Meaning of AIIB's eco-social framework

作者: Kevin May      来源:China Daily
    摘要:To make sure the ESF is effective, the AIIB needs to develop strong guidance, have the necessary resources, and put in place the proper incentives both for staff and borrowers. This will guarantee that this policy is implemented as well as possible.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank's board of directors recently approved the new institution's much talked-about environmental and social framework (ESF) which lays out the levels of protections the bank will have in place to ensure that people and the environment are not inadvertently harmed in its financed projects. 

The announcement of the ESF approval came as a surprise to stakeholders that have been hoping to formally weigh in on this critical process, as there was just a brief moment late last year when the first ESF draft was open to comments. 

With the release of the AIIB's final ESF, we at Oxfam welcome the fact that it took on board some of our key concerns. First, the AIIB has extended protection to all communities displaced by AIIB-funded projects, giving them the right to restored or improved livelihoods. This critical addition would help prevent millions from being left vulnerable to impoverishment, at least on paper. Significantly, this also means the AIIB now leads the pack - endorsing a standard higher than the Asian Development Bank and current World Bank draft policies. 

Also, the AIIB treats resettlement as a sustainable development opportunity rather than an unfortunate by-product of development. The rights of those without formal land title will be respected - an important protection, because land is often unregistered or contested. 

Unfortunately, the framework missed an opportunity to set the bar higher in some important respects. 

Initially, one of our main concerns was what the information disclosure policy would look like. In that regard, we are delighted to see that the AIIB has approved an interim policy with the presumption of disclosure as one of its guiding principles, allowing everything to be disclosed unless stated otherwise, similar to the World Bank's 2009-approved Access to Information Policy. And if the AIIB announces the timing of when all the documents will be disclosed, that will make the international community more confident of its promise on transparency. 

To make sure the ESF is effective, the AIIB needs to develop strong guidance, have the necessary resources, and put in place the proper incentives both for staff and borrowers. This will guarantee that this policy is implemented as well as possible. 

Crucially, the AIIB will also need to develop a strong and independent mechanism with broad stakeholder input, including that of civil society, to allow affected communities to hold the institution accountable if the ESF is violated and communities are harmed. 

Given this, and the World Bank's stated intention to be a leader in setting international standards, we expect that at a bare minimum the World Bank will ensure that none of its policies fall short of the AIIB's, and instead adhere to the highest of international standards with respect to indigenous peoples, involuntary resettlement, climate and other issues fundamental to sustainable development. 

The author is the manager of Oxfam's China and the Developing World Programme.