open secrets' and CALS' complaint

The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) sets out standards to prevent MNEs from contributing to human rights violations. It is one of the few international mechanisms available to regulate and hold multinational corporations accountable. Countries that have agreed to adhere to the OECD Guidelines (“member countries”) establish National Contact Points (“NCPs”). NCPs are like the implementation mechanism of the OECD, located in most European countries, and tasked with enforcing the implementation of the OECD Guidelines. Open Secrets and CALS laid a complaint against two European banks, KBC and KBL, at the Belgium and Luxembourg OECD NCPs in April 2018, asking them to make findings on their role in aiding and abetting the apartheid government bust the United Nations arms embargo and procure arms to be used in maintaining the apartheid state. 

the complaint

Our complaint was submitted to the Belgian and Luxembourg NCPs on KBC and KBL’s failure to comply with the OECD Guidelines when they aided and abetted the apartheid government in buying weapons in the 1970’s and 1980’s in contravention of international law. In our complaint we identified extensive evidence, including over 40 000 archival documents and 3 expert testimonies.

the banks response

KBC Group’s and KBL European Private Bankers’ response to our complaint, which opposed the complaint on technical grounds. These were rejected by the NCPs.

amicus submission by UN expert

Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, a UN Independent Expert on the Effects of Foreign Debt, made a powerful submission to the Belgium and Luxembourg OECD NCPs which supported our complaint & called for the NCPs to investigate the matter.

delays and the NCP's conflicts of interest: our letter to the OECD

After protracted and fruitless communication with the OECD NCPs, Open Secrets and CALS wrote to the Belgian and Luxembourg NCPs about their excessive delay in dealing with our complaint, as well as the conflict of interest. In particular, we took pains to set out their own rules & procedures that demanded they deal with the conflict of interest in having members of senior members of KBC sitting in of two of the federations involved as decision-makers in whether or not our complaint would be heard. The Belgian NCP ignored our pleas and allowed KBC to be a decision-maker in whether a complaint could be brought against them.