The 30-page document A history of neglect: UK Export Finance and human rights shines a light on a little known agency operating out of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills – UK Export Finance (UKEF).
Peter Frankental, of Amnesty International, explained:
“Through UKEF, the Government is enabling UK businesses to engage in high risk activities without proper scrutiny of their human rights impacts.
“Export credit agencies like UKEF should not be allowed to support projects that undermine human rights and destroy the environment. And yet the British public has no real idea what UKEF gets up to.
“It is shameful that through their inaction, David Cameron’s government cannot be sure that UKEF doesn’t contribute to forced labour, trafficking or abusive forms of child labour.”
Export credit agencies exist to fill a gap by supporting transactions and projects around the world that commercial banks consider too risky. The reasons can range from political instability to the fear that they will not get paid.
In these cases companies may turn for financial assistance to export credit agencies such as UKEF.
The concern, as revealed in the briefing, is that UKEF pays too little heed to international human rights standards such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Instead, UKEF has chosen to be constrained by the weak international standard for export credit agencies, the OECD’s ‘Common Approaches’. This means that the only transactions which are potentially considered for human rights and environmental impact assessment have to hit the following criteria: be for more than £10 million; last more than two years; and not be for the aerospace or defence sectors.
UKEF’s recently released annual report showed that of the 138 transactions supported in the last 12 months only eight could have been considered for human rights and environmental impact assessments.
Peter Frankental said:
“UKEF reflects a fatal combination of an agency that doesn’t want to be held accountable for its impacts and a Government that won’t lift a finger to hold it accountable.
“Human rights should not be sacrificed in this way on the altar of trade and investment.
“That cannot be allowed to continue. As a matter of urgency, the government should be pushing for complete transparency and the highest level of accountability.”
UKEF guarantees payment to the UK company exporting or investing abroad. If the contract is with a foreign state which defaults, the debt is covered by UKEF and added to that country’s sovereign debt to the UK. Debts to export credit agencies represent the majority of the developing world’s bilateral debt.
guardian.co.uk,June 2013 17.19 BST
Oil company Shell will resume talks next week in London with lawyers representing 15,000 of the poorest people in the world who are claiming millions of pounds’ compensation for oil spills on the Niger delta. But Martyn Day, of Leigh Day law firm which is acting for the communities, said the case could still go to a full high court trial in London in 2014.
Jun 19th, 2013 by John Donovan.
…an independent investigation into how the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s guidelines are enforced found ‘discrepancies’ between Shell’s story and other accounts of the size and cause of spills… urged Shell to publish all investigations carried out prior to 2011, potentially exposing the company to multi-million pound lawsuits…
Royal Dutch Shell’s claims to be reducing the amount of oil it spills in Nigeria have been undermined by a report into how it publishes data on environmental disasters.
The Anglo-Dutch firm has been at pains to show that most spills in the Niger Delta are the result of thieves hacking into pipelines, a crime known as ‘bunkering’.
But an independent investigation into how the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s guidelines are enforced found ‘discrepancies’ between Shell’s story and other accounts of the size and cause of spills.
Holland’s National Contact Point for the OECD told the oil giant to ‘be prudent’ when publishing spill investigation data.
It also called on Shell to publish figures from before January 2011, when the company began putting information about leaks on its website.
And it repeated UN concerns that investigators are ‘at the mercy of the oil companies’ when assessing the size and severity of spills. The report follows a complaint by Friends of the Earth and
Amnesty International, which submitted evidence of spill investigations it said were heavily influenced by the company.
‘Shell has repeatedly stated operational spills are going down and sabotage is going up. This is all based on a process where the investigator is being investigated,’ said Audrey Gaughran, of Amnesty.
She called for more independent assessment to offset weakness in local regulation.
Shell has pointed to improvements in the way it reports spill information since 2011.
But Gaughran urged Shell to publish all investigations carried out prior to 2011, potentially exposing the company to multi-million pound lawsuits.
“This is a terrible day for British justice. After fierce lobbying by the government, peers have failed to restore even minimal amendments previously included to this deeply damaging bill,”
The cherished and vitally important principle that justice must be done and seen to be done has been dealt a serious blow this evening,” said Tim Hancock, Amnesty International’s UK campaigns director.
Legal Agency Reprieve executive director Clare Algar said the secret courts will “do irreparable damage. It is deeply shameful that the government has been allowed to push these plans through parliament, despite the total lack of evidence that they are needed. Secret courts will ….. do irreparable damage to our reputation as a country which respects fair play and the rule of law,” she said.
