Social development: Equitable growth for all

Despite the extraordinary gains made in living standards in Asia and the Pacific hundreds of millions of people are still excluded from the benefits of rapid economic growth, without access to basic social services and vulnerable to illness, unemployment and the region’s increasingly devastating natural disasters.

ADB's social development agenda involves people and their communities, organizations, institutions, societies and governments in all poverty relief activities. The aim is to reduce poverty, inequality and vulnerability among poor and marginalized persons by transforming institutions to enable them to foster inclusiveness and equitable access to services, resources and opportunities; empower people to participate in social, economic and political life; and provide security to help individuals cope with chronic or unforeseen and sudden risks.

Physical, social and economic well-being

Social development is achieving equitable and sustainable improvements in the physical, social, and economic well-being of individuals and social groups, especially those that are socially or economically disadvantaged.

Inclusiveness lies at the heart of all successful poverty relief and development outcomes. ADB’s social development agenda involves people and their communities, organizations, institutions, societies and governments in all poverty relief activities.

ADB’s social development efforts and policies also aim to reduce poverty, inequality, and vulnerability among poor and marginalized groups by transforming institutions to enable them to  foster:

  • inclusiveness and equitable access to services, resources and opportunities
  • empowerment to participate in social, economic, and political life
  • security to cope with chronic or unforeseen and sudden risks

Since the mid-1990s, ADB has adopted social development policies and strategies covering such issues as gender and development, social protection, and cooperation with nongovernment organizations (NGOs); social safeguard policies on involuntary resettlement and indigenous peoples; and procedures for addressing social dimensions in project design.

ADB also provides guidance on organizing consultations with representatives of civil society and with poor, marginalized, and isolated groups to ensure that their concerns are reflected in the formulation, monitoring, and evaluation of ADB’s country partnership strategies (CPS). ADB’s Poverty Handbook (2006), also guides the inclusion of poverty measures into projects.

Adopted in 2004, ADB’s enhanced poverty reduction strategy includes  three pillars: pro-poor, sustainable economic growth; inclusive social development; and good governance. Social development is a cross-cutting concept incorporated into the two other pillars as well.

The enhanced poverty reduction strategy identifies five thematic priorities that support these three pillars: gender equality, environmental sustainability, private sector development, regional cooperation, and capacity development. To achieve greater effectiveness, the strategy also promotes greater country focus, including alignment of ADB’s operations with DMC’s own national poverty reduction strategies; greater attention to results, monitoring, and evaluation; and emphasis on capacity development.

Social dimensions in ADB operations

ADB supports equitable and sustainable social development outcomes by giving attention to the social dimensions of its operations which consist of three major processes: country programming, project design, and project implementation.

Social dimensions such as participation, gender and development, social safeguards, and management of social risks are incorporated into ADB’s strategic (regional, subregional, national, and subnational), sector, program, and project operations. To maximize these social development outcomes, ADB-assisted projects include social analysis as part of due diligence. The Handbook on Social Analysis (2007) and ADB's Policy on Incorporation of Social Dimensions into ADB Operations provide practical guidance to ADB staff, government officers, and consultants involved in programming, preparing, and implementing activities to effectively integrate social dimensions into ADB-financed operations.

During CPS preparation ADB staff work with key government officials to facilitate the participation of NGOs, local communities, business associations, workers' and women’s organizations, indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders.

An initial poverty and social analysis is a prerequisite for all loan and grant-based investment projects and programs to identify and address social issues such as participation, gender, involuntary resettlement, indigenous peoples, labor, affordability, and other risks and vulnerabilities. This means potential social issues are addressed during project preparation to ensure that project design maximizes social benefits and avoids or minimizes social risks, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized groups.

After project completion, the project performance evaluation assesses the impact of the project on targeted beneficiaries, affected people, and other stakeholders.

The responsibility for incorporating social dimensions in ADB’s operations and monitoring the social dimensions of individual projects rests with the operational departments. The Regional and Sustainable Development Department (RSDD) has overall responsibility for coordinating and monitoring ADB’s social development activities.