Fair Finance Asia
Rising inequalities, detrimental environmental impacts, unsafe working conditions, modern slavery, and increasing vulnerabilities of corporate project-affected communities are big concerns across the world. The COVID 19 pandemic once again highlighted the burgeoning disparities and harassment faced by vulnerable communities, in terms of access to health and well-being. And, the economic shocks associated with COVID-19 — such as rising job insecurity, issues of migrant labor, disruptions in the supply chain et al — has led to further disenfranchisement and deepening socio-economic gaps. Today, more than ever, it is critical that recovery looks beyond the short-term economic downturn towards addressing the climate crisis and the widening social disparities, with a focus on building a response system that works for the poor, while realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Financial institutions have had and will continue to have significant leverage in building the economy, primarily through its influence on the private sector due to corporate lending and project finance. The private sector can be an important driver of a region’s socio-economic development, provided appropriate regulations and controls are in place. Such regulation helps protect both the natural environment and the livelihoods and human rights of men, women and children. It is particularly important when investing in companies and/or corporate projects in Asia, as it is home to nearly 60% of the world’s population, one of the biggest drivers of global economic growth and where risks of conflict are high due to flexible requirements on environmental, social and governance (ESG) impact assessments. Financial institutions — involved in the provision and management of investment banking, project finance, issuances, asset management, and other forms of financial services — are in a strong position to influence the impact of large-scale projects through the provision of capital and financial services. This is particularly important in the high-risk sectors of Asia such as mining, energy, agribusiness, and infrastructure, where peoples’ rights to water and land, and the rights of vulnerable communities and women in particular can be violated.
Fair Finance Asia is presently working in seven countries in South and Southeast Asia towards building an enabling environment for sustainable finance policies and actions to ensure that financial institutions in Asia and those investing in Asia respect the environmental and social well-being of Asian communities.
The Key Goals of Fair Finance Asia:
- Transformed policies and practices by financial institutions operating in Asia: Evidenced by tangible commitments and action plans leading to strengthened due diligence, reorientation of financial flows towards investments supportive of ESG initiatives, and divestment from sectors and businesses that negatively impact the environment and the social well-being of communities
- Smart sustainable finance regulation and legislation developed and implemented: With Asian financial sector actors and practice leaders at the forefront determining roadmaps to change based on their unique country contexts; drawing lessons from their peers and neighbors’ experiences; and strengthening cross-border coordination and implementation to mitigate cross-border risks and impacts
- Building strong and wider alliances: Recognizing that all stakeholder voices matter and that each one has a critical role to play to achieve collective success; underscoring the value of a multi-stakeholder dialogue and initiative with the civil society as one of the cornerstones towards accelerating action on ESG transparency and accountability in Asia
- Strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations: Empowering civil society organizations in Asia to build a solid repository of knowledge and present evidence-based policy recommendations to support financial sector actors and regionally-operating financial institutions to transform their sustainable finance commitments to urgent action
- Elevate voices from the ground and increase awareness on key issues: By linking sustainable finance issues to topics that are close to citizens’ hearts; engaging broader audiences by opening the dialogue on highly relevant issues such as financial literacy, environmental sustainability, as well as links to critical governance issues at the national, regional, and global levels
Fair Finance Asia is an Oxfam initiative funded by the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok, and part of the global Fair Finance International Network.
Fair Finance Indonesia draws attention to the devastating impact of a coal-fired power plant on local communities.