Since 1958, we have been working around the globe to support economies and societies. We strive to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and create financial instruments to help countries meet these goals and ensure that our projects respect human rights.
Partnering for human rights
As the lending arm of the European Union, our activities follow and promote EU objectives and legal requirements. In our activities, we uphold freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law for everyone, including minorities.
We work with many EU bodies to strengthen our support for human rights in our operations, and collaborate with other international financial institutions to increase our reach. We are active in developing countries across the world, and invest in the public and private sectors to make countries’ economies more resilient. We only finance projects that respect human rights.
Guided by international human rights principles
We are the only development finance institution bound by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Our work is also guided by international human rights principles, including the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
How we support human rights
To ensure that our investments respect and promote human rights, the European Investment Bank has in place a series of policies, procedures, and practices. To find out more, read our approach to human rights.
Human rights are central to the way we develop and apply environmental and social requirements for our investments.
Our Environmental and Social Framework integrates human rights into our work. This involves:
- EIB Statement of Environmental and Social Principles and Standards
- EIB Environmental and Social Standards
- COVID-19 and Environmental and Social Sustainability
- Internal procedures and tools
Projects that limit people’s individual rights and freedoms or violate human rights cannot receive EIB support.
We require our clients to consider human rights as part of the environment and social impact assessment of the projects that we finance. The EIB Environmental and Social Standards explicitly references human rights considerations through specific requirements.
Every project that we finance has to go through a human-rights-responsive due diligence process during which we assess the environmental and social impact.
We check the risk, frequency, and severity of human rights impacts throughout the project cycle, from the appraisal of a project and inclusion of contractual obligations in our financing agreements, to project monitoring until project completion and beyond.
We put in place mitigation measures wherever possible. During a due diligence process, we can also implement additional measures that improve human rights. We take an integrated approach to assessing and managing human rights.
We provide transparent reports on our assessment of the environmental and social impact of our operations. We also publish key environmental and social documents relevant to each of our operations.
Examples of our approach
As part of its standard due diligence, when a project requires further scrutiny on account of human rights, the Bank can take a number of actions and additional mitigation measures such as :
- Request the project promoter to undertake additional studies or mitigation measures
- Request labour audits or labour assessments
- Request indigenous people’s development plans
- Check for potential human rights violations in conflict or fragile regions
- Check that the rights to privacy and data protection are protected
- Insert appropriate contractual obligations, including reporting and monitoring requirements
- Stop the disbursements (and possibly recall the loan) until actions are corrected
- Refrain from financing a project on human rights grounds
Supporting promoters to engage with stakeholders
The Bank has published guidance to support promoters in their efforts to engage with stakeholders about environmental, climate and social risks and impacts. The note proposes measures and actions to address them. This includes specific recommendations about the need to address the risks of reprisals.
Freedom of expression and thought is a fundamental human right. In many countries in the world, the space for dissent is shrinking and human rights defenders are being persecuted. The increasing use of lawsuits against public participation, specially targeted at civil society organisations, is worrisome. The EIB believes that enabling expression of dissenting voices and diverse opinions regarding its operations is at the heart of democracy and the rule of law.
The EIB does not tolerate any reprisals, threats, intimidation, harassment, or violence against any human rights defenders, environmental activists or indigenous people advocates voicing their opinion about EIB-financed activities. The Bank takes any allegation of intimidation or reprisals seriously, and follows up, as and when appropriate.
We see meaningful stakeholder engagement as a cornerstone of sustainable and inclusive development, and as the foundation for respecting the rights of affected people, rooted in international human rights law.
Our social and environmental standards require that promoters set up a project-level grievance mechanism. This mechanism gives all stakeholders, in particular – but not exclusively – impacted individuals and communities, the ability to provide feedback, channel their concerns and, thereby, access information and, where relevant, seek recourse and remedy.
Furthermore, the Bank’s own accountability mechanisms, such as the EIB Group Complaints Mechanism or the Bank’s own Fraud Investigations Division, have policies and procedures in place for citizens to hold the Bank to account and raise concerns about its operations without risking their security.
Moving into action
We have made a lot of progress in enhancing our commitment to human rights, but there is still more to do. We acknowledge challenges in ensuring our clients’ human rights performance – especially in more fragile environments – and work hard to improve their and our own impact.
Following a broad public consultation process, the EIB Group adopted a new Environmental and Social Sustainability Framework (ESSF), which outlines for the first time our vision on how to address environmental and social challenges, as well as uphold human rights in all our activities.
We’ve now gone a step further by releasing our approach to how the EIB promotes human rights through lending. It not only builds on public feedback on the ESSF, but also answers questions raised by civil society and other stakeholders about the Bank’s human rights impact.
Featured news and stories
The EIB has launched SheInvest, a new initiative to boost gender equality and female economic empowerment. The aim is to mobilise EUR 1 billion of investment that can benefit millions of women across Africa with better access to finance and by making sustainable infrastructure services and products work for them. This initiative was launched simultaneously at the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg and at the EIB headquarters in Luxembourg.
EIB on the ground
The EIB and FONPLATA Development Bank, with the support of the Latin America Investment Facility, work on a series of urban and rural development projects in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
In Argentina’s Jujuy region, a new project is bringing new economic opportunities for women. This project, part of the Province’s Jujuy Verde Initiative, also aims to manage waste sustainably and cut greenhouse gases.
The great challenges of today are global. All our economies are interconnected. Prosperity in one region promotes prosperity everywhere. Through EIB Global, EIB's dedicated branch, we bring all our resources to bear on our operations outside the European Union to face these challenges.