By Lidy Nacpil, the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is one of the biggest international economic, financial and geopolitical initiatives in many years. Behind it is the force of hundreds of billions of dollars of investments, led by China.

Since 2013, when Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of what was then called the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, much has been written, analyzed and debated about the BRI. It is referred to, among others as the most ambitious infrastructure investment initiative of all time. In these early years, it already has had major impacts on countries and communities. It will have even more dramatic foreseeable impacts in the coming years to a larger population in more countries.

One of the greatest injustices in modern history is that the people in whose name development projects are justified, are very rarely meaningfully consulted, much less involved in the design, financial and technical transactions, implementation and operations of such projects. This book aims to give expression to, and highlight the perspectives of, communities and people whose lives and livelihoods are or will be directly and profoundly affected by BRI projects. For this purpose, communities at the site of projects of different types in 5 countries in Asia were visited and residents were invited to share their views and experiences. Non-government organizations working with the communities were also asked to convey their thoughts.

The immediate audience for this book is the Chinese government and other Asian governments – as Asian movements and NGOs engage and challenge them on the impacts and implications of the Belt and Road Imitative. It is our hope that the stories and perspectives articulated in this book will help compel them to make changes to BRI processes, policies and projects in the interest of the rights and well-being of people and communities, and of environmental, climate, gender and economic justice.

China’s leadership in the Belt and Road Initiative comes with a heavy responsibility and accountability for the direction and outcomes of BRI. Asian and other governments who are partners of China, and host to BRI investments and projects, should not be absolved of responsibility and accountability.

We call on people’s organizations and movements in Asia to engage, critique and challenge the Belt and Road Initiative. Let us strengthen our defense of peoples’ rights, our resistance to the destruction of the environment and the escalation of the climate crisis, our fight against marginalization and inequality, and our struggles for justice and social transformation.

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