The members of the NGO Forum on ADB congratulate the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank for holding its first Annual Meeting in Beijing, China. A number of civil society organizations (CSOs) were present in the event as invited guests including Chinese civil society groups. Yet the participation of CSOs was limited to only attending two plenary sessions on the 26th June date; with no real space for dialogue with AIIB Management and Operations. On the first session on ‘Infrastructure and Economic Growth’ when the floor was finally opened for questions to the audience NGO Forum on ADB, Executive Director, Mr. Rayyan Hassan addressed AIIB President Mr. Jin Liqun and raised the issue of shrinking space of civil society, need for meaningful dialogue, and lack of clear guidelines on the release of key project information prior to board approval of AIIB projects.
The Forum believes that, these issues remaining unclear will continue to pose real harm to communities; who will be bearing most of the social and environmental risks associated with large-scale infrastructure. The AIIB has an Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) which is expected to mitigate social and environmental impacts but there has been no release of directives or guidelines on how to deliver the AIIB ESF objectives on the ground. For 15 years, the NGO Forum on ADB has contributed significantly in the development of environmental and social safeguards of multilateral development banks (MDBs) and it recognizes the AIIB’s efforts in ensuring that its development projects avoid harm, or when unavoidable, mitigate and justly compensate project-affected communities. For future AIIB annual meetings, the NGO Forum on ADB suggests that a full day of seminars is dedicated to meetings with CSOs and they can have the liberty to suggest topics and propose speakers for panels discussing important public questions. This, of course, would not prevent the AIIB to organize its own official program of seminars by deciding whether and on which topic to have also CSO representatives as speakers and contribute their vast experience and knowledge on development concerns. Consequently, regarding our on-going engagement with the Bank on specific matters, including policy definition and project specifics, NGO Forum on ADB would like to reiterate its interest to contribute early in advance to the content of the policies as well as project assessments. CSOs has to be engaging with the Bank in discussions concerning the definition of sectoral strategies, including the energy sector, and accountability mechanisms open to project-affected communities within the on-going set up of the compliance, grievance mechanism and integrity office. In facing the challenges of meeting this common agenda, the Forum hopes the AIIB will engage CSOs in a systemic manner in developing strategic plans, policies, directives, grievance mechanisms and provide timely public disclosure of all project-related information. The NGO Forum on ADB welcomes the importance given by President Jin Liqun in his talk on the principle of transparency in stemming out corruption among project holders, fostering understanding and in collective problem solving between investors and project-affected communities. We support this statement and further suggest to the Bank to adopt and enforce time-bound procedures when complaints must be addressed to avoid expensive delays in project delivery brought by discontent among parties – investors and project-affected communities alike. The anonymity and security of the complainant will also need to be considered by the AIIB in its Grievance Mechanism. Again, the NGO Forum on ADB expresses its gratitude to the Bank for the space it has extended. It hopes that a more meaningful and adequate engagement be available in the immediate future as this will contribute greatly to the AIIB’s leadership as an MDB creating infrastructures not only for physical connectivity but also for the political and social linkages between shareholders and its larger stakeholders for an inclusive and sustainable development.