EarthRights International has recently undertaken to research the accountability of actors, other than transational corporations. Development projects taking place in the regions in which ERI works typically involve several actors, TNCs, host and home governments, private banks, international financial institutions (IFIs) and export credit agencies (ECAs). ERI has mainly focused on the accountability of TNCs over which ATCA jurisdiction can be had in US courts. However, project funders such as the World Bank and other IFIs, as well as ECAs are increasingly being looked to for accountability for human rights and environment violations which take place in relation or in conjunction with development projects which they fund.
ECAs use public funds or a combination of public and private funds to provide loans, guarantees, and insurance in support of overseas investment and exports by domestic corporations. Most developed countries have at least one taxpayer-funded export credit agency. ECAs have minimal transparency, accountability, and safeguards related to human rights, corruption, or the environment. As a result, ECAs often fund controversial projects, ranging from extractive industry projects to infrastructure developments. Many ECA-backed projects have been associated with significant human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, use of paramilitary ‘security’ forces, forced resettlement, inadequate consultation and compensation, violations of the right to a healthy environment, loss of livelihood and destruction of sacred and cultural sites.
International human rights law requires states to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, which extend to their respective institutions, including ECAs.
Given the recent attempted attacks to ATCA, the increased engagement of these funding agencies, and the participation of TNCs which are not subject to jurisdiction in US courts, ERI has joined other like-minded NGOs in seeking to define the human rights obligationsof these other actors as well as stregthening and developing mechanisms to hold them accountable. In order to ensure that ECA-backed projects are not directly responsible for or complicit with human rights violations, a number of human rights advocates and ECA campaigners have begun to explore mechanisms and standards to ensure the protection of human rights in projects supported by ECAs. Potential tools or strategies may include national litigation; regional and international mechanisms, such as regional human rights courts, the ILO, OECD National Contact Points, and UN treaty bodies and Special Rapporteurs; and parliamentary oversight and implementation of human rights impact assessments.
In September 2005, ERI joined approximately 60 human rights and ECA reform campaign activists at a Workshop in Brussels on ECAs and Human Rights to assess options for holding ECAs accountable to human rights standards in project-funding and explore potential collaborations and joint initiatives. The Workshop was organized by ESCR-Net in partnership and coordination with the Halifax Initiative and ECA-Watch .
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