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Raising Development Impact through Evaluation

Effectiveness of the 2009 Safeguard Policy Statement

Evaluation Document | 15 May 2020

The Asia and the Pacific region has experienced tremendous economic growth and progress towards poverty reduction; however, this remains associated with serious and increasingly complex social and environmental challenges including global challenges. Protecting the environment and people from widening inequalities, including increased vulnerabilities due to climate change events and acute impacts from climate induced disasters, is more important than ever.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21) and Sendai Framework objectives highlight the global importance and integrated nature of these challenges. Building on these, ADB’s Strategy 2030, sets out an ambitious agenda, which represents a shift to more focus on more holistic development outcomes and sustainability.

While the 2009 Safeguard Policy Statement (SPS) anticipated that the context and lending instruments used by ADB would evolve, the changes over the last decade have had significant implications for ADB’s safeguards policy and its application. For instance, there is growing awareness of the limited reach of traditional investment-based sovereign finance to achieve the higher-level development objectives pursued by Strategy 2030. Other instruments and modalities, which blend finance or are programmatic, are now being used more for this purpose, as they have greater reach. Likewise, the private sector is playing a growing role in supporting SDGs and climate goals and is incorporating environment, social, and governance issues into its objectives. In fact, since 2009, one of the most significant changes in ADB lending has been both the greater emphasis on private sector finance instruments and the introduction of new modalities to address DMC evolving needs.

This evaluation has sought to assess the SPS effectiveness, as well as its adequacy to the current circumstances. In addition to the safeguard objectives of the 2009 policy, the reform objectives of the Policy Update (SPU) were considered. These were identified as important conditions for the successful application of the SPS. The evaluation concludes that environmental, as well as involuntary resettlement (IR) safeguards results have been generally satisfactory while indigenous peoples safeguards results have been less than satisfactory. The evaluation also finds that while the safeguard objective of strengthening borrower systems remains valid, the approach taken to approve the use of country safeguards systems in ADB supported projects has not been effective. Finally, it notes that ADB’s adaptation of the SPS to ensure continued protection of people and the environment, in the face of changing circumstances, has been slow to respond. More specifically while the policy’s intent continues to be relevant, significant gaps have emerged, particularly related to responses to emerging issues and recognized global good practices on safeguards.

The evaluation offers a set of findings and insights from ADB’s experience in applying the SPS which may serve as a guide for the revision and strengthening of the safeguard policy and implementation. Key areas for improvement refer to policy coverage, support to development complexity, broader sustainability objectives, new instruments including for nonsovereign lending, and strengthening of country safeguard systems. We trust that this work contributes both to the improvement of ADB’s safeguard framework as well as to its delivery, for the benefit of the DMCs and the continuous advancement of the Bank’s performance standards.