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Indonesia/Sri Lanka: Asian Peoples' Movement against the 'Asia Destructive Bank'

Although the Asian Development Bank has established a Carbon Fund, a Renewable Energy Fund and a Climate Fund, its professed commitment to addressing climate change is completely undermined by the fact that ADB-backed projects have many negative social and environmental impacts, with many contributing directly or indirectly to climate change. This in turn impacts on the most vulnerable and marginalized people in the region. These impacts are a direct consequence of the Bank’s outdated and climate-damaging policies: its Energy Policy, for example, still supports coal power.

asia pacific climate and adb pub cover

Groups in FoEI’s APac region are demanding a full assessment of ADB projects to determine their impacts on climate change, and the integration of climate change mitigation measures into all project designs. They are also engaged in increasing communities’ and media understanding of the full social, environmental and economic implications of ADB projects.


Indonesia, for example, is the ADB’s largest debtor, and Indonesia’s annual debt repayments consume a staggering 40% of the country’s national budget. Despite the ADB’s claims that it is acting on behalf of marginalized communities, ADB projects are responsible for widespread social and environmental destruction, including the escalation of gender inequality, and the destruction of ecosystems by mining, aquaculture and other projects. Impacts are being felt most severely by local communities, fisherfolk, and Indigenous Peoples. FoE Indonesia/WALHI aims to help create an Indonesia that is independent, free from debt, willing to seek reparations from creditors, and committed to ensuring gender justice.


what happened

FoEI members in the Asia Pacific (APac) region published a report entitled, “Climate Impacts of the ADB’s Business: How the Asian Development Bank finances climate change.” This report includes three case studies, focusing on: wetland destruction and flooding caused by the Southern Transport Development Project in Sri Lanka; the destruction of mangrove forest by a shrimp aquaculture project in Bangladesh; and the ADB’s ‘climate account’ in Indonesia. Collectively these studies illustrate the ADB’s failure to consider or address the climate change impacts of its projects in the Asia and Pacific region. The report was distributed during the official UNFCCC climate change negotiations and civil society meetings in Bangkok (October 2009) and Copenhagen (December 2009).


The report also recommends climate justice as an alternative basis for sound and equitable development, and makes specific forward-looking recommendations on climate finance. FoE APac exposed underlying problems with the ADB's current involvement in climate finance, specifically with respect to the replenishment of the Bank’s Climate Fund, and their support for false solutions such as projects on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. With a combination of hard-hitting campaigns, testimonies and a public tribunal, they were able to explain why these projects are not beneficial for people in the region. 


It was clear that FoE’s interventions during the ADB’s 42nd AGM in Bali (2-5 May 2009) successfully conveyed this growing resistance to ADB: this led to the Bank reviewing its climate financing schemes. 


During the AGM, FoE APac also advocated - in both the official and outside events – for the ADB to address climate change concerns effectively and equitably in all its strategies, policies and projects. This should include integrating climate change concerns into projects’ Environmental Impact Assessments, and changing the ADB’s Energy Policy (especially relating to coal), its Renewable Energy policy, and its climate initiatives. FoE APac called for real solutions to climate change. 


At the AGM, FoE Indonesia fielded campaigners with expertise on climate justice, privatization, debt and water issues. They held meetings with and lobbied Indonesia’s National Development Planning Board (BAPPENAS) and the Ministry of Finance. This later led to more engagements and meetings between FoE Indonesia and government representatives.


A key feature of the project during 2009 was the fact that it enabled FoE APac to help mobilize the new and growing Asian People’s Movement. During the course of the year, FoE APac was able to increase its engagements, partnerships and alliances with communities, organizations, coalitions, social movements and federations from a wide range of sectors (including fisherfolk, labor, women, farmers and environmental justice groups). Public education and media outreach were also a priority and FoE Indonesia held public education activities, press briefings, and focus group discussions, and distributed the Declaration of the Asian People’s Movement to civil society organizations. 


Impressive press coverage during the ADB AGM, also helped secure an increased number of media briefings and invitations to participate in public debates hosted by the media. It also led to increased political debate on Indonesia's current debt in both print and broadcast media. 


This widespread focus on movement-building by FoE Indonesia and others culminated in the launch of the Asian Peoples' Movement campaign against the ‘Asia Destructive Bank’ during the ADB AGM. This new campaign is now supported by several key coalitions, movements and organizations from across the Asia Pacific region. The launch and activities during the AGM involved public workshops, debates and tribunals that exposed ADB projects in various countries; and solidarity actions, mass mobilizations, demonstrations, rallies, and daily actions in front of the AGM center. 


The Asia Peoples' Movement has now met on several occasions, strengthening its forces and increasing its resistance and mobilization across the Asia Pacific region. It has linked these diverse groups and movements in key areas such as on climate justice and energy (the Asia Pacific anti-coal campaign), mines and minerals (the Asia People’s Movement Against Mining), and forests and climate (the REDD campaign).


Overall, these activities have resulted in a broader engagement with allies, and escalating public concern about the ADB’s impacts. The project contributed to a significant increase in communities’ awareness and understanding about the negative impacts of the ADB’s projects in Indonesia and elsewhere, and how these may affect people directly in their everyday lives. In the past, there was a degree of confusion about whether or not to resist Bank projects given their short-term ‘economic gain.’ This important change will help Friends of the Earth to build more momentum for a transformative agenda seeking real solutions, including those based on local traditional practices. 


There is also increased understanding about the impacts that many ADB-financed projects have on women (as in the case of women impacted by lack of access to energy following energy sector privatization). This heightened focus on gender concerns has also increased FoE APac’s engagement and activities with impacted women. 


what was learned

The report was the first to be published by the newly formed FoE Asia Pacific (APac) region. It proved to be an extremely useful tool for educating people about climate finance, and also in terms of helping to develop FOEI’s international position on climate finance indicators prior to UNFCCC COP-15 in Copenhagen. 


However it took more time than expected to collate the information across such a large and diverse region, meaning that the publication of the report was delayed, and the report was not available in time for the ADB AGM. This delay had a knock on effect, preventing FoE APac sponsoring a related event during the ADB AGM. Thus technical problems had an impact on FoE’s advocacy. This is an important learning event for the federation.


The size and complexity of the civil society event and mobilizations that took place around the Bali AGM were also challenging for FoE Indonesia as the host country group. However, the group’s success in undertaking these activities reaffirmed its confidence in its ability to organize and mobilize events on this scale. It also enabled the group to assess which areas it needs to improve (administration) and which areas it should invest in and tap into more (its campaigning skills and close relationships with communities and others sectors). FoE Indonesia also played a vital role in facilitating relationships and alliance building during the AGM.


The project deepened and strengthened relationships between FoE groups in the Asia Pacific region, and their engagement in and the links between the different FoEI program areas, especially Economic Justice-Resisting Neoliberalism, Climate Justice & Energy, and Forests & Biodiversity. This has, in turn, helped to strengthen the FoEI federation as a whole.


what next

We are now in an excellent position to monitor climate finance in the region, based on FoEI’s new climate finance indicators.


The report is availavle here


with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs (dgis)

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