Targeting Poverty and Reducing Inequalities

Targeting poverty and reducing inequalities are ADB Strategy 2030’s first operational priority (OP1). Education, health, and social protection are among its areas of focus.

In 2023, ADB collaborated with various partners on 89 sovereign and 26 nonsovereign projects and technical assistance that sought to improve the quality of formal and vocational education, improve health services, and promote inclusion and social protection. ADB’s active partners for OP1 in 2023 included the governments of Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom; and multilaterals like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the OPEC Fund.

To promote equitable access to quality education and improve vocational education, ADB and Education Above All are helping Bangladesh increase children’s out-of-school access to education by adding more learning centers, bringing more children with disabilities to school, and improving school operations and management. In 2023, ADB and its partners also worked to ensure that children are future-ready by enhancing their employability and skills. In Bhutan, ADB, Canada, and Japan demonstrated how the education sector can help mitigate climate change and ensure sustainability by upskilling students in green technologies. Another strength of this project is its focus on inclusivity—from undertaking a disability situation analysis to providing employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities.

For health, ADB launched the Climate Change Initiative at the UN Climate Change Conference or COP28 in Dubai to serve as a platform for generating knowledge, fostering innovation, building capacity, and supporting climate-resilient health systems. A partnership with Japan is helping Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, and Viet Nam reduce morbidity, mortality, and out-of-pocket health care expenses by improving care for noncommunicable diseases. Another collaboration with Japan is helping Cambodia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Maldives, and Tajikistan mitigate health risks in tourism-related sectors by integrating public health interventions into multisectoral plans to reopen tourism.

To ensure that marginalized poor and vulnerable people are not left behind in development, ADB, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Green Climate Fund integrated social protection into a transport project in the Philippines that works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by replacing traditional jeepneys with new electric buses. The project is helping jeepney drivers and workers in the service supply chain transition to green jobs by providing them with social protection support and re-skilling opportunities. With Germany, ADB is helping expand digital social protection in countries such as Armenia, Cambodia, Maldives, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Nauru through catalytic investments in digital system development for social protection planning and delivery, which will further inform country programming strategies and help develop a pipeline of ADB investments in social protection and digitization. To help build the resilience of poor people to climate change, ADB also worked with partners via the Community Resilience Partnership Program and the Just Transition Platform to promote adaptive and shock-responsive social protection.

The year 2023 was fruitful for ADB and its partners as they continued to work on reducing poverty and inequalities in Asia and the Pacific through projects that provide quality health care, education, and social protection for all. Partnerships can help sustain and scale up these interventions, amplifying their impact across the region.

Stories on poverty
2023 Project Snapshots

Accelerating Progress in Gender Equality

Realizing a country’s full potential means ensuring equality for women. Through their projects, ADB and its partners are directly pushing the gender equality agenda forward, navigating through chronic and recurring gender issues. About 97 of 124 sovereign cofinanced projects and 43 of 48 nonsovereign cofinanced projects committed in 2023 include gender equality results in their objectives. Over the past 5 years, ADB has met, and surpassed, its Strategy 2030 commitment to promote gender equality in at least 75% of all projects and programs.

To promote women’s economic empowerment and leadership, ADB and Australia constructed grid-connected solar photovoltaic power plants on nine islands in Tonga, providing increased employment opportunities for women in the energy sector. The project increased women’s access to skills training and energy-based alternative livelihood activities and ensured women’s participation in decision-making forums and consultations. In Maldives, ADB and multiple partners prompted the government and power utilities to deliver leadership programs focused on empowering women in the energy sector, including internship programs that cater to female STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates. Financial inclusion has also been a priority concern in Sri Lanka, where Japan and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative support credit guarantees and financial inclusion for women entrepreneurs.

To build women’s resilience against external shocks, women farmers from locust-prone areas in Pakistan are upgrading their skills in climate-adaptive and disaster-resilient crop seed cleaning and storage. In Mongolia, ADB and Japan established five shelters for women and children survivors of domestic violence to provide protection, psychosocial counseling, and other multidisciplinary services.

In India, ADB and Japan promote an integrated approach to accessing quality childcare and maternal health care for pregnant and lactating women in Meghalaya. The project aims to strengthen and improve home- and center-based care services and address women’s time poverty by extending the centers’ operational hours and engaging fathers and other male caregivers through group-based parenting programs.

