What are the human rights obligations of the BNDES?

UN panel discusses the responsibility of state financial institutions in the protection of human rights UN panel discusses the responsibility of state financial institutions in the protection of human rights

States are, ultimately, responsible for human rights violations committed within their territories. What happens, however, when these violations are committed by companies and, more importantly, when these companies are financed by state institutions? This intricate division of responsibilities was the topic of the panel of the 2nd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights this Wednesday, in Geneva.

Juana Kweitel, program director at Conectas, participated in the meeting and analyzed the role of the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) in light of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Conectas based its analysis on Principle 4, which stipulates that States should adopt additional protection measures beyond those established by law to regulate the actions of public companies.

When the public company is a financial institution, such as the case with the BNDES, this responsibility extends to the private projects it finances. “If these institutions do not explicitly question the negative consequences, real or potential, of the activities of the beneficiary companies, then they place themselves at risk of contributing to this infringement,” she said. “States must require human rights due diligence from their own institutions and from the companies that receive their support.”

Throughout the presentation, four areas were exposed in which the bank needs to change its practices: the lack of a policy of active transparency, which guarantees public access to analysis reports on the projects; the lack of a policy for guaranteeing the rights of the most vulnerable populations, particularly the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent; the lack of clear rules governing the international activities of the bank, particularly in authoritarian countries; and, finally, the lack of an ombuds office with a clear procedure for handling complaints, that can prompt changes in the actions of the bank.

Some of these issues coincide with those identified at the preparatory meeting for the BNDES-Civil Society Dialogue Forum, held just a few days ago in Rio de Janeiro. “We hope that important changes in policy and practices occur in these areas throughout 2014,” said Kweitel.

The presentation by Conectas was preceded by a speech by Jaime Gorstejn, a representative of the BNDES, and by the spokesman of the Norwegian Export Credit Agency (GIEK). In addition to having a human rights policy, the agency conducts analysis on the projects it supports. These reports are public and may be accessed here.

The full presentation of Juana Kweitel may be read here.


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