Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
B9 Financial Street, Xicheng District Beijing 10033
People’s Republic of China
Dr. D.J. Pandian, Vice President and Chief Investment Officer
Dr. Joachim von Amsberg, Vice President – Policy and Strategy
Mr. Hamid Sharif, Compliance, Effectiveness and Integrity Unit (CEIU) Director General
Ms. Laurel Ostfield, Head of Communications and Development
Mr. Oliver Barron, Executive Officer, Office of the President
Ms. Michaela Bergman, Principal Social Development Specialist Members of the Board of Directors of the AIIB
CSO Joint Statement to AIIB on Gender
Dear Pres. Jin,
In the Asia – Pacific and beyond, the role of gender equality and women’s rights in the achievement of development goals at the individual, household, community, workforce, and societal levels cannot be understated. The extent of power, influence, and resources of international financial institutions (IFIs) including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to reduce or impose structural barriers to women’s economic rights cannot be ignored. In the past, civil society organizations have documented that IFI – led projects and policies have resulted in a gender-unequal distribution of unpaid care work and access to healthcare facilities, schools, and livelihood opportunities.
In the case of some sovereign ADB – funded projects particularly the Khulna - Jessore Drainage Project in Bangladesh project – affected women were not included in meaningful consultations and design of the said Project. None of the resettled women were able to found employment opportunities related to the Cambodia Railway Rehabilitation Project. The specific measures to ensure women had access to vocational training or saving groups were also not implemented. Similarly in the ADB – financed Kolkata Environmental Project an estimate of 2,880 affected households mostly canal bank dwellers were displaced. Some of the affected families were given a flat measuring 15.5 ft by 10 ft. The small size of these flats led to several difficulties such as girls married off earlier as there was a small space for them to stay and indirect harassment among others. In these cases, women and girls often experience twice the burden of the unintended and adverse impacts of poorly designed IFI – funded projects This has resulted in gender discrimination as well as gender - unequal social and economic power relationships.
The large-scale investments by IFIs often change not only entire economies but of societies too. AIIB and its co-financiers pledge support into building large-scale infrastructure such as road, railways, high voltage transmission lines, and power – sector stations. This also expands to special economic zones along the stretches of the so-called infrastructure corridors. The land being used in support for local livelihoods such as for food production is now claimed for infrastructure and production halls.
As a result, women have less and lesser access to land and natural resources. Their livelihoods, which used to depend on land and natural resources, are becoming increasingly dependent on temporary lowly paid jobs in the economic zones and corridors. Such practices impose threats and risks where labor standards are applied much more loosely than what national laws dictate. Economic development that is based on the extraction of natural resources and exploitation of laborers is unlikely to bring positive change for women’s economic independence and equality.
In 2015, World Bank developed its new Gender Strategy for 2016 – 2023. However, its Environment and Social Framework even in conjunction with the Guidance Notes are still inadequate to reflect the bank’s gender commitments at the project level implementation. Whereas in the case of the ADB, the 2009 Safeguard Policy Statement include requirements for gender considerations with regards to project impact and risk assessment, an involvement of women and gender considerations in consultations as well as requirements for gender sensitive and responsive grievance mechanism. However, there is still the absence of binding gender safeguards and lack of assessment on how these gender considerations are implemented to ensure the protection and participation of women in all phases of the project cycle.
AIIB as a new IFI established in 2016 has an opportunity to set the bar higher than other IFIs towards a more progressive approach towards safeguards and protection of women both at the policy and project implementation level. Gender considerations should also be reflected particularly for private sector-led operations, which have been criticised for its lesser accountability and transparency measures. It is in these contexts, that we CSOs demand that gender - intersectional issues such as resettlement/displacement and loss of livelihoods, particularly affecting women and girl – children, be integrated into all policies and project implementation. Project – affected women have also absorbed severe adverse impacts of poor project implementation and exclusion from meaningful consultations. To remedy this, AIIB investments and policies must strengthen the implementation of gender perspectives and ensure gender – responsive and inclusive infrastructure development financing. As civil society organizations, we urge the AIIB to mandatorily require that all Bank policies and operations identify and prevent potential gender discrimination against project – affected persons, particularly women, and prevent women’s suffering from forced displacement, loss of livelihoods and gender injustices.
Specifically, we ask AIIB to:
1. Protect project-affected households, particularly women and girls, from project risks and impacts.
The AIIB commitment to “sustainable growth” had identified that it will ensure safe and healthy working conditions for all workers, promote gender equality, encourage inclusive development and empower vulnerable groups. However, to guarantee that the AIIB consistently promotes gender equality it should ensure the protection of women and mainstream gender issues by identifying and addressing potential and actual gender disparities in the implementation of AIIB – financed projects. Project – affected women should not be viewed merely as oppressed victims but as rights – holders and significant stakeholders in decision – making processes. Lastly, AIIB policies should uphold the protection of project – affected peoples, especially women and girls, against direct and indirect sexual harassment.
