Incorporating Strategic Environmental and Social Assessments (SESA) Safeguards in policy-based lending operations

15/03/2011
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Anthony Nyong (2)

An interview with Anthony Nyong Manager, AfDB Compliance and Safeguards Division

One of the landmarks in the Bank’s efforts to implement more environmentally and socially sustainable programs and projects and consequently support Africa’s transformation to a green economy is the update of its Integrated Safeguards System. The Bank will on 21-22 March 2011 host an international seminar on SESA. As a prelude to the seminar which brings together MDBs, several bilateral donors and regional participants, ERCU has approached the Compliance and Safeguards Division Manager, Anthony Nyong for more information. Read his interview.

Question:  What is the seminar on Strategic Environmental and Social Assessments for policy-based lending operations all about?

Response: The Bank is currently updating its Integrated Safeguards System (ISS), a commitment of GCI 6 and ADF 12. The revision of the Social and Environmental Safeguards Assessment (SESA) for policy-based lending operations is considered to be an important input to the design of the ISS. The nature of the demand for support emanating from RMCs has turned from increasingly structured investments into macroeconomic and sector and budget support programs and policy-based lending operations, as revealed by related review exercises performed under the ADF-11.

The Bank is expanding its regional operations and consequently adopting a more programmatic and policy based approach to its lending. Currently, efforts are ensuring sustainability of investments are concentrated downstream at the level of individual projects where attention is paid to potential environmental and social impacts of individual projects. The cumulative environmental and social changes and opportunities and the potential interactions between different sectors need to be considered upstream in the design and implementation of sector policies and programmes. SESA tools provide the opportunities to do this as well as serve as an entry point to reduce social and environmental risks in line with the Bank’s efforts to foster a transformation of African countries to green economies.

However, despite the large amount of experience and body of knowledge generated so far on SESA, there is no agreement among the MDBs as to how to conduct the assessments or on its scope and coverage. Neither is there a clear methodology among the MDBs to capture or measure its contribution to development effectiveness in a systematic way. The African Development Bank is taking the lead in this. As a first step towards strengthening the application of SESA in the Bank, an internal Working Group on SESA has been established to create a knowledge platform and opportunity to account for the potential influence of environmental and social factors on development effectiveness and sustainability of AfDB-supported interventions.

This seminar will bring together organizations that have successfully mainstreamed SESA into their operations to share experiences with the Bank and the internal SESA Working Group. This seminar is a unique opportunity for the Bank to expand its knowledge and practice of SESA, including the technical and institutional aspects relating to its implementation. It also seeks to initiate a discussion on the development of a common framework for SESAs among MDBs and other developmental partners, including Africa’s Regional Economic Communities.

Question: Who are participating in the seminar and what are the main items on the agenda?

Response: The leading international agencies in the forefront of implementing Strategic Environmental and Social Assessments, including OECD/DAC, CIDA, NCEA, and the World Bank will participate in this important seminar. Additionally, as important actors for driving the SESA mainstreaming process in Africa,  the African Union and several RECs will also take part,. Internally, the Bank’s relevant staff from Policy and Operations’ Departments will be attending.

The agenda is developed to enable AfDB to capture experience and knowledge in other  international organizations as well as share its own experience with these institutions to support the updating of the Bank’s Integrated Safeguards System.  The Bank’s first attempt at mainstreaming Strategic Environmental assessment was in 2003 with the adoption of the Strategic Imapct Assessment (SIA) Guidelines. Emphasis was on environmental impacts with little attention paid to social issues.  The Bank, will however, present the lessons learned thus far in the implementation of the SIA and more importantly, what needs to be done to improve on its implementation.

The seminar will hold several sessions and presentatons through which participants will share experiences , especially, best practices from other Agencies to support the revision of the SESA guidelines and the development of the Bank’s Integrated Safeguards System. It is generally known that climate change brings additional complexity into achieving social and environmental sustainability of projectsin to the implementation of SESAs, the role of Climate change in SESA will be addressed through special sessions and a roundtable on the second day of the seminar.

Question: What are the expected outcomes of the seminar and how will they be integrated in Bank Group operations especially on climate change?

Response: The seminar is an important milestone toward the implementation of the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda of Action on Aid effectiveness and harmonization among multilateral Finance Institutions (MFIs). It will enable the Bank to identify how international best practices and AfDB’s lessons learned can be mainstreamed into the implementation of SESA in Bank operations, especially policy-based lending. The seminar is  therefore an opportunity to enhance  the principles of harmonization and alignment on safeguard systems. Finally, the seminar will generate knowledge on how the Bank can use SESA to strengthen environmental governance and institutions, for screening and greening country and regional strategies and, for mainstreaming climate change considerations into national and/or regional policies, programs plans and strategies.