This Declaration was adopted at the Civil Society Workshop «The New Silk Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): Towards Responsible Social and Environmental Policies and Practices» held on November 18, 2016 in Moscow , Russia, and attended by 20 NGOs from 11 countries and is open for signing\ joining by organizations and individual activists.
We, representatives of Civil Society working for sustainable development in Eurasia, see tremendous potential opportunities for our countries, but at the same time we foresee serious social and environmental challenges related to China’s "Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road" which encompasses the entire Eurasian Continent. We have observed similar problems in conjunction with other integration mechanisms in Eurasia such as the Eurasian Economic Union, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ASEAN, TTP, etc. These integration mechanisms at least have some international body for management and control, in contrast to the "Silk Road" Initiative, which has growing influence on the policies of Eurasian countries and interaction between them, while, mechanisms for international governance of the Initiative, social and environmental responsibility\accountability and public participation are still in need of formation and perfection.
We watch with hope the important reforms that have been initiated in the framework of "Ecological Civilization Policy" in China. The policy provides an encouraging example of an attempt to solve serious social and environmental problems which have accumulated over a long period, while creating mechanisms for sustainable development. China is one of the first Eurasian countries that has become conscious that it is facing a full-fledged environmental crisis and it is trying hard to resolve it through systemic transformation. At the same time, it is obvious that the roots of the current environmental crisis lie in imperfect global development mechanisms and this problem is unlikely to be solved within the boundaries of a single country.
We, representatives of Civil Society, consider it necessary to unite our efforts to make development of the ‘Ecological Civilization’ the central task of integration processes in Eurasia. We believe that sustainable development can be based only on environmentally sound strategic planning procedures with wide public participation. We request that investment mechanisms and cooperation programs developed on our continent should contribute towards fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the creation of effective and inclusive institutions to govern the process of development. This can be facilitated by adherence to requirements already set forth by countries, such as the Green Credit Guidelines issued by the China Banking Regulatory Commission.
Emergence of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, BRICS’s New Development Bank and dozens of other new sources of financing for development and infrastructure projects has already led to constructive cooperation between old and new international financial institutions. However, we request that this cooperation leads to more precise and comprehensive environmental and social safeguards for screening and implementation of projects and does not lead to dilution and weakening of financial institutions’ responsibility mechanisms.
We believe that a massive influx of new investment will be beneficial to our countries only if it is equipped with reliable mechanisms for the selection and development of projects, which include economic efficiency, innovation, social equity and environmental safety. Countries of Eurasia should agree on basic criteria for project screening and selection in order to minimize social and environmental risks while maximizing contributions towards achieving the UN SDGs. Without such mechanisms the "green development policy" of more developed countries will continue to support the transfer of "dirty", outdated technologies to other countries, thus creating there of enclaves of an "economy of the past", which are associated with huge negative environmental and social externalities.
We note that the development of megaprojects is increasingly associated with forced resettlement of people, suppression of traditional rights of local communities, increased pressure on human rights and environmental protection NGOs and activists, as well as artificial constraints imposed on the dialogue between civil society and other stakeholders in the development process. We call on the ‘Silk Road’ Initiative, as well as other integration processes and agreements on the Eurasian continent, to include clear safeguards for human rights, to implement mechanisms allowing affected communities to keep investors and governmental agencies accountable, and to provide effective public participation in planning, implementation, and monitoring of programs and projects in accordance with standards not lower than those prescribed by the Aarhus Convention.
Civil Society stands as an equal partner in development processes, including the development and assessment of rules and standards for programs and projects, as well as monitoring of their implementation, as exemplified in the successful development of recommendations by Civil 20 and Civil BRICS Forum, in addition to participation in accountability mechanisms of MDBs, etc. Civil Society has shown itself to be an outstanding source of unique knowledge and experience in the field of best socio-economic practices.
Therefore we call for uniting efforts of civil society (both citizens and their associations) to create and implement environmentally sound development strategies, shape "green economy" and "green finance" mechanisms, and ensure adherence to the highest international social and environmental standards. In particular we call for uniting efforts of civil society, corporations and state agencies for the development of:
· Effective mechanisms for public participation in development processes;
· Effective enforceable accountability mechanisms for financial institutions, project implementers, state agencies, designed for protection of local communities’ interests in the course of international integration processes;
· Strategic planning mechanisms for green development and strategic environmental assessment for programs and plans and other means of risk assessment, including for effects related to climate change;
· Enforcement of the most stringent international standards for sustainable use, protection and management of water, land, biological, mineral and other natural resources and natural areas as well as other social and environmental safeguards to be used in planning and implementation of the "Silk Road Initiative" and other integration programs.
· Improved implementation mechanisms for UNECE environmental conventions (including Aarhus, Espoo, and Helsinki-Water) and other existing international treaties to support sustainable development in Eurasia.
· Clear basic binding environmental and social requirements and standards for any investment projects in the region based on the highest requirements and best international practices (including requirements on human rights, environmental safety, energy efficiency, avoiding "no go" technologies and "no-go" zones such as banning projects that destroy protected areas, refraining from projects on coal and oil extraction and burning, ban on nuclear and large hydropower plants, etc.) Such a standards included into relevant official documents will help to minimize risks and create incentives to develop a "green economy";
· Programs and projects on the Silk Road both in the field of green technology as well as in the field of preservation of biological diversity (species, ecosystems, ecosystem services), where the first priority is the design and ensuring protection of interconnected ecological networks for safeguarding of high conservation value areas from infrastructure development risks and risks resulting from other large Silk Road projects;
· International mechanisms for communication, information exchange and disclosure on development programs and investment projects and ways to improve them, including those needed for implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
We are convinced that, by uniting forces, participants in our ‘Green Silk Road Initiative’ will more efficiently promote and support implementation of tasks listed above. These tasks also require cooperation with all other key stakeholders of integration processes in Eurasia. We invite all interested members of civil society to join our Initiative.
Send names of signatories to email@example.com
Russian text accessible at http://greensilkroad.net/pdf/GreenSilkRoad_ru.pdf
Posted by Eugene Simonov
Secretary of the Green Silk Road Initiative Organizing Committee