EU Parliament urged to support proposals to ensure investments do not harm human rights

By agency reporter
November 22, 2018

This week the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs seeks to strengthen the need for EU investors to take into account key human rights risks as part of their due diligence processes – with a global human rights group stating that the Parliament must follow the lead of the its Rapporteurs to make real change happen.

Anti-corruption and human rights NGO Global Witness has welcomed new moves from the European Parliament’s lead rapporteurs to increase ethical investing, and ensure EU investors safeguard human rights as part of their due diligence processes.

In a detailed report published on 21 November 2018 as part of the EU’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan, the lead rapporteurs amended and strengthened the European Commission’s proposal for a Regulation for a framework to facilitate sustainable investment, the so-called Taxonomy Regulation.

The Taxonomy Regulation will lay the foundation for an EU framework to place Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risks and factors at the heart of the financial system. It aims to ensure capital flows into more ethical companies and projects throughout the EU. It was drafted by MEP Bas Eickhout (Greens) and MEP Sirpa Pietikainen (European People’s Party – EPP) – demonstrating strong cross party intentions to strengthen the human rights safeguards in the final Regulation.

Global Witness welcomed the inclusion of current international standards within this draft proposal, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples(UNDRIP) and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct.

Momentum is building for the EU financial sector to become more sustainable following the Tang report which was voted through two weeks ago and backs mandatory due diligence for EU investors, and their overseas subsidiaries, to identify, mitigate and publicly report on environmental, social and governance risks in their investment chains.

Maria Luzmila Bermeo Chuinda, Peruvian Human Rights Defender said: “[In my area] the oil company moved in without consultation with the people, only with the agreement of a few. Afterwards, the local community complained, when they saw the water was polluted...they did not want to use it.

“I went to meet the Pope to speak to him on behalf of Awajun people. There were representatives of eight Amazonian tribes. The other towns have more animals, more fish than us. But everyone spoke of the same problem, the problems are the same for everyone: deforestation, mining and oil.”

Rachel Owens, Head of EU Advocacy at Global Witness said: “We need to ensure human rights are at the heart of the political debate on sustainable finance if we are to save forests from destruction and stop people having to migrate to survive or be kicked off their land for oil or mining. Europe should continue to take global leadership on sustainable finance, and this starts by making sure European investors drive progress, not destruction. Ninety per cent of European citizens care deeply about environmental protection. It’s time to listen to voters.

“As the political energy to create more ethical financial system increases, it’s encouraging that the European Parliament is making moves to ensure that any EU investor is not inadvertently or otherwise causing human rights abuses when it bankrolls a project.  The Taxonomy draft Report adds to the Commission proposal, which is essential if the financial industry is to contribute to a more sustainable planet.”

Richard Gardiner, EU campaigner at Global Witness said: “It’s vital that progress does not stop or slow down today. The European Parliament must focus on ensuring that European investments take into account a broad range of international safeguards to guarantee that they are sustainable and ethical. This must be done by including robust due diligence processes if it truly wants to be a global leader on protecting human rights, and ensuring that financial institutions work for people and planet.”

This draft report builds on the key policy recommendations of the recent briefing, released by Global Witness, which shows that European’s money – and EU-based investors – regularly play a key role in funding projects linked to human rights abuses, land grabs and large-scale environmental destruction.

A Global Witness report earlier this year documented the murder of over 200 land and environmental defenders in 2017 – indigenous leaders, community activists and environmentalists trying to protect their homes and communities from agribusiness, mining and other global investors.

* Global Witness


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.