United States: U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) | Office of Accountability (OA)
The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is a U.S. government agency that supports the private sector for development projects around the world. The DFC became operational in January 2020 and subsumes the former U.S. government development finance institution, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA). The DFC supports businesses by providing investors with debt financing, equity financing, political risk insurance, and technical development.
U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)
Created In: 2018 (Operational in 2020)
Headquarters: Washington, D.C., United States
Mission: DFC is America’s development bank. DFC partners with the private sector to finance solutions to the most critical challenges facing the developing world today.
The Accountability Office: Office of Accountability (OA)
Established in: 2018 (Operational in 2020; OPIC’s OA established in 2005)
Functions: Compliance Review, Dispute Resolution
The Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, the legislation that created the DFC, mandates that OPIC’s policies, including its environmental and social policies, carry over to the new institution. The DFC’s environmental, social, and labor policies and procedures are described in the DFC’s Environmental and Social Policy and Procedures. The DFC must also comply with OPIC’s environmental handbook.
As a federal agency, the DFC must follow the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA, found in Section 552 of Title 5 of the United States Code, was enacted by Congress to provide the public with access to certain federal records. The act requires federal agencies to produce government records in response to requests from the public, provided that the records are not exempt from disclosure by FOIA.
The Accountability Office
The Office of Accountability (OA) is an independent office within DFC that addresses concerns, complaints, or conflicts about environmental or social issues that may arise around DFC-supported projects. The office provides project-affected communities, project sponsors, and project workers an opportunity to have concerns independently reviewed and addressed.
The full set of policies for the DFC’s Office of Accountability are still in development. For more information on how to submit a complaint now, please visit the OA’s website.
Advocating for Strong Accountability, Environmental, Social, and Development Standards and Protections for a New U.S. Development Finance Institution
In March 2018, the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act was introduced in both the House and Senate. The bi-partisan bills called for the creation of a new U.S. development finance institution, the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). The DFC would subsume OPIC as well as USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA), have an expanded liability cap, and have an expanded set of financial tools for its development activities.
From the beginning, Accountability Counsel actively pushed for the legislation to enshrine protections for communities affected by the proposed agency’s activities. This includes strong environmental and social policies to ensure that the agency does not finance projects that cause environmental degradation, engage in illegal labor practices, or otherwise harm the local communities where the projects are located. We also pushed for a provision in the legislation that would mandate an independent accountability office to receive complaints related to environmental, social, and human rights harm. Most development finance institutions have these offices, including OPIC, and it was crucial that the legislation provide an avenue for addressing community complaints.
AC engaged in months of advocacy and outreach with our partners, and as a result the final legislation, signed into law in October 2018 as a part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, includes strengthened environmental and social provisions. Importantly, the legislation mandates an independent accountability office to receive complaints of harm related to the DFC’s activities.
Since the passage of the law, AC has worked to ensure that the transition from OPIC and USAID’s DCA to the DFC is a transparent and participatory process and ensures that the new agency operates according to best practice. Per the BUILD Act’s requirements, the administration provided Congress with a reorganization plan on March 8, 2019 that included some details on the transition. That same month, Accountability Counsel and over 30 partners sent a joint letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee requesting a hearing and robust oversight of the transition.
The DFC became operational on January 2, 2020. As the new agency increases its operations, it is crucial that the DFC implements environmental, social, human rights, labor, development, stakeholder engagement, and accountability policies and practices according to best practice. Accountability Counsel has continued to work with partners to ensure that the DFC’s activities ultimately benefit and not harm communities around the world. To this end, our recommendations for the next steps for the DFC can be found here, and our specific recommendations for the DFC’s independent accountability office can be found here.
In July 2020, AC and several CSO around the world submitted recommendations on the DFC’s new system of measuring development impact, known as the Impact Quotient. As negative environmental and social impacts undermine positive development, our submission called on the DFC to ensure that these impacts are sufficiently accounted for during the project scoring process and to increase site visits to verify that projects are having the intended positive impacts.