British secret service officials, claim the Bill is designed to protect national security by preventing informers from being exposed.
Amnesty International said earlier, that the plan gives the British government the power to “simply play the ‘national security’ card whenever it wants to keep things secret”. The British government only needs the Queen’s Royal stamp of approval, to start the secret courts as new law in Britain.
Some of the public’s reaction in Britain is as follows.
All those lives lost in WW2 just to be ruled by Nazi-s again. Those that died in WW2 must be somersaulting in their graves.- Vincent
When those who oppose some British Government policies like the welfare cutbacks, bank bailouts and banker bonuses, privatisation and illegal foreign wars (like me) or those who complain about injustice start disappearing, losing their citizenship, being renditioned and killed by armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV drones) then no one in any central or local government roles including ALL employees, councillors, MP’s, and other politicians can be trusted. The number of people who criticise the British Government will rapidly reduce when the secret courts starts. It will not affect organisations like the SWP, EDL, BNP as they are funded by the Zionists, Bankers and operated by the security services MI5 and MI6 in order to control and suppress dissent among the sheople.- Student
The silence from the British legal fraternity in academia and in legal practice is shocking and a shameful indictment on the” profit without ethics” system that has pervaded every aspect of British life today. Justice must not only be done but be SEEN to be done. Having secret courts is an attempt to avoid scrutiny of checks and balances, to ignore rules of evidence and deny an accused person the right to defend themself agianst the mighty apparatus of state.
That’s why UK raceist authorities have been busay to make fake-secret documents against people they have targeted. They abuse people in UK and claiming that they have secret information about them, the information they have fabricated. UK has returned back to the medieval time. – Pam Cox
UK abused people for years and now want to kill them through their secret court so that nobody will realise what happened to them. UK is just trying to destroy the evidence of their abuse and mistreatment for the past decade so that created a legal support for themselves. I’m sure that the lives of thousands innocent people in the UK are at risk. – A Solicitor
My God, my ancestors will be turning in their graves. The Tories are finally realising what they have long dreamed of – throughout the years of the post-war settlement, they moodily incubated a determination to reverse the social and economic gains fought for and won by people of unparalleled toughness and determination, people who took on the might of privilege and wealth and defeated it. This is the New Tory moment; this when they come out from behind their cosmetic masks of reasonableness and fairness and social concern and display their true dark hearts before the world.
But I reserve my greatest contempt for those of us on the left; this is all happening on our watch. We betray those people I mentioned above, who vanquished the landowners and the factory and coal owners. And what are WE up against? a couple of Bullingdon hooray-henries and a leadership reject with the political acumen of petrified bird droppings . But the neoliberal apologists and careerist politicians that have infested the Labour Movement see only the votes of bigoted Middle Englanders and the ignorant Sun reading dross that posts here waiting to be harvested. The latter busy calling for their own enslavement, too ignorant or misinformed to notice the turkey staring back at them in the mirror of a Christmas Morning. And in the new Dark Age heralded in by IDS, every morning will be Christmas Morning for the beneficiaries, the businesses who will exploit this measure to access free labour, the talk of charities being a transparent smoke screen to hide the fundamental dismantling of the human right for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
Make no mistake, this is just the beginning. Anyone who thinks that once the principle of unpaid labour has breached the social repugnance it generates that it will stop at a month’s work for ‘idlers’ is the kind of fool the Tories are relying on get this through. These are the descendants of people who built vast fortunes and empires on the sweat and death of their factories and workhouses; they are past masters at dressing up inequality and evil in Protestant work ethics and biblical rhetoric denouncing the peril of idleness – except where it’s practised in its purest forms of course, by digital fortune shufflers and land owning parasites drawing their subsidies while they indulge Mediterranean waves with their oversized cock-yachts.
Shame, shame on us all. Tolstoy said everyone was innocent. I say everyone is guilty. And our children will never forgive us for allowing this to happen. The Tories talk of not saddling future generations with our debt; I think only of future generations facing the return of evils greater than any debt, that we had long thought banished from the lexicon of social intercourse and post war economics, all presented as some kind of economic panacea. Who is really ‘taking the piss’ here?
No doublethink, no prevarication, no quarter.
The vote tears apart traditional alliances at the United Nations. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries to oppose the non-binding resolution in the assembly’s rights committee. Thirty-six countries abstained.
Israel voted against its strong US-ally to join European Union nations, Australia, Brazil and South Africa among major countries backing the motion.
Norway, which played a leading role campaigning for the resolution, said on its Twitter account that the increased support was a “great result”.
