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JBIC's Environment Guidelines
What is the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC)?
JBIC is a relatively new institution, established in October 1999. Prior to JBIC, there was the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF), Japan's aid agency, and the Japan Export Import Bank, an export credit agency. JBIC is the result of a merger between these two agencies. JBIC is therefore now responsible for both Official Development Assistance as well as the functions of an export credit agency.
For more information on the establishment of JBIC, see an article by FoE Japan
New Environmental Guidelines
The Environmental Guidelines of JBIC are divided into two parts plus Appendices. Part 1 is a general outline of the policies and principles to be followed in regard to environmental and social considerations. Part 2 contains somewhat more specific clauses on what kinds of impacts are to be examined, project monitoring, and requirements for environmental impact assessments. In the appendices are checklists and more specifications on information required by JBIC regarding environmental and social characteristics of projects.
A brief outline of the more important points in the Environmental Guidelines is provided below. Please keep in mind that this outline is only to give an overview of the content of the guidelines. The final official English version of the JBIC Environmental Guidelines has not yet been released, so certain points listed below may ultimately be inaccurate reflections of the official content. Once the official version is released, the outline will be modified as necessary.
Process behind the Environmental Guidelines
A study group comprising of members from various government ministries and agencies, academic institutions, a diet member, and NGOs (all participating in their individual capacity) was formed in October 2000 (for more information about the Study Group, see Study Group's website <http://www.sg-egl-jbic.org/>). Over a period of about 8 months, this group met regularly to review the existing guidelines and discuss specifically what improvements were required for the environmental guidelines for JBIC. The Study Group's recommendations <http://www.sg-egl-jbic.org/Recomen_E.pdf> were submitted to JBIC and publicized in September 2001. JBIC used these recommendations in drafting its own proposed set of Environmental Guidelines. JBIC's first draft of the Environmental Guidelines was released in December 2001.
After the initial draft was released, JBIC put up its draft guidelines on the website for comment and held a series of six public consultations (Dec 2001-March 2002). At these consultations, NGOs participated and voiced a range of opinions regarding the new guidelines. While not all of the opinions were ultimately incorporated, many questions were also raised about ambiguities in the guidelines. NGOs were worried about how JBIC would interpret certain parts of the guidelines when it came to actual implementation. JBIC clarified some of the ambiguity, and promised that all answers given during the consultations would be recorded so that if any questions on interpretation of the guidelines should arise in the future, JBIC will be held to the explanation given during the consultations.
The Environmental Guidelines were adopted by JBIC in April 2002, and will be put into effect beginning 1 October 2003. JBIC is now preparing a complaints procedure for the Environmental Guidelines also to be put into effect in October 2003.
While certain issues remain to be resolved, this process was one of the most open policy-making processes in Japanese history. While not all NGO input has been reflected in the final outcome of the Environmental Guidelines, it is clear that the participation of civil society in the process pushed JBIC to an unprecedented level of transparency. Now, NGOs must continue their push in order to ensure that the Environmental Guidelines are actually implemented, and then strengthened further during future reviews. There has been clear cause for concern about JBIC's will to fully implement the Environmental Guidelines from the lack of commitment apparent during the proceedings to establish a compliance mechanism.
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