For the third year in a row, the coalition Don't Buy Into Occupation (DBIO), of which Norwegian People's Aid is a part, shows that 776 European financial institutions have given billions in loans and underwriting guarantees and have shares and bonds in 51 companies that contribute to gross violations of human rights and international law in Palestine.
The Norwegian Bank - DNB , is among the players who have given credit to some of the 51 companies, while the Statens Pensjonsfond Utland, better known as the Oil Fund, tops the list of financial players who have invested in the companies. Among the 8 other Norwegian asset managers that are invested in the companies, we also find DNB and Folketrygdfondet ( The Government Pension Fund Norway), which have large holdings.
Even if the 51 companies in question also carry out activities that are not linked to the illegal settlement business, they still have a responsibility.
- The companies should use their influence to prevent, reduce and deal with potential harmful effects as a result of their involvement in serious violations of international law and human rights, said Gry Ballestad, head of Development and Humanitarian Cooperation in Norwegian People's Aid.
The 51 companies identified include prominent names such as Alstom, AirBnB, Carrefour, Cisco Systems, IBM, Puma, Siemens and Volvo Group, all of which are involved in activities that raise concerns about human rights abuses, while some are already listed in the UN's business database linked to Israeli settlements.
The UN has repeatedly stated that the Israeli settlements are contrary to international law and an obstacle to peace. Financial institutions should therefore not be invested in companies that help to build, maintain, expand and keep the settlements alive. If they are already invested, they must follow international guidelines for responsible business and carry out an increased degree of due diligence. If the companies themselves do not end their objectionable activity, then the financial institutions must end their investments immediately.
- The activities of the companies in question include not only the construction of settlements and infrastructure, but also the provision of services, demolition of homes, illegal exploitation of natural resources and population surveillance in occupied areas. The settlements are built on de facto annexed land, and more and more Palestinian territory is being taken, said Ballestad.
The DBIO reports have also shown that financial institutions and business are able to fulfill their responsibilities according to international law and human rights, also in occupied territory. In addition, the DBIO III report reveals how financial institutions are introducing investment policies to align with human rights and international law, as well as policies that specifically include "activity in the settlements in occupied territories" as an exclusion criterion. However, these remain insufficient and sometimes overlooked when carrying out activities in practice.
- Several financial players in Norway have shown that it is possible to be careful in areas of conflict and have initiated dialogue with portfolio companies and excluded companies when dialogue has not led to any solution. But the figures also show that more can be done. Due diligence requires continuous follow-up so that new companies that engage in problematic activities are not brought in, said Ballestad.
There has been an enormous increase in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank over the past year, or at least in recent times. There is now more than ever a need for Norwegian actors to ensure that their business relationships are not linked to violations of international law on occupied land!
Download the full report here