How can the ADB better protect child rights and strengthen child protections in its Safeguard Policy Statement? 

As the Asian Development Bank (ADB) undertakes a review of its 2009 Safeguard Policy Statement (SPS), it has a key opportunity to address the SPS’ gaps in protecting children from direct and indirect project related harms and enhance child rights considerations. BIC and our partners in Asia recommend the ADB strengthen child rights in the SPS by including child sexual exploitation and abuse prevention measures, increasing dissagregated data collection, and requiring child friendly stakeholder engagement.

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) current Safeguard Policy Statement (SPS) of 2009 identifies children as a group with a “disadvantaged or vulnerable status” that may need targeted and differentiated measures to prevent potential project related harms. However, the SPS does not provide any detail on what these measures should entail nor how they should be implemented. As a result, children remain at a high risk of being adversely affected by the direct and indirect impacts of ADB-financed projects. Children from certain ethnic or religious minorities, children with disabilities, Indigenous children, refugee or displaced children, and children who may be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation may also be more vulnerable to exploitation and therefore the policies must be designed to address the unique needs of children with compounding vulnerabilities. The ongoing SPS review is an important opportunity for the ADB to adopt inclusive policies that better support the needs and rights of all children. 

BIC, and our Asian partners, Access Bangladesh Foundation, Life Haven Center for Independent Living in the Philippines, Ohana in Indonesia, and Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Nepal (TPO Nepal) are actively engaging in the SPS consultation series, working to amplify the voices of project affected communities and drawing from past project monitoring experiences to advocate for improved child protections in the updated SPS. For the ADB to strengthen child rights in the updated safeguards, we recommend the ADB: 

  1. Identify and categorize projects that are high risk for Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Sexual Exploitation Abuse and Harassment (SEA/H), in particular child SEA/H, and include child-specific prevention and mitigation measures in project design. 
  2. Look at the disaggregated impacts of projects on children. 
  3. Include children, young people, and civil society working closely on child rights issues in Stakeholder Engagement Plans.
  4. Set up Grievance Redress Mechanisms in a child-friendly manner. 
  5. Explicitly reference groups who might be disproportionately impacted by ADB projects or who might face barriers to project benefits in binding ADB documents such as the SPS and reflect this in the requirements for Social Assessments, Stakeholder Engagement, and the Grievance Redress Mechanism.
  6. Apply a more substantive approach to supply chain risks in relation to forced and child labor issues and strengthen human rights due diligence in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  7. Disaggregate project data by age to improve outcomes for children. 

For more details on our child rights recommendations for the SPS, read our policy brief