ADB Seminar

ADB as a Knowledge Bridge: Bringing the Best Global Knowledge to Asia and the Pacific

Sunday, 5 May 2024, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm (Asia/Tbilisi)
Radisson Blu Iveria, Ballroom 3


Opening Remarks

Ramesh SubramaniamDirector General and Chief, Sectors Group, ADB

Ramesh Subramaniam has been with ADB for over 26 years. He oversees the work of the Sectors Group to deliver all lending and technical assistance operations in seven sectors across the Asia and Pacific region in coordination with all regional, private sector-related, and other support departments within ADB. Trained as an economist, his work at ADB has focused on economic policy reforms, infrastructure financing, and urban development. He established the ASEAN Policy Network and the Green Finance Hub, and oversaw ADB’s efforts to help Southeast Asian countries overcome the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is passionate about helping developing countries avoid and overcome economic crises as well as manage disasters caused by natural hazards. Mr. Subramaniam has served on various Global Future Councils of the World Economic Forum since 2012, including as co-chair of the its Sustainable Development Investment Partnership ASEAN Hub.


Reema NanavatyDirector, Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA)

Reema Nanavaty, with over 39 years at SEWA, leads initiatives that empower over 2.9 million informal sector women workers. She spearheaded rebuilding efforts for 60,000 earthquake and 40,000 riot-affected women, besides leading rehabilitation programs in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka that impacted thousands of lives. Overseeing numerous self-help groups, cooperatives, and economic federations across South Asia, she focuses on women’s economic empowerment by building women-owned enterprises, supply chains, ICT-based tools, and green energy initiatives. Honored by Padma Shri (the fourth-highest civilian award in India) for her contribution in area of Social Services, she serves on the World Bank Group’s Advisory Council on Gender. Ms. Nanavaty’s contributions extend globally, including representation on the International Labour Organization’s Global Commission on Future of Work and UN initiatives on energy and food systems.

Bayar OyunAdvisor on Health, Independent Research Institute of Mongolia (IRIM)

Bayar Oyun has worked for 30 years in the health sector of Mongolia, starting as a lecturer at the National Medical University and practicing at the first and second state general hospitals. He made a transition to health management in 2003, since then undertaking assignments as deputy director of the National Cancer Center, and deputy director of the Health Department of the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Mr. Oyun served the Ministry of Health as director general of monitoring and evaluation department, and lately of the health policy implementation department. He consulted for the ministry in the development of the Health Sector Master Plan, 2020-2026. He is now serving as adviser on health for the Independent Research Institute of Mongolia.

Pilvi TorstiDirector, European Training Foundation (ETF)

Pilvi Torsti is the director of the European Training Foundation. She served as a state secretary in three ministries in Finland: Education and Culture, Employment and Economic Affairs, and Transport and Communications. From 2017 to 2019, Ms. Torsti was an MP and a member of the education and future committees of the Finnish parliament. She holds a PhD in social sciences from the University of Helsinki, and is also the cofounder of United World College in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, she founded HEI Schools, an education company co-owned by the University of Helsinki where she has been an adjunct professor since 2012 and was nominated as the adjunct professor of the year in 2020. Pilvi is UWC graduate and Eisenhower Fellow.

Sannamaaria Vanamo Ambassador for Education, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Department for International Trade, Finland 

Sannamaaria Vanamo has been an integral part of Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs since 1999. She served as deputy director general at the Department for Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia in Helsinki from 2017-2021. Her expertise extends to being the director for arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation at the Political Department and adviser to the undersecretary of the state for political affairs. Her assignments include roles as the consul general of Finland in St. Petersburg; second secretary at the Finnish Embassy in Moscow; as counsellor at the Embassy of Finland in Washington DC. She also contributed significantly to Finland’s engagement with the European Union during its presidency in 2006. She actively engages in education and development initiatives and has served in various steering committees.


Robert SchoellhammerAdviser to the Director General, Sector Operations, ADB

Robert Schoellhammer has worked 30 years in Asia, starting as an economics lecturer at the Mongolian civil service institute, during which he co-authored the first nationwide poverty survey. He undertook assignments in the Kyrgyz Education Ministry and the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, before joining the African Development Bank. Since joining ADB in 2000 he undertook assignments across Asia, most recently as ADB’s Representative to Europe. He was country director to Mongolia, deputy head of ADB North America and led ADB’s knowledge program in the People’s Republic of China. He is now responsible for international partnerships and knowledge work in ADB’s sector operations. Mr. Schoellhammer studied development economics at the University of East Anglia and agriculture at the University of Aberdeen.

The panel brought together knowledge leaders’ perspectives to identify key elements for successful knowledge engagement. Key themes were the need to mobilize multiple knowledge stakeholders, partnerships, ambition, and longer-term time horizons.

The panel discussed the needs of informal sector female workers in India, including how new economic pathways need forging, and sectoral interventions needed to be redirected away from the formal sector. The need to capitalize on members’ own knowledge was underscored. Services that effectively enable people to respond to challenges are indispensable. Partnerships with the private sector and international organizations and foundations are important sources of knowledge.

The panel discussed Finland’s transformation from a poor agrarian nation to a high-income one, dwelling on education’s role. Key success factors included a gradual pace of reform over a long time period. Inclusion of multiple stakeholders mobilized societal resources – teachers were particularly important. The principles that underpinned Finland’s success were applicable in a developing member country (DMC) context. The panel heard of Finnish initiatives to share knowledge, and how cooperation with ADB could help DMCs benefit.

The panel also discussed Mongolia’s successful health sector transformation. Key factors for effective knowledge cooperation by ADB included a long-term operational span, close alignment with national priorities, an ambitious scope that encompassed the whole sector and effective partnerships that deepened the pool of available expertise. The inclusion of multiple stakeholders was key and allowed the private sector to contribute to the sector’s development.

The panel discussed the European Union’s work to develop human capital, at home and abroad. Key dimensions included the need for foresight, to allow effective planning for the needs of the future. Structured, dedicated approaches to knowledge creation and application are invaluable for effective support and building partnerships with other stakeholders bring additional resources and expertise to bear.

ADB stressed the importance of knowledge to address climate, food and learning crises, underscoring the need for future-proofing, and the development of more complex, intersectoral projects to address complex challenges. Partnerships bringing vital knowledge, including with the private sector and digital technologies should be embraced.