Press Releases

Yemen needs both aid and peace to avert famine, warns Oxfam

April 24th 2017

More money is urgently needed to ease the humanitarian suffering in Yemen but aid alone is no substitute for reviving efforts to bring about peace, Oxfam said, as ministers gather in Geneva for a high level pledging event.

The United Nations hopes to raise US$2.1 billion to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to Yemen but the appeal – intended to provide vital help to 12 million people – is only 14 percent funded [as of 18th April]. According to the UN, Yemen has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with nearly seven million people facing starvation.

Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland's Humanitarian Manager, said: “Donors need to put their hands in their pockets and fully fund the appeal to prevent people dying now. But while aid will provide welcome relief it will not heal the wounds of war that are the cause of Yemen’s misery. International backers need to stop fuelling the conflict, make it clear that famine is not an acceptable weapon of war and exert real pressure on both sides to restart peace talks.”

While aid is desperately needed to save lives now, many more people will die unless the de-facto blockade is lifted and major powers stop fuelling the conflict and instead put pressure on all sides to pursue peace. The two-year conflict has so far killed more than 7,800 people, forced over 3 million people from their homes and left 18.8 million people – 70 per cent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance. 

And Yemen's food crisis could become even more severe if the international community does not send a clear message that a possible attack against Al-Hudaydah – the entry point for an estimated 70 per cent of Yemen's food imports – would be totally unacceptable.

Several countries, including the UK, the US, Spain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, and Italy, are attending the event while they continue to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to parties to the conflict. The UK Government has approved arms export licences for £3.3bn worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia in the past two years. It has also provided military experts to advise the Saudi Arabian armed forces.

Colm Byrne continued: “If the parties to the conflict – and those fuelling it with arm sales – continue to ignore Yemen's food crisis, they will be responsible for a famine.

“Many areas of Yemen are on the brink of famine, and the cause of such extreme starvation is political. That is a damning indictment of world leaders but also a real opportunity – they have the power to bring the suffering to an end.”

Yemen was experiencing a humanitarian crisis even before this latest escalation in the conflict two years ago, but successive appeals for Yemen have been repeatedly underfunded; respectively 58 percent and 62 percent in 2015 and 2016, equivalent to $1.9 billion over the past two years. On the other hand, over $10 billion worth of arms sales were made to warring parties since 2015, five times the amount of the Yemen 2017 UN appeal.

Oxfam is calling on donors and international agencies to return to the country and to increase their efforts, to respond to this massive humanitarian crisis before it is too late.

Oxfam is also calling on the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal and raise vital funds for people facing famine in Yemen as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: https://www.oxfamireland.org/hunger 

ENDS 

For interviews or more information, contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org  

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS 

The number of people in need as a result of Yemen’s conflict continues to rise, but the international aid response has failed to keep up. For more information on which donor governments are pulling their weight, and which are not, download our Fair Share Analysis, "Yemen on the brink of famine"

Oxfam has reached more than a million people in eight governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance, food vouchers and other essential aid since July 2015. 

Oxfam is also calling on the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal and raise vital funds for people facing famine in Yemen as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: https://www.oxfamireland.org/hunger 

 

 

 

 
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Exposed: Abuse of migrants by state officials on Europe’s borders

April 6th, 2017

PRESS RELEASE: NORTHERN IRELAND

Refugees and migrants using the Western Balkan route to reach Europe claim that violence, brutality and unlawful treatment by authorities are a frequent occurrence.

In a new report published by NGOs today, people fleeing war, persecution and poverty describe beatings, robbery and inhumane treatment at the hands of police, border guards and other officials. In many cases, people describe illegal deportations with state agents denying access to asylum procedures for those seeking international protection.

The report A Dangerous ‘Game’ is based on 140 interviews with people on the move and exposes a disturbing pattern of brutality and abuse by law enforcement officials against migrants, including children. With the support of Oxfam, the research was conducted by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA). It includes testimonies of incidents in Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

One of the interviewees, Isaaq from Afghanistan, describes his treatment in Bulgaria: “They put us in a cage and didn’t give us food for three days. They beat us so badly. They even gave us electric shocks.”

The ‘game’ is how migrants in search of safety and dignity cynically refer to their attempts to cross borders without interception and ill-treatment by government agents. All 140 people interviewed for the report claim to have suffered mistreatment by officials. Accounts of abuses include:

●      Border police in Croatia forcing migrants to strip and walk back over the border to Serbia, while running a gauntlet of officers who beat them back with batons.

●      Hungarian officials forcing migrants to take off their clothes and sit in snow as they poured cold water over them.

