23 September 2021
Mr. Jin Liqun
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)
Dear President Jin Liqun,
Greetings from NGO Forum on ADB. We are writing to you as a collective of civil society groups and project-affected communities to raise several key issues of concern in advance of the AIIB’s Annual General Meeting. As you are well aware, this letter is written with an understanding that COVID-19-related lockdowns remain enforced on an ongoing basis while the pandemic continues to ravage communities across Asian, African, Latin American and Arab regions alike. We are also in the midst of a startling trend of rising authoritarianism and militarization (e.g. in Myanmar and Afghanistan), as well as severe climate - change induced weather events. Needless to say, this situation effectively compounds the barriers faced by communities impacted by projects and their allies to raise related concerns free of fear of reprisals. Yet from our perspective, this is also a time that offers an unprecedented window of opportunity for the AIIB to position itself squarely in line with climate science, the provisions of the Paris Agreement, and the core rights-based standards required for inclusive, sustainable and just transitions cross-continentally.
In light of these realities, as we understand the upcoming Annual Meeting, scheduled from October 26-28 and hosted by the United Arab Emirates, will take place over online platforms, we reiterate our ask that the AIIB take proactive steps to ensure members of civil society can join and meaningfully engage in all seminars open to the public. At the very least, then, we would ask that simultaneous translation be made available in all major Asian languages (including Hindi, Bengali, Nepali, Sinhala, Tamil, Bahasa and Thai), as well as Russian, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, and via ASL interpretation during these sessions.
We are also calling for there to be specific time set aside for civil society to autonomously organize a session to discuss project and policy-related concerns. There are a number of critical issues we hope to discuss with the AIIB management at this time, including key project-related concerns as well as the forthcoming revisions to the Energy Sector Strategy (duly noting that both COP 26 as well as discussions on Paris-aligned financing are on the horizon), and the process planned for reaching out to concerned CSOs in borrowing member countries about the roll-out of the updated Environmental and Social Framework.
Reflections from AIIB Annual Meeting 2020, Civil Society Space and Management Response
Looking back to last year, we recall the repeated communications with AIIB HQ that were required to secure a brief allocation of time for a civil society - management dialogue at AGM 2020. At that time, only a handful of us managed to make interventions, but regrettably due to the technical and scheduling constraints, were unable to engage in any meaningful conversations around specific projects, policies and loans, or to raise specific questions related the debt and financial crisis which countries across Asian, Latin American, African and Arab regions have been crippled by. We also note that last year, there was a concerning gap in the attendance of representatives of borrowing member country governments, and would hope that in comparison this coming year, the public sessions will be more inclusive of their presence, facilitating a greater level of interaction among all sectors participating.
If the same virtual format continues to be a platform for such discussions, we have seen that it can consistently be used to shut out input by civil society and shut down channels for two-way conversations. We would therefore look to this year to move beyond this type of dynamic so that a meaningful, inclusive and forward-looking process can be established, enabling detailed discussions on both project and policy issues.
Looking Ahead to AIIB Annual Meeting 2021
The IPCC’s recent report (AR6) released in August 2021 has been coined a “code red for humanity,” warning the world is hurtling towards an overshoot of the 1.5 target with detrimental consequences to our climate and environment -- if decisive action is not taken to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure, keeping remaining coal, oil and gas reserves in the ground. Indeed, as you will be well aware, the ADB’s revisions to its Energy Policy are set to usher in a formal coal ban with respect to their project investments. We would expect no less of the AIIB, most especially given the timely scheduling of the Annual Meeting just preceding COP 26. To this end, the AIIB can and must act swiftly to phase out all fossil fuel finance and help the region transition to solar and wind powered renewables. At this time, then, the Bank has the chance to step forward with a commitment to exclude all direct, indirect and policy-based financing with exposure to the coal, oil and gas value chain and any associated infrastructure.
For projects such as the Bangalore Metro Rail, Bhola IPP and many others, crucial safeguards implementation concerns still remain of utmost importance. The harms and grievances which communities have repeatedly raised must be addressed, both meaningfully and with urgency, in a time-bound manner.
In sum, to reiterate our key concerns in this letter, we request your action on the following respective issues:
Clarification on the format of the 2021 Annual Meeting, ensuring meaningful participation of civil society groups (including how /if there will be space made for an autonomously organized civil society meeting with the Bank’s management and translation options made available for all public sessions).
