"Environmental and Social Safeguards (E&S) are crucial for the success of develpment projects. They are paramount to ensure projects are environmentally and socially sustainable and that they are implemented with stakeholders' participation and timely public information disclosure:" The issue was discussed on 8 December 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya on the second day of the African Development Bank (AfDB)'s ongoing regional consultations workshop for East Africa Civil Society organizations (CSOs).
Speaking at the meeting, AfDB Environmental and Social Safeguards Expert, Justin Ecaat said that " the Bank has developed specific tools for Environmental and Social assessment of its operations which provide CSOs with a lot of opportunities and entry points to make inputs towards ensuring sustainability." According to Ecaat, those opportunities are along the entire project cycle in the sense that CSOs and communities can intervene to give their views, make suggestions at the identification, appraisal, implementation and evaluation stages of a health or road project - The idea being for projects to have positive impacts on the lives of project benefciairies. "Moreover, our common objective is to ensure that negative E&S impacts are identified and mitigation measures are spelled out prior to implementation of any proposed project, Ecaat explained, adding that the Bank had recently developed tools for screening the impacts of climate change as part of its safeguards regime.
Jessica Mwanzia of Oxfam-Pan Africa Programme (Kenya) expressed appreciations for the Bank's efforts in terms of environmental concerns. However, she said it is a "sad reality that CSOs or communities are not involved in project cycle early enough. Sometimes, we are informed by the noise of bulldozer at the start of a road project. And sometime it is too late for CSOs or communities to make inputs". She went on to say that ''information on projects must be delivered in a timely manner and in native languages. We are suggesting that the African Development Bank makes sure in its dialogue with the government, that authorities take the necessary steps to inform communities properly and that information be disclosed widely."
A view shared by many participants, including Caroline Wahome of the Kenya-Based Hivos-People Unlimited that work in the sector of renewable energy and Food. For Wahome: "The involvement of the communities at the start of a project is an issue of governance. And it is unfortunate that people are sometimes not given all the relevant information. Positive sides of projects are presented, but not the negative ones. African Development Bank is a credible organization and it should lead the way. If it does not, who will?"
Responding to some of the concerns raised, AfDB's Ecaat underscored that: "In order to bridge the communication gap, there is room for the Bank, governments and CSOs to create a tripartite. If we don't have that tripartite we will not achieve much."
The Nairobi meeting is the fourth of a series of five regional consultations with African civil society organizations and a step forward to better engagement. The meetings aim to strengthen mechanisms and grassroots support in the implementation of the Bank's High 5 priorities (Light up and power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa) over the next 10 years. After East Africa, the North Africa segment will be organized in Tunis, Tunisia, from December 13 to 15, 2016.