●      Bulgarian police searching a group of migrants and taking all of their valuables, even their shoes, before sending them back over the border.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The testimonies we have collected expose the horrendous treatment governments, including those of European Union member states, are condoning in order to stop people entering their territory. These people are fleeing unimaginable situations in their home countries – violence, persecution, disaster and poverty – and for them to be met with brutality and worse here in Europe is shocking and unjust.”

Nikolina Milić of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights said: “These cruel and unlawful actions do nothing to stop the journey of people seeking safety and dignity. People tell us they have nothing to lose and will try to continue however dangerous it may be. Violence and intimidation must be replaced with fair and effective access to asylum procedures, and authorities must investigate claims of abuse.”

Many people have experienced obstacles in accessing asylum procedures in Serbia and Macedonia. People also describe frequent collective expulsions from Serbia. These so-called pushbacks are prohibited by international refugee and human rights law, because, among other reasons, they undermine a person’s right to seek asylum.

The report shows that authorities are pushing people from one country to another outside of the legal system without individual cases being heard, without legal assistance or interpreters being provided, and without any possibility of appeal. This is illegal and unethical.

These accounts reinforce UNHCR findings that people are regularly being informally and arbitrarily expelled from one territory to another across the region. For example, in Serbia a group of migrants, including a two-year old child, were told that they were being taken to a refugee reception centre. Instead, police brought them to a forest on the Bulgarian border in the middle of the night in freezing temperatures and left them there. The group survived, but by the time they were found two of them had lost consciousness due to hypothermia.

Mr Clarken continued: “The inhumane and illegal actions of law enforcement officials is fuelling fear in refugees and migrants, forcing many of them to rely on smugglers to continue their journey, a dangerous risk which exposes them to exploitation and abuse. This reinforces the need for European leaders to provide safe and legal pathways to Europe. European governments must work together to ensure the rights of people on the move are protected and crimes perpetrated against them are investigated. The six richest countries in the world, which includes the UK, host only 9 percent of the world’s refugees – this isn’t good enough and wealthy countries need to share responsibility and solidarity.

“This unlawful behaviour has been reported on before but the European Union has done very little to stop it. On the contrary, EU Council President Donald Tusk has been praising the migration “management” of the same governments exposed in this report. The European Union must ensure that international law and human rights are respected and that all states along the Balkans route uphold these laws and standards.”

Oxfam, BCHR and MYLA call on the governments of Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria to immediately cease violations of people’s rights and to urgently take action against the perpetrators of crimes against migrants and refugees, and for the EU to act immediately to prevent further abuse of migrants on their territory and guarantee the right to due process before the law.

To read the full report, click here.

ENDS

CONTACT: Phillip Graham on +44 (0) 7841102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to editors:

●      Spokespeople from Oxfam and the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights are available in Belgrade, Sarajevo and Brussels.

●      Images and videos in broadcast quality are available for use here: https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=32505&k=aadcc1e00c

●      To read the full report, click here.

●      The testimonies in this report were collected from 30 January to 17 February 2017 in Serbia and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The vast majority of the interviewees came from Afghanistan, the others from Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Lebanon. The names in the report, and in this release, have been changed to protect the identity of the people we have spoken to.

●      Of the 140 people spoken to 75 had been expelled from Hungary to Serbia, 19 from Croatia to Serbia, and 44 from Serbia to either Bulgaria or Macedonia, one from Macedonia to Greece, and seven from Bulgaria to Turkey. Several people have reported multiple pushbacks from different countries.

●      Earlier evidence of unlawful push-backs and ill-treatment at the hands of security forces in Serbia and Macedonia was released by Oxfam and partners in ‘Closed Borders’, a report from November 2016.

●      A recent UNHCR report showed the harmful impact of border restrictions on people, with many relying on smugglers and facing often deadly risks. The UNHCR also spoke of tens of thousands of reported push-backs by border authorities in Europe, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, amidst alleged violence and abuses.

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Exposed: Abuse of migrants by state officials on Europe’s borders

April 6th, 2017

PRESS RELEASE: REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Refugees and migrants using the Western Balkan route to reach Europe claim that violence, brutality and unlawful treatment by authorities are a frequent occurrence.

In a new report published by NGOs today, people fleeing war, persecution and poverty describe beatings, robbery and inhumane treatment at the hands of police, border guards and other officials. In many cases, people describe illegal deportations with state agents denying access to asylum procedures for those seeking international protection.