ADB’s private sector clients also support gender equality in the region. The Phu Yen Joint Stock Company in Viet Nam is diversifying its workforce to include more women, especially in technical and managerial positions, and running an annual internship program for female students to bolster STEM education for women. In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), the Monsoon Wind Power Company, while constructing the first wind power plant in the Lao PDR and the largest in Southeast Asia, is addressing workforce gender gaps with a gender-inclusive policy that supports the hiring and promotion of female staff, especially in STEM positions. The Maxwealth Financial Leasing Co., Ltd. and partners are providing lease financing to women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to spur job creation and economic growth in the People’s Republic of China. The Bank of Maldives, through a financing package from ADB, Austria, Canada, and Japan, is providing loans to recovering tourism businesses, a portion of which has been earmarked for women entrepreneurs and women-owned SMEs.

Moving forward, ADB’s strategic partnerships continue to find innovative solutions that push gender-inclusive development forward in Asia and the Pacific.

Stories on gender equality
2023 Project Snapshots

Tackling Climate Change, Building Climate and Disaster Resilience, and Enhancing Environmental Sustainability

In 2023, ADB committed a record-high $9.8 billion of its resources to climate-related projects, up from $6.7 billion in 2022. This brings to $30.8 billion the cumulative ADB climate financing from 2019 to 2023. From its partners, ADB mobilized an additional $883 million of funding. ADB actively worked with 30 bilateral, multilateral, and other partners in 2023—led by Japan, the Clean Energy Fund—on 96 sovereign projects and 38 nonsovereign projects supportive of Operational Priority 3.

Climate action was central to six of the eight new trust funds ADB established in 2023. New funds for ocean resilience and coastal adaptation, urban resilience, water resilience, energy access and transition, and two for green finance garnered contributions from the governments of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, among others.

At the UN Climate Conference in late 2023 (COP28) in Dubai, ADB launched new initiatives with partners, including the Nature-Based Solution Finance Hub for Asia and the Pacific, which promotes scalable nature-based solutions using capital markets and other sources of public and private capital; the Community Resilience Financing Partnership Program, which unlocks climate adaptation financing for community-level interventions in Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu; the Climate and Health Initiative, which supports the development of climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems.

Other partnerships established in 2023 included the Innovative Finance Facility for Climate in Asia and the Pacific, a first-of-its-kind guarantee mechanism for climate finance by a multilateral development bank. Facility partners—initially Denmark, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States—have pledged grants and guarantees for parts of ADB’s sovereign loan portfolios. ADB also worked with the Global Environment Facility on the Net-Zero Nature Positive Accelerator Integrated Program to catalyze investments in nature and new technologies toward accelerated nature-positive and net-zero pathways including green infrastructures, and the Clean and Healthy Oceans, a global program to reduce pollution in coastal areas and river basins. ADB signed an agreement with the East Asian–Australasian Flyway Partnership to develop a long-term program for protecting migratory birds and restoring coastal wetlands in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia for people, planet, and prosperity. Additionally, ADB partnered with the Global Shield against Climate Risks to strengthen the global climate and disaster risk finance and insurance architecture. ADB also collaborated with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to establish a dialogue mechanism that focuses on the impacts of transboundary disaster risks, such as flooding, drought, and volcanic eruptions.

ADB also continued its collaboration with long-time partners such as the Swedish Energy Agency, which committed approximately $27 million to the Climate Action Catalyst Fund (CACF) that mobilizes innovative carbon finance through the purchase of carbon credits; the Green Climate Fund (GCF), where ADB and GCF renewed the Accreditation Master Agreement (AMA) that would allow ADB to continue accessing GCF resources; and the Climate Investment Fund, which helps developing members such as Indonesia and Fiji transition to low carbon technologies.

ADB’s partners also provided critical support to projects covering a range of topics. For instance, to help reduce air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, ADB’s transport project in the Philippines will procure 1,100 energy-efficient buses, of which 380 will be electric articulated buses. To promote renewable energy, ADB is expanding solar energy use in the outer islands of Maldives, developing de-risking solutions to scale up solar photovoltaic and battery energy storage systems in Cambodia, and adopting low-carbon technology for a large-scale geothermal power plant in Indonesia. A loan in Bangladesh is helping the government implement the climate priorities indicated in its National Adaptation Plan 2023–2025 and Nationally Determined Contributions 2021. ADB is also strengthening climate finance in its developing member countries, such as improving green banking practices in Viet Nam and supporting green housing finance in Kazakhstan.

Stories on climate change, disaster and resilience, and the environment
2023 Project Snapshots

Making Cities More Livable

The projected rise in urban population in Asia and the Pacific, currently at 54%, is expected to hit 64% by 2050. The region includes the most populated and densest cities in the world as well as fragile urban areas such as the small island developing states of the Pacific.

At the heart of the transformation of a livable city are efficient and reliable urban services, strong and integrated urban planning, low-carbon and environmentally sustainable growth, and resilience.

