Explosion on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, 2008. Credit: private.
Export credit agencies (ECAs) are public or semi-public institutions which provide support to national companies in the form of loans, guarantees, credits or insurance which enable them to engage in business activities overseas. Often ECAs are designed to support operations, transactions or other activities (projects) associated with high political or financial risks, such as extractive industries (e.g. large scale mining).
Often these projects are undertaken in places where human rights protections are weak or not enforced by the host government (i.e. the place where the operations occur). In these instances, ECAs face a greater risk of backing business activities which cause or contribute to human rights abuses. One clear illustration of this issue is the well known project relating to the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, which was supported by US$400 million worth of loans and guarantees by ECAs from France and the USA. In that instance, expert assessments concluded that the project caused serious health risks and negative livelihood impacts for local communities .
The Export Credit Group (ECG) at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is one avenue for ensuring that safeguards are in place to protect individuals and communities from business-related human rights abuses. The ECG is currently revising the `Recommendations on Common Approaches on the Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits’ (Common Approaches), which identify benchmarks for measuring the positive and negative impacts arising from projects that ECAs support. Current benchmarks, which include environmental impact indicators, omit important international human rights standards.
As the Common Approaches are under review, the ECG member States have a unique opportunity to establish a robust human rights due diligence framework for both ECAs’ operations and those of businesses they support. Amnesty International is therefore urging the ECG to require that ECAs and their clients do not support projects that violate human rights.
 See Amnesty International report - Contracting out of Human Rights: The Chad-Cameroon pipeline project
Amnesty International. Open Letter to Mr. Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the OECD. (June 2011)
Amnesty International submission to the review of the Revised Recommendation on Common Approaches on the Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits (1 march 2010)
Amnesty International. Contracting out of Human Rights: The Chad-Cameroon pipeline project (6 September 2005)