The report A Dangerous ‘Game’ is based on 140 interviews with people on the move and exposes a disturbing pattern of brutality and abuse by law enforcement officials against migrants, including children. With the support of Oxfam, the research was conducted by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA). It includes testimonies of incidents in Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

One of the interviewees, Isaaq from Afghanistan, describes his treatment in Bulgaria: “They put us in a cage and didn’t give us food for three days. They beat us so badly. They even gave us electric shocks.”

The ‘game’ is how migrants in search of safety and dignity cynically refer to their attempts to cross borders without interception and ill-treatment by government agents. All 140 people interviewed for the report claim to have suffered mistreatment by officials. Accounts of abuses include:

●      Border police in Croatia forcing migrants to strip and walk back over the border to Serbia, while running a gauntlet of officers who beat them back with batons.

●      Hungarian officials forcing migrants to take off their clothes and sit in snow as they poured cold water over them.

●      Bulgarian police searching a group of migrants and taking all of their valuables, even their shoes, before sending them back over the border.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The testimonies we have collected expose the horrendous treatment governments, including those of European Union member states, are condoning in order to stop people entering their territory. These people are fleeing unimaginable situations in their home countries – violence, persecution, disaster and poverty – and for them to be met with brutality and worse here in Europe is shocking and unjust.”

Nikolina Milić of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights said: “These cruel and unlawful actions do nothing to stop the journey of people seeking safety and dignity. People tell us they have nothing to lose and will try to continue however dangerous it may be. Violence and intimidation must be replaced with fair and effective access to asylum procedures, and authorities must investigate claims of abuse.”

Many people have experienced obstacles in accessing asylum procedures in Serbia and Macedonia. People also describe frequent collective expulsions from Serbia. These so-called pushbacks are prohibited by international refugee and human rights law, because, among other reasons, they undermine a person’s right to seek asylum.

The report shows that authorities are pushing people from one country to another outside of the legal system without individual cases being heard, without legal assistance or interpreters being provided, and without any possibility of appeal. This is illegal and unethical.

These accounts reinforce UNHCR findings that people are regularly being informally and arbitrarily expelled from one territory to another across the region. For example, in Serbia a group of migrants, including a two-year old child, were told that they were being taken to a refugee reception centre. Instead, police brought them to a forest on the Bulgarian border in the middle of the night in freezing temperatures and left them there. The group survived, but by the time they were found two of them had lost consciousness due to hypothermia.

Mr Clarken continued: “The inhumane and illegal actions of law enforcement officials is fuelling fear in refugees and migrants, forcing many of them to rely on smugglers to continue their journey, a dangerous risk which exposes them to exploitation and abuse. This reinforces the need for EU leaders to provide safe and legal pathways to Europe. The Irish Government must also play its part by honouring its relocation commitments under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, which have been unforgivably delayed. We should expand our Humanitarian Admissions Programme and allow those fleeing conflict and persecution from countries outside Syria to apply for humanitarian visas. Many people Oxfam assists are trying to reach their families, and are entitled to the sanctity and protection provided to the family by law. Ireland must defend these people by increasing options for family reunification.”

“This unlawful behaviour has been reported on before but the European Union has done very little to stop it. On the contrary, EU Council President Donald Tusk has been praising the migration “management” of the same governments exposed in this report. The European Union must ensure that international law and human rights are respected and that all states along the Balkans route uphold these laws and standards.”

Oxfam, BCHR and MYLA call on the governments of Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria to immediately cease violations of people’s rights and to urgently take action against the perpetrators of crimes against migrants and refugees, and for the EU to act immediately to prevent further abuse of migrants on their territory and guarantee the right to due process before the law.

ENDS

CONTACT: Alice Dawson on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

 

Notes to editors:

●      Spokespeople from Oxfam and the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights are available in Belgrade, Sarajevo and Brussels.

●      Images and videos in broadcast quality are available for use here: https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=32505&k=aadcc1e00c

●      To read the full report, click here.

●      The testimonies in this report were collected from 30 January to 17 February 2017 in Serbia and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The vast majority of the interviewees came from Afghanistan, the others from Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Lebanon. The names in the report, and in this release, have been changed to protect the identity of the people we have spoken to.

●      Of the 140 people spoken to 75 had been expelled from Hungary to Serbia, 19 from Croatia to Serbia, and 44 from Serbia to either Bulgaria or Macedonia, one from Macedonia to Greece, and seven from Bulgaria to Turkey. Several people have reported multiple pushbacks from different countries.

●      Earlier evidence of unlawful push-backs and ill-treatment at the hands of security forces in Serbia and Macedonia was released by Oxfam and partners in ‘Closed Borders’, a report from November 2016.

