Tuesday, 29 January 2008 9:43 PM

ADB Consults Pacific on Safeguard Policy Update

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is continuing the consultation process on its safeguard policies, seeking valuable feedback from stakeholder groups from across Asia and the Pacific as it updates its environment, involuntary resettlement and indigenous peoples safeguard policies.

The consultative process gives stakeholders a chance to review and comment upon the key features of the safeguard policy update, including efforts to harmonize ADB's safeguard requirements with other multilateral financial institutions.

"We have a consultation process that's on track," said Nessim J. Ahmad, Director, ADB Environment and Social Safeguards Division. "The safeguard policy update is about improving our policies and focusing our efforts on more effective implementation of our projects in ways that better serve and protect the people and environment affected by development."

Mr. Ahmad said the intent is to "bring safeguard policies into one consolidated policy statement. The update process will help us develop a clear and shared understanding within the bank and among our stakeholders of our basic safeguard principles."

The next meetings, 30-31 January, will be in Sydney and include representatives from government, non-government organizations, academia, and the private sector in Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Multilateral financial institutions and other development agencies are also expected to join.

The Safeguard Policy Update was initiated in 2005 to improve the effectiveness of ADB's safeguard policies and enhance their relevance to changing client needs and ADB's new lending products. ADB's policies require that projects financed by ADB avoid harm to people and the environment, and where avoidance is not feasible, minimize, mitigate and/or compensate for adverse impacts of these projects.

The consultation draft of the proposed Safeguard Policy Statement brings the three existing safeguard policies under the same umbrella, allowing ADB to adopt a more holistic approach to ensuring that affected persons, communities, and the environment are fully protected.

A new feature of the proposed Safeguard Policy Statement requires ADB borrowers to establish local grievance mechanisms and strengthen disclosure of information to affected persons. The consultation draft also emphasizes the need to strengthen existing country safeguard systems and establishes strict criteria to determine whether these may be applied to ADB-financed projects.

The consultation draft also proposes to increase the scope of the environmental safeguards coverage, leading to a more comprehensive set of principles and requirements. It introduces explicit principles and requirements on biodiversity protection, pollution prevention and abatement including climate change considerations, and physical cultural resources, as well as key elements of the environmental assessment process.

ADB provides a mixture of loan and grant financing, and technical assistance to its 14 Pacific developing member countries. The consultative meetings in Sydney follow similar meetings recently held in Central and West Asia, Philippines, South Asia, and for indigenous peoples organizations in Asia. More consultations are planned over the coming months.

The consultation draft was posted on ADB's Web site in October last year for comments until April 2008. After the consultations, a draft policy will be prepared and made available for additional comments. For more information, visit http://www.adb.org/Safeguards/about.asp.

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