Standardizing sustainable development?
The Andean Amazon is experiencing a surge of infrastructure investment that is 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 an area that can scarce afford it. However, the project also shows that when development banks, governments, and communities work together to actively prioritize these areas, they have mitigated the damage. Specifically, this body of work highlights three main areas where ESRM has fallen short, with important implications for project planners, affected communities, and the ecosystems on which they depend. First, in many cases project planners neglected meaningful stakeholder engagement, leading to unmet expectations and serious social conflict. Second, a lack of comprehensive environmental impact assessments often obscured complex, cascading risks and left communities vulnerable to unforeseen environmental damage. Finally, avoiding transparency and accountability through the project cycle allowed commitments to go unfulfilled and standards to go unenforced. These methods are far too onerous for any one party to take on alone. Our work suggests that, instead, mutually reinforcing networks of project planning and oversight between international DFIs, national governments, and civil society are needed.