Delivered by Mr. Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director - NGO Forum on ADB
Good Morning Mr. President. Thank you for making time to sit with civil society in this year’s 49th AGM as you have done so in the past with us -- the NGO Forum on ADB -- an independent network of 250 civil society organizations of grassroots organizations, social movements, and affected communities across South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and caucuses in Australia, Europe, and the USA committed to holding the ADB accountable since 1992.
We are witnessing the unprecedented flow and focus of private capital from among the Banks for infrastructure development.
Large-scale infrastructure projects if developed without careful attention to impacts on the environment, economies and communities carry severe risks of mass impoverishment, permanent loss of livelihoods, violent conflict, and human rights violations, as well as irreversible environmental damage. This includes the destruction of forests, biodiversity, coastal areas and river systems, as well as massive greenhouse gas emissions. This causes irreparable harm to women, children, persons with disabilities in the vulnerable communities, including indigenous peoples and burden taxpayers into unsustainable debt payments.
And yet, here we are, hearing the same approach that has put the Asian region in a situation more precarious than 49 years ago Nearly 750 million people in the region still survive on less than $1.25 a day while income inequality has risen more than 20% in the last 20 years. Despite the overbearing presence of the private sector in the delivery of public goods and services, lower-income groups have inadequate access to basic services in health care, education, or safe drinking water and sanitation.
We have also crossed four of the nine planetary boundaries: deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous. IPCC figures show that we have crossed 390 limits to over 400 parts per million volume of CO2 – a level which has not happened in 650,000 years but happened in the last 50 years. And yet, ADB continues to fund coal power and build mega infrastructure against the wishes of the people to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.
Forum witnessed the displacement of 58,301 families as a result of ADB’s large-scale infrastructure projects in 13 countries from 2010-2016 alone. Furthermore, we are aghast that the ADB has yet to comply with Core Labor Standards leading to violations of workers’ rights in the very projects believed to be reducing poverty in the region.
The increasing use of opaque, private and ungoverned funds supports the current economic architecture that brought us in the first place to pervasive poverty, rising inequality, economic and environmental crisis. Private capital led infrastructure development merely financed the connectivity and energy needs of global supply chains and not poor peoples whose needs are irrigations, schools, affordable houses or basic bridges needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
Our Network was born in the wake of mass poverty, unemployment and loss of livelihood, social unrest, and human rights violations brought by displacements from the building of large dams, trains, highways, and ports -- owned by private capital on previously public domains. The communities suffered from this approach that was replete with risks to people and the environment and yet the Bank is treading the same path in greater levels.
That this is happening in a ground reality of an increasingly limited space for civil society in our regions should compel us to rethink how truly close we are in achieving inclusive development especially in borrowing states with severed democracies such as Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Laos, among others. Thus, we thank you, Mr. President, for providing us with this critical space to raise our immediate concerns:
ADB SPS 2010 delivery is still in question and we are still yet to see institutional reform which ensures ADB Safeguard staff to be on the ground throughout the project cycle to ensure ADBSPS2010 compliance. Do note Mr. President we recognize that the ADB SPS 2010 arguably remains the torch bearer on binding requirements on environmental and social safeguards among all the MDBs on paper. Thus, will you Mr. President pledge that there will be NO DILUTION of the ADB SPS 2010?
We continue to observe that ADBs is shifting more and more of its lending to private sector operations and actors. On the issue of ADB SPS 2010, the provision of self-reporting by the private sector and FIs has failed to ensure delivery on the ground. We demand the ADB apply the equal requirements and institutional response on ADB SPS2010 to all private sector lending projects. There must be ADB permanent Safeguard specialists on all ADB project sites to ensure safeguards of communities and the environment.
In light of 1.5-degree consensus in COP 21, we urge the ADB Stop lending any and all forms of Coal Power Plant Projects.
We urge the ADB to recognize its MOU with ILO on the CLS and demand that the ADB include CLS in all levels of its Operations.