Ensuring that meaningful space and time is opened up for dialogue with CSOs and affected communities at all upcoming AGMs. This should include not only a free-flowing overarching dialogue with management, but also project-related meetings with staff, and meetings with senior management to discuss key policy revisions, with simultaneous translation, and simplified registration options through which any personal data submitted is not provided to a third party interest without explicit informed consent.
Ensuring that Bank management, safeguards operations team and project developers respond appropriately and urgently to all inputs from civil society groups and project-affected communities in a time-bound manner as an institutional practice throughout the year. In order to facilitate such engagement, we also seek a commitment to strict adherence to time-bound information disclosure on key policy revisions and projects being considered prior to board approval as well as clear processes for meaningful consultation.
Clarification on timelines and process expected for revising the Energy Sector Strategy, in light of the upcoming discussions at COP 26 and on MDB Paris-alignment, as well as the communication process in place to ensure affected communities and concerned CSOs have clarity on the implementation of the new Environmental and Social Framework.
Commitments to end exposure to all coal-associated financial flows as well as to ensure that going forward, (i) COVID-19 recovery loans, (ii) private capital investments (including, but not limited to the SCMI), and (iii) direct financing for projects in the pipeline do not support any build up of fossil fuel-related infrastructure -- including but not limited to facilitating further oil and gas extraction, transport, processing or use for power generation. Doing so would accordingly signal the Bank’s preparedness to embark on re-calibrating direct, indirect and policy related support to regional and non-regional member states in a manner which would strictly adhere to a 1.5C Paris-aligned  pathway.
We trust you will take appropriate action accordingly, as per your usual diligent leadership. We will be looking forward to your proactive and open response in addressing our concerns at your earliest convenience.
Mr. Rayyan Hassan
NGO Forum on ADB
Ms. Laurel Ostfield, Senior Advisor, Communications
Sir Danny Alexander, Vice President for Policy and Strategy
Dr. D. J. Pandian, Vice President, Investment Operations (Region 1)
Konstantin Limitovskiy, Vice President, Investment Operations (Region 2)
Mr. Ludger Schuknecht, Vice President and Corporate Secretary
Members of the Board of Directors of the AIIB
Endorsed by the following organizations –
350 Pilipinas, Philippines
350.org Asia, Asia
Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), Regional
Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED), Bangladesh
Both ENDS, Netherlands
Building and Wood Workers International Asia Pacific, Philippines
Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO), Uganda
Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, Philippined
Centro de Documentación e Información Bolivia (CEDIB), Bolivia
CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network), Bangladesh
Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR), Peru
Environics Trust, India
Environmental public society, Armenia
Equitable Cambodia, Cambodia
Fundeps (Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policies), Argentina
GAIA, Asia Pacific
Gender Action, Canada / USA
Grupo regional sobre infraestructura y financiamiento , Perú, Argentina, Colombia
Inclusive Development International, International
Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), India
Initiative for Right View(IRV), Bangladesh
International Accountability Project, USA
Latinoamérica Sustentable (LAS), Ecuador
Life Haven Center for Independent Living, Philippines
Nash Vek, Kyrgyzstan
Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan
Participatory Research Action Network- PRAAN, Bangladesh
Protección Internacional Mesoamérica, Regional, Mesoamérica
Public Services International, India
Public Union, Kyrgyzstan
Rivers without Boundaries, Russia
Rivers without Boundaries Coalition, Mongolia
Urgewald e.V., Germany
We Women Lanka, Sri Lanka
Youth Group on Protection of Environment, Tajikistan
 We recognize, for example, this happened to a fair extent at the 2019 Luxembourg AGM (convened in-person).  In this regard, we are aware that a recent meeting between AIIB senior staff and Latin American CSOs held in August 2021 was undertaken in Spanish and English, enabling wider and more inclusive participation than would have otherwise been possible. Similarly, we hope such platforms will be made available in October with the understanding the audience will be coming from a wide range of regions.  INGO Forum on ADB recognizes that a strategic investment priority of the AIIB is to ensure 50% of flows are dedicated to climate finance by 2025. However, in relation to ensuring financing committed is in line with the spirit and word of the Paris Agreement, the Forum looks to the guiding note on "Principles for Paris Aligned Institutions" endorsed by civil society organizations and social movement alliances worldwide, asserting that "Financial institutions (FIs) that commit to ‘Paris alignment’ must also commit to aligning with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C while respecting all human rights and the specific rights of Indigenous Peoples."
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