Export Credit Agencies and Human Rights: Failure to Protect

Export credit agencies (ECAs) are public entities that provide corporations with government- backed loans, guarantees, credits and insurance to support exports and foreign investments. ECAs are largely focused on facilitating domestic commerce in lesser developed countries and emerging economies, under conditions of significant political and financial risk. ECAs are an important source of finance and insurance for the private sector. These agencies’ influence grew significantly in the wake of the global economic crisis, as states expanded their mandates, budgets and borrowing power.

Export credit agencies facilitate exports and investments that are responsible for significant human rights violations. In his 2011 annual report to the General Assembly, Mr. Cephas Lumina, then UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, affirmed that:

"A significant number of the projects supported by export credit agencies, particularly large dams, oil pipelines, greenhouse gas- emitting coal and nuclear power plants, chemical facilities, mining projects and forestry and plantation schemes, have severe environmental, social and human rights impacts."

This publication presents select case studies to demonstrate that Mr. Lumina’s assessment remains accurate, despite widespread endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles. The case studies presented in this text feature diverse export credit agencies, a range of private sector actors and varied host states. Yet they all involve significant human rights impacts. Moreover, they represent an extremely small subset of the many ECA transactions that are associated with human rights violations. This report identifies policy and law reform recommendations that seek to ensure that export credit agencies no longer commit nor are complicit in human rights violations.