With 57 nations already on board the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as prospective founders, a 250-member strong civil society network made an appeal to the newly-formed bank to adopt robust safeguards in its principles, policies and operations.
NGO Forum on ADB, in a formal letter to the AIIB, underscored the need for the bank to formulate and implement the highest standard of safeguards in view of the limits to the planet’s growth and the impacts of huge infrastructure projects on vulnerable Asian communities. In doing so, Forum said the AIIB can become a standard-bearer of safeguard policies across all multilateral development banks (MDBs).
Forum likewise recognized the role of the Chinese government in AIIB’s establishment and its earlier pronouncements to set up high-standard, feasible safeguard policies.
The Asian-led coalition of NGOs has, for decades, spearheaded civil society campaign towards the creation and strengthening of environmental and social protection at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and recently, has directly engaged the World Bank in the latter’s safeguards review process. Forum’s member organizations come from at least 19 countries that have signed the memorandum of understanding that establishes AIIB.
Forum asked AIIB, which is currently developing its core philosophy, operating platform and value system, to comply with international best practices and national, local or customary laws. The NGO coalition added that AIIB must ensure that its operations respect local traditions, culture and knowledge systems, especially of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and cultural minorities. It also said the bank’s projects and programs should not harm local environment, ecosystem and biodiversity, as well as thoroughly consider climate change impacts.
“In line with AIIB’s modus operandi of lean, clean and green, we appeal to the bank and the leaders of China to carry the concerns and needs of Asia’s most vulnerable groups and communities through the creation of superior safeguard policies,” according to Rayyan Hassan, Forum executive director.
“Given that AIIB is founded on lessons learned from existing MDBs and private sector, the bank is on the right path towards institutionalizing socio-environmental shields that would minimize, if not outrightly contain, any collateral damage or rights-based violation caused by poorly-implemented development projects,” Hassan stated.
At the same time, Hassan requested the inclusion and participation of civil society in AIIB’s safeguard policy formulation saying “our civil society network can provide the bank with information regarding potential risks on the ground across the region.”
Forum has asked AIIB to ensure public transparency and public participation in decision-making process, in particular follow the principle of “free prior informed consent or objection.” Likewise, it also said the AIIB including its private sector operations should comply with the bank’s own safeguards, international conventions and national laws.
The civil society network urged the bank to ensure the right to equality and non-discrimination to the following: IPs, ethnic and cultural minorities, women, children, persons with disabilities, and sexual orientation and gender identification expression (SOGIE).
AIIB, as of April, has identified 57 prospective founding members, namely Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Laos, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
The NGO Forum on the ADB is an Asian-led network, comprised of community groups and civil society organizations, which has been monitoring the projects, policies and programs of the Asian Development Bank since 1992. Forum has around 250 member organizations largely from South Asia, Southeast Asia, Mekong, and Central Asia & Caucasus. It also has members and partners from Europe, Australia, China, Japan and the United States.