A British government department is using public money to back private business deals which are fuelling climate change, human rights abuses, corruption and debt in the developing world. That department is the UK Export Finance, or ‘UKEF’.
What is the UKEF?
Few people have heard of this secretive government department. From its offices in Canary Wharf, the UKEF (previously known as Export Credits Gurarantee Department, ECGD) uses millions of pounds of public money every year as insurance for UK companies exporting overseas, usually to developing countires. If the deal goes wrong and the exporter doesn’t get paid, the UKEF pays instead.
The government refuses to release many of the details about deals the UKEF has backed in the past. But the information which is available shows that projects supported by the UKEF have included arms deals with dictators, fossil fuel projects, projects that have led to human rights abuses and massive support for the aviation industry.
To make matters worse, when these deals go wrong, the amount of money can then be converted into sovereign debt for the country concerned. Developing countries ‘owe’ the UKEF over £2bn for debts like these.
Clean Up Britain’s Exports is a network of organisations calling for an end to the UKEF’s lack of transparency and shocking disregard for human rights and environmental standards.
The alternative is an UKEF that backs green, ethical business.
The alternative is an UKEF that prevents corporate abuses.
The alternative is an UKEF that is open and upfront about how it uses public money.
Trade doesn’t have to trample over people or the planet. That’s why growing numbers of people are demanding change at the UKEF.
Politicians want change: 198 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion calling for reform at the UKEF, and parliament unanimously backed a bill put forward by Lisa Nandy MP to overhaul the department.
Civil society groups want change: the growing list of supporters includes Jubilee Debt Campaign, Amnesty International UK, WWF UK, Campaign Against Arms Trade, The Corner House, The Co-operative and many more.
The European Parliament wants change: In April 2011 it called for the UKEF and equivalent bodies in other countries to become more accountable and prove how they protect people and the environment.
But so far the Government hasn’t listened.
It’s time for a change.