The main discussion was on climate, environmental and social issues around the Arctic. As there is anticipation of change in the Arctic, export credit agencies needs to consider what to assess when financing trade within oil and gas, transportation, tourism, fisheries, among others. A group of experts from both non-governmental, public and private sector was invited provide input to the discussions.
- The projections the experts have been showing us indicate that the Arctic will become more and more relevant. We are already observing increased activity in the region. Shipping through Arctic waters and tourism is particularly increasing now that the ice is melting at record speed and new passageways are opening up, says Kamil Zabielski, Head of Sustainability Team and Human Rights expert at GIEK. Feedback from participants on the meeting and choice of focusing on Arctic challenges has been most positive, according to Zabielski.
-This exhibits a need to increase awareness around the special conditions in the Arctic when assessing applications for projects affecting these areas. One talks about climate change all the time, but there is need for increased awareness about this in the context of export financing – both local (arctic) and global climate change, says Zabielski.
Practitioners from 25 member countries participated in the meeting, as well as Russia and Brazil with observer status.
Level playing field for shipping cases
The Svalbard meeting also covered topics within shipping and human rights. Export Credit Norway and GIEK co-chair a sub-group for mobile units were, more than 20 member countries participate, to establish a common understanding of how export credit agencies should assess environmental and social conditions, biodiversity, working conditions, HMS, etc. related to applications for mobile units, and particularly within shipping. At present, countries practice and interpret the regulations differently, and there is a need for common guidelines that ensures a level playing field in assessing applications independent of country and agency.
Human rights were also addressed, especially the UN plans to issue a set of guidelines for export credit agencies related to implementation of the UN’s Guiding Principles for Human Rights. Anita Ramasastry, head of this project in the UN, was invited to receive an orientation on what export credit agencies realistically can look at when assessing financing and guarantee applications.