Environmental and social safeguards

To minimise risk and ensure the aid program can be delivered effectively and efficiently, a number of safeguards are considered when planning, designing, delivering and evaluating all Australian aid investments. The Environmental and Social Safeguard Policy for the Aid Program (policy) outlines a consolidated approach to managing safeguard risks in the Australian aid program. The policy applies to all DFAT Official Development Assistance funded aid investments regardless of value or funding mechanism, including the Direct Aid Program.

The policy provides guidance on DFAT's safeguard responsibilities in aid investments and how to meet them, and sets out requirements for five key safeguards:

  1. Environmental protection
  2. Children, vulnerable and disadvantage groups
  3. Displacement and resettlement
  4. Indigenous peoples
  5. Health and safety

Safeguard Principles

The safeguard principles guide DFAT's management of environmental and social impacts in the aid program. The safeguard principles underpin the successful application of the five environmental and social safeguards. Most importantly, applying the principles helps ensure investments achieve positive development outcomes without harming the environment, people or communities.

All investments must be designed and implemented in accordance with the safeguard principles. The principles must be considered at each stage of DFAT's aid management cycle: policy and planning; design and procurement; implementation and performance management; and review and evaluation.

Principle 1: Do no harm

Seek to protect the rights, health, safety, and livelihoods of people including, children, women, indigenous peoples, and other vulnerable or disadvantaged groups. Maintain the health, diversity and productivity of the environment.

Principle 2: Identify, assess and manage environmental and social impacts

Identify potential environmental and social risks and impacts early in the investment design process, and ensure they are adequately assessed and managed in investment concepts, designs and implementation.

Avoid, or where avoidance is not possible, minimise, mitigate or as a last resort, offset or compensate for negative impacts

Assess and manage direct and indirect environmental and social impacts of the investment in a way that is proportional to potential impacts.

Manage risks and impacts of the investment through management plans, and monitor and report on their delivery.

Consider the different impacts on the environment and people, including children, people of different genders, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable or disadvantaged groups. The assessment and management of potential impacts must take into account these different needs.

Principle 3: Engage effectively with stakeholders

Provide affected people with access to information about the investment, its risks, and potential social and environmental impacts in a way that is timely, accessible, and culturally and socially suitable for the affected group.

Engage with affected parties and other stakeholders early in identifying and managing environmental and social risks and impacts, and continue this throughout the investment.

Ensure consultations include directly and indirectly affected parties, are inclusive, free of external manipulation, interference, coercion, or intimidation, and enable meaningful participation.

Provide accessible and culturally appropriate grievance redress mechanisms and ensure that grievances are handled promptly, transparently, and without retribution or cost to the party that raised the concern.

Disclose information about the social and environmental performance of aid investments in accordance with DFAT's aid transparency commitments.

Principle 4: Work effectively with partners

Comply with partner country safeguard laws and policies and where possible build partners' capacity to develop and implement environmental and social governance systems.

Work with multilateral, bilateral, NGO and private sector development partners to ensure environmental and social impacts are managed in a way that is consistent with this policy.

Work with partners to manage safeguard risks in a way that maximises the use of country systems and avoids imposing duplicate or unnecessary safeguard assessment and management planning requirements.

Principle 5: Promote improved environmental and social outcomes

Where possible, promote improved environmental and social outcomes by integrating ecologically sustainable development into aid investments. Improve the implementation and outcomes of aid investments by effectively identifying and managing environmental and social risks.

For more information on environmental and social safeguards, please email us

Last Updated: 19 January 2018