BEIJING, June 23, 2021
Starting Things Right: Meet the Specialists Who Promote Best Environmental and Social Practices in AIIB Projects
Financing Infrastructure for Tomorrow (i4t) can be challenging, but success begins with good project preparation. Whenever the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) decides to finance a project, it subjects the project to a rigorous examination process, part of which involves assessing whether the project is in line with the Bank’s environmental and social guidelines set out in the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF).
In AIIB, environmental and social development specialists under the Operational Services Department review and monitor projects to ensure they are consistent with the ESF guidelines. They guide AIIB and our clients in the management of environmental and social risks and impacts of AIIB-financed projects. Having environment and social specialists embedded into our implementation process results in long-term benefits for the project, the client, the project-affected people, the environment and the wider community.
AIIB Senior Social Development Specialist Marife Principe discusses the role of a social specialist in the project cycle.
How do you see your role as a social development specialist in the project cycle?
For half of my career, I worked toward developing country planning strategies and policies related to social areas on poverty, labor and gender. For the other half, I served as a social development specialist. I found fulfilment in being directly involved in projects because this gives me the opportunity to engage with the community and the people affected by the projects. I get to understand how the projects will affect and benefit people, as well as work with them on possible solutions to give them more benefits or at least ease the project impacts.
When we were younger, we dreamt of changing the world. Through the years, and as I get more immersed in development projects, I have become more focused on how I can help improve people’s lives through my projects. This is the very reason why I have stayed on doing development work.
How does AIIB’s ESF impact clients and stakeholders and at the same time help AIIB with its mission to finance Infrastructure for Tomorrow?
Before a project can be implemented, there are a lot of preparatory work and multiple challenges we try to mitigate to ensure a good outcome for relevant stakeholders. Considering our mission, which is Financing Infrastructure for Tomorrow, we are taking a long-term view of our projects. We have an interest in ensuring that our projects can deliver and be sustainable. After all, we are here to improve lives, create opportunities and help build communities.
Our work starts with being on the same page as the client on our social policies and its elements—land acquisition and resettlement, Indigenous Peoples, meaningful consultations, gender, labor and vulnerable groups. It is our responsibility to explain to our clients AIIB’s Environmental and Social Framework and the requirements under its Environmental and Social Standards so that the projects are aligned with our policies and national laws and regulations from project design, construction and operations. This is not just so that the projects get financing but also to convince clients that projects and stakeholders will actually benefit if they are environmentally and socially sustainable.
You worked on two projects named AIIB’s “Project of the Year” for 2020. Describe your contributions as a social development specialist who helped make these projects more beneficial and sustainable.
I was part of the project team for the Türkiye: Izmir Metro Expansion Phase 4: Fahrettin Altay – Narlidere Line Project, which involves the construction of a new 7.2-km, 7-station metro line extension in the city of Izmir in Türkiye. Once finished, this will give the Turkish people a faster and more convenient way to travel from Fahrettin Altay and Narlidere Kaymakamlik to the city center.
As social development specialist for the project, I conducted social due diligence on the project to assess the status of the Environment and Social (ES) management plan and recommended social measures to further enhance project implementation. The project would not involve any land acquisition and/or resettlement since the lands needed for the construction of the metro line and stations belong to the City of Izmir. However, we emphasized the continued monitoring of the impacts of construction on people within the project area. Furthermore, the station designs and construction methods were selected to minimize physical and economic displacement. The project design also incorporated features for its metro stations that will improve access of persons with limited mobility. These included Braille maps for visually impaired passengers, ramps with slopes and guiding plates for elderly and pregnant women in accordance with the international standards to address gender and disability concerns.
Another project that I worked on was the Indonesia: Multifunctional Satellite PPP. AIIB is collaborating with Jakarta-based PT Satelit Nusantara Tiga (PSNT) to develop, launch and operate a telecommunications satellite that will provide connectivity to about 45 million people in some of the remotest parts of Indonesia. My Environment Specialist counterpart and I guided the client on how to effectively implement their Environmental and Social Management Framework and helped craft the development of their Land Acquisition Program and Stakeholder Engagement Plan. The proposed sites will be screened to exclude those involving Indigenous Peoples and physical and economic displacements.
I also closely reviewed their environment and social (ES) screening checklists and provided technical guidance on how they can conduct their consultations with landowners and people surrounding the facilities being built for the project. The anticipated adverse social impacts will be minimal as the land acquisition process will be based on the principle of willing buyer-willing seller.
What is your advice to other environment and social specialists?
In development work, no one should be left behind. We should always remind ourselves that as part of a multilateral development bank, we are international public servants. We serve the people through our development projects but there are also people who are directly affected by them. We should try hard to bring the best to the people we serve.
The ESF was amended in May 2021, with the revisions to take effect in October 2021. Key changes in the revised ESF include:
- Strengthened language on climate change reflecting AIIB’s climate change financing target of 50 percent of approved financing.
- Enhancing transparency by adding deadlines for the disclosure of environmental and social documentation and adding more clarity on the disclosure of financial intermediary operations.
- New measures to address environmental, social and governance (ESG) approaches in capital markets operations.
- Elevated importance of gender equality and commitment to addressing gender-based-violence.
- Enhanced language to protect biodiversity and to exclude asbestos from AIIB-financed projects.
More information about AIIB’s ESF is available here. An ESF fact sheet is available here.
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