

Argitchi SHPP sponsored by KFW, GAF© Ecolur

There are around 173 small hydropower plants (SHPP) in Armenia, of which around 114 are on natural streams. The license for these SHPPs is given for about 15 years. The electricity producers sell the electricity to “Electric Networks of Armenia” CJSC for around 11-25AMD (2-5 US cents kilowatt/hours). They do not however pay minimal taxes for water usage which used to go to the community budget before. Moreover, the documents that regulate SHPP sector are 50-60 years old and there has been no updated assessment of water resources in Armenia. (more…)

Happy Birthday to the UNGPs – Happy Anniversary to Us All!

Celebrating the 5-year anniversary of the current global framework to render states and companies responsible

By Theresa


On November 5th, 2015, Brazilians have been victims of the worst environmental crime in the country’s history with the collapse of the mining dam operated by Vale/Samarco/BHP. Photo courtesy of the Treaty Alliance initiative

The 5-year anniversary of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) took place on Thursday, 16 June 2016. Anniversaries on the level of the United Nations usually give rise to self-congratulating speeches by politicians and press releases listing demands from civil society organisations. Anniversaries also come very handy for drawing attention to a topic among those who do not yet know about it. This is what this post sets out to do: after a brief introduction to the UNGPs, we benefit from a speech by David Pitt-Watson to ascertain why the potential impact of the UNGPs is so great. The post concludes with an overview over challenges and achievements of the UNGPs during the last 5 years. (more…)

Is Construction Business in Turkey for People or Against People?

by Sofia


© Sofia Manukyan

When I started writing about the culture of construction in Turkey, my attention was caught by an article about gentrification plans in London. People expressed their opposition to the luxury brought by “development” plans in Camden which according to them was not only a threat to the local culture, but also posed a problem in terms of affordability of the neighbourhood. “The heart of Camden is being ripped out, pubs are being converted to luxury flats no-one can afford, venues are under threat, the market is flogged off to be a casino (and yet more unaffordable flats). Rents are rising … fast”, read the event statement on Facebook. This reminded me of the situation in Istanbul.  (more…)

Movies that Educate: 1.5 – Stay Alive

By Theresa

Recently, a friend invited me to join what was called the World Premiere of the movie “1.5 Stay Alive“ directed by Lucian Segur. I have no deeper knowledge about climate change and the politics around them – like the Bonn Climate Change Conference in June 2015. (more…)

TTIP – and Other Mega Trade Deals: What Are We Actually Talking About?

By Theresa

In the debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) all sides constantly refer to its consequences: some say there will be economic growth and wealth for both the European Union (EU) and the US which otherwise would not happen. Others warn that free trade would lead to genetically modified food swamping European supermarkets and cheap European tobacco tempting US consumers. But what is the basis of these claims? This post briefly introduces the publicly available sources for information on TTIP I know about. If you know more, please share your knowledge! (more…)

Sofia’s perspective on this blog

The role of international, as well as local companies in environmental degradation in Armenia has been in the center of my attention for some time. Campaigning with other concerned people, as well as writing articles on this issue allowed me to dig deeper into the subject and find out that Armenia is only one of many countries where foreign/local private investments not only bring something positive, like employment, but also something negative, like environmental degradation. Studying at the University of Essex was beneficial in many senses, including for meeting students and professors concerned about the private sector’s role in degradation of environment, labour conditions, property rights. (more…)