MANILA. May 4 - NGO Forum on ADB, an Asian-led network of over 250 civil society organizations across Asia, is calling out the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) to fulfill its claim that it is a bank that is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.
The ADB is celebrating its 54th year of operation in Asia and the Pacific today, with the theme ‘Collaboration for Resilient and Green Recovery’. However, members of the NGO Forum on ADB network are questioning if the Bank understands its theme.
Vidya Dinker from Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and Growthwatch, organizations based in India, said that “The humanitarian catastrophe brought on by COVID-19 has come at the worst possible time. The world is already in debt burden of a 260 trillion USD, and in terms of critical climate balance, we are almost over the brink, as we do not act concertedly enough to keep global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees as per the Paris Agreement.”
The Forum network also pointed out that while climate disasters are plaguing the world, the ADB is ramping up its financing of fossil gas, including the controversial Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. The Bank has also funded the Rupsha 800 MW Combined Cycle Power Plant in Bangladesh despite its proximity to the Sundarban Mangrove Forest, threatening about 1,500 fisherfolk communities effluent waste.
In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the ADB funded Ulaanbaatar Urban Services, and Ger Areas Development Investment Program - Tranche 1 2 and 3 has impacted families amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The road project violated ADB’s own social and environmental standards and caused numerous problems related to inadequate land acquisition, compensation, and resettlement plans, property damage, and poor road construction safety standards.
According to Sukhgerel Dugersuren from OT Watch Mongolia, “Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, it is difficult to get a clear picture of how many people are being resettled and why cash compensation is being preferred. It should be land for land with the same title or land for an adequate size apartment for the number of families living on that land with financial support for relocation, transition, and livelihood support, where necessary. No consistent and reliable information on the resettlement and relocation policy is given to the affected people; the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2018, which should apply to all affected people under this project, is not being honored by the project implementers”.
The same concerns are expressed by indigenous Magar and local communities from Nepal affected by the Tanahu Hydropower Project co-financed by the Bank with the European Investment Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency. “While the COVID-19 restrictions have delayed the investigation into the complaints filed by the Project affected communities, the construction of the project is going ahead unhindered,” says Prabindra Shakya from Community Empowerment and Social Justice (CEmSoJ) Network, Nepal. “The complainants’ call for suspension of the project construction until their grievances, which include land for land compensation and redress for impacts on collective resources and properties, are effectively addressed has not been heard.”
The ADB’s response in mobilizing resources as loans for COVID-19 recovery and its role in the Joint Multilateral Development Banks (MDB) position in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) begs further scrutiny from the lens of effectiveness and community needs.
Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director of NGO Forum on ADB, stated, “the COVID19 pandemic has demonstrated that public health infrastructure, poverty, lack of access to water, electricity, sanitation, and lack of decent housing, were all contributing factors to the widespread infection across Asia.” He also added that “ADB has been in operation for 54 years in the region, and it begs to ask, where have they really been? The development model which ADB has espoused over the years has been single-mindedly driven by commercial and private interest; this has derailed local communities from sustainable development and now has left them exposed to a global pandemic of unprecedented scale.”
The ADB must turn around its focus quickly to a pro-people and pro-environment agenda. Forum Network is looking at 2021 as a defining year for ADB as it is reviewing its Energy Policy of 2009 and its Safeguards Policy of 2009. Both policies will prove pivotal in setting the region on the path of green and just recovery. Unless the fossil fuel industry, private sector, governments, and multilateral development banks, including the ADB, urgently heed the call to limit the warming temperature of the planet, this collaboration for resilient and green recovery pronouncement of ADB can never be achieved. Consequently, the ADB then has to focus on social protection, health, labor, and real access to public services if it wants to be a meaningful partner to the SDGs.
The NGO Forum on ADB is a network of civil society organizations (CSOs) that has been monitoring the projects, programs, and policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Watch the event here.