Click here for past policy advocacy related to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
- 2018 Strengthening OPIC’s Project and Client Application Process
- 2015 – 2017 OPIC Environmental and Social Policy Statement Review
- 2014 – 2016 Feeding our Casework in Liberia into OPIC Policy Change
- 2013 – 2014 OPIC OA Policy Review
- 2012 – 2013 OPIC OA Policy Review Campaign
- 2010 Reviews of OPIC’s Environmental and Social Policy
Documents by Release Date
Mar 2019 – Accountability Counsel and over 30 partners sent a joint letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee requesting a hearing and robust oversight of the transition of OPIC and USAID’s DCA to the DFC. Accountability Counsel’s recommendations for the next steps for the DFC can be found here, and our specific recommendations for the DFC’s independent accountability office can be found here.
Oct 2018 – The U.S. Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018, which includes the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD Act). As a result of Accountability Counsel and our partners’ advocacy, the final legislation includes strengthened environmental and social provisions and mandates an independent accountability office to receive complaints of harm related to the DFC’s activities.
Mar 2018 – The Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act was introduced in both the House and Senate. The bi-partisan bills called for the creation of a new U.S. development finance institution, the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).
Documents by Release Date
Nov 2016 – Accountability Counsel and several partners submitted a joint submission of comments on the draft Environmental and Social Policy Statement.
Sep 2016 – OPIC released a draft of the revised Environmental and Social Policy Statement.
Mar 2016 – Accountability Counsel and partners submitted a joint submission to OPIC with recommendations on its ESPS and its associated procedures manual.
Feb 2016– Accountability Counsel and partners submitted a joint statement on OPIC’s revision of its ESPS.
Jan 2016 – Accountability Counsel released a scorecard report criticizing OPIC’s implementation of the recommendations of OPIC’s own Office of Accountability (OA), made following the OA’s review of OPIC’s disastrous biofuel project in Liberia. See our press release.
Mar 2015 – OPIC released a report to Congress in which it formally committed to reviewing its Environmental and Social Policy Statement (ESPS).
Apr 2014 – The OPIC OA released its 2014 Operating Guidelines and a comparison of its old and new operating procedures. Several of Accountability Counsel and partners’ key recommendations were adopted in the final policy.
Oct 2013 – Accountability Counsel and partners submitted joint comments to the OPIC OA on its draft guidelines (also available in Spanish). Accountability Counsel also submitted supplementary comments based on our experiences in the Cerro de Oro case involving a complaint to the OA.
Aug 2013 – The OA began accepting public comments on draft guidelines to replace the rules then governing the office.
Jun 2013 – Despite several requests for a timeline, the OA failed to provide any information about when it would initiate its public comment period, prompting Accountability Counsel and 12 other civil society groups to send a letter to the OPIC OA requesting an update.
Dec 2012 – The OPIC OA publicly announced that it would undertake a public procedural review process. It also agreed to make the administrative order laying out its current procedures publicly available for the first time.
Jul 2012 – As a result of Accountability Counsel’s policy initiative, the OPIC OA publicly released its 2005 Administrative Order for the first time, setting forth the OA’s procedural rules.
Apr 2012 – Accountability Counsel, and 19 civil society organizations, submitted a joint letter to OPIC, requesting that the OPIC President and Board of Directors require the current OA review to be part of a public and transparent process. Accountability Counsel also documented specific problems with the OPIC’s OA in relation to the Cerro de Oro case.
Oct 2010 – OPIC released its final environmental and social policy statement, abandoning many of the advances in the draft labor and human rights policy in favor of merging less specific human rights language into the existing environmental and social policy.
Sep 2010 – Accountability Counsel submitted comments on OPIC’s draft Labor and Human Rights Policy.
Jul 2004 – OPIC’s Board of Directors passed a resolution entitled, “Accountability and Advisory Mechanism for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.”
Nov 2003 – House Committee on International Relations passed a bill establishing the Office of Accountability (OA).