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Integrating social and environmental sustainability issues

The integration of sustainability practices into IDB operations is an ongoing process, one which has been assisted by a series of recommendations put forth by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Environment in February 2005. This group of prominent international experts met again in July 2006 to assess how the Bank has progressed in implementing their suggestions and what challenges it has encountered en route to enhancing its sustainability performance over the past year.

A new report centers on progress made by the Bank in the four thematic areas laid out in the original set of the panel's recommendations: standards and harmonization; moving sustainability analysis upstream; civil society engagement; and capacity, systems and resources. 

The report especially highlights the improved harmonization of Bank policies with international sustainability standards and the recent creation of the Environment and Safeguards Compliance and Indigenous Peoples Policies. However, it also emphasizes the need to continue with these harmonization efforts and to develop new policies and/or guidelines related to labor, stakeholder involvement and forestry over the next three years.

The IDB’s success over the past year in producing its first annual Sustainability Review and measuring its own ecological “footprint” with the Monitoring of Internal Environmental Management and Performance analysis is also detailed in the report, with particular emphasis on Bank activities to offset carbon emissions, such as holding the first ever carbon neutral annual meeting by a development Bank.

Regarding mainstreaming sustainability issues into its operations, the Bank has carried out three Country Environmental Assessments, which ensure that sustainability concerns are part of the planning process for each country’s strategy from the start. Additionally, the Bank has taken strides to develop stronger business lines in biodiversity, renewable energy and water, create a new biodiversity framework, increase access to resources from the Global Environmental Facility and has also taken the lead in defining an investment framework for sustainable energy and climate change mitigation.

The report also underscores the importance the IDB places on improving communication and collaboration with civil society in areas ranging from project design, implementation and monitoring to policy issues. In the last two years the Bank has held a number of civil society seminars on specific environmental issues and is also continuing its work to establish an independent monitoring of the Camisea natural gas project in Peru.

In regards to concerns about Bank capacity to undertake adequate analysis of risks and opportunities related to environmental and social sustainability, the report shows that advances have been made in adopting a new safeguard risk management approach, as well as in developing tracking software to help project teams follow consistent analysis of sustainability risks and opportunities.

Over the next year, the IDB will work to establish a help desk for implementing the safeguard policy targeted at project teams; strengthen capacity to provide greater support and technical assistance to the Committee on Environmental and Social Impact (CESI); set up a system for tracking implementation of safeguards and compliance with policy; and strengthen country office capacity to supervise and monitor projects’ sustainability issues and conditions.



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