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Civil Society Groups Call on the ADB to Reassess Financing Priorities at its Annual Meeting

Manila, Philippines (5 May 2022) --- As the Asian Development Bank (ADB) launches the first stage of its 55th Annual Board of Governors Meeting with the theme “Positioning Climate Resilient Green Economy for the Post – COVID – 19 World,” civil society organizations from across the region collectively urged the Bank to reassess financing priorities and modalities, given its track record of investments that exacerbate indebtedness, deprive people of affordable and comprehensive universal health care services, increase levels of chronic hunger amidst the critical shortage of affordable staple foods, and facilitate dependency on fossil fuel reliant infrastructure among borrowing member countries.

Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director of NGO Forum on ADB, stated: “The ADB has boldly claimed itself as the Climate Bank of Asia and the Pacific, but in its 2021 Energy Policy, the ADB still does not rule out resource and carbon-intensive infrastructures such as gas power plants, LNG terminals,, and transmission lines along with WTE incinerators.” He also asserted that “ADB’s support for COVID – 19 recovery must not result in creating markets for the private sector at the cost of further cutbacks in public expenditures on key social services. The ADB must avoid providing technical assistance or investments geared towards privatization-related reforms or models of public-private partnerships in the health care, education, energy, and water sectors, which we’ve seen consistently end up leading to violations of workers’ rights, and services that are typically inaccessible and substandard.”

Hemantha Withanage, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, and Forum International Convenor for South Asia, explained, “On this occasion, we must not forget that Sri Lanka played a leading role in founding ADB in 1966. Since then, Sri Lanka has received USD 11.5 billion in loans, including 3.5 billion for the transport sector and 1.5 billion for the energy sector. About 13% of the total debts are for the ADB. Yet, Sri Lanka’s public transport sector has deteriorated, and the energy sector is in a real crisis.” He also added that the ADB, as a policy bank that advised Sri Lanka for decades of this development, should also take responsibility for funding corrupt regimes and non-beneficial projects. “The ADB development model has resulted in huge inequities with massive disparities between the rich and poor. Poor people are continuously being exploited in the labor market, being given fewer wages, and the Bank has perpetuated the patriarchal system of oppression.”

NGO Forum on ADB firmly disagrees with the Bank’s recently suggested “Four Paths to a Climate-Friendly Energy Transition for Asia and the Pacific,” claiming “oil companies are on the front lines of the energy transition” and that “ESG scores have the potential to attract trillions of dollars in private sector capital to address climate goals .”

Just, inclusive, sustainable transitions across South, Southeast, North and Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Pacific cannot and will not be realized if power is wrested into the hands of the very transnational, multinational, and national corporations that have proven track records of committing human and environmental rights violations across the region.

As explained by Tanya Lee Roberts-Davis, Energy Policy and Campaigns Strategist at the NGO Forum on ADB, “Over the past year, although the ADB has sought to showcase blue and green ‘climate smart’ financing, we have seen the Bank retain a business-as-usual portfolio of investments in resource-intensive energy projects that undermine rather than uphold the provisions of the Paris Climate Accord, principles of inclusive, sustainable, just transition, and the latest climate science as elaborated by the recent assessment reports of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. This includes advancing loans for large-scale dam projects that have led to community outcry over the loss and damage incurred as well as proposed financing for new gas-powered projects and pipeline infrastructure, such as the highly risky 1600km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline. We affirm our solidarity with communities that continue to speak out against the injustices and rights violations wrought by such projects and our assertion that now, more than ever, it is imperative to shift investments as rapidly as possible towards supporting decentralized, low impact and appropriately scaled renewable energy options.”

As the ADB Safeguards Policy Review is underway, the Forum network has also demanded that the Bank should and must not repeat its historical mistakes. In particular, on how the ADB’s continued lack of due diligence in conducting meaningful consultations and timely disclosure of project information which has led to severe harm to communities, from the street vendors in Kolkata to the indigenous Magar communities in Nepal and communities in Mongolia.

Nadeen Madkour, Safeguards Policy Analyst of the Forum Network, stated, “The ADB should improve its safeguard delivery system to achieve genuine and pro-people sustainable development outcomes. We call for robust, rights-based, and just safeguard provisions that should not be seen as costs to be managed or risks to mitigate. There can be no genuine recovery if the Bank systematically fails to uphold safeguards, transparency, and accountability in its lending, investment, and technical assistance portfolio. ”

The network believes that the ADB must have robust assurances of alignment with all international human rights frameworks, inclusive of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as well as ensuring public disclosure and accessibility of associated guidance documents on gas, hydropower, and waste to energy projects.

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