MIGA Memories: Takeaways and Thank-yous

I learned so much during my internship at MIGA. The E&S specialists I worked with were very helpful, supportive, and welcoming. MIGA does incredible work promoting foreign direct investment in developing countries. It was great to be a part of this agency and to support its cause.

Interning at MIGA gave me new insights into the international development community, which I had previously only explored through my international relations and economics coursework. I will return to school with a deeper understanding of the intricacies of development finance, as well as how international institutions function, and the role that environmental and social sustainability concerns play in them.

I have met many people during my time at MIGA, who I intend to keep in touch with as I continue my studies (one E&S specialist even went to William & Mary for business school!). In addition, my writing and research skills improved over the course of my internship. I was lucky to have a supervisor who gave me detailed feedback on my assignments, and who walked me through how to use new research tools, including RepRisk and IBAT. When I completed ad hoc assignments for other E&S specialists, they took the time to explain what was expected of me and the best way to approach the assignments.

Looking back on my time at MIGA, I realize how much I have learned, both in terms of knowledge and skills. I made close relationships with the people I worked with, and I learned how to navigate a professional work environment. I also had a lot of fun over the course of my internship, spending the 4th of July watching the fireworks over the National Mall from the windows of my office, going on the company picnic at a nearby resort, and mingling with colleagues at happy hours. I am so grateful to the Charles Center for allowing me to complete this internship. It was an amazing experience and a great way to spend my summer!

Internship Specifics: Additional Assignments

In addition to updating ESRD and running contextual risk and IBAT screenings, I also supported E&S team members in the completion of other ad hoc assignments. For example, to assist the climate specialist in the development of MIGA’s approach to financing adaptation, I researched barriers to private sector investment in climate adaptation projects. I reviewed documents published by other international institutions, and compiled the findings into a summary report, which included lessons learned and possible solutions. I enjoyed this assignment because it allowed me to learn about the interactions between the economy and efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It also allowed me to explore what MIGA and other international institutions can do to facilitate investment in this area.

I also had the opportunity to get a better understanding of MIGA’s Financial Intermediary (FI) portfolio. I reviewed all FI projects in the portfolio and created a table indicating the types of business activities undertaken by each FI. Through the information that I compiled, the E&S team was able to quickly identify and summarize the range of business activities supported through their FI clients.

Another responsibility I was given involved completing a Back to Office Report (BTOR) for an E&S specialist who had just returned from conducting a site visit to a potential project. With the notes the specialist took on her mission and extensive documents provided by the client, I created a project description and wrote a summary of the project’s progress in meeting the Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability. Contributing to this BTOR gave me more insight into how the E&S specialists review projects and how integral site visits are to their work. Assisting with these ad hoc tasks has greatly strengthened my writing and research skills as well as my knowledge of development and climate finance.

Internship Update: Contextual Risk Screenings!

These past few weeks, one of my favorite parts of my internship has been running potential projects through contextual risk screenings. Contextual risk screening is undertaken at the beginning of the due diligence phase to identify issues that specialists may need to look into further during due diligence. MIGA specialists run searches using an online Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) database called RepRisk, which scours the internet for any ESG-related information on companies, projects, sectors and countries. I screen projects by running keywords through RepRisk and reading through all of the articles it finds to determine if these are relevant risks for MIGA to consider. I also use Google to find more general information about project owners, investors, contractors, as well as the project country and sector. Then, I write up a summary of the findings, indicating the reputational, environmental and social risks that may be associated with such a project.

The contextual risk screenings inform the E&S specialists’ due diligence program and allows them to ensure that due diligence site visits and pre-visit meetings address the specific issues identified in the screening. I have really enjoyed this work, as it has allowed me to learn about many issues affecting different countries and business sectors. The screenings that I have undertaken have identified issues related to land tenure rights, indigenous peoples rights, and government policies that may affect certain sectors. Many of the topics I research concern national governments and their relationship with other countries, international institutions, and corporations. As an International Relations major and someone who wants to pursue a career in international law, learning about these links fascinates me.

I was also tasked with undertaking the initial biodiversity risk screening, which used the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT). IBAT is a site that compares a project’s location with publicly available information on the environmental and biodiversity features of the area, including bird migration flyways, nationally and internationally recognized protected areas, key biodiversity areas, WWF ecoregions, and unique/highly threatened ecosystems. MIGA uses this tool to help determine whether Performance Standard 6 on biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of living natural resources, will apply to a certain project.

