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ธนาคารเพื่อการพัฒนาเอเชีย (ADB)

In 2024, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is amidst Phase 3 of its process for revising the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), presenting the first draft of the W paper after two years of consultations. However, the draft falls significantly short of expectations, failing to ensure robust environmental and social safeguarding.

The draft ESF’s ‘Vision’ does not commit to the fundamental principle of ‘Do No Harm’ in ADB operations. This omission reflects the disregard for feedback from consultations. Terms like 'materially consistent', 'timely', and 'where applicable' are used ambiguously throughout the document, undermining environmental and social safeguarding accountability. These terms should be replaced with clear, mandatory, and time-bound standards.

Despite investing over 40 million USD in Country Safeguard Systems over the past decade, the ADB has not demonstrated successful application of these systems for SPS 2009 implementation. This underscores the need for stringent implementation of the SPS 2009 and the new ESF. Financing should not be approved if borrower systems are less stringent, and any flexibility in applying these systems must be revoked from the ESF.

The ESF should prioritize avoiding harm and restoring affected communities and environments to pre-project conditions or better. Its objective should not be aligned with green economic growth, which other ADB policies cover. The ESF must act as a safeguard to prevent and mitigate environmental and social risks comprehensively and on time.

The draft ESF introduces the Mitigation Hierarchy without definition and omits critical components such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA). These assessments are central to the SPS 2009 but are absent in the 170-page document, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the proposed framework.

The ESF draft fails to clarify the ADB Project Cycle and its approach to addressing project-related harms. The proposed Common Approach for Co-Financing with other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) lacks commitment to the highest safeguard standards, potentially allowing lower standards to prevail. ADB must ensure the highest social and environmental standards for both standalone and co-financed projects.

The draft includes problematic provisions like the treatment of Associated Facilities (AF), which are allowed to circumvent the ESF, contrary to the SPS 2009 policy. Moreover, the ESF is gender-blind, failing to address the fundamental rights and risks faced by women in project-affected areas. Binding language is needed to ensure gender safeguarding from the project design stage throughout the project cycle.

Given these significant shortcomings, a full overhaul of the current draft ESF is essential. The ADB Board and Management must revisit the drawing board before finalizing the policy. The subsequent sections of this critique provide detailed analysis and specific concerns raised by civil society and labor organizations, urging a more robust and effective ESF.

This comprehensive critique underscores the urgent need for the ADB to strengthen its commitment to environmental and social safeguarding in its revised ESF to ensure sustainable and equitable development outcomes.

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