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    On Tuesday 2 May 2023, the EIB organised the annual seminar between its Board of Directors and civil society (CSOs) in its Luxembourg headquarters. After two years of holding the seminar online during the pandemic, this year’s event marked a return to in-person participation. A significant range of organisations working on a wide spectrum of different issues took part in the seminar. Such a broad outreach gave the Board Members access to a wealth of expertise and a diversity of views on key topics for the Bank. Civil society representatives were strongly engaged in preparing this year’s seminar, both in selecting speakers and moderators, as well as proposing the topics on the agenda. Their input was reflected in the issues for discussion: “Partnering for impact: EIB Global’, as well as “EIB as the EU climate and environment bank’.

    EIB engagement with CSOs

    EIB Vice-President Thomas Östros opened the seminar and welcomed all participants. Underlining the Bank’s commitment to engaging with civil society, Vice-President Östros affirmed the value of civil society partnerships in improving the quality and sustainability of the EIB’s projects, as well as increasing its accountability towards stakeholders. Vice-President Östros thanked civil society for the valuable inputs received over the past year, through regular dialogue and consultations on a wide range of topics from e.g., the Bank’s approach to agriculture financing, its investments in climate action and environmental sustainability, its strategy on gender equality, its engagement outside the EU, and its approach to human rights, fragility and conflict. Vice-President Östros also expressed appreciation for the EIB’s fruitful partnerships with civil society in 2022. Vice-President Östros concluded that the EIB and civil society share the same sustainability objectives and jointly, are able to come up with pragmatic and efficient responses.

    Partnering for impact: EIB Global

    Markus Berndt, Deputy Director General for EIB Global introduced the first discussion on partnering for impact by presenting the EIB’s newly established arm for the EU’s development activities, EIB Global, launched in 2022. Considering the global challenges to reach the SDGs, and weakened multilateral system, the purpose of the new structure is to allow the EIB to step up its engagement globally and become more strategic and effective in its work. In its first year of operations, EIB Global delivered on several fronts, from climate and gender equality to supporting Ukraine, and investing in SDGs in least developed and fragile states. He highlighted 4 dimensions that characterises the reform process introduced by EIB Global:

    1. Optimising the business model to better leverage resources available.
    2. Incentivising global private sector investments in pursuit of achieving the SDGs.
    3. Adopting a more focused approach aligned with the EU’s priorities and embedding actions and projects in policy dialogue for greater impact and results.
    4. Strengthening partnerships with development banks, philanthropies, the UN, and others, while focusing on the EIB’s added value/comparative advantage such as its standards and sector knowledge.

    "We are pleased that EIB Global played a prominent role at this year's Board Seminar. We welcome the opportunity to learn from our civil society partners, as it will improve EIB Global's project work in the long term."

    • Markus Berndt, Deputy Director General, EIB Global

    In the interventions that followed and during the discussion, participants questioned how the EIB can adjust and adapt, make a difference and be a credible partner in the pursuit of the SDGs, considering major global challenges e.g., Ukraine crisis, climate injustice, and global economic inequality. Civil society addressed several comments and suggestions centred around:

    • Ensuring investments support and promote models of production and consumption that are sustainable, eradicate inequality and enhance more equal and inclusive societies.
    • Enhancing consultations, strengthening human rights due diligence, opening-up dialogues and fostering partnerships with local actors and communities (local CSOs, municipalities, local governments, etc), including by strengthening its local presence through regional hubs.
    • Strengthening transparency, particularly in project appraisal and decision-making processes, access to information, and accountability mechanisms including rooting out corruption.  
    • Strengthening the EIB’s complaints and grievance mechanisms with particular attention to ensuring local communities complaints are listened to.

    The EIB acknowledged the importance of all the issues raised. In particular, the EIB’s Inspector General reassured that all corruption cases were taken very seriously and undergo thorough assessments and investigations. Moreover, the EIB acknowledged the importance of finding a balance between recognising that some assets are invaluable and its functions as a Bank by being more forthcoming with concessional finance and investing in global public goods. Concrete measures for consideration included lengthening maturities of loans so that principal repayments could occur over a longer period once the actual benefits are received. Additional remarks from the EIB stressed that in an increasingly competitive financial environment marked by a multipolar world, the EIB will need to make a value proposition that makes sense while complying with its values based on democracy, rule of law, and human rights. Finally, the EIB specified that the EIB’s objectives go beyond the Global Gateway, for example, supporting private sector development or financial inclusion. Clarifications were also provided regarding the purpose of the Global Gateway to bring all EU entities behind a same approach for contributing to the SDGs.