In 2023, ADB and its financing partners supported 38 sovereign and 11 nonsovereign projects with elements that promote the livable cities agenda. Multiple partners also joined flagship events on water and energy in 2023, such as the UN 2023 Water Conference in March and the Asia Clean Energy Forum 2023 in June.

Two trust funds supporting the nurturing of livable cities were established in 2023—the Urban Resilience Trust Fund (URTF) and the Water Resilience Trust Fund (WRTF). The URTF is a multi-donor trust fund with an initial funding of £68.5 million ($82.2 million) from the United Kingdom. It aims to help national and subnational urban agencies, communities, and the private sector integrate climate resilience into their policies and to develop and implement a pipeline of resilience projects through public and private investments. The new trust fund is administered under the Urban Financing Partnerships Facility. The WRTF was established under the Water Financing Partnership Facility with an initial contribution of $20 million from the Netherlands. It supports critical and transformational actions by government agencies, communities, and the private sector needed to strengthen water resilience in Asia and the Pacific. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation replenished the Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund with $8 million in 2023. Spain replenished the Water Innovation Trust Fund with €4 million in 2023.

To improve the coverage, quality, efficiency, and reliability of services in urban areas, ADB, France, and Japan will help scale up the preparation and implementation of risk-informed master plans and investments in Bangladesh. In Pakistan, ADB and the Republic of Korea will strengthen the resilience of the urban environment and municipal services in two rapidly growing cities, benefiting up to 1.5 million urban dwellers. The project will curtail excessive groundwater extraction and environmental degradation by expanding and modernizing urban water supply systems in Rawalpindi and solid waste management in Bahawalpur. In the Philippines, ADB and the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund and Green Climate Fund are helping establish a modern public bus transport system in Davao City, the third-largest city in the Philippines, with modern electric buses and global standard diesel buses, standardized operations and reliable timetables, an intelligent transport system to support bus operation, designated bus stops with shelters and lighting, and designated bus lanes in selected road section.

Rapid urbanization is often linked to improved economic opportunities, but the urban areas are vulnerable to climate change and other “growth” challenges. Notwithstanding these challenges, ADB and its financing partnerships are helping transform the region’s economic powerhouses across Asia and the Pacific into sustainable and resilient urban living spaces.

Stories on livable cities
2023 Project Snapshots

Promoting Rural Development and Food Security

The global food crisis that escalated in 2022 continued in 2023. The combined impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and Russia’s war in Ukraine—including disruptions in agri-food supply chains, food price inflation, and food supply shocks—have intensified food and nutrition insecurity. Promoting rural development and food security is critical in alleviating the food crisis.

In 2023, ADB committed $4 billion of its resources toward food security for Asia and the Pacific. From its partners, it mobilized $329 million for sovereign agriculture and rural development projects, among them the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, and the United Kingdom. A significant volume of cofinancing for food security projects also came from private sector partners via the Trade and Supply Chain Finance Program. ADB and its partners collaborated on 32 sovereign and 9 nonsovereign projects aligned with promoting rural development and food security, the fifth operational priority of ADB’s Strategy 2030.

To improve the efficiency of agricultural value chains and accelerate rural development, ADB and the International Fund for Agricultural Development are helping Indonesia increase agricultural productivity and profitability from underutilized dry lands. The project will modernize farming practices, including irrigation; improve market access; and promote climate-smart agriculture and the application of high-level technologies. In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program and World Food Programme are providing grants to help reduce the cost of essential farm inputs and machinery and make them more widely available, while protecting the watersheds. These grants will diversify the country’s dietary preferences, help establish home gardens, and clear lands to increase cultivation areas. In Mongolia, a grant from the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific is setting up an integrated food security information and response system, improving the country’s capacity to create modern and strong food supply chains.

To promote climate-smart agriculture, ADB and Japan provided a carbon credit mechanism grant to explore the feasibility of greenhouse gas reduction in the agriculture sector and support the dissemination of green innovation in several countries. In Indonesia, ADB and the United Kingdom–ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility Trust Fund are helping strengthen the climate resilience of farms and agricultural communities in the Cimanuk-Cisanggarung and the Seluna River Basin territories. Specifically, the project will support flood risk management in North Java by establishing earth observation services, flood forecasting early warning, and flood evaluation systems to enhance the communities’ preparedness.

In the People’s Republic of China, ADB and the China Development Bank are supporting the economic growth of rural poor communities within the Mulan River Basin in Fujian province by enhancing ecological resilience and rural livelihoods, strengthening institutional capacity for smart ecological and environmental management and restoration, piloting innovative financing, and improving flood risk and water resources management.

