The AIIB Watch documents environmental and human rights conflicts arising from infrastructure projects financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Legend & Abbreviations
Category A ("highly invasive"): A project that is likely to have significant adverse environmental and social impacts that are irreversible, cumulative, diverse, or unprecedented. These impacts may affect an area larger than the sites or facilities subject to physical works and may be temporary or permanent in nature.
Category B ("less invasive"): A project is categorized B when: it has a limited number of potentially adverse environmental and social impacts; the impacts are not unprecedented; few if any of them are irreversible or cumulative; they are limited to the Project area; and can be successfully managed using good practice in an operational setting.
Category FI: A Project is categorized FI if the financing structure involves the provision of funds to or through a financial intermediary (FI) for the Project, whereby the Bank delegates to the FI the decision-making on the use of the Bank funds, including the selection, appraisal, approval, and monitoring of Bank-financed subprojects.
How to use the Watch?
We used information from the AIIB homepage for the project overview. Please click on the flag on the map to get a summary for each case that provides details and further links to the safeguards harmed. Click on "More information" in the summary to be taken to an extra page on the case.
The whole project is based on collaborative work. The summaries are based on case studies compiled by civil society organizations from Asia, Europe and North America which are named at the end of the summary.
Projects are constantly reviewed, and results are documented on an ongoing basis. The research of the partner organizations often takes place under high risks. The security situation is so volatile that we cannot present all cases or the details of individual cases without endangering the communities.
The AIIB's business model is to invest in large infrastructure measures. These measures are associated with serious environmental and social risks. They include natural gas power plants and facilities that will determine greenhouse gas emissions for decades, large dams, and mining projects.
A bank specializing in such high-risk mega-infrastructure projects needs strong social and environmental safeguards. Local communities and local as well as international civil society organizations must be heard when it comes to designing and implementing safeguards.
Our interactive map lists cases where there is evidence that the AIIB fails to meet its own safeguard standards. The case studies collected here are designed to channel realities on the ground to the broader public. They help to give voice to local communities and testify that standards on paper can never be enough, they must be implemented, and their implementation needs to be independently monitored.
Some European countries like Germany made it mandatory for their shareholding to strive for the highest standards in this bank, at least matching with World Bank standards. Fulfilling World Bank standards can also mean watering down the former. "Lean, clean and green" is the tagline given by the AIIB to its Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). By involving former employees of the World Bank in the development of the ESF, the AIIB wanted to prove that its rules stand up to comparison with international standards.
In the words of AIIB President Jin Liqun at the 2020 Annual Meeting: "We strive to build a world that is financially, socially, environmentally and economically sustainable."
The cases are always analyzed against the valid ESF of the time. The first environmental and social standards approved in 2016 were revised in February 2019 and again in 2021. They were to be reassessed and regularly adjusted after three years based on practical experience with them. The latest review consultations with civil society took place from fall of 2019 to May 2021. The AIIB Watch and the cases documented here informed the revision of the standards. In May 2021, the revised standards were approved and entered into force in October 2021. Urgewald, together with an alliance of Asian and European NGOs, had been involved in the discussion with the AIIB management on possible best practices.
Here you can see our comments after the May amendment.
The amended ESF applies to all projects approved after October 2021.
Glossary of safeguards policies: Each development and investment bank uses their own terms for social and environmental standards. This glossary explains the basic ingredients of all standards used in connection with the operations of the AIIB and other International Financial Institutions (IFIs). The explanation is made through the lens of civil society. We try to show the differences and commonalities when CSOs and AIIB use these terms. Quite frequently, the interpretation differs, and usually, the CSO viewpoint uses a more rights-based approach than the Bank.