Bank success in securing capital increase based on PR, says NGOs

by Enrico Aditjondro April 29, 2010
3 May 2009, Bali - NGOs and peoples organizations today disputed ADB claims of aid effectiveness, saying the bank's has opted for an aggressive external relations drive which has masked the failure of projects to address the needs of the poor. Civil society bank monitor NGO Forum on the ADB attributed the failure of ADB operations to the incredible breakdown of access to information by people directly affected by the bank's projects.


3 May 2009, Bali - NGOs and peoples organizations today disputed ADB claims of aid effectiveness, saying the bank's has opted for an aggressive external relations drive which has masked the failure of projects to address the needs of the poor. Civil society bank monitor NGO Forum on the ADB attributed the failure of ADB operations to the incredible breakdown of access to information by people directly affected by the bank's projects. 

"More than 1500 families have been displaced by the ADB-funded Highway 1 project. These families never got information on the details of the project, and on their impending resettlement and the compensation they deserved," said Leak Kay of Conservation and Development - Cambodia, a local organization working with affected communities. "The fact is, what is happening to ADB projects in Cambodia is happening to the rest of developing Asia. The ADB has been repeating the same mistakes over and over and today, after 42 years, it is saying it’s still learning. It’s time to accept the truth that it’s the ADB that is the problem.” 

Access to information by people directly affected by the bank's projects is a vital ingredient to the success of any development project or program. Unfortunately, said the Forum, the bank "has failed miserably in this regard." In a panel discussion on the bank's public communications policy held during the 42nd annual meeting of the ADB, the bank's director for external relations Ann Quon was swamped with complaints from affected people expressing frustration in getting information on bank-funded projects. Community representatives lamented the inadequacy and lack of quality and timeliness of information provided by the ADB on projects affecting communities. 

"The lack of attention to access to information by affected people is confirmed by the ADB's own assessment of the implementation of its Public Communications Policy for 2008," said Tea Soentoro, advocacy coordinator of the Forum. "There is a gaping hole with respect to access to information by people affected by ADB projects. In monitoring information requests, the ADB's Information Disclosure Unit monitors only the requests it handles, but not those handled by ADB project teams or government or private project sponsors. The assessment also admits that the joint development of communication plans for project-affected people by the ADB and borrowing governments was not emphasized in 2008," said Soentoro. 

Lawyer Nepomuceno Malaluan of the Global Transparency Initiative said "the failure to inform project-affected people is rooted on the inadequacies in the ADB PCP. It is not a matter of lack of capacity; it is a consequence of the ADB passing the responsibility for giving information to the borrower governments or private sponsors," Malaluan remarked in the panel. 

Under paragraphs 78, 80 and 83 of the PCP, the borrower government or private sector sponsor that is responsible for making relevant environmental, involuntary resettlement, and indigenous planning documents available to project affected people. "This makes ADB's responsibility for access to information by project affected people far incommensurate to its deep involvement in project conceptualization, approval, and implementation," Malaluan added. 

Women organizations also hit the ADB for its inability to incorporate gender considerations in its disclosure policy. “Many complaints to projects include lack of information provided to project-affected people, including women,” said Wardarina of Solidaritas Perempuan. “There has been lack of specific measures to include women in the decision-making process involving ADB projects,” she added.   

"The ADB's long-term strategic aim of inclusive growth can only be credible if ADB will address inclusiveness in its own backyard. The ADB gets high marks for its aggressive external relations strategy but failing grades when it comes to access to information by project-affected communities," Soentoro said. 

The NGO Forum is a 250-strong Asian-led network of NGOs and peoples movements that has been monitoring ADB policies, projects and programs since 1992.
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