●      A recent UNHCR report showed the harmful impact of border restrictions on people, with many relying on smugglers and facing often deadly risks. The UNHCR also spoke of tens of thousands of reported push-backs by border authorities in Europe, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, amidst alleged violence and abuses.

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Oxfam Ireland reaction: No. of Syrian refugees now more than 5 million

Staggering statistic is bigger than entire Republic of Ireland population

Thursday March 30th, 2017

Following today’s announcement by the UN that the number of Syrian refugees has now passed the five million mark, Oxfam and three Syrian organisations called on a meeting of the international community in Brussels next week to recommit support to Syrians forced to flee their homes.

More than five million Syrians – or a quarter of the country’s pre-war population – have crossed the border in search of safety and registered as refugees in neighbouring countries since 2011. When broken down that is an average of 2,500 people crossing the border every day for the past five years.

Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “A staggering five million Syrians are now refugees – more people than the entire population of the Republic of Ireland. Yet some of the richest countries in the world are turning their backs on Syrians forced to flee from bloodshed.

“Millions of people are stuck between the rock that their country has become and the hard place that exile offers them. Despite attempts to seal Syria’s borders, this sad milestone shows how desperate people are to flee the violence and persecution in the country.

“The international community must show their support for Syria’s neighbouring countries that have welcomed these refugees and rich countries should resettle at a minimum the most vulnerable 10 percent of Syrian refugees by the end of 2017.”

Dr. Abdolsalam Daif, Turkey Country Director for Syria Relief and Development (SRD), said: “Syria, a country rich with history and traditions, is haemorrhaging its population, its medical workers, engineers, teachers, farmers. If the world doesn’t act immediately to pressure warring parties to stop the bloodshed, protect civilians, and give Syrians a chance to return home and rebuild their lives in a country at peace, we will have lost all our humanity.”

Dr. Ahmed Tarakji, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) President, said: “When people talk about refugees, they imagine UN run camps. The reality is only 10 percent of Syrian refugees live in camps. The overwhelming majority are in informal settlements established on agricultural land in Lebanon, in cramped flats in Jordan, and in housing with basic necessities in Turkey. They need jobs, education and healthcare. They need to be able to access services and markets, to contribute to the communities hosting them, and not strain overstretched societies. This can only happen if we all – donors, local authorities, national and international humanitarian agencies – step up our joint efforts.”

Though Syria’s neighbours have further restricted their borders since 2015, the relentless fighting and dim hopes of peace continue to force Syrians out of their war-torn country, either by being smuggled into Lebanon at the risk of their own lives, or living in limbo in makeshift camps at the Turkey and Jordan borders with little to no humanitarian aid available.

Oxfam is providing clean water to conflict affected populations in Syria through the rehabilitation of water infrastructure, water trucking and repairing of wells. It is working in Lebanon and Jordan to bring Syrian refugees clean drinking water, cash and relief supplies. Oxfam also helps families get the information they need about their rights and connects them to special services such as legal aid, as well as implementing programmes in sanitation and livelihoods. It has so far helped more than two million people across Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

Organisations such as SAMS and SAWA for Aid and Development (SAID, Sawa Foundation) are providing support to refugees in Syria’s neighbouring countries. SAMS organises medical and surgical missions to the region to provide healthcare to Syrians. They also support psychosocial programmes, such as art and play therapy, treatment of anxiety and speech disorders in children, as well as the psychological wounds of victims of arrest and torture.

SAID aims to improve the living conditions of refugees in need in Lebanon by providing them with material, logistical and psychological support and helping them become self sustainable and independent. Sawa is present in 16 informal settlements in Lebanon and fully supports 20,000 refugees.

SRD provides health care, shelter and protection services, food and non-food items, and higher education to people inside Syria. The organisation has distributed over $34 million worth of aid to over two million Syrians to date.

ENDS

For interviews, please contact:

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New Oxfam report: Europe’s biggest banks post quarter of their profits in tax havens

PRESS RELEASE - Northern Ireland

  • Average effective tax rate of only 6% paid by top European banks in Ireland
  • Transparency standards needed to prevent Northern Ireland being used as a tax haven 

Monday 27th March, 2017: Immediate release

Europe’s 20 biggest banks registered over a quarter (26 per cent) of their profits (at least £18 billion/€25 billion) in global tax havens in 2015, an Oxfam report revealed today – an amount at odds with the actual economic activity taking place in those countries. Tax havens accounted for only 12 percent of the banks’ global turnover and 7 percent of their employees.

The report – Opening the Vaults – suggests the discrepancy may have arisen because some banks are using tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of tax, to facilitate tax dodging for their clients, or to circumvent regulations and legal requirements.

