12 November 2020

Accountability Counsel’s Vision for U.S. Government Leadership on Accountability to People Harmed By U.S. Financial Flows

We welcome the news that U.S. voters have chosen Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice President of the United States. The Biden-Harris administration will guide the next phase of U.S. leadership at institutions that impact the human rights and environment of people in communities around the world.

The U.S. government finances projects around the world aimed at addressing global problems such as extreme poverty, infrastructure gaps, and climate change. As it does so, it is critical that the U.S. is accountable to those most affected by its financing decisions, namely people living near and working at investment sites.

To ensure that the U.S. funds positive change and does not contribute to harm, the solution is simple: All U.S. money that might harm individuals or the environment requires a mandatory accountability framework.

Congress and the Office of the President can put this into practice by doing the following:

  1. Require and strengthen accountability mechanisms at US Institutions: Through the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Export-Import Bank (EXIM), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. government spends billions of dollars annually financing projects to create positive impact. The U.S. government should commit to ensuring that its money has its intended impact and is accountable to the communities affected by its projects and the American taxpayer. DFC has an accountability mechanism, which should be strengthened to ensure that it meets international best practices. USAID and EXIM currently lack accountability mechanisms, and this gap should be addressed immediately.
  2. Champion and strengthen the accountability mechanisms at Multilateral Development Banks: The United States is a shareholder of the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, African Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Asian Development Bank, all of which have independent accountability mechanisms. The U.S. should be the strongest accountability champion among shareholders and should demand reforms to the institutions that further accountability for those most impacted by them. Strong accountability mechanisms are in the U.S.’s best interest, as they ensure the impact of U.S. contributions.
  3. Strengthen the U.S. National Contact Point: In addition to championing accountability at the institutions, the U.S. must ensure that corporations are accountable for their actions abroad. The U.S. NCP is an office to which individuals can report violations of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, global standards to promote responsible business conduct, committed by U.S.-based corporations. The U.S. NCP should increase its toolkit for incentivizing businesses to participate in mediation with complainants to address grievances and should fully implement the outstanding recommendations from its 2017 peer review.
  4. Commit to the following principle, “if you contribute to harm, you contribute to remedy”: The United States should support the creation of remedy funds at international financial institutions and U.S. government agencies whose financing might cause harm. Even when institutions acknowledge that their financing had negative impacts, communities rarely receive adequate remedy for harms suffered. This is a basic tenet of accountability for which the U.S. should be the shining example.

Accountability Counsel advocates for effective accountability mechanisms and advises communities who access them. We have worked to strengthen every existing accountability mechanism and have assisted communities in seeking redress for human and environmental rights violations caused by financial flows around the globe. We are committed to working with the U.S. Government to achieve the above.