For Immediate Release
Women’s Delegation Will Demand Stronger Action for Human Rights and Climate from Global Banks at Equator Principles Association Consultation
WASHINGTON - On July 30th, an Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation and allies led by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and ‘Divest, Invest, Protect’ will travel to Toronto, Canada to meet with the Equator Principles Association or ‘EP Banks’ as they facilitate an external consultation process in regards to revising the Equator Principles (EP). The revision of the EP is critical for holding financial institutions accountable for their investments. The Delegation will advocate to strengthen the EP and demand that banks stop financing activities that commit Indigenous and human rights abuses and further harm the global climate.
The EP Banks are a group of 94 international banks who have signed-on to adhere to a voluntary set of principles enshrined in the ‘Equator Principles’ document. As stated on the EP Banks website, the Equator Principles is used as “a risk management framework, adopted by financial institutions, for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in projects and is primarily intended to provide a minimum standard for due diligence and monitoring to support responsible risk decision-making.”
EP banks continue to finance industries that commit human rights violations— from the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction to the Mexico/United States border. EP banks have financed destructive projects, including the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL pipeline in the United States, the Belo Monte mega-dam in Brazil, and the Agua Zarca hydro project in Honduras. Similarly, banks who are EP members have extended lines of credit and term loans to companies like GEO Group, who operate detention centers on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Millions of people are forced to leave their homes and many seek asylum due to climate catastrophes and economic exploitation created by the companies and industries financed by EP banks.
Catalyzed by the human rights abuses at Standing Rock, EP banks said they would reform the Equator Principles, and begin a revision process to be completed by 2019 that would more effectively address concerns about potential rights violations and environmental degradation. In July 2019, EP Banks released the first revision of the Equator Principles, which falls exceedingly short of holding financial institutions accountable for human rights abuses and addressing the climate crisis. The Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation and allies will provide necessary and critical inputs and critiques to this revision process in the Toronto consultation meeting.
The current revisions state that EP Banks want to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and address environmental and climate impacts, yet the revised statement of principles are inadequate in holding EP banks accountable in both respects. Among the changes, Principle 5, regarding Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples, outlines two options for EP banks to operationalize FPIC, both of which are insufficient in upholding Indigenous rights in alignment with the UNGPs and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
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Additionally, the EP maintains a distinction between ‘designated’ and ‘non-designated’ countries, which allows some of the largest carbon polluters, like the United States, to by-pass IFC Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability. In the past this distinction has allowed EP banks to continue financing human rights violations and further the climate crisis.
Women are impacted first and worst by climate change, yet studies worldwide demonstrate that women must be engaged at all levels of participation, leadership and decision-making to build effective and just social and ecological programs and policies. During the external consultation, the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation and allies are committed to ensuring women’s voices are heard by advocating for stronger revisions that uphold FPIC; respect Indigenous rights and women’s rights; protect the global climate; and include the voices of those most impacted by the financing decisions of EP banks.
Members of the media are encouraged to reach out with any questions and interview requests. Spokeswomen biographies can be found at this link.
“As we travel to Toronto on this delegation, half a hemisphere away Kanaka Maoli land defenders are rising up to protect their sacred mountain, Mauna Kea, from a billion-dollar development project. This most recent Indigenous uprising is part of a decade-long cluster of Indigenous uprisings in the Western Hemisphere to halt development projects aimed at exploiting resources like natural gas, water, oil, and coal at the expense of Indigenous human rights and sovereignty. The efforts unfolding atop Mauna Kea will not be the last; Indigenous peoples will continue to protect our lands and waters until we achieve climate justice for all. It is imperative that the global community heeds the demands of Indigenous land defenders and water protectors and divests from the carceral and extractive infrastructures that are killing our planet. We call upon powerful financial institutions to reinvest these funds in measures that will ensure equality for all, including renewable energy, education, universal healthcare, clean water and air, healthy foods, and housing.” Dr. Melanie K. Yazzie (Bilagáana/Diné) — Assistant Professor of Native American Studies and American Studies at the University of New Mexico and National Chair of The Red Nation
“The EP association, a group of 94 banks maintain that their voluntary principles shouldn't apply to the US, falsely assuming human rights, and the rights of indigenous peoples, are infallibly protected. The financing of immigrant child detention centers where reported conditions amount to grave and serious crimes against humanity provides clear evidence that US businesses and companies are not aligning with international standards of human rights. In the case of financing private prisons and immigrant child detention facilities, US law, businesses, and corporations are tragically putting profit over international human rights standards, moral decency, and basic humanity. Despite child detention being against UN standards these companies are still operating and financed in the United States. The EP principles, while voluntary should apply to all countries, and the legal fiction of “Designated” and “Non-Designated” should be set aside as ineffective, as demonstrated in the emblematic case and conflict of Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline The principles of the Equator Association should apply to all businesses, including those operating in the United States of America in order to fully mitigate and prevent these human rights impacts and violations from occurring as envisioned in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights (UNGPs), the OECD Guidelines, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” Michelle Cook (Diné/Navajo) — Founder of Divest Invest Protect campaign and Co-Director of the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations
“Divestment from dirty fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure demonstrates a commitment to our collective future and the web of life. What is needed immediately from the EP banks and all financial institutions is a show of leadership and dedication to ecological sustainability and respect for human and Indigenous rights, as we face the unprecedented challenges of a world plunging into climate chaos. The current revision of the Equator Principles is fully inadequate and does not address the urgent needs and demands of communities most impacted by the investments of the EP banks. Our Delegation is calling for justice and accountability, and to say no to business as usual. Now is the time to stop human rights violations from fossil fuel extraction to detention centers, and instead rapidly invest in renewable and regenerative energy, economic and ecological justice, and healthy communities for all.” Osprey Orielle Lake — Executive Director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) and Co-Director of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegations
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