Respect for human rights plays an important role in foreign trade promotion. In particular, projects that are supported with instruments of the Federal Government’s export promotion schemes are required to meet environmental, social and human rights standards. The Federal Government expects companies to respect the established human rights in their business dealings. The companies are asked to act in accordance with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) and to comply with their due diligence duty in relation to human rights as stated in the German National Action Plan for the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles).
Therefore the Federal Government has set high standards for the project appraisal prior to the granting of export credit guarantees.
In the course of the environmental, social and human rights impact assessment issues, such as, for example, occupational safety, health and safety of the general public, lawfulness of land acquisition and resettlement, protection of indigenous peoples, protection of cultural heritage, consultation possibilities for affected persons, labour rights (including freedom of assembly, right to trade union membership, freedom of movement, etc.), protection of minorities and other vulnerable groups as well as the existence of a complaints mechanism, are investigated.
In this context the reports published by the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines (NCP) must be taken into account in the assessment pursuant to the OECD Common Approaches. The Federal Government goes beyond these requirements by taking into account complaints already received by the NPC as well as certain incidents and problems related to these (e.g. a company’s non-participation, see below) when appraising a project. Organisations as well as individuals can turn to the NCP if they believe that there has been a breach of the OECD Guidelines. The German NCP is based in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Federal Ministry of Finance decide in the Interministerial Committee together with the ministries responsible for international human rights issues within the Federal Government (Federal Foreign Office and Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) whether export credit guarantees are granted or not. The decisions are taken by consensus. Cover will be granted if all ministries involved regard the national and international requirements as met.
National Action Plan (NAP)
In order to implement the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights of the Federal Government published in December 2016, the existing measure were further developed and amended:
- The human rights, which have already been one element of the environmental and social impact assessment so far, will be given greater autonomy and visibility in the appraisal procedure. As far as necessary, the existing appraisal procedures will be supplemented by a project-related human rights due diligence.
- In connection with transactions, which do not fall within the scope of the OECD Common Approaches, human rights issues will be taken into account even more systematically in future in the framework of the so-called “watchful eye approach”.
- A reference to the great importance of human rights issues as well as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises will be included in the application forms.
- The NCP will be reinforced as complaints office. The Federal Government reserves the right to exclude companies refusing to take part in the mediation procedure of the National Contact Point from export credit guarantees.