UniversityShrinking democratic space in Asia and the challenge of ensuring environmental and social safeguards in large-scale infrastructures
Shrinking democratic space in Asia and the challenge of ensuring environmental and social safeguards in large-scale infrastructures
May 22, 2018
May 22, 2018

Challenges involving the implementation of the ADB Safeguard Policy statement was one of the key points explored along with ensuring the vital role of civil society in promoting environmental and social safeguards.

Present in the forum are speakers from various regions: ADB Policy Coordinator Annabel Perreras, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center Executive Director Norly Grace Mercado, Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) Chief Executive Hasan Mehedi, Caucasus CEE Bankwatch Regional Coordinator Manana Kochladze, and ADB Operations Vice-President Stephen P. Groff.

Moderated by NGO Forum on ADB Executive Director Hemantha Withanage, the session started with Perreras stating main factors including the general framework, issues, and safeguards of the ADB Safeguard Policy Statement (SPS) which “seeks to avoid minimize or mitigate adverse environmental and social impacts” in support of inclusive economic growth and environmental sustainability in Asia and Pacific.

Even with this goal, the SPS is met with challenges. Perreras emphasized how projects are causing adverse effects to some people. “Their livelihood is taken away to pave way for large-scale development projects,” she asserts.

Perreras continues this idea by enumerating SPS gaps. She states the need for caution when using Country Safeguard Systems (CSS) to ensure that the high ADB standards are properly safeguarded and systematically strengthened. The lack of any disclosure and poor quality of information were also mentioned. She also stresses the absence of clear response on project monitoring by ADB with “almost non-existent of staff” when conducting field visits.



Furthermore, Mercado provides an overview of the Philippine situation in the political, economic, and social aspect focusing on “Dutertenomics”, or the current administration’s take on development plans.

Even with the claim that the government is in its “golden age for economic growth of infrastructures,” the panelists propose that the demand to address other societal issues such as the protection of human rights particularly the indigenous and less-fortunate people with the deaths of thousands of Filipinos. This is in line with knowing the Government Priorities.

With more relative issues shared by Kochladze and Mehedi, Groff assures that all concerns will be taken into account when contemplating the use of CSS. Groff also agrees that transparency is crucial to ensure that projects will be done in a sustainable manner.

Groff also clarifies that there are still other projects in the ADB portfolio that are more impactful and addressing the needs of the most vulnerable across Asia. “We should aim for a 100% success rate, but we are still humans and humans by nature are not perfect,” he states.

Certain recommendations were pointed out to address these issues given by both members of the panel and the audience. Prioritizing social well-being of communities, strengthening of governance, and upholding social justice and human rights are among the fundamentals the major suggestions. “There is a call for upward harmonization of strong environmental and social safeguard policies across the range of development banks,” Mercado highlights