Recourse and BRICS Feminist Watch have released new research showing that almost half of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB’s) approved energy sector projects lack any mention of gender commitments in its project documentation. This pattern is repeated in the list of energy projects AIIB is proposing over coming years, the project ‘pipeline’.
The energy sector is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore holds an important key for combatting climate change. Women and girls are often particularly adversely affected by lack of access to clean renewable modern energy. Women also have the knowledge and skills to play a critical role in facilitating the shift to renewables, in particular in leading and supporting the delivery of off-grid renewable energy solutions. They should therefore be meaningfully included in determining project plans and development models, as well as have access to gender-sensitive and responsive grievance mechanisms.
Out of the energy projects that did mention gender or women in its AIIB project documentation, none matched all of the indicators developed by BRICS Feminist Watch for this research. Based on this analysis, we draw the conclusion that none of the approved energy projects can be deemed to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality in a meaningful way. It is further concerning that none of the projects included specific language on energy access for women, meaning that the projects do not meaningfully contribute to SDG 7 on energy access for all either.
It is important to note that the analysis is drawn from desk-based research. Field based research of these projects might show a very different reality and lower the number of projects matching our indicators further. For example, field research by BRICS Feminist Watch of an AIIB-funded rural roads project in India found that women and girls were not benefitting equally to men, and hence the project was actually contributing towards increased gender inequalities.
The roots of this gender-blindness may lie in the fact that, in contrast to other MDBs, AIIB has to date not developed a gender policy. It is high time that AIIB takes the next step to make this happen, to enable accountability for its action (or inaction) on meeting important SDGs, such as SDG 5 and SDG 7. AIIB’s Energy Sector Strategy is currently under review, but the gender language remains weak. Learning from the concerning results of our analysis, it is essential that the final version is strengthened to put gender front and centre.