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The Dakota Access Pipeline and Japanese Banks

SNA (Tokyo) — Three Japanese megabanks are among the investors in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). They are Mizuho Bank, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, and the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation. In December 2016, activists launched a petition titled “Japanese Big Banks: Stop Funding Human and Environmental Rights Abuses at DAPL Now!,” which garnered over 10,000 signatures of support within its first month.

A section of the petition reads, “The DAPL pipeline is contrary to Mizuho’s own stated human rights values. For example, Mizuho policy states that they ‘take steps to assess the impact of new activities and products on human rights… [and] have established a system that periodically examines these in the light of established criteria from the point of view of human rights.’ The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsui Bank have similar policies.”

This campaign has garnered support from an Ainu activist, Akemi Shimada, who released a video in which she stated, “I would like to call for everyone to join in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who oppose the DAPL to help protect the land, the people, the sacred grounds, and the environment.” She added, “I would like to show our solidarity with the Native American DAPL protest campaign. As an Ainu now living by the traditions of our ancestors, I’d like to ask the banks to sign on and to terminate the DAPL immediately.”

In an interview with the Shingetsu News Agency, activist Haruka Aoki explains, “I went to America in September, and visited Standing Rock at the Oceti Sakowin Camp and the Sacred Stone Camp at the end of October. After returning home I immediately established the ‘Japan Stands with Standing Rock’ campaign. I want to tell what happened at Standing Rock to the Japanese people.”

Her friend and colleague Saeko Imai continues, “These banks are familiar most everywhere and they are an indispensable part of our lives. Unfortunately, they are financing and investing in this pipeline. This has made life difficult for the people of Standing Rock. We are not told about such financing and investment in the news media, or how our money is being spent. There is no transparency.”

Satoko Itani, a Kansai-based activist, adds, “The reason I want to join this movement and stop the funding is because this pipeline will cause—and it’s only a mater of time—very serious environmental destruction. This whole process of building the pipeline has been really damaging to human rights.”

These Japanese activists and others are calling upon the public to withdraw their business from the three Japanese banks unless they divest from DAPL. The Shingetsu News Agency contacted all three Japanese megabanks for their reactions to the campaign.

Mizuho Bank simply referred us to their press release of December 16, 2016, which stated:

“Mizuho Americas has been actively monitoring the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project, including the recent decision to halt construction near the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Army Corps of Engineers has denied the final easement required for the $3.8 billion project to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota and will conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to further examine potential impacts and explore alternative routes. As the Army Corps of Engineers continues to look for alternative routes for the pipeline, Mizuho, as a lender, is simultaneously seeking guidance from and collaborating with an independent human rights expert to review compliance and legal engagements relating to tribal government, community engagement, security, and environmental issues relating to DAPL. Mizuho is deeply committed to upholding our social responsibilities and public mission as a financial institution. Mizuho encourages all parties involved to continue to communicate in a collaborative, safe and respectful dialogue.”

The Corporate Communications Division of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ released a short statement at the request of the SNA which read, “Consistent with our global commitment to a sustainable society, we respect responsible energy development and continue to take the concerns and safety of all parties into consideration.”

Likewise, the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation released a short, special statement to the SNA reading, “We, SMBC, decline to comment on individual projects.”

In other words, all three Japanese megabanks have thus far declined to respond actively to the campaign and to divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Video Credits: Allan McIntyre (camera) and Michael Penn (editing).

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