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G-20 High-Level Symposium: Federal Finance Ministers prioritize free trade and economic growth at the expense of human rights and the environment

Federal Finance Ministers met on 17th and 18th March in Baden-Baden (Germany) to prepare the G-20 summit in June in Hamburg. The ministers discussed expanding global investments and stimulating free trade as well as how to better protect the financial system from financial crisis and cyber attacks. Unfortunately the protection of human rights and the environment were not part of the agenda.1

“Shaping an interconnected world” was the topic of the gathering and the participants aimed at building a new financial architecture to make the whole sector more robust. In the end however, they only agreed on avoiding currency manipulation and unfair competition. Even German financial minister Schäuble admits that the outcomes of the conferencedo not present real progress. Besides failing to mention social and ecological standards for investments, the results of the conference are very weak, judged by its own aspiration to create a new financial architecture.1

The financial ministers further discussed the so-called ‘Compact with Africa’ with several African federal financial ministers, which strives for boosting private investments in the continent. According to the development organization ONE, the agreement lacks specific commitments for investment projects to support education, employment and participation. The Task Force ‘Climate Policy and Finance’ prepared detailed advice about a green financial system, proposing to cut subsidies for oil, gas and coal. To authentically combine finance with environmental protection, it still lacks the political will.234

Before the meeting, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein emphasized that many international infrastructure projects violate human rights. In January, seven people were killed in Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico during a single week. These killings are connected with hydroelectric dams, mining and agribusiness projects. Facing Finance further supported a call prepared by many international NGOs to the Columbian government and local mining companies to investigate the case of the assassinated activist Aldemar Parra Garcia.56

Hussein makes it very clear: „In the macho world of mega-infrastructure, success is measured by size and speed, breeding the denial of human rights rather than due diligence. […]The G20 and development financing institutions must urgently correct the course.“ 6

To correct the course, financial institutions have to adopt policies explicitly committing themselves to respect international human rights law, including the freedoms of opinion, expression, association and peaceful assembly. Further transparent due diligence audits have to be installed.7

  1. Report about the conference published on the official G-20 webpage on 16.03.2017:;jsessionid=3F4DF0A71741ABA0F6177BEBF6B31B3C.s4t1 [] []
  2. Analysisfrom ONE on 30.03.2017: []
  3. Report about the conference published on the official G-20 webpage on 16.03.2017: []
  4. Comment from Telepolis on 20.03.2017: []
  5. More information about Aldemar Parra Garcia on 25.01.2017: []
  6. Statement from Zeig Ra’ad Al Hussein on 07.03.2017: [] []
  7. Statement from ZeigRa’ad Al Hussein on 07.03.2017: []