Integration of Environmental and Social Safeguards into the Belt and Road Initiative and Africa’s Economic Corridors.
Sharing Lessons for improving Environmental and Social standards.
The enthusiasm for developing Economic Corridors has grown worldwide, as a vehicle for globalization and China’s ‘going out’ policy.
Economic Corridors are essential conduits for the infrastructure that links development projects and clusters (mines, oil fields etc) with cities, refineries or ports.
China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ aims to rejuvenate the old trade routes (broadly along the historical ‘silk route’) with Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Africa too has over 20 economic corridors traversing thousands of kilometers that are under different stages of development. The key investors in the infrastructure of many of these corridors are Chinese companies. These corridors often link a mine with a port over great distances – especially for low value high volume commodities such as iron ore.
Corridors provide landlocked countries with access to global markets and promote international and regional trade and integration as well as potentially significant changes in land use generally.
If developed wisely Economic Corridors can be efficient vehicles for escalating development and poverty reduction, attracting additional investments, diversifying economies and ensuring local communities can share in the benefits of new infrastructure – such as road, rail, electricity transmission, hydro schemes etc.
However, if not planned carefully they can open areas previously untouched by industrial development and unleash pressures such as illegal natural resource exploitation, increased conflicts between communities and other competing interests, destroy and reduce habitats and biodiversity, disrupt animal migration routes, escalate ecosystem degradation and divide protected areas.
On December 1st 2015 in Beijing WWF, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the China Chamber of Commerce, Metals, Minerals and Chemicals (CCCMC) will host an international workshop to consider these opportunities and challenges presented by Economic Corridors. They will develop a strategy to promote better environmental and social safeguards in economic corridor planning and development.
The workshop will bring over 50 international experts from diverse disciplines and organizations together to consider ways to share experiences and lessons learned between those developing corridors in Asia and Africa – in the spirit of south – south cooperation and technology transfer. The objective is to establish a platform for on- going dialogue between Africa and China on Economic Corridors. This will go some way to alleviating African fears that China is, through its ‘One Belt One Road’ policy, shifting its attentions away from African to Eurasian resources and trade.
Successful corridor planning needs multi – disciplinary, stakeholder and agency collaboration. Rather than commodity specific Economic Corridors we require ‘Integrated Resources Corridors’ with ‘win – win’ opportunities for all actors. Of critical importance is the inclusion of environmental and social safeguards, along side economic and geo-political considerations, in the strategic planning and development of corridors if they are to be sustainable. All corridors need a ‘sustainability vision and framework’ for long-term success.
The workshop will also emphasize the opportunity that a collaborative platform for Integrated Resources Corridors will present for the promotion and implementation of the CCCMC’s recently published Guidelines for Social Responsibility in Outbound Mining Investments and Due Diligence Guidelines for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains.
The Beijing workshop is being run in parallel with a sister workshop that will discuss the same issues. WWF have organized the African workshop as a side event at the high level Forum For China – Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa on the same day.