Manila, Philippines – As the 6th Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) 2021 Annual Meeting, themed “Investing Today, Transforming Tomorrow”, opens today – days before COP26 in Glasgow – civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world have come together to highlight key critical concerns about the way the bank’s investments to date are already undermining peoples’ rights and ecosystem resilience, and about the institutions’ plans going forward, in light of the urgency of the climate, debt and health crises.
In this context, civil society organizations are asserting a wide range of concerns about the specific projects and initiatives financed since the AIIB’s inception in 2016, while also issuing specific questions about the Bank’s policy frameworks being incorporated into its “Infrastructure for Tomorrow” (i4t) approach. By all accounts, they charge the Bank with exacerbating social and economic despair, the crisis of illegitimate debt within borrowing member states, the security of environmental and human rights defenders, and toxic contamination of planetary commons; all without any regard for transparency or accountability.
As Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director of NGO Forum on ADB explained: “Time and again, we have seen the AIIB insulate its annual meeting from direct engagement with project-affected communities, systematically averting any meaningful integration of our concerns into program sessions and consistently denying us the opportunity to organize or even co-host sessions within the formal agenda. While the bank has formalized its new corporate strategy, rolled out a new Environmental Social Framework, and is expected to announce timelines for revising its Energy Sector Strategy, the voices of existing project impacted communities once again remain unheard through this virtual meeting agenda.”
Dr. Nora Sausmikat, Head of the China Desk at Urgewald in Germany, stated, “The one who gives money bears responsibility! A multilateral bank initiated by China focussing on building infrastructure causing huge interventional into the social and environmental environment needs strong safeguards. Operating six years without time-bound information disclosure is a scandal.”
Vidya Dinker, of GrowthWatch in India, elaborated further, “We see AIIB financing more and more projects that are non-transparent, cause environmental damage, biodiversity loss and serious violations of human rights, like in the Bangalore Metro Rail Project, while stubbornly refusing to be accountable. We, South Asians, are already vulnerable to climate change. Clearly, the bank is a part of the problem and not the solution as they'd like to project.”
“AIIB should not allow projects offering support to rogue governments into its pipeline – like approving the 116-million-Euro project to the illegitimate regime of the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko for purchasing medical equipment and paying unnamed consultants. With little or no transparency in the procedures and the dysfunctional system of justice, the loans given to such governments will most likely be misused or stolen” says Art Ledovsky of the international movement of Belarusian communities ‘Belarusians Abroad’
As Dustin Schäfer of Urgewald enumerated, “six years of operation, 142 projects and over $28 billion invested, the Project Affected Peoples’ Mechanism (PPM) has yet to receive a single complaint. The empirical evidence is concerning and leaves many questions unanswered. Therefore, the PPM review must be open and transparent, involving not just other Independent Accountability Mechanisms and Multilateral Development Banks, but also NGOs and of course, those affected by AIIB projects. The AIIB should consult not only on the policy itself but on the scope of the review, its timeline, and the plan for consultation.”
Petra Kjell Wright, Campaigns Manager at Recourse in the UK, added: “The worsening climate crisis threatens and affects all humanity, but it does not do so uniformly. Existing gender inequalities aggravate gender-differentiated climate change impacts, in particular for women and other marginalised gender groups. Despite years of civil society pressure AIIB has failed to take gender issues seriously. We call on the AIIB to finally make amends and implement a mandatory, robust and freestanding gender policy, which also recognises the impact of the global climate crisis.”
Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development, explained: “We are living in the most climate-vulnerable countries in the Global South that suffer from fossil fuel projects supported by financiers like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The AIIB claims to be lean, clean, and green but has spent almost half of its energy portfolio on fossil fuels and still intends to fund fossil gas as a transition fuel. There is no more space to further expand fossil fuel production. We urge the AIIB to revise its Energy Sector Strategy to explicitly exclude coal, oil, and gas in future financing and immediately phase-out of all existing finance and assistance for fossil fuels, direct and indirect.”
Tanya Lee Roberts-Davis, Energy Policy and Campaigns Strategist at the NGO Forum on ADB concluded: “The Bank has undermined - rather than upheld - i4t’s stated pursuit of environmental, social, and economic sustainability, in the very places that are at the frontlines of the climate crisis. With COP 26 on the immediate horizon, what better time for the Bank to confirm its Energy Sector Strategy will be revised through a robust public consultation process? Crucially, at this year’s Annual Meeting, they can – and must – commit to upholding provisions in a revised energy policy that rule out any further financing of fossil fuel and other destructive energy infrastructure projects (such as large dams and waste-to-energy incinerators), and instead incorporate actionable support for just, sustainable, inclusive energy transitions, wrested in the hands of publicly accountable institutions, with the utmost regard for all international human rights standards and conventions.”