Working Group on Development Banks in the Andean Amazon

Standardizing Sustainable Development: Development Banks in the Andean Amazon
Cocora Valley, Colombia. Photo By Fernanda Fierro via Unsplash.

The Andean Amazon is experiencing a surge of infrastructure investment financed by development banks often headquartered thousands of miles away. Regardless of the environmental and social risk management (ESRM) systems deployed by these projects, the surge has been associated with furthering environmental degradation and triggering social conflict in areas that can scarce afford it. The overall lack of effective ESRM frameworks is not only inconsistent with the goal of calibrating development bank finance toward the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement; such shortcomings also pose a number of costly risks to development banks, as well.  

These are the findings of a new report, a multi-year, interdisciplinary study carried out by economists, political scientists, ecologists, geographers and engineers from the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru; the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Quito, Ecuador; and the Instituto de Estudios Avanzados en Desarrollo in La Paz, Bolivia. Through cross-cutting statistical analyses and country studies in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, the report collectively examines the extent to which international development finance institutions, host country governments and civil society deploy ESRM frameworks to ensure infrastructure projects bring shared economic benefits to nations while mitigating risks to ecosystems and communities.

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Development Banks and Sustainability in the Andean Amazon
Mount Illimani, La Paz, Bolivia. Photo by Rodrigo Gonzalez via Unsplash.

A new book, Development Banks and Sustainability in the Andean Amazon, edited by Rebecca Ray, Kevin P. Gallagher and Cynthia A. Sanborn explores what development banks, governments and communities have learned in the last decade of careful negotiation between social and environmental protections in the Andean Amazon, and the pressures of a surging infrastructure and development boom.

While mega-dams, highways and ports are filling up the pipelines of planners, the national governments of Andean and Amazon-basin countries and major development banks have enacted ambitious social and environmental protections. The book traces the development of social and environmental protections after years of struggle by affected communities, going beyond official policies to discover how these reforms work in practice, and ultimately, whether they are enough to stem the risks of infrastructure mega-projects. As Chinese public banks play an increasingly important role in the region, the book also demonstrates that there is a risk of governments undercutting their own standards. By contrast, this book shows that making infrastructure work for everyone involved requires mutually reinforcing networks of support and accountability among communities, governments and development banks.

This book, led by an expert multi-disciplinary, international team, will be of considerable interest to researchers in the fields of development and development economics, geography, anthropology and ecology, as well as practitioners in development banks and government regulatory and foreign aid agencies.

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