AIIB must uphold Environment Safeguards: Open Letter
Hon’ble Prime Minister, Mr. Modi,
We, the representatives of people’s movements and other civil society organisations, would like to bring to your notice certain pertinent issues regarding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
India is one of the founding members that has played a crucial role in the formation of AIIB right from its announcement and is the second largest investor of the Bank. With its membership ratified on 11th January, India was elected to the 12 member board of directors with 10.34% voting rights on 16th January 2016 and now also shares the Vice Presidential post and the post of Chief Investment Officer. It is unfortunate that the ratification of India’s membership to the Bank was done without a public debate. This deprives the organisations and individuals of a platform to raise their concerns and apprehensions about the functioning of the Bank, while the impact of the investments would be borne by the people. There are news reports stating that India would receive half of the $1.2 Billion the bank would disburse for infrastructure projects by the end of 2016. Further we are aware that AIIB has promised quick disbursal of funds with ‘high efficiency at low cost’ and takes pride in its ‘lean, green and clean’ policy. While the Bank seems a little too eager to start its investments, the same does not reflect on its safeguard policies.
At this juncture the AIIB is to finalize its Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) and we strongly feel that this demands a serious debate. We would also like to remind you that the first draft proposal negotiations were all online and only in English, leaving a large number of people out of the debate. There were no face-to-face consultations. Further, the draft itself came under criticism for outsourcing the responsibility for Environmental and Social Standards to the clients and for looking at ESF as risk management among other things. While the new draft has promised many things, it is still unsure how the Bank proposes to deal with grievances and in terms of violation of the framework.
The need for infrastructure development is one that cannot be discounted in a rapidly growing economy like our country. These developmental projects would have the positive impact that the government wishes, only when proper safeguards and accountability mechanisms are in place. This could only be achieved if the new banks, especially AIIB moves from the traditional thinking that safeguards are risk management and have them as mere formalities. The launch of SDG and the agreements in Paris by now make it clear that economic ambitions cannot be achieved by endangering the environment. In a country that houses huge populations that have been displaced without proper rehabilitation and facing serious and irreversible damages to its natural resources cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes. There are a few points that needs to be ensured in order to make India’s engagement with AIIB a productive one,
1. There has to a debate both within and outside the Parliament on the Environment and Social Framework that the Bank would uphold.
2. There should be face to face negotiations with the civil society groups and parties involved before finalizing ESF
3. The safeguards should be legally binding and compliances enforced by the state
4. There has to be proper re-addressable mechanism for taking up complaints regarding non implementation or violation of safeguards policies
5. These systems should be in line with the global environment standard and the accountability with AIIB and not individual countries
We strongly believe that without proper social, environmental and human safeguards, the proposed development projects would only be a recipe for disaster. We demand that the government should take necessary steps to hold consultations and negotiations with the civil society and the bank representatives.
Beyond Copenhagen Collective
Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
Delhi Forum, New Delhi
Domestic Workers Union, Karnataka
Garment Labour Union, Karnataka
Indian Social Action Forum
Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
Institute for Democracy and Sustainability
Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, Gujarat
Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand
National Alliance of People’s Movements
Narmada Bachao Andolan
Odisha Chas Parivesh Suraksha Parishad, Odissa
Public Finance Public Accountability Collective
The Research Collective, New Delhi
Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, Bihar
Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Delhi
Khudai Khidmatgar, Haryana
Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
Kosi Navnirman Manch, Bihar
Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha
Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, Odisha
Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, Gujarat
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People
Srijan Lokhit Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, Tamilnadu