Facing Finance, a German non-governmental organisation, plans to join forces with other NGOs in Europe to exercise pressure on the Norwegian finance ministry for the Government Pension Fund Global’s (GPFG) adoption of new ethical investment guidelines.
The Norwegian government had appointed the Ethics Committee to review ethical guidelines driving GPFG’s investments at the beginning of the summer, but Facing Finance is particularly looking at exclusion criteria for arms manufacturers.
“Facing Finance will meet with other NGOs in Germany and in Norway, and with Pax in the Netherlands, to discuss other actions in the next weeks,” director Thomas Küchenmeister told IPE.
Other NGOs that are keen to cooperate with Facing Finance include Framtiden, Amnesty International Norway, and Changemaker also in Norway, he said, adding that “we want to speak with other NGOs in Norway in the next two weeks on how to proceed.”
Pax and the NGOs in Norway have also written to the Nordic government to contribute to the discussions on recommendations by the Ethics Committee, the director added. The associations have not agreed on a strategy or to form an alliance yet but they have a common goal.
“We want to ask our partners in Norway on what is the best we can do and how we can support them,” he noted.
Facing Finance has written a letter to the Minister of Finance in Norway, Jan Tore Sanner, together with partners including Shareholders for Change and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, asking to specify exclusion criteria for GPFG’s investments in firms exporting arms.
In the letter, Facing Finance and its partners noted that the Ethics Committee recommends excluding companies selling arms to states involved in armed conflict where there is an unacceptable risk that the military equipment will be used in operations that lead to serious and systematic violations of international law.
The proposal, the signatories said, is in principle in line with the rules of the International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and with the EU Common Position on exports of military equipment and technology, but the rules are “regularly violated in practice because of vague wording in existing guidelines.”
Therefore the associations propose to exclude “all companies that supply to countries involved in armed conflict or where there is a threat of armed conflict”.
Arms manufacturers supplying countries that regularly violate human rights should also be removed from the pool of GPFG’s investments, it added.
“We have looked at the portfolio of the GPFG and we have reflected on the relevance that this new guideline would have (for the fund), and we have concluded that it is relevant,” Küchenmeister said.
The organisations have not received a reply from the minister to their letter so far, he added.
Facing Finance noted that GPFG is already invested in companies that supply arms to countries involved in armed conflicts.
“From our point of view this is a good example and justification for new and better guidelines,” he said.
The new rules for ethical investments also include the exclusion of producers of autonomous weapons.
“We support the proposals of the Ethics Committee,” Küchenmeister said, adding that he is “more optimistic” that the new guidelines will be adopted for arms exports rather than for autonomous arms, which are relevant for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).