2. Develop a strong Directive on the Environmental and Social Policy (ESP) with gender considerations.
In the AIIB’s Environment and Social Framework (ESF), it highlights the importance of gender equality i.e. “the Bank recognizes the importance of gender equality for successful and sustainable economic development and the need for inclusiveness and gender responsiveness in the Projects it supports (para. 14).” However a close scrutiny on the 4 – page Directive on Environmental and Social Policy which “aims to facilitate the implementation of the Bank’s ESP, including the Environmental and Social Standards (ESS)” clearly shows the absence of how to operationalize the commitments and gender considerations identified in the Policy. The Policy provides for: A “gender – sensitive, culturally appropriate and readily accessible project-level grievance redress mechanism to all affected people (para. 63); Gender was also identified in the conduct of an environment and social assessment for the proposed Project in identifying direct, indirect, cumulative and induced risks and impacts (on ESS 1: Environment and Social Assessment and Management); Describes a meaningful consultation that is gender inclusive, accessible, responsive and tailored to the needs of vulnerable groups (on ESS 1); Taking gender into account in conducting the planning for involuntary resettlement through the survey of land and assets, full census of persons to be displaced and evaluation of socio- economic conditions specifically related to involuntary resettlement risks and impacts (on ESS 2: Involuntary Resettlement); and Undertake a culturally appropriate and gender-sensitive social assessment (on ESS 3: Indigenous Peoples). Despite these provisions in the Policy, the application of gender mainstreaming particularly in operationalizing the ESP through the Directive is hardly visible, if not entirely non – existent. This might be a case of “gender evaporation” where gender considerations are integrated into the Policy and rhetoric but might possibly disappear in the actual implementation of projects. Local community and other stakeholder consultations should have balanced representation by women and men.
3. The AIIB should develop a mechanism to strengthen the capacity of its Clients to implement the gender considerations identified in the ESF and Policy. The ESF provides that the “Bank supports its Clients to identify potential gender-specific opportunities as well as gender-specific adverse risks and impacts under their Projects and to develop mitigation measures to avoid or reduce such impacts and risks.” Furthermore, it also encourages Clients to enhance the design of their Projects in an inclusive and gender- responsive manner to promote equality of opportunity and women’s socio-economic empowerment (para. 14) [Note: Emphasis supplied].” This language essentially places the onus to the Clients whether or not they will implement the gender considerations identified in the ESF and Policy. To further ensure the seriousness of the Bank in recognizing the significance of gender equality, it should also develop the capacity building of its Clients to adhere to and implement these gender considerations. The AIIB should also strengthen its due diligence and oversight in ensuring that women be involved in meaningful participation and consultations related to all project stage processes from identification and design of feasibility studies prior to Board approval, to planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. This should also include the identification and assessment of existing and new technologies for projects to improve the condition of women. The AIIB should also integrate women’s experiences and knowledge into both policy and project implementation.
4. Mandatorily collect gender-disaggregated baseline and monitoring data from project identification to completion stages. The AIIB provides that, “Where relevant, use gender-disaggregated data and analysis and consider enhancing the design of the Project to promote equality of opportunity and women’s socio-economic empowerment (on ESS 1) [Note: Emphasis supplied].” While this is not the opportune time to consider any changes in the language of the ESF and Policy, the AIIB should exercise due diligence over its Clients in the implementation of collecting gender disaggregated baseline and monitoring data at all project stages particularly during the identification of project – affected persons. This would further ensure gender - equal sharing of project benefits and opportunities. Similarly, this would ensure that the identified mitigation measured adequately responds to the needs of the project – affected women.
5. As AIIB is beginning to finance more stand-alone infrastructure projects, its ESF delivery by its borrowers and clients on gender dimensions, issues and obligations will be expected to meet due diligence delivery and compliance. The AIIB is also obligated to ensure the necessary steps for monitoring and oversight of its clients. As such AIIB policies as a requirement for the Banks client to meet, should uphold international human right frameworks and standards including Convention on the Discrimination of all forms Against Women (CEDAW) and develop measures to ensure the safety and security of the women in communities and women environmental defenders.
American Friends Service Committee, Myanmar
Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)
Bank Information Center USA
Climate Watch Thailand
Centre for Environmental Justice, Sri Lanka
Centre for Development and Research Action, India
Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), Bangladesh
Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
Nash Vek, Kyrgyzstan
NGO Forum on ADB
Myanmar Programme on Women's Economic Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR)
Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia
Action Paysanne Contre La Faim
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Bank Information Center Europe, Europe
BRICS Feminist Watch
International Center for International Environmental Law
International Community Empowerment and Social Justice Foundation
Nepal Conectas Human Rights, Brazil Conseil Regional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Developpement, Democratic Republic of the Congo
International Echoes of Women in African Initiatives, Nigeria
Friends of the Earth, USA
International Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia
Radha Paudel Foundation, Nepal
Rivers without Boundaries, Mongolia
Youth for Environment Education and Development Foundation, Nepal
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