Nov 7, 2017 - Equator Banks to Revise Principals to Incorporate Indigenous Rights and Climate Change
On November 1st, the Equator Principles Association [EPA] announced that they would be updating the Equator Principals to include language around Indigenous rights and Free, Prior and Informed Consent, as well as, the impacts from climate change as a part of its principals when making decisions around financing projects.
The decision came as the financial institutions met in Brazil in late October. The meeting was subject to global pressure as the Indigenous led divestment movement, Mazaska Talks, called for global days of action to #DivestTheGlobeand pressure the EPA to adopt Indigenous rights and Free, Prior and Informed Consent into their principals.
Mazaska Talks partnered with numerous organizations in the global Equator Banks Act! campaign, which released the following in response to the announcement.
“The Core group of organisations leading the global ‘Equator Banks, Act!’ campaign  welcomed the decision of the Equator Principles Association (EPA) to start a full revision process of the Equator Principles (EP). The group offered to constructively engage with the EPA on the revision process but warned that it will continue to monitor transactions under the EP framework and will vigorously oppose any EP project with a large negative impact on climate change and/or on indigenous territories.
The decision to revise the Principles was communicated on November 1st in a statement from the EPA steering committee  which summarised the outcomes of the Brazil EPA annual meeting of October 24. It stated that “The EP Association is … planning to start a process of updating the Equator Principles. The aim of the process will be on a targeted update to the EPs – ‘EP4’ – that will consider the key issues of scope of applicability, human rights (inclusive of the rights of Indigenous Peoples), and climate change, amongst others.” The statement further noted that the revision process will include consultations with external stakeholders and is to be concluded within 18 months (June 2019).
The decision of the EPA to revise the Principles appears to be a direct response to the demands of the ‘Equator Banks, Act!’ campaign, which generated unprecedented public interest in the outcomes of this year’s annual meeting. The campaign started on August 29 with an open letter from 65 organisations  calling on the Equator banks to make stronger commitments on ‘stopping the financing of climate disasters’ and to ‘fully respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights’ when considering financial support for projects. A global call to support these demands received the backing of nearly 250 organisations and over 110,000 individuals in a matter of two months.”
The Equator Principles (EPs) is 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 to support responsible risk decision-making.
There are 91 Equator Principles Financial Institutions (EPFIs) in 37 countries have officially adopted the Equator Principals.
Responses to the decision
Michelle Cook (WECAN International), “Securing indigenous peoples ability to deny or withhold their free, prior, and informed consent to development projects in their traditional territories is critical to ensuring their human rights, physical existence, and cultural survival. Indigenous peoples are the protectors of the world’s last regions on biodiversity therefore implementing their right to FPIC over their homelands, and supporting their right to say “No” to harmful development projects occurring within those territories protects not just indigenous peoples, but the world’s remaining natural resources. Without consent, indigenous peoples will continue to disproportionately experience environmental exploitation, conflict, and violence when it comes to invasive energy development by multinational corporations. Indigenous peoples are more than “risks”; they are rights and title holders who are seeking peaceful self-determined development and futures. As our species stands on a great precipice of climate change and uncertainty, protecting our collective well-being, by protecting indigenous peoples human rights to FPIC, is one of the most logical steps to follow, not only for banks adhering to and currently revising the Equator Principles, but also states, non-state actors, and civil society.”
Jackie Fielder (Mazaska Talks), “BNP Paribas pulling financing from tar sands, fracking, and more shows that banks don’t have to wait for the new version of the Equator Principles to stop financing ecocide & indigenous rights violations.”
Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director/Founder, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN),“There is no time to lose as climate disruption escalates and people around the world face life and death situations—particularly Indigenous and frontline communities. We commend the decision of the Equator Principles Association to revise their guidelines as Indigenous peoples and concerned groups around the world are calling for financial institutions engaged in fossil fuel extraction and development projects to stop business as usual given egregious violations against Indigenous peoples, their lands and human rights – and given the urgency of climate change. It is vital for banks to course correct now to respect Indigenous Peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and to transition off fossil fuels as we look towards a better future.”
Rachel Heaton (Mazaska Talks), “The announcement that the Equator Principles are going to be reviewed over the next 18 months goes to show that these banks are finally seeing the work that is happening against them… With events such as the Global Days of Action that took place Oct 23-25 and were intended to bring attention to the atrocities and violations of indigenous rights these banks are contributing to all over the world, people are paying attention more than ever and asking for this recourse. However, this announcement is not enough we have to keep the pressure up on these banks and continue divesting.”
Alec Connon (350 Seattle), “This is the right step for the Equator Principles to take; but, banks need to stop funding climate disaster and abuses of Indigenous communities right now. And we’ll be continuing to let them know that.”
Matt Remle (Mazaska Talks/Last Real Indians), “While we applaud the decision by the Equator Principles Association to revise its principals to include Indigenous peoples’ rights to Free Prior and Informed Consent and to adopt policies around climate change, we will remain cautiously guarded to ensure meaningful policy is fully adopted and applied. As Native peoples we are keenly aware of broken promises, so we will remain focused to ensure banks follow through on their promises. We will continue to remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure to the protection of Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth), our lands, waters, and for our future generations.”
Okereke Chinwike, Executive Director, African Law Foundation (AFRILAW), Nigeria, “This is part of global efforts toward building a better society for all where respect of human rights including indigenous peoples’ rights and climatic justice is at the center of every development or any business operation. The 91 members of the EPA must show their commitment and demonstrate a strong will to ensure that the revision of the EPA is not far from this vision. In Africa, we will keep tracking the ongoing financing for equator complaint disaster projects, and their human rights impacts.”
Vanessa Green, (Director, DivestInvest Individual), “Given the banks’ track record, seeing is believing at this stage. It’s clear people and communities can influence bank behavior by affecting their reputation and their bottom line, so we’ll continue to support personal, business and institutional account closures until we see project permits pulled or denied, fossil fuel company lines of credit left unrenewed, and tar sands operations contracting rather than expanding.”
Leila Salazar-López, (Executive Director, Amazon Watch), “We welcome the news that banks are waking up to the urgent need to reexamine how their investments fuel climate chaos and indigenous rights violations, from the Arctic to the Amazon. We call on EPA members, including banks like JPMorgan that we know fund companies wanting to drill for oil in the Amazon, to fully engage in this process and develop strong, effective principles.”