November 28, 2001 – Environment, labor and human rights groups today assailed the OECD Export Credit Group (ECG) for failing to meet its deadline to complete mandated environmental reforms set by civil society, OECD Ministers and G-8 Leaders. The OECD ECG has for years been under orders to negotiate adequate environmental reforms by 2001. Yet, a leaked document indicates that by its final meeting of the year this week the body has fallen far short of expectations.
“For years the OECD Export Credit Group had notice from on high that it is way behind the international community on environmental and social norms for international financial institutions. And now it has squandered the opportunity it had to catch up with the modern world,” said Douglas Norlen, from Pacific Environment in US and the Export Credit Agencies-Watch Network.
Though the national Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) in the OECD Export Credit Group are little-known, they facilitate $400-$500 billion in exports and investments going to developing countries and transition economies.
“These agencies are coming under increased scrutiny due to their harmful impacts globally and their lack of environmental and social safeguards,” said Sébastien Godinot, from Friends of the Earth France.
A leaked OECD document, entitled “REV6,” indicates a failure by the Export Credit Group to meet mandates for the adoption of basic environmental policies comparable to other internationally recognized, publicly supported multilateral finance agencies such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is part of the World Bank Group. These include advance disclosure of environmental impact assessments and other environmental information; consultation with local affected communities; quantifiable environmental performance requirements and adherence to standards to avoid corruption or bribery. Another leaked document, an internal transcript of a statement from the head of the IFC, backs up this contention:
“ECAs maintain the status quo, they continue to spend public funds to facilitate private sector projects that at times public financial institutions might not finance – these are projects that could create difficulties under our environmental, social and disclosure policies, procedures and guidelines. The result is an uneven playing field that at times places IFC at a disadvantage…For those reasons, the NGOs’ position resonates with me,” said Peter Woicke, Executive Vice President of the IFC.
“Mr. Woicke’s remarks show that the OECD Export Credit Group’s refusal to respect internationally recognized norms is emblematic of their increasing isolationism from the rest of the international financial community,” said Antonio Tricarico, from Eyes on SACE Campaign in Italy. “The OECD ECG has enshrined the culture of secrecy and export promotion at any cost that breeds the project debacles and corruption that we have seen throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America,” said Aaron Goldzimer, from Environmental Defense in US.
Ironically, the US has threatened to block “REV6”, holding out for stronger environmental policies at the ECG; and the German Government has been the country most resistant to real environmental reform. This causes some political observers to label the scenario a “reverse Kyoto,” wherein Germany attempts to blame the US for once again rejecting an environmental agreement. But this time for the right environmental reasons and Germany is the one defending global polluters.
“The obstructionism of Germany’s Export Credit Agency, Hermes, in these negotiations betrayed the Schroeder government’s green politics and undermines Germany’s pro-environment image in other international arenas,” said Regine Richter from URGEWALD in Germany.
“The only government still opposing the draft is the US. NGOs are hopeful that they will not sell out,” said Jon Sohn, from Friends of the Earth International. NGOs believe that little progress will be made so long as ECAs are in charge of negotiating their own reform.
“It’s no secret anymore that ECAs are completely environmentally retrograde; that’s why G-8 leaders have for years issued mandates demanding their reform. REV6 is a perpetuation of the status quo, and Germany’s intransigence shows that it’s just the worst of a bad bunch,” said Heike Drillisch from WEED in Germany.
“Letting ECAs negotiate their own policies on environmental performance and transparency is like letting crooks write laws on corruption,” said Nicholas Hildyard, from The Cornerhouse in UK. “Until higher political levels take responsibility for enacting meaningful reforms, the Export Credit Group will continue to be a stain on the reputation of the OECD.”
For updated press information about the campaign to reform Export Credit Agencies see www.eca-watch.org