Top Execs from Gov't, Businesses, and Civil Society to Refine Policy Wish-list on Sustainable Finance in ASEAN’s Agribusiness Sector

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Download press release in Khmer

Phnom Penh, September 29, 2022: Today, Oxfam hosts a multistakeholder roundtable, “Galvanizing Sustainable & Responsible Finance in ASEAN” in Phnom Penh. This roundtable is supported by Fair Finance Asia (FFA) and Oxfam’s Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in Southeast Asia (GRAISEA) program.

This dialogue will bring together representatives from the Cambodian government, private sector, and civil society to engage with the key findings and recommendations from the joint FFA-GRAISEA report, “Harvesting Inequality: The Social Impact of Financial Institutions’ Investments in Asia’s Agribusinesses,” and to synthesize and refine gender and sustainable finance policy asks for the ASEAN Chairpersonship under Cambodia in 2022.

Ms. Phean Sophoan, National Director of Oxfam in Cambodia said: “Oxfam welcomes the participation of top government, business, and civil society experts in this multistakeholder dialogue focused on sustainable finance and gender issues in agribusiness. According to the ‘Harvesting Inequality’ report, 99.8% of female workers in Cambodia’s agriculture sector have informal status, which means that they cannot access benefits and protections under the Labor Law. As such, they are more vulnerable to chronic poverty, low wages, illness, injury, exploitation, and other socially harmful practices. Oxfam calls on agribusinesses, the Cambodian government, and financial institutions to ensure that the rights of women farmers and workers, and other marginalized groups, are protected.”

The multistakeholder dialogue will open with a high-level plenary in the morning. The keynote panellists will be government spokespersons engaged in the coordination of the Cambodian Chairpersonship of the ASEAN, such as H.E. Mr. Khut Chandara, member of the Commission on Planning, Investment, Agriculture, Rural Development, Environment, and Water Resources of the National Assembly of Cambodia, H.E. Mey Vann, Secretary of State of Ministry of Economy and Finance, and Secretary General, General Generiate of NSFSA, and H.E. The Chun Hak, Director General, Gender Equity and economic Development of the Ministry for Women’s Affairs (MoWA). Following presentations by FFA and GRAISEA on key findings and recommendations from the “Harvesting Inequality” report, dialogue participants will engage with topics, including corporate accountability across agricultural value chains, regulatory regional level barriers to social accountability in agricultural value chains, and ASEAN initiatives, such as the ASEAN taxonomy, that would help ensure that social risks are factored into the financial sector.

“Our research shows that banks are not doing enough to promote human rights, women’s rights, and labor rights in Asia’s agribusiness sector,” said FFA Program Lead Ms. Bernadette Victorio. “From January 2016 to December 2020, our study found that 125 of the largest ASEAN agribusinesses received US$22.6 billion from global and regional financial institutions, while 90% of these agribusinesses ignored issues related to fair labor practices, transparency and accountability, and gender parity. Our study also found that 54 highly consequential financial institutions active in the 13 Asian countries covered in the study, scored, on average, 2 out of 10 for Gender Equality, Human Rights, Labor Rights, and Transparency and Accountability, based on criteria set out by the Fair Finance Guide International Methodology (FFGI). ASEAN governments, and financial institutions must do more to commit, in policy and in practice, to respecting and upholding international human rights conventions and global standards in human, labor, and women’s rights.”

GRAISEA Program Lead Mr. Ashley Aarons said: “Now is the time for the financial sector to finally take gender equality seriously, which would not just benefit the financial sector as a whole, but also support agribusinesses that rely on an inclusive investment environment. At GRAISEA, we believe that the financial sector has a huge role to play in promoting resilience and recognizing the rights and agency of women and men farmers to contribute to the agricultural value chain and reduce poverty and inequality in the long run. This FFA-GRAISEA multistakeholder dialogue offers key recommendations to accelerate responsible financing and investments in the agribusiness sector, enabling financial institutions to create strong policies on human rights and women's rights that have positive impact on the way that the financial sector does business.”

Following the high-level plenary, a select group of experts and stakeholders will convene in an interactive roundtable to exchange insights on a draft policy brief that builds upon recommendations from the “Harvesting Inequality” report. The roundtable aims to facilitate a consultative dialogue on strategic levels to better integrate social criteria, particularly gender equality, labor rights, and transparency and accountability into ASEAN’s sustainable finance policy frameworks and initiatives. The refined policy brief will be submitted to the incumbent ASEAN Cambodian Chair, and for consideration by incoming ASEAN Indonesian Chair in 2023, to prioritize the acceleration of sustainable and responsible finance in the region, with a strengthened lens on social and gender criteria and impacts.

Notes to editors: 

Read the joint FFA-GRAISEA “Harvesting Inequality” report here:

Fair Finance Asia (FFA) is a regional network of Asian CSOs committed to ensuring that financial institutions' funding decisions in the region respect the social and environmental well-being of local communities. FFA encourages financial institutions, such as banks, to actively contribute towards reversing social injustice and environmental destruction, and for financial regulators and supervisors to play a critical role in making banks move swiftly in a sustainable direction. FFA calls for a stronger cross-border sustainable finance policy coordination in Asia that is consultative, inclusive, and multi-stakeholder which includes CSOs that represent the voices of communities. Fair Finance Asia is a regional network of Asian CSOs committed to ensuring that financial institutions' funding decisions in the region respect the social and environmental well-being of local communities.

Oxfam's Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South East Asia (GRAISEA) program is a regional program funded by the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok. GRAISEA aims to improve the livelihoods of small-scale producers in the agribusiness sector in Asia through inclusive value chains and responsible business practices that drive women’s economic empowerment, integrate human rights, and improve communities’ resilience to climate change.

Oxfam has been supporting Cambodia’s development since 1979, making it the first INGO operating inside Cambodia during the controversial post-Khmer Rouge genocide period. Oxfam in Cambodia works in a wide range of programs advocating for women Economic Empowerment, Livelihoods for vulnerable groups, Natural Resource Governance, Climate Change Resilience and Sustainable Energy, Financial Inclusion, Social Protection and Decent works, Sustainable and Climate Resilient Agriculture, Civic Engagement, Financing for Development and inclusive green business.

Contact information: 

Ms. Naratevy Kek, Communications Coordinator, Oxfam in Cambodia

Ms. Bernadette Victorio, Program Lead Fair Finance Asia