    Bending the curve on environmental degradation and biodiversity loss: climate-nature nexus

    The second thematic discussion was introduced by Sonia Dunlop from E3G who shared reflections on the EIB as the EU climate and environment bank. She congratulated the EIB for showing leadership on climate and environment, with real progress in terms of mainstreaming these priorities in its work and pushing for change and greater coordination across the global MDB and IFI systems. Milestones include the EIB Energy Lending Policy and Climate Bank Roadmap. While the EIB has been transformational in certain areas, she also flagged areas for improvement to ensure the EIB is a force for affecting change in global financial systems. She alluded to climate change adaptation finance and standards for quality investments and risk mitigation including when working with financial intermediaries e.g., by requesting more robust transition plans. She highlighted 4 recommendations for going forward: making it clear that climate is the number one mission of the bank; developing a clear vision of how to translate the climate roadmap into transformative action; considering taking on a more political role as a diplomatic actor; and devising a strategy for reforming the global financing system.

    In the interventions that followed and during the discussion, participants recognised that efforts are being taken to bring together the Bank’s climate objectives with protecting nature and halting biodiversity loss, including in the context of the new EIB Environment Framework, under which the EIB will finance projects that help reduce pollution, promote the sustainable use and protection of water resources, and encourage the development of a blue economy for marine and coastal resources. Going forward, participants highlighted the need to:

    • Ensure biodiversity and nature conservation build-up on scale and pick-up on speed, as they are still considered a niche area for investments. At a more general, better integrate nature considerations and biodiversity in sector-based investments, such as food, land, infrastructure, clean energy policy.
    • Mobilise financing to bridge the financial gap and increase the share for biodiversity and nature positive climate finance.
    • Put in place adequate policies and regulations to level the playing field for investments in this area.
    • Enhance partnerships around nature-based solutions.
    • Align projects with national priorities, plans and strategies including at the sub-national level.
    • Factor in social-cultural aspects and tap into local cultures and traditional/indigenous knowledge.
    • Consult and involve local communities and indigenous peoples, as well as ensure their rights are protected, going beyond the ‘do-no-harm’ approach to ‘doing good’.
    • Strengthen environmental safeguards, metrics and indicators that involve biodiversity to better track investments and measure impacts in this area.

    Remarks were also made on how the EIB views the compatibility of green hydrogen investments with the Paris Climate Agreement; and how it intends to enhance greater consistency and coherency between different policy domains at a more broader level. Participants called on the EIB to consider increasing its role in providing technical assistance, and to better link biodiversity, food systems and agriculture to pandemic preparedness and prevention.


    Plenary discussion with EIB Board Members

    The last session, introduced by Vice-President Östros, was an open discussion with the members of the Board of Directors. Senior representatives of EIB services and members of its Management Committee were also present. Civil society representatives reiterated key issues that were raised in the earlier sessions. Among other topics that also received attention were the role and impact the EIB is having on the global international financial architecture, and its contribution to reforming the MDB system; a push for greater coordination with other MDBs; the need for more evidence and flexibility in how the EIB works and partners with civil society; stepping up climate change adaptation; and “prioritising impact over volume”.

    Civil society also raised issues  related to: how the EIB follows up on and implements recommendations of its  Complaints Mechanism; the financing of green hydrogen projects and their socio-economic impact and the EIB Group’s Paris Alignment for Counterparties Framework (PATH).

    Members of the Board addressed the questions and concerns raised by civil society. They stressed their commitment to “doing better” including by working towards more additionality, greater development impact and transparency while at the same time recalling the parameters in which the EIB operates and that are associated with its role as a policy-driven bank i.e. needing to deliver on its policy goals, being bound by risk management, having to balance transparency requirements with  the need to also protect sensitive information of the wide range of stakeholders and clients it engages with;  and often needing to make pragmatic exceptions. Finally, Board Members underlined the importance of listening both ways and reiterated the value of civil society’s inputs and engagement, not just on the occasion of the Board Seminar, but through the many exchanges that take place through-out the year.


    Vice-President Östros concluded by thanking all participants for their very active engagement and the frank and constructive exchanges that contributed to the success of this event.

    "The bank has successfully turned this event into a listening exercise. That's exactly where we have to get better. The exchange with our partners can help us on all levels.”

    • Thomas Östros, EIB Vice-President