Manila, 25 April 2024 – Ahead of the ADB’s Annual Meeting next month, civil society groups are firmly calling on the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to go back to the drawing board and overhaul the draft Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) as written in its current form. To demonstrate their grave concerns that the policy provisions will undermine project-affected people and their allies’ abilities to hold ADB to account when social and environmental harms and damages occur, they delivered a statement to the ADB Headquarters in Manila this morning.

The draft ESF, aimed at updating ADB’s safeguards policies, is being met with opposition from civil society groups due to a wide range of critical shortcomings, including:

  • Lack of Clear Lines of Accountability

  • Lack of Clarity Related to the Stakeholder Engagement

  • Lack of Human Rights Approach

  • Weakened Environmental and Social Protections

  • Gender Consideration Dilution

  • Climate Change standards that fail to stand up to climate science

  • Opaque Financial Intermediary Lending

In light of these grave concerns, the NGO Forum on ADB and the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) together with the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ),, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Freedom from Debt Coalition, Sanlakas, Oriang, K4K-QC, Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO), Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KSK), EcoWaste Coalition, Coalition for Human Rights in Development (CHRD), Recourse and International Accountability Project (IAP)  urge the ADB to overhaul the draft ESF, revising the language to instead reflect a set of forward-looking safeguards applicable to its entire portfolio, grounded in international human rights and environmental standards.

A group of artists held a brief performance to act out the hardships experienced by affected communities, showing the true cost of ADB’s projects. ADB supports waste to-energy (WtE) incinerator development in the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Thailand, the Maldives, Indonesia, and Malaysia which are resisted by communities.

To quote what the different CSOs and social groups had to say:

1. “The ADB’s safeguards should be the backbone of the bank’s commitment to people and the ecosystem’s well-being. Prioritizing community consultation and consent in all energy projects is paramount, ensuring that local communities are empowered in decision-making, safeguarding their rights and livelihoods. For us, the well-being of people and planet are non-negotiable.” – Chuck Baclagon, Finance Campaigner Asia

2. The ADB continues to subject people and planet to further harm. The latest draft of ADB’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) further dilutes already weak safeguards provisions for affected communities. Even worse, the Bank continues to ignore opposition by communities and persists in pushing climate-exacerbating programs and policies and debt-creating finance in many Asian countries. The ADB should walk the talk of eradicating poverty. Heed peoples’ demand for debt cancellation, reparations for past and continuing harms, an end to financing of planet-warming fossil fuels, and a rapid, equitable, and just energy transition. – Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator, Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)

3. As a bank with a legacy of dirty energy and harm, the least that ADB could do in the face of worsening climate crisis and environmental degradation is to produce and implement a most stringent ESF. Instead, the draft allows financing of projects whose risks are not yet fully assessed, problematically allows offsets, and neglects the need to fully stop new financing for coal or gas with no exceptions. Glaring loopholes essentially render the ESF useless in truly responding to climate and environmental imperatives. We are one in calling on ADB to thoroughly improve the ESF draft and ensure that finance is instead channeled to genuine solutions such as distributed renewables. – Avril De Torres, Deputy Executive Director, Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED)

4. “The EcoWaste Coalition is troubled by the provision of the ESF that allows borrowers or clients to propose less stringent measures. This opens a door to potential abuses, where economic or political pressures could dilute the rigor of environmental and social protections. If ADB is genuine in their stance to promote sustainable and responsible development, they should put stronger oversight, clearer criteria for exceptions, and more robust accountability in the ESF to uphold rigorous environmental and social standards.” – Glory Rose Manatad, Legal and Policy Officer, Ecowaste Coalition

5. “The failure of the ADB to accept any semblance of accountability for its past role in pushing policies that dismantled mechanisms and structures that protected people from corporate abuse or anti-people projects has again reared its ugly head. The weakening and dilution of existing safeguards is proof that ADB has not learned any lesson and remains more concerned with ensuring the profitability of the private sector rather than protecting the welfare of people or the future of the planet.”  – Rovik Obanil, Secretary General, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

6. ADB has to recognize that we are already feeling the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. It has to stop giving corporations continued license to pollute and to burn our planet through hideous carbon and pollution offsets. The false solutions they promote trapping us into dirty debts and are severely impacting the environment and communities – most especially the poor and marginalized. It’s time for the Bank to wake up to the facts and finally align with international socio-environmental
and human rights instruments! – Brex Arevalo, GAIA AP Climate and Anti-Incineration Campaigner

7. “The ADB has an opportunity to ensure that governments uphold the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples. It should mandate the securing of the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples within their ancestral domains. More importantly, the ADB must begin to subscribe to the framework of the “Right to Say No” of indigenous peoples and move beyond “meaningful consultation,” which the FPIC process has sadly become. The reverse of the Right to Say No is the community’s Right to Say Yes to their own model of development.” – Maya Quirino, Advocacy Coordinator, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils.)

8. The ESF W Paper, after two years of consultations, regrettably fails to integrate any of the comments provided by civil society, which have consistently demanded stringent requirements for ADB borrowers to adhere to environmental and social compliance principles, committed to “Do No Harm.” The mitigating hierarchy approach promoted by the ADB in this draft ESF poses a direct threat to communities and the environment globally. It undermines all prerequisites for environmental and social risk assessment and compliance prior to loan approval, granting borrowers absolute freedom to disregard environmental and social risks. This constitutes a dismantling of the fundamental notion
of safeguards.
We strongly condemn the ADB’s current ESF draft at its 57th annual meeting and demand a complete overhaul to ensure mandatory risk assessment requirements before loan approval, with language compliant with independent investigations for all ADB borrowers. Anything less than this poses a direct threat to communities and the environment. – Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director, NGO Forum on ADB

9. “As it stands, the ESF allows for the continuation of projects that worsen climate change. Fossil fuel use should have stopped by 2025. This should be reflected by the ESF, with stringent policies barring the financing of any more fossil fuel projects. If not, it fails to safeguard the environment or any community.” – Ian Rivera, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice

10. “This draft safeguards policy does little to rectify the black hole that is ADB’s financial intermediary lending. Communities harmed by ADB investments have a right to seek remedy, but there can be no accountability if we can’t see where the money is really coming from. The Bank’s safeguards for intermediary lending need drastic improvement, to ensure full transparency about its involvement in all projects it funds – including clear disclosure of ADB financing at project sites and in community consultations.” – Kate Geary, Co-Director, Recourse