Negotiating Community Agreements Between Chevron and Niger Delta Stakeholders

CBI designs and facilitates the re-negotiation of community agreements between Chevron Nigeria Ltd., and its stakeholders in the contentious Niger Delta. The re-negotiation follows an innovative participatory stakeholder assessment of the previous agreements, led by CBI.

Background and Challenges

Each year, multi-national petroleum corporations and the federal government of Nigeria pump billions of dollars worth of oil from Nigeria's Niger Delta region. Yet much of the population remains mired in extreme poverty and, for decades, relations between local communities, oil companies, and the Nigerian government have been severely strained. The situation has been exacerbated by the emergence of violent groups who sabotage oil installations and kidnap oil company workers.

Seeking to improve engagement with communities impacted by its oil operations, the country’s second largest oil producer, Chevron, signed a series of three-year Global Memoranda of Understanding (GMOUs) with communities and state governments. The agreements were intended to promote more transparent and effective community-led development projects, improve relationships and strengthen Chevron’s social license to operate.

As the first round of GMOUs neared expiration amid a tense climate, Chevron asked CBI to lead a participatory evaluation of the agreements in order to generate information about their impact that would be credible for all stakeholders. Community leaders and Chevron subsequently invited CBI to design and facilitate negotiations to revise the agreements.

The CBI Approach

CBI engages community representatives, Chevron, and government officials in the design and implementation of a participatory stakeholder evaluation that reaches nearly 1,000 stakeholders through interviews and focus groups. CBI then designs and facilitates a structured negotiation process to revise the community agreements based on the mutually credible information of the evaluation.

CBI started the process with an innovative participatory evaluation of existing community agreements. The evaluation was jointly conducted by Chevron, community leaders, government representatives, and concerned NGOs, and provided a shared understanding of GMOU strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

One finding of the evaluation was that many stakeholders felt the previous GMOU negotiation process did not include the full range of community viewpoints. CBI prepared a jointly designed and analyzed evaluation report that provided a source of credible public information.

After participating in the evaluation, Chevron and community representatives invited CBI to facilitate the renegotiation of formal accords between Chevron and local communities. In partnership with a local NGO, New Nigeria Foundation, CBI designed and facilitated the negotiations as a neutral third-party. CBI’s strategy, based on the Mutual Gains Approach to the negotiations, followed the premise that a credible, carefully structured, and more transparent negotiation process would serve the interest of all.

The CBI facilitated negotiations process included:

  • Combined training for all parties in the Mutual Gains Approach to negotiation
  • Collaborative naming and framing of the issues to be negotiated
  • Separate, structured, and facilitated preparation by each party
  • Shared sessions to discuss interests, options and to identify joint gains
  • Shared sessions to resolve impasses and disagreements

Results

CBI’s approach marks a significant departure from previous negotiations, takes less time, and improves relationships – demonstrating that effective stakeholder engagement is possible, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

CBI's structured negotiation process helped ensure that the negotiators identified all possible outcomes that would benefit all parties. By sharing the underlying reasons why different issues were important to each party, they were better able to satisfy their interests at the negotiating table. As a result, participants came to the table well prepared for productive discussions about an extensive list of complex issues. Rather than taking months or years, as past discussions had, the negotiations for new GMOU agreements lasted a matter of weeks. In addition, CBI’s approach ultimately helped the parties to interact more comfortably, strengthen fragile relationships and set a successful precedent for ongoing relations.


To learn more about "best practices" and the key elements in effective corporate-community engagement, read a more in-depth case study on this project here: Corporate and Community Engagement in the Niger Delta: Lessons Learned from Chevron Nigeria Limited’s GMOU Process

Watch a video about the GMOU process at right.