In a “brave new world”, we have to “up our game”.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) would like to thank participants for their continued engagement and the fruitful discussions that took place in Luxembourg on Monday 30 January, during the sixth annual civil society seminar with the EIB’s Board of Directors.
This seminar is a key pillar of the Bank’s stakeholder engagement and the only forum where the Board of Directors meets with external stakeholders. It was also an opportunity for informal, constructive, meetings between the CSOs and the Bank’s services.
Approximately 65 participants from 56 organizations attended the event. They represented a good mix of civil society organizations with many diverse interests, including international and local NGOs, think tanks, research and academic institutions and trade unions.
The seminar was opened by Vice-President Jan Vapaavuori before the Secretary General and director generals provided an overview of the Bank’s achievements since the last meeting and outlined its priorities for the year ahead. The Bank informed civil society that it would like to further exchange, during 2017, on the gender action plan, land tenure rights and meaningful and effective participation at project level. The EIB also mentioned that it will be updating its guidelines on financing in the water sector, reviewing its Emissions Performance Standards and launching the public consultation on its Complaints Mechanism.
The first thematic session of the day, introduced by Vice-President Jonathan Taylor, took a look at the trade-offs the Bank faces when having to implement its different policy objectives. Taking the bull by the horns, it was decided to use, as an illustration of these difficult decisions, climate action, energy security and biodiversity protection. There was a lot of discussion about the real need for additional, controversial, fossil fuel infrastructure when there were higher priorities and the audience insisted on us using the precautionary principle until we were sure that this infrastructure was really necessary and that it was not going to be yet another stranded asset.
Board members seemed to think that further building up our internal knowledge on project related metrics, drawing also on civil society input including from the global South, would be useful and timely. To minimize the trade-offs and “connect the dots”, participants further suggested that the Bank should focus on nature-based solutions and the circular economy, for example, and clarification was provided by the Bank that we will not water down our environmental and social standards, even when other objectives are pressing..
Discussions took a completely different turn in the second thematic session dedicated to the very broad theme of accountability; both at policy and at project level. Issues ranged from the added value of early engagement by the Bank with civil society at project level, to the highly anticipated public consultation about the review of EIB-Complaints Mechanisms. The need for the EIB to better communicate its impact, positive and negative, was also stressed as a way to rise up to the challenge of maintaining and increasing public trust in EU institutions.
At the end of the seminar, a record number of Board members listened to civil society’s suggestions, answered their many questions both on specific projects and policies, which ranged from gender, to resettlement of communities, to the possible financing of defense. The Board also clarified its role and responsibilities and recognised the importance of this engagement and reassured civil society that they were being heard.
All these issues, and many more, will be reported back on during the next Board seminar, early 2018. We very much look forward to working with all of you on these important questions in the coming year.