ADB also produced knowledge products that are highly relevant to its operations, including those on comprehensive eco-compensation and green development, managing plastic waste, agricultural opportunities and challenges as Asia transitions to net zero, and food safety in fruit and vegetable value chains.

Stories on rural development and food security
2023 Project Snapshots

Strengthening Governance and Institutional Capacity

Delivering effective and efficient government programs and services is vitally important to achieving development goals and helping people improve their lives. ADB and its partners support governments in enhancing macro fiscal stability by managing fiscal policy and public finances, improving the capacity to deliver public services, and utilizing country systems and standards more effectively.

In 2023, ADB and its partners committed to 100 sovereign and 5 nonsovereign projects that highlighted the strengthening of governance and capacity building, the sixth operational priority (OP6) under ADB’s Strategy 2030. Japan, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the World Bank were among the top contributors in 2023.

To promote public sector management effectiveness, fiscal stability, and governance, ADB and the AIIB are helping Kazakhstan address the roots of its heightened macroeconomic and financial vulnerability to external shocks. The new program supports fiscal reforms to strengthen governance and accountability in public investment processes and ensure that debt sustainability and financial policy reforms are geared toward sustainable financial intermediation, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

In the Philippines, ADB and AIIB also approved ADB’s first policy-based loan dedicated to domestic resource mobilization (DRM). The program recognizes that DRM reforms necessitate not only raising revenue but also designing a revenue system that fosters inclusiveness, encourages good governance, promotes investments and job creation, reduces inequality, and tackles climate change. For the first time, the program enabled the Philippines to introduce carbon and environmentally related taxes to address climate change and embark on the digital transformation of the tax authorities.

Similarly, in Bangladesh, ADB, the AIIB, and Japan are supporting the country’s sustainable economic recovery by introducing tax reforms, from crafting and implementing a new income tax bill to using digital tools in taxation, public investment approvals, and public procurement; and from effecting the privatization of state-owned enterprises in the jute fiber sector to promoting innovative financing sources for cottage, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

The Domestic Resource Mobilization Trust Fund (DRMTF) continues to play a key role in supporting the initiatives of the Asia Pacific Tax Hub (APTH). Launched in 2021, the APTH is helping developing member countries (DMCs) raise more domestic revenues and strengthen their cooperation on international tax matters to finance their development projects and programs. Partner contributors to the DRMTF are Japan and the International Cooperation and Development Fund.

Knowledge remains a central part of ADB’s support for strengthening the capacity of its DMCs. It published the Carbon Pricing and Fossil Fuel Subsidy Rationalization Tool Kit in 2023, which aims to guide policymakers in ADB’s DMCs to effectively design, implement, and manage the interplay of carbon taxes, emission trading systems, and fossil fuel subsidies reduction programs.

Moving forward, ADB and its partners will continue their commitment to support governments as they strengthen their economies to achieve a prosperous, resilient, and sustainable Asia and Pacific region.

Stories on governance
2023 Project Snapshots

Fostering Regional Cooperation and Integration

Asia and the Pacific’s regional cooperation and integration continued to deepen in 2023. ADB’s Asian Economic Integration Report says regional integration is progressing steadily, with Southeast Asia integrating faster than other Asian subregions. In addition, the region has great potential to cultivate deeper value chain linkages in high-tech and services industries by lowering trade barriers and forging closer economic relationships in these areas.

In 2023, ADB and its financing partners supported regional initiatives and country priorities that advanced greater connectivity, trade opportunities, and diverse regional public goods. Partners supported 33 sovereign and 5 nonsovereign projects aligned with regional cooperation and integration.

ADB’s approach to regional cooperation and integration focuses on the needs of its developing member countries in a subregional context. Among ADB’s subregional platforms are the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program, the Greater Mekong Subregion Program, and the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation Program. These platforms have proved critical in advancing collective action on economic integration in transport and trade; access to global value chains, markets, and tourism; and shared resource development.

In the Philippines, with cofinancing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, ADB is supporting the construction of the 32.2- kilometer-long road link between the provinces of Bataan and Cavite. This link will fill a crucial gap in the road system of the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON. In Tonga, ADB and Australia will rehabilitate and expand the Queen Salote International Wharf in Nuku’alofa, strengthening its operations and improving the port’s capacity.

In Indonesia, ADB and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are helping to create an enabling environment for investments, ease trade barriers, and scale up enterprises through a competitiveness, industrial modernization, and trade acceleration program. In Nepal, ADB and multiple partners will help increase the agricultural income of approximately 40,000 farm households in 100 municipalities in 5 hilly provinces by developing climate-resilient fruit and nut orchards. To promote South Asia’s transition to sustainable energy sources, a project cofinanced with the Clean Energy