For NGO leaders, safeguards can make or break AIIB, BRICS bank

By Lean Alfred Santos 23 November 2015
From left to right: IREX President Kristin M. Lord, Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, Columbia University’s Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs and Global Water Partnership Chair Ursula Schaefer-Preuss. Photo from various sources.

Multilateral organizations are adapting to changing international development priorities by shifting from a growth-focused approach the past few decades to one more focused on sustainability — prioritizing people and the planet at the same time.

The World Bank and regional development banks are intent on aligning their programs with sustainability principles and goals, including reforming social and environmental safeguards policies so development is inclusive.

Yet, there have been struggles along the road to sustainability and inclusiveness and many of the issues trace back to safeguards.

The World Bank is still in the process of finalizing its revised safeguards policy that started almost three years ago. Allegations of displacement and human rights violations have surfaced in Cambodia, Laos and parts of Africa, among other regions. At one time or another, all the regional development banks have attracted negative media attention over the implementation of appropriate safeguards that are supposed to protect vulnerable people and the environment.