Indigenous Peoples Safeguards

Evaluation Document | 28 February 2007

This evaluation assesses ADB's 1998 policy on Indigenous Peoples, and case studies were undertaken of ongoing and completed projects with Indigenous Peoples Development Plans.

This study evaluates ADB's 1998 policy on Indigenous Peoples (IP). Detailed analysis of all Indigenous Peoples Development Plans (IPDPs) that ADB issued between 1998 and 2005 was conducted, including frameworks (IPDFs) and IP-specific actions. Seven case studies of ongoing and completed projects with Indigenous Peoples Development Plans were done in the People's Republic of China, India, the Philippines, and Viet Nam, aided by surveys. In addition, project completion reports were studied and a range of other sources were accessed. Some ADB staff and project directors of ongoing projects were surveyed.

Summary of findings

Positive Outcomes for IP in Many ADB Projects.

The study does not suspect that ADB-funded projects since 1994 have regularly had serious adverse impacts on IP. A considerable number of area development projects are ongoing in IP areas. These are in such sectors as agriculture, health, education, and water supply, and carry few risks of adverse impacts. These projects are expected to significantly improve the lives and livelihoods of IP.

In typical infrastructure sectors and forestry sectors, there have been some cases were ADB supported projects have caused harm. Several nongovernment organizations have reported on these. Often they involved projects approved in the early 1990s. Some were reviewed by ADB internal panels. They were largely related to livelihood, resettlement, and environmental change. They were also covered by the other safeguard policies and have been assessed in the two other safeguards studies of OED.

The evaluation did not encounter cases specifically of adverse health or sociocultural impacts, or of traumatic cultural displacement. The assessment of the nature and role of ADB's IP policy is more critical.

The Policy is Relevant to ADB and Its Clients.

The existence of a policy for IP issues is consistent with ADB's overarching goal of poverty reduction in Asia and the Pacific. It is consistent with an internationally recognized need to pay special attention to IP issues in development work. The policy ensures more systematic attention to IP issues.

The study regards the current approach, which focuses Evaluation Resources on safeguards and less so on an IP development strategy, nevertheless as incomplete. There is no clear policy statement of the broader attention ADB wishes to give to IP in its operations. As a policy enabling compliance with safeguards, there are some deficiencies. In addition, policy drift has led to differences between the IP policy document and later operational procedures, which can cause confusion among ADB staff and with clients and other stakeholders.

The Policy has Less Effective Outcomes for IP.

The evaluation found few instances of negative effects and cultural displacement of ADB-supported projects on IP that did not relate to environment or involuntary resettlement. Nevertheless, it is not clear that the IP policy, rather than ADB's standard guidelines for social dimensions or for poverty reduction, contributed significantly to identifying and mitigating such other adverse impacts on IP. A greater focus in the use of scarce staff resources on the projects with real and significant risks is needed, including resettlement and environmental risks. There is less need for focus on projects in IP areas that do not carry such risks.

ADB Inputs, Processes, and Systems are Less Efficient.

The IP and other safeguard policies have required a more structured approach during project processing to safeguard issues and the social dimensions associated with ADB supported projects. Nevertheless, too many IPDPs are prepared for projects without significant risks to IP; the 1998 policy intended these to focus on risk mitigation. In sector projects, executing agencies sometimes pay excessive attention to IPDPs for subprojects beyond resettlement plans, environmental management plans, and gender plans. At other times, the rules have been interpreted to avoid the need for many IPDPs. Whether this is admissible under the compliance review mechanism is unclear.

IP Policy Approach is Less Likely to be Sustainable.

ADB's current approach to IPDPs has created incremental and transaction costs that do not always result in significant value added. This is not sustainable. Transaction costs may be high especially in sector projects.


  • The safeguard policy update should clarify the areas in the 1998 IP Policy that are misunderstood and address the policy drift in the current Operations Manual and IP practice in ADB.
  • ADB should set goals for the development of IP and IP strategies for some developing member countries where ADB's program requires constant interaction with IP.
  • The IP policy should have a results-based framework.
  • A sequential approach to policy development and capacity building in IP safeguards should be adopted.
  • IPDPs should be prepared for projects that have clear risks for IP, which need to be mitigated. If the risks are primarily related to loss of access to land, resettlement or environmental damage, then the mitigation measures specific to IP should be integrated in the resettlement plan or the environmental management plan.
  • The safeguard policy update should elaborate in what circumstances ADB endorses the principle of free, prior and informed consent for the project from the side of IP.
  • There is a need for an IP policy implementation plan that reconciles the policy aspirations with organizational, budget, and human resource implications.
<ul> <li>Executive Summary</li> <li>I. Introduction</li> <li>II. ADB and Indigenous Peoples Safeguards</li> <li>III. An Analysis of Indigenous Peoples Plans</li> <li>IV. Performance Assessments</li> <li>V. Country Safeguard Systems and Capacity Building</li> <li>VII. Assessment and Recommendations</li> <li>Appendixes</li> <li>Supplementary Appendixes</li> </ul>