OECD Includes Human Rights Due Diligence in Recommendations for Export Credit Agencies

Learn more about our work with financial institutions on the Guiding Principles

Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) act as intermediaries between governments and a country’s exporters to provide export financing of various kinds (either direct financial support or credit insurance and guarantees).

For over a decade, the OECD has promoted recommendations for ECAs with respect to the environmental and, more recently, the social due diligence that they should conduct on applications for export credits. Known as the “Common Approaches”, these recommendations apply to all OECD member states and are intended to guide the work of their official ECAs. While the Common Approaches were updated in 2012 to recognize the relevance of the Guiding Principles to the provision of export credits, they did not provide any further guidance on how human rights due diligence relates to ECAs’ existing environmental and social due diligence.

Now for the first time, in the revised Common Approaches published by the OECD Council on April 7, 2016, there is an explicit statement that ECAs should screen all applications covered by the Common Approaches for severe human rights risks (para 6). A risk could be severe because of the gravity of the harm, its widespread nature, the extent to which the impacts can be remediated, or the general operating context (footnote 2). Where screening identifies a high likelihood of such risks, ECAs should further assess them, including potentially by complementing their existing environmental and social due diligence with human rights due diligence (paras 8 and 14).

This update starts to recognize the changed environment since 2012. This includes the fact that leading ECAs have been updating their policies and practices to integrate a human rights lens into their existing due diligence processes by focusing on the severity of risks to people, in line with the UNGPs.

Other financial institutions tend to face similar challenges about integrating human rights into existing due diligence. Shift has supported a number of financial institutions to strengthen their approaches in this area, including the Norwegian ECA (GIEK) and the Dutch, German and UK Development Finance Institutions. We have also explored these issues with the International Finance Corporation in relation to the IFC’s own Performance Standards. Our report on identifying and assessing high risk human rights circumstances, drawing on all this work, can be found here.

In relation to the OECD, also see:

Independent Report Recommends how FIFA Needs to Manage the Far-Reaching Human Rights Risks of its Global Enterprise

Shift supported the independent review and helped develop its recommendations 

An independent report issued today by former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Shift Chair John Ruggie recommends how FIFA — the global governing body of football — needs to manage the far-reaching human rights risks associated with its activities and relationships. Risks include the displacement of communities to make way for stadiums, risks to workers building tournament infrastructure or manufacturing FIFA-branded goods, and systemic challenges such as gender discrimination throughout association football.

Ruggie agreed to review FIFA’s existing policies and processes to manage human rights risks at FIFA’s request, following its mid-2015 announcement that bids for the 2026 Men’s World Cup will have to meet human rights criteria. He undertook the task on the basis that it would result in a public report, subject to his editorial control. The report sets out 25 recommendations for action.

“FIFA governs and supports a global network of over 200 national football associations and is connected through its tournaments to thousands of businesses. As for any international sports organization today, this kind of global footprint brings with it significant risks to people’s basic dignity and welfare. And that reality demands a robust and proactive response. FIFA is not solely responsible for solving these problems where the actions of others are the primary cause. But it must use its influence to address these human rights risks as determinedly as it does to pursue its commercial interests,” said Ruggie.

Ruggie’s recommendations for FIFA are based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the global standard on business and human rights of which he is the author. In its revised Statutes, adopted in February 2016, FIFA introduced a new provision committing it to respect all internationally recognized human rights.

“The key now is implementation. For my report to have the necessary impact, FIFA’s top leaders need to follow through on its recommendations. That means resourcing the administration adequately for the task and integrating the results of their work into political decision-making. I met with FIFA’s new President Gianni Infantino yesterday and valued the opportunity to discuss my findings and necessary changes at FIFA. It is my sincere hope that he will make this work a priority under his leadership,” said Ruggie. “FIFA’s reputation depends on it.”

Ruggie and Shift’s Managing Director Rachel Davis will speak about the report next week at the 2016 Asia Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights, convened by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on April 19-20 in Doha, Qatar.

Read the report

Press releases: Harvard Kennedy School | FIFA