Governments withdraw financial support for Ilisu dam in Turkey

The German, Swiss and Austrian governments have withdrawn funding for the Ilisu dam project in Turkey where human rights violations are at risk. The three governments have taken the decision following independent expert assessments that concluded that the dam project was not meeting agreed standards, including in relation to the social and environmental impacts of the project.

Amnesty International has welcomed the decision.

“The decision demonstrates that human rights due diligence – including setting and monitoring standards in relation to the social and human right impacts of projects – is workable,” said Danny Vannucchi from Amnesty International, “It is also essential to ensure that Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) do not contribute to or benefit from human rights violations abroad – either directly or through funding of companies.”

In March 2007, the German, Swiss and Austrian governments agreed to support companies from those countries to supply equipment and engineering services for the construction of the Ilisu dam. This support was provided through ECAs, which are public or semi-public institutions that grant government-backed loans, guarantees and insurance to domestic companies that seek to do business overseas.

The 1,200 Megawatt dam – to be constructed on the river Tigris in southeast Turkey – is Turkey’s largest dam project. The construction of the dam is expected to involve the displacement of at least 55,000 people.

According to civil society reports, there has not been any adequate consultation with affected communities and the resettlement policy is not in line with international human rights standards. Nor has there been an adequate assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the project.

“Had the ECA support not been withdrawn, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as the companies receiving export credit guarantees, would be at risk of complicity in human rights violations and/or profiting from a project involving serious human rights violations,” said Danny Vannucchi.

“Adequate social and human rights due diligence, including effective independent monitoring, should be mandatory for all ECA support and a precondition for support being provided in the first place. Amnesty International looks now to Germany, Switzerland and Austria to build on the leadership they have shown in this case.”