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11 Nov 2020

Korinna Horta & Wawa Wang, Project Syndicate

China: Experts urge AIIB to ensure full disclosure of environmental and social impact assessments

"The AIIB’s Transparency Deficit", 22 October 2020

The Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) opened for business in 2016 and rapidly established itself as a major multilateral development institution. It now aims to become the world’s leading financier of large-scale infrastructure by 2021. But the bank first needs to raise its game regarding timely public disclosure of its projects’ environmental and social risks. [...]

Transparency and public participation are paramount in managing the risks of such projects. But the AIIB’s driving force and largest shareholder, the Chinese government, operates in a political context without checks and balances. It has increasingly tightened its grip on domestic civil society and the media, and has largely silenced defenders of human rights and even public health. [...]

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the AIIB’s European shareholders had called on the bank to adopt clear rules on the time-bound public disclosure of environmental studies and other relevant documents. The AIIB responded by using language and terminology that are carefully tailored to Western sensibilities. But upon closer reading, this content often turns out to be shallow and imprecise. [...]

To prevent and alleviate harm, the AIIB should ensure full disclosure of environmental and social impact assessments, including plans for land acquisition and resettlement, prior to project approval, when there is still a chance to influence the outcome. [...]