ADB was conceived amid the postwar rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of the early 1960s. The vision was of a financial institution that would be Asian in character and foster economic growth and cooperation in the region - then one of the poorest in the world.
A resolution passed at the first Ministerial Conference on Asian Economic Cooperation held by the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in 1963 set that vision on the way to becoming reality.
The Philippines capital of Manila was chosen to host the new institution - the Asian Development Bank - which opened on 19 December 1966, with 31 members that came together to serve a predominantly agricultural region. Takeshi Watanabe was ADB's first President.
For the rest of the 1960s, ADB focused much of its assistance on food production and rural development. Its operations included ADB's first technical assistance, loans, including a first on concessional terms in 1969, and bond issue in Germany.
ADB's assistance expanded in the 1970s into education and health, and then to infrastructure and industry. The gradual emergence of Asian economies in the latter part of the decade spurred demand for better infrastructure to support economic growth. ADB focused on improving roads and providing electricity.
When the world suffered its first oil price shock, ADB shifted more of its assistance to support energy projects, especially those promoting the development of domestic energy sources in member countries.
Cofinancing operations began to provide additional resources for ADB projects and programs. ADB first bond issue in Asia - worth $16.7 million and issued in Japan - took place in 1970.
A major landmark was the establishment in 1974 of the Asian Development Fund to provide concessional lending to ADB's poorest members.
At the close of the decade, some Asian economies had improved considerably and graduated from ADB's regular assistance.
As the region's economy evolved, it became clear that the private sector was an important ally in driving growth. ADB thus in the 1980s made its first direct equity investment and began to use its track record to mobilize additional resources for development from the private sector.
In the wake of the second oil crisis, ADB continued its support to infrastructure development, particularly energy projects. ADB also increased its support to social infrastructure, including gender, microfinance, environmental, education, urban planning, and health issues.
In 1982, ADB opened its first field office - a Resident Mission in Bangladesh - to bring operations closer to their intended beneficiaries. Later in the decade, ADB approved a policy supporting collaboration with nongovernment organizations to address the basic needs of disadvantaged groups in its developing member countries.
The start of the 1990s saw ADB begin promoting regional cooperation, forging close ties among neighboring countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
In 1995, ADB became the first multilateral organization to have a Board-approved governance policy to ensure that development assistance fully benefits the poor. Policies on the inspection function, involuntary resettlement, and indigenous peoples - designed to protect the rights of people affected by a project - were also approved.
ADB's membership, meanwhile, continued to expand with the addition of several Central Asian countries following the end of the Cold War.
In mid-1997, a severe financial crisis hit the region, setting back Asia's spectacular economic gains. ADB responded with projects and programs to strengthen financial sectors and create social safety nets for the poor. ADB approved its largest single loan-a $4 billion emergency loan to the Republic of Korea-and established the Asian Currency Crisis Support Facility to accelerate assistance.
In 1999, recognizing that development was still bypassing so many in the region, ADB adopted poverty reduction as its overarching goal.
Into the 21st century
With the new century, a new focus on helping its developing members achieve the Millennium Development Goals and making development more effective was adopted within ADB.
In 2003, a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic hit the region, making it clear that fighting infectious diseases requires regional cooperation. ADB began providing support at national and regional levels to help countries more effectively respond to avian influenza and the growing threat of HIV/AIDS.
ADB also had to respond to unprecedented natural disasters, committing more than $850 million for recovery in areas of India, Indonesia, Maldives, and Sri Lanka hit by the December 2004 Asian tsunami. In addition, a $1 billion line of assistance to help victims of the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan was set up.
In 2008, ADB's Board of Directors approved Strategy 2020: The Long-Term Strategic Framework of the Asian Development Bank 2008-2020, a policy document guiding its operations to 2020.
In 2009, ADB's Board of Governors agreed to triple ADB's capital base from $55 billion to $165 billion, giving it much-needed resources to respond to the global economic crisis. The 200% increase is the largest in ADB's history, and the first since the 1994 100% capital increase.