At the last vote in 2010, 107 countries backed the resolution.
France’s new Socialist government has launched a campaign with other abolitionist states to get the full General Assembly to pass a resolution in December calling for a death penalty moratorium. Though such a resolution would be non-binding, diplomats say it would increase moral pressure.
A world congress against the death penalty is to be held in Madrid in June.
According to the United Nations, about 150 countries have either abolished capital punishment or have instituted a moratorium.
Amnesty International says that China executed “thousands” of prisoners in 2011 though exact figures are hard to determine. It says that other countries put to death at least 680 people with Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia major users of capital punishment.
Amnesty says that progress is slowly being made however. Even in the United States, Illinois last year became the 16th US state to abolish the death penalty.
The petition which was organised by Amnesty International Ireland as part of its Right to Health campaign, which holds that everyone in Ireland has the right to health – and that the country committed to this when it became party to the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1989.
The signatories of the petition have called on the Minister for Health to enshrine in law a commitment to provide equal access to healthcare based on the needs of the patient rather than their ability to pay.
“Government has set out an ambitious programme of reform. But the reality is that our health system is broken, people are still on waiting lists, and families are struggling to pay their increasing insurance premiums”, Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Ireland, said today.
“Access to appropriate, affordable health services is a human right, and one which the Irish public are clearly demanding. Government reforms of the health service must be underpinned by human rights standards, including a legal guarantee that everybody will be able to access healthcare on an equal basis,” he added.
Amnesty International is calling on the Government to set out their plans on universal healthcare reform and to debate them publicly.
The human rights organisation also wants the Government to use the opportunity of the proposed Universal Primary Care Act and the Universal Health Insurance Act to set out clear – and human rights compliant – guiding principles for the health service including universal, equal access to care.
Katherine Allen is the Director of Amnesty International
As 2012 begins to draw to a close I will once again reflect on the people I have been privileged to meet. This year, two courageous individuals stand out, both indomitable figures in Burma‘s struggle for human rights.
Both Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Zarganar – one of Burma’s most famous comedians who poked fun at the government – dared to stand up and speak out for the people of Burma, and they did so knowing that they faced the prospect of abuse, harassment, arrest and long-term imprisonment. For Amnesty supporters it wasn’t just a privilege to be able to stand with these and other human rights defenders, many of us saw it as a necessity.
So when Zarganar took to the stage of the Secret Policeman’s Ball in New York earlier this year after having had his 59-year prison sentence commuted only a few months before, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi received Amnesty International‘s Ambassador of Conscience Award in Dublin, making her first visit to the UK and Ireland in nearly 25 years, not only was I honoured to meet two of the bravest human rights activists of our time, I was also reminded of the indelible impact which the support and the solidarity of Amnesty activists can have in helping to achieve enduring positive change for others.
This is why I am so delighted that Amnesty International launches its Write for Rights Campaign today. Here is a wonderful opportunity to be able to voice our support and stand with women and men much like Aung San Suu Kyi and Zarganar; women and men who have bravely dared to defend their human rights even at the risk of persecution and harassment.
Featured in this year’s Campaign are the Pussy Riot duo who have been imprisoned for daring to freely express their opinion in Russia. They are currently facing years of imprisonment in arduous conditions in two separate labour colonies.
A brave young women’s movement in Afghanistan called Young Women for Change also features in this year’s Write for Rights Campaign, as does Azza Suleiman, a 49-year-old woman from Egypt who was seriously beaten by security forces in Tahrir Square during the uprising, after she went to the aide of another woman who was being beaten by soldiers. Azza was beaten so badly she now has a fractured skull and suffers from memory loss. This brave woman is now calling for the perpetrators of this abuse to be brought to justice, and we must stand with her.
We must also stand with Hakamada Iwao – one of the world’s longest serving inmates on death row. Hakamada has languished on death row for 44 years in Japan. Amnesty considers his case to have been unfair and is calling for a commutation to his death sentence.
The joy of meeting brave men and women like Zarganar is made all the sweeter in knowing that we have stood shoulder to shoulder with them in their darker days, even though we were thousands of miles away going about our own lives. On the days when it seemed as though there was no hope for them, Amnesty persisted in its support. Amnesty’s Write for Rights Campaign gives thousands of people throughout the UK the chance to send a message of solidarity, whether it be a letter or a card of support, or taking a photo in solidarity. It will only take five minutes to take action, but the impact could last a lifetime.
The days for the likes of Azza and Hakamada may seem dark now. But I urge you to join me in standing in solidarity with them now. Because when we see the success achieved for them, the joy is all the sweet