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New study highlights human rights issues associated to infrastructure investment

Between 2008 and 2014, the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES), Brazil’s leading development finance institution, disbursed more than Brazilian Reals 654 billion. Of that total, approximately Brazilian Reals 289 billion (44 per cent) was earmarked for infrastructure, logistics and energy, considered strategic areas underpinning Brazil’s chosen model of economic growth, which rests on large-scale exports of agricultural and mining commodities.

The BNDES holds a larger portfolio than multilateral institutions including the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. What is more, in recent years, it has taken on a leading role – much to the benefit of major Brazilian corporations – as one of the main funders of infrastructure projects in Latin America, especially as framed by the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA), managed by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). It has also been particularly important in Brazilian corporations’ expansion into Africa and the United States, by promoting a policy of ‘national champions’ – that is, large Brazilian companies are internationalised as part of an explicit strategy to make them dominant in their respective industries.

The infrastructure, logistics and energy projects financed by the BNDES on Brazilian soil, are the platform for commodity exports such as oil, iron ore, bauxite, soya, sugar and ethanol, as well as agricultural and livestock products such as beef, pork, paper and cellulose, rubber and so on. Accordingly, the priority has been to build or expand highways, railways, ports and airports, logistics corridors and major hydroelectric facilities (prominently mega-projects such as the Belo Monte hydroelectric facility, which will be the world’s third largest in installed capacity, second only to Three Gorges and Itaipú).

Projects built with BNDES funding cause multiple social and environmental impacts, leading organisations and social movements, religious groups, artists and intellectuals from Brazil and around the world to declare their opposition to the introduction of a model of development that yields dubious benefits to the Brazilian people, while causing evident and demonstrable harm to delicate ecosystems and traditional peoples.

A new study released by IBASE examines in depth the areas where the BNDES has invested in recent years, highlighting the issues raised by the hegemonic, agro-mineral exporting model of development. It also identifies the chief corporate groups that benefit from the abundant public funds channelled by the bank, in an endeavour to publicise both the amounts involved in implementing such projects and the winners in this risk-laden proposal to pursue growth at the cost of social and environmental deterioration and external dependence. The study was conducted on the basis of information released by the BNDES itself about its operations from 2008 to the first quarter of 2014.

Click here for more information. (Please note this study is only available in Portuguese).

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June 2017
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