The research for the report was only possible because of new EU transparency rules, requiring European banks to publish a country-by-country breakdown of their profits and tax payments, to assess their use of tax havens.

Michael McCarthy Flynn, Oxfam Ireland’s Senior Policy and Research Coordinator, said: “New EU rules give us a glimpse into the tax affairs of Europe’s biggest banks and it’s not a pretty sight. Governments must change the rules to prevent banks and other big businesses using tax havens to dodge taxes or help their clients dodge taxes.”

The research by Oxfam and Fair Finance Guide International reveals that Ireland is facilitating significant corporate tax avoidance, while UK-linked tax havens also proved popular with Europe's biggest banks. The report found that in Ireland European banks paid an average effective tax rate of no more than 6 percent – half the statutory rate of 12.5% – with three banks (Barclays, RBS and Crédit Agricole) paying no more than 2 percent.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Banks often pay little or no tax on the profits they post in tax havens. European banks paid no tax on €383 million of profit they posted in seven tax havens in 2015. In 2015 European banks posted at least €628 million in profits in tax havens where they employ nobody.
  • The 20 biggest banks posted €4.9 billion of profits in the tiny tax haven of Luxembourg in 2015 – more than they did in the UK, Sweden and Germany combined. 
  • Ireland appears to be a very productive location for European banks studied with just the Cayman Islands, Curacao and Luxembourg having a higher average profit per employee. An average employee in Ireland generated €409,000 in profits in 2015, more than nine times the average for employees worldwide.

Oxfam said countries are being denied large amounts of potential tax revenue and this is contributing to inequality and poverty as governments are forced to decide between increasing indirect taxes such as value-added tax (VAT), which are paid disproportionately by ordinary people, or cutting public services, which hits the poorest hardest. At the same time, increased profits as a result of lower corporate taxation benefit wealthy companies’ shareholders, further increasing the gap between rich and poor. The report highlights the importance of financial transparency rules to help detect and stamp out tax dodging.

The UK Government has already secured the power to expand public country-by-country reporting rules (which require companies to publically report on a country by country basis where they make their profits and pay their taxes) from banks to other big businesses, but has not yet introduced this legislation. It has been waiting to see what steps the EU will take.

Mr. McCarthy Flynn added: “No changes to Northern Ireland’s corporate tax system should be undertaken until these transparency rules are implemented throughout the UK, including Northern Ireland. Such rules will ensure that companies have to report on their profits and the tax they pay in every country where they operate, as a safeguard to prevent companies from taking advantage to avoid tax owed elsewhere. Otherwise there is a risk that Northern Ireland could be used as a tax haven, leaving the most vulnerable to pay the price of reduced public services such as health and education.” 

ENDS

Contact: To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact:

Alice Dawson on 00 353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

The report, Opening the vaults: the use of tax havens by Europe's biggest banks, a breakdown of bank data, infographics and a methodology document is available at https://oxfam.box.com/s/wn9mdt217isfp4ji8dzossuyxphb698dThe complete data on which Oxfam based its calculations is also available.

The 20 European banks assessed by Oxfam include: HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds and Standard Chartered (UK); BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Société Générale, BPCE, and Crédit Mutuel-CIC headquartered (France); Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank AG, and IPEX (Germany); ING Group and Rabobank (Netherlands); UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo (Italy), Santander and BBVA (Spain); and Nordea (Sweden). All banks were asked to comment on the findings of the report before publication – their responses are outlined in the report.

More statistics from the report:

  • Subsidiaries in tax havens are on average twice as lucrative for banks as those elsewhere. For every €100 of activity, banks make €42 of profit in tax havens compared to a global average of €19.
  • Bank employees in tax havens appear to be 4 times more productive than the average bank employee – generating an average profit of €171,000 per year compared to just €45,000 a year for an average employee.
  • In 2015 European banks posted at least €628 million in profits in tax havens where they employ nobody. For example, the French bank BNP Paribas made €134 million tax free profit in the Cayman Islands despite having no staff based there.
  • Some banks are reporting profits in tax havens while reporting losses elsewhere. For example, Germany’s Deutsche Bank registered low profits or losses in many major markets in 2015 while booking almost €2 billion in profits in tax havens.

Oxfam is an international confederation of 19 non-governmental organisations working with partners in over 90 countries to end the injustices that cause poverty. www.oxfamireland.org

Fair Finance Guide International is an international civil society network, initiated by Oxfam that seeks to strengthen the commitment of banks and other financial institutions to social, environmental and human rights standards. http://fairfinanceguide.org/

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