China-led AIIB failing on human rights, environment in India and Bangladesh: activists
- The Beijing-headquartered development bank is under fire for displacing communities in India and Bangladesh and for not being ‘lean, clean or green’
- AIIB says sustainability ‘fundamental’ to its mission and it is ‘taking steps to increase awareness of such issues for staff’
The bank, which launched in 2016, backed projects in India and Bangladesh that displaced local communities and caused environmental damage, despite claiming to prioritise social and environment sustainability, activists said in a press conference on Tuesday.
Nora Sausmikat, a member of the German environmental group Urgewald, said analysis of 25 case studies showed the Beijing-headquartered development bank had not lived up to “the principle of being lean, clean and green”.
It was organised by the Manila-based NGO Forum on ADB, a network of civil society organisations that monitors projects funded by multilateral financial institutions.
Sausmika said the bank had also shunned civil society organisations during its annual meeting in July.
“This year’s AGM was fully investment-oriented and for the first time had no civil society participation at all,” she said. “Since this is a public bank, it needs to be transparent and inclusive. Information should be made public, and civil society organisations should always be part of the consultations, as is the case with other multilateral development banks.”
“Those families that have been pushed out during the Covid period … they are all struggling as to how to make ends meet,” Dinker said.
“Where are they going to work, what are they going to earn, how will they rebuild their lives after the lockdown?”
“We found very little response from them, and there was very little monitoring on the project,” said Mehedi. “Last July, they promised that they would visit the power plant area in December and sit with us in the power plant area to see what were the violations, and that didn’t happen until now.”
In a statement before the press conference, an AIIB spokeswoman said sustainability was a “fundamental aspect” of the bank’s mission, pointing to its environmental and social policy and a complaints and redress process for people who had been negatively impacted by its projects.
“AIIB, like other international financial institutions, is aware of the increasing threat to human rights defenders, particularly in certain countries,” said Alice Lo, AIIB senior press officer. “When any incident under a project supported by AIIB is reported, AIIB staff follow up by speaking to the client, and contacting stakeholders, including members of civil society. We are currently taking steps to increase awareness of such issues for staff and to this effect, we have invited a coalition of human rights defenders to share their recommendations.”
Lo added that the bank held regular dialogues with civil society.
“Due to the pandemic, our annual meeting this year was held virtually in July in a scaled down format, and we have communicated with our stakeholders about our plan to separately host our annual dialogue with management for civil society organisations and NGOs in October this year,” she said. “In addition, as with previous practice, we also host specific project-level discussions with interested parties. A number of these discussions have already been lined up over the coming months.”
“China has always supported and practised multilateralism and committed to development in joint efforts with all other countries in open, cooperative and win-win spirits,” said Xi, who first proposed the establishment of a multilateral development bank in 2014.