What we do
In 1998, the Halifax Initiative was contacted by a group in Colombia wanting to know if the Canadian government had given support to a Canadian company involved in the construction of a large hydro-electric project. It was impossible for us to confirm whether Export Development Canada, a crown corporation that acts as an insurer or lender, had supported the project. EDC had stopped publishing a list of Canadian companies that received its support in the early 1980s. It was, and remains, exempted from the Access to Information Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The Urrà Dam was built, taking the land, the livelihoods and many of the leaders (through assassinations) of the Embera-Katio people. In 1999, EDC confirmed in private correspondence that it had provided a US$18 million loan to the project.
In 1999, the Export Development Act came under legislative review. The Act provides the mandate for Export Development Canada (EDC). This same year, the Halifax Initiative began a campaign on EDC, inviting Coalition members and other NGOs to form a Working Group on EDC.
The NGO Working Group on EDC promotes adherence by export credit agencies, particularly Export Development Canada, to internationally accepted standards regarding human rights, environment and disclosure.
The Working Group also supports local communities affected or potentially affected by export-credit supported projects who are trying to express their opposition, have their rights and environment respected or gain fair compensation.
At the international level, the Working Group is part of an international NGO ECA Reform Campaign, working to promote greater transparency, public participation, and the adoption of high social and environmental policies standards for all export credit agencies-supported projects.
Since the beginning of our campaign:
- over 100,000 Canadians have written to the Canadian government demanding EDC reform.
- we have assisted to bring representatives of communities negatively affected by current or planned export-credit enabled projects to Canada to voice their concerns directly to the public and to policy-makers from Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, the Philippines, Romania and Tanzania.
- a legislative requirement has been placed on EDC to take into account the environment in its decision-making.
- Auditor-General’s Office is providing oversight on EDC’s implementation of environmental policies.
- EDC now publishes a list of some of the companies that receives its support.
- EDC has adopted a new environmental policy.
- EDC has adopted a new disclosure policy.
- EDC has created a compliance officer position to monitor and review policy implementation and to take complaints from affected parties.
- EDC has created a Corporate Social Responsibility Advisory Council.
Whereas these initiatives are making a difference, it is not enough. For example, the first project to get approved under EDC's new policy framework was a nuclear reactor to Romania. EDC never published the full environmental impact assessment.
For further information, please feel free to contact us, or check out our press releases and responses from the media.
The NGO Working Group on EDC would like to acknowledge the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Development & Peace, the grassroots foundation, the International Development Research Centre, Rights & Democracy and the Wallace Global Fund, for their support for our efforts to hold EDC and export credit agencies accountable to human rights, environment and public disclosure standards.