MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Board of Directors today approved a Safeguard Policy Statement that will strengthen protections already in place to avoid or minimize the adverse impacts of ADB-supported projects on the environment and affected people.

As a central part of ADB's mission to promote environmentally sustainable and inclusive economic growth, the new Safeguard Policy Statement consolidates and builds upon current ADB policies on Environment, Indigenous Peoples and Involuntary Resettlement that are already applied to all bank-supported projects in developing member countries (DMCs).

"The Safeguard Policy Statement has requirements that are clearer, stronger, and more comprehensive and constitute best practices in addressing environmental and social risks and impacts of investment projects," said Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development.

"The new policy will enhance the effectiveness, sustainability and development impact of the projects we support, as well as strengthen more generally the safeguard systems of DMCs and develop their own capacity to fully manage environmental and social impacts and risks of development projects."

The policy ensures that ADB's safeguards are harmonized with those of other multilateral development banks and remain relevant to the evolving needs of DMCs and private sector clients that continue to face environmental and social challenges. An innovative feature of the policy is the selective application of country safeguard systems when borrowers have the necessary capacity and requirements equivalent to ADB's.

The policy contains new provisions on biodiversity conservation, community health and safety, and physical cultural resources. It also introduces requirements for ADB's new and innovative financing modalities that were not covered by previous safeguards adopted more than a decade ago. Key features include emphasis on capacity development of borrowers and more attention to safeguard implementation and supervision.

With the approval of the new Safeguard Policy Statement, a very extensive and highly consultative policy update process has been concluded. More than 15 multistakeholder workshops were conducted in the Asia and Pacific region, North America, Europe and Japan between November 2007 and November 2008, and involved independent evaluations of the safeguard policies.

"We have benefitted from consultations with all stakeholders, and the result is a robust and relevant Safeguard Policy Statement," said Xianbin Yao, Director General of ADB's Regional and Sustainable Development Department and ADB's Chief Compliance Officer.