Press Release - Monday, December 3, 2001

December 03, 2001

Another one bites the dust :
OECD negotiations break down again

For the second time in three years, major international negotiations have broken down at the OECD. Then, it was the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, the “MAI”. This time, it is an attempt at negotiating common environmental guidelines for export credit agencies (ECAs), the world’s largest official financiers of environmentally and socially destructive projects in developing countries.
Like the MAI, these negotiations took place by ignoring and denying the input of civil society. The proposal was drafted behind closed doors, without involvement from national legislators or any other form of democratic oversight. Input from other international institutions and from the environmental departments of the OECD was also summarily dismissed.
The negotiations finally collapsed when the U.S. failed to agree or abstain, fearing that the weak proposal would undermine the higher standards of the U.S. Ex-Im Bank - the US export credit agency. In this incident, ironically enough, the US is acting in the best tradition of multilateralism, namely saving other governments from themselves. On the contrary, the German obstructionist attitude is illustrative of their policy incoherence. Daniel Mittler of BUND, an environmental NGO in Germany, said : 'It contrasts starkly with the way Germany framed the recent withdrawal of the K2R4 nuclear project from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as a result of the German push for high environmental standards.' Any government seeking to paint the outcome of the negotiations as anything more than a failure is dishonest.
The key issue now is where the relevant OECD governments go next on this issue. Civil society groups stand ready to work constructively with the OECD countries to develop a set of binding standards covering sustainable development, linking economic, social, human rights, labour and environmental issues. Antonio Tricarico, from Eyes on SACE, Italy, says that “to be meaningful, a holistic approach needs to be put in place, including input from all relevant ministries, parliamentarians and civil society groups”.
“Once again the OECD’s credibility is on the line,” said Aaron Goldzimer of the U.S. environmental group Environmental Defense. “Public opinion will no longer tolerate tax payers’ money being used to undermine human rights and environmental standards.” Flawed processes always yield flawed results. Once again the organisation will be judged by its response to a major setback.
FIDH, France                                        
FoE England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Milieudefensie, The Netherlands
CIEL, USA                                           
ANPED, Netherlands
Environmental Defense, USA     
CRBM, Italy
Friends of the Earth International
WEED, Germany
Amigos de la Tierra, Spain                                 
BUND, Germany
URGEWALD, Germany                         
Friends of the Earth France
For updated press information about the campaign to reform Export Credit Agencies see