How Can We Construct a Sustainable Future?

April 17, 2019 - 12:00 pm
Ariel BenYishay (College of William and Mary) and Rebecca Ray (Boston University)
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Trillions of dollars in new infrastructure investments—catalyzed by China's Belt and Road Initiative—planned to address the developing world's infrastructure gap. But if not carefully planned, large-scale infrastructure projects can also threaten sensitive ecosystems, vulnerable populations, and the global climate. What can we learn from past infrastructure investments so as not to repeat past mistakes? A panel discussion will explore what data on past investments can reveal and how they can help direct future investments in sustainable infrastructure. The two speakers will be followed by a group discussion of how to incorporate environmental and social considerations into infrastructure planning and potential research collaborations.


AidData: Who is doing what, where, and to what end?

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Ariel BenYishay, Associate Professor of Economics, College of William & Mary, & Chief Economist of AidData

Ariel BenYishay will discuss the work of AidData, a research lab at William & Mary, that provides granular data on activities by international donors and partner governments.  It offers extensive geo-referenced data on development projects for a variety of sectors, countries, and donors, as well as new data on projects funded by China and other non-Western donors.  Dr. BenYishay will describe the data collection methodologies, recently produced datasets, and new geospatial impact evaluations of investments in infrastructure and other sectors.

Safeguarding Sustainable Development: Environmental and Social Risk Management in Infrastructure Finance in the Andean Amazon

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Rebecca Ray, Post-Doctoral Fellow at Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center

Over the last two years, scholars from BU and partner institutions in Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia have conducted in-depth case studies and regional quantitative analysis of the use and effectiveness of the environmental and social risk management (ESRM) frameworks of national governments and development finance institutions (DFIs) overseeing this boom.  We find that well-designed ESRM can significantly limit environmental and social harm, but projects have still largely fallen short of their stated goals of sustainable, inclusive infrastructure development. Specifically, project planners have shown weakness in incorporating meaningful stakeholder engagement, comprehensive environmental impact assessment, and thorough transparency and accountability throughout project cycles.

Presented by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions & Riding the Belt & Road D-SIGN Network. The Riding the Belt and Road Network is sponsored by the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies under the Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) Grant, and housed within the Duke University Energy Initiative. If you have questions, please contact or   

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  • Belt Road Initiative at Duke