ESIAs and the Role of International Financial Institutions 

How ESIAs Work

The basis of an ESIA is to make sure that those who make development decisions—national government officials and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) managers—understand the potential consequences of a project before giving regulatory approval. When a country identifies a development project or conservation programme that it cannot finance on its own, the national government can apply for a low interest loan from any number of IFIs, although the WBG, AfDB and EIB are the primary lenders for projects and programmes in Africa. The AfDB, EIB, and WBG condition their loans on governments meeting specific standards and guidelines designed to protect the environment and the LID communities. Upon acceptance of a loan, the national government must finance researchers and consultants to conduct in depth studies in the area where the project will be built, to describe the existing natural environment (air quality, water quality and availability, biodiversity [terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals], soils, geology). They must also describe the current social, political, economic, and health conditions of communities in the region of the proposed development (cities, towns, and LID communities), and identify heritage resources important to these communities (e.g., ancestral sites, places of worship, burial sites) that might be impacted by the development project or conservation programme. The final parts are to identify how significantly such resources would be affected, and how harmful effects can be avoided, minimised, or mitigated.

Anthropologists and archaeologists contribute to the ESIA process, by meeting with LID communities to obtain information about their social, political, and economic systems, including plants and animals they rely upon for their survival (foods and medicines), as well as places that are important to them (e.g., sacred gathering areas, places of worship, ancestral sites).  The anthropologist/archaeologist provides a summary of this information for the ESIA, and government officials and officers from the international lender use the ESIA to make decisions about whether to build the proposed development or redesign particular parts to reduce harmful consequences .

ESIA Consultation in Senegal