Human rights, development banks and public finance

On November 11 and 12, 2020, the French Development Agency (AFD) organised Finance in Common, the first global summit of all Public Development Banks (PDBs) held within the framework of the Paris Forum on Peace. FIDH actively engaged with AFD and key stakeholders involved in the running of the summit and, with CHRD and ESCR-net, held two webinars to mobilise human rights organisations that gathered 80 organisations and human rights defenders from all continents.

FIDH has conducted intensive advocacy work in order to see public development banks (PDBs) engage more proactively in a human rights based development and commit to the principle of community-led development and the respect of indigenous peoples’ rights. In addition to the summit webinars, FIDH engaged in a raft of initiatives to highlight and publicize the issues at stake, including a Twitter storm, a joint open letter ‘Public development banks must deliver on the world we want’ and numerous press releases, among them "It is time public development banks put their money where our future lies" co-authored by Eleonore Morel, FIDH CEO.

Following FIDH’s recommendations, a statement that recognises the importance of human rights was signed at the end of the Finance in Common summit that gathered more than 450 PDBs. A just, inclusive and rights-based transition has been set as an imperative. PDBs have committed to act as responsible and transparent institutions, and to develop international cooperation, notably by sharing and applying the international norms, those that protect human rights, the environment and those that ensure good governance; in that regard, the principles of a community-led development and the respect of the rights of indigenous people has been particularly pointed out, as well as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights.

Recognising their unique role and societal responsibility, aiming at reorienting all financial flows towards sustainability, the PDBs affirmed their determination to shift their strategy, notably by developing strategies, operations and partnerships inspired by United Nations’ “Leaving no one behind” framework for action which requires to respect human rights and ensure that operations benefit all.

However, a lot remains to be done. The summit statement should go beyond aspiration and serve to redress the hundreds of cases highlighting the many human rights violations caused by PDBs operations.

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