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BankTrack's Human Rights campaign

Banks can cause human rights violations themselves, such as through discrimination in their hiring or service provision, and they can contribute or be linked to human rights violations through lending or other financial support for the companies responsible. For example, banks have provided finance for agricultural companies involved in land grabs; loans for large dams which displace Indigenous Peoples; lending to mining companies which have benefitted from paramilitary violence around their operations; and supported companies with forced or child labour in their supply chains.

BankTrack's human rights campaign pushes for banks to fully meet their responsibilities to respect human rights and human dignity across their operations. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011, provide the clearest expression of these responsibilities. Since 2011 we have focused on the following three areas:

  1. Benchmarking banks on their implementation of the UN Guiding Principles
  2. Challenging bank finance for human rights abuses through a series of Human Rights Impact Briefings
  3. Engaging with international policy debates and with banks directly.

Benchmarking banks on the UN Guiding Principles

Banking with Principles? 2016 update front cover

BankTrack's "Banking with Principles?" report benchmarks large banks around the world on their progress in implementing the UN Guiding Principles. The second version of the report, in June 2016, assessed and scored the human rights policies, processes and reporting of 45 banks against criteria based on the UN Guiding Principles. Over half of banks scored between 0 and 3 out of a possible 12 points, showing little or no evidence of human rights due diligence, and the report identified three major gaps that all banks are failing to address.

Challenging bank finance for human rights abuse

Human Rights Impact Briefing #2 front page

In 2016 BankTrack began a series of Human Rights Impact Briefings examining bank links to specific human rights impacts. For each briefing, the banks involved are asked to describe the actions they have taken to address these impacts, in line with their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles.

Responses received from banks have varied, but the majority did not provide a substantive response. Rather, they provided general descriptions of their human rights policies and due diligence processes, which shed little or no light on the actions taken by the bank. If bank policies work, we would expect to see better responses from banks which score well on their human rights policies. We hope to be able to draw firm conclusions about whether this is the case in future. However early indications are that this is not necessarily the case.

Dodgy Deals on the BankTrack website also provide details of the human rights impacts of the project or company concerned.

Engaging with international policy debates and with banks directly.

BankTrack is a member of the Advisory Group to the OECD Proactive Agenda Project for Responsible Business Conduct in the Financial Sector, which we will encourage higher standards in the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies, particularly in the field of human rights.

BankTrack also engages with banks individually and collectively on human rights matters. Following the publication of the UN Guiding Principles, the informal "Thun Group of banks" came together to discuss the implications of the Principles for the finance sector. The Thun Group produced its Discussion Paper for Banks on Implications of Principles 16-21 in October 2013, detailing its findings and recommendations, and BankTrack provided a response to the discussion paper. We participated in the Thun Group's June 2014 meeting in Thun, Switzerland, and presented to the banks at its June 2016 meeting. In August 2014 the Thun Group committed to "explore options for addressing the third pillar, i.e. access to remedy", and to develop a stakeholder engagement strategy. It has not yet fulfilled these commitments.

BankTrack has been present at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights each year since 2012. In 2013 we presented our response to the Thun Group; in 2014 we convened a panel on human rights and the finance sector; and in 2015 we participated in a panel on "providing access to effective remedy in the financial sector".

BankTrack has also engaged with the development of the UN Guiding Principles. In July 2010 we submitted the paper "Human Rights responsibilities of private sector banks" to the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie. BankTrack's lobbying efforts helped secure the addition of wording which made clear that the Principles clearly apply to the financial sector.

Further information: the human rights responsibilities of private sector banks

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that "every organ of society", including business enterprises and therefore banks, has human rights obligations. Human rights are typically grouped into (1) civil and political rights, and (2) economic, social and cultural rights. Banks have the potential to impact upon all these rights, both positively and negatively, and in a multiplicity of ways. For example, a bank may engage with a client with a disputable track record on human rights, enabling them to continue operating. Banks may also provide essential finance to clients that are involved in activities that directly impact upon human rights, such as manufacturing and trading of arms.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council in June 2011, provide clarity on the expectations of the international community regarding the human rights responsibilities of corporations. With the Guiding Principles, the UN Human Rights Council defined the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which is entirely and unambiguously binding for the financial sector.

In 2013 a number of letters were published further clarifying banks' responsibilities under the Guiding Principles, including from the UN Working Group on Business and Human RightsProfessor Ruggie, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. These letters clarify under what circumstances banks may cause, contribute or be directly linked to human rights impacts - terminology which imply differentiated levels of responsibility under the Principles. For example, a bank may contribute to a human rights impact by "providing financing for a project that will result in widespread displacement of local communities, without safeguards in place". An earlier "interpretative guide" to the corporate responsibility to respect human rights gave a concrete example of an adverse impact which is directly linked to an enterprise through its business relationships as "providing financial loans to an enterprise for business activities that, in breach of agreed standards, result in the eviction of communities".