To run a project through IBAT, first I have to identify its exact location, which I determine by reading through documents provided by the client. Then, IBAT prepares a report on the overlapping and nearby environmental features. Using the report and the map layering feature that shows the location of different areas in relation to the project site, I summarize the risks a project could pose to the environment, paying special attention to protecting biodiversity and critical habitats.

Running projects through IBAT is exciting, not only because I learn so much about biodiversity in many different places, but also because I know the background research I am doing will inform how MIGA ensures that their guaranteed projects are employing sound environmental practices. Conducting contextual risk and IBAT screenings has given me the chance to improve my writing skills, expand my knowledge of world events, and contribute to the work of the E&S team.

My E&S Internship: ESRD Updating!

One of the tasks I have been working on at MIGA is updating the E&S Review Database (ESRD). ESRD tracks all MIGA-guaranteed projects, as well as projects being considered for a guarantee. Projects are entered at the due diligence stage (prior to issuing a Contract of Guarantee), when a project is evaluated for compliance with MIGA’s Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability. The database is updated as the Project progresses through due diligence, and once the Contract is signed, the Project is monitored periodically for compliance with MIGA’s Performance Standards, and the results of the monitoring are captured in the database.

The database contains information on the performance standards that projects trigger, how projects are working to meet the standards, and site visits that E&S specialists have made to conduct due diligence and monitoring on projects. ESRD allows the E&S team to aggregate data across the portfolio of projects, so, for example, the team can see how many projects trigger a certain performance standard, or how many site visits were undertaken in a given year. This data is used to generate annual and quarterly reports to MIGA’s Management Team, as well as to help identify trends. Consolidating project information onto one platform also provides E&S specialists with the ability to see the progress of their colleagues’ projects and to share updates on their own.

While much of the information in ESRD is either autopopulated from other MIGA information systems or captured by uploading MS Word documents, there are some fields that must be manually completed. My work updating ESRD has consisted of reading through clearance memoranda, Environmental and Social Risk Ratings (ESRRs), Back to Office Reports (BTORs) and other documents to fill in the information that the program cannot capture automatically and to check that existing information is accurate.  Working on this task has allowed me to explore the way MIGA ensures that its projects are in compliance with the requirements of the Performance Standards. I have been able to learn so much about the projects supported by MIGA guarantees and the environmental and social risks associated with them. In addition to being a valuable learning experience for me, my work updating ESRD will allow MIGA to improve portfolio-wide reporting on the performance of its projects.

My Summer as an Environmental and Social Intern

This summer, I am interning with the Economics and Sustainability Department at the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), a member of the World Bank Group (https://www.miga.org/). MIGA promotes foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries by providing guarantees (political risk insurance and credit enhancement) to private sector investors and lenders. MIGA’s guarantees protect against non-commercial risks (e.g. civil unrest or government expropriation) and can help investors obtain access to funding sources with improved financial terms and conditions.

As a multilateral development agency, sustainability of the guaranteed project is important, and MIGA can only support investments that meet the Agency’s Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability (https://www.miga.org/Documents/MIGA_Performance_Standards_October_2013.pdf). MIGA’s Environment, Social, and Integrity (MIGEI) unit is responsible for conducting environmental, social, climate change and integrity due diligence of potential projects and monitoring the compliance of projects supported by MIGA guarantees.

As an Environmental and Social (E&S) Intern, I support the E&S specialists to evaluate potential projects. My work primarily consists of performing background research to support early screening of investments that have applied for a MIGA guarantee. To screen investments, I use online tools and databases to identify potential biodiversity issues related to a project’s location. I also conduct contextual risk research, which involves assessing the risks associated with specific sectors in different countries. Understanding a project’s physical, social, and political environment allows members of the E&S team to better assist investors and lenders with creating and maintaining sustainable practices.

This internship is a great opportunity for me, as I am particularly interested in sustainable development and development economics. Working at MIGA will allow me to improve my writing and communication skills and to further my knowledge of developing countries. By the end of my internship with MIGA, I hope to be able to apply what I am learning to my international relations coursework. I am excited to spend the rest of my summer interning at MIGA, familiarizing myself with its work and development impact.