BankTrack contact persons for this campaign:

Andreas Missbach, Berne Declaration

Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack


working partners
Batang Coal Power Project
Indonesia
Batang coal-fired power plant (2,000 megawatt) will be one of the biggest coal-fired power plants in Asia. It will cost approximately JPY400 billion (USD four billion). Japanese…
Bauxite mine Niyamgiri Hills
India
On October 5th, 2004 an official agreement was signed between the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) and Sterlite Industries, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources plc, for the…
Guaigui dam
Dominican Republic
The Guaigui dam project, located in La Vega province in the Dominican Republic, has been in the works since 2001, although its environmental impact study was presented in…
Jaitapur nuclear power plant
India
The Jaitapur project plans to host two European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) of 1,650 MWe each, with possible extension by four additional units. The Generation III+ class…
Kajbar dam
Sudan
The Kajbar Dam on the Nile’s third cataract would have a height of about 20 meters, create a reservoir of 110 square kilometers, and generate 360 megawatts of electricity.…
Kaltim Prima Coal mine
Indonesia
PT Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC), located in the province of East Kalimantan, is the biggest coal mine in Indonesia. The KPC project produces around 50 million tonnes a year, making…
Lower Sesan 2 dam
Cambodia
Located on the Sesan River, just below the confluence of the Srepok River in Cambodia's Stung Treng Province Province, the large 400MW, $816 million Lower Sesan 2 hydropower…
Minas Conga mining project
Peru
Located in the mountainous Cajamarca region in Northern Peru, Minas Conga is a large scale gold and copper mining project, aiming at the extraction of approximately 1.085…
Myitsone hydroelectric dam
Myanmar
The Myitsone Hydroelectric Project is the largest of seven dams (total capacity 13,360MW) planned on the headwaters of the Irrawaddy (confluence of Mali Hka, and N’Mai…
Pascua Lama gold mining project
Argentina
Pascua Lama is a bi-national mega gold mining project, originally slated to begin extraction in 2012, but which has been delayed due to financial and environmental problems,…
Phulbari coal mine
Bangladesh
The Phulbari coal project is a proposed open pit coal mine in northwest Bangladesh and includes the construction of at least one 500-MW power plant. At full production about…
POSCO integrated steel project
India
POSCO, a South Korean multinational corporation and the world's fourth largest steel producer, seeks to establish an integrated steel venture in India's eastern state of…
Shwe gas and pipelines projects
Myanmar
The ‘Shwe' (meaning ‘golden' in Burmese) projects entail exploitation of underwater natural gas deposits off the coast of western Burma's Arakan State and dual…
Xayaburi dam
Laos
Located in Northern Laos, the proposed Xayaburi Dam is the most advanced of eleven large hydropower dams planned for the Lower Mekong River. The US$ 3.8 billion project is…
check dodgy deals on record

BankTrack contact persons for this campaign:

Andreas Missbach, Berne Declaration

Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack


working partners
Andritz
Austria
The Andritz Group has developed into a globally present market leader for customized plant, systems and services for specialized industries - mainly for hydropower, the pulp…
Arch Coal
United States
Arch Coal is an American coal mining and processing company. The company mines, processes, and markets bituminous and sub-bituminous coal with low sulfur content in the United…
Areva
France
Created in 2001 and 90% owned by the French state, this multinational conglomerate boasts of interests in every aspect of nuclear power from uranium mining to nuclear fuel…
BHP Billiton
Australia
BHP Billiton is the world's largest mining company. It occupies significant positions in major commodity businesses, including aluminium, energy coal and metallurgical coal,…
Drummond
United States
Drummond Company Inc. is a coal mining company based in Birmingham, Alabama, United States, with operations in Alabama and in La Loma, Colombia. It controls coal reserves…
Eletrobras
Brazil
Founded in 1962, Eletrobras is an electric power holding company and the largest electricity generation and transmission company in Brazil. Through its subsidiaries it owns…
IOI Corporation
Malaysia
IOI Corporation, founded in 1969, is a Malaysian conglomerate involved in the property and plantation business, including oil palm cultivation. The company's specialty fats…
check company profiles on record

BankTrack contact persons for this campaign:

Andreas Missbach, Berne Declaration

Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack


working partners
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006

BankTrack contact persons for this campaign:

Andreas Missbach, Berne Declaration

Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack


working partners

BankTrack contact persons for this campaign:

Andreas Missbach, Berne Declaration

Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack


working partners
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videos

the cluster bomb feeling
Nov 01, 2008 - documentary on investments of Dutch pension funds in arms industry

BankTrack contact persons for this campaign:

Andreas Missbach, Berne Declaration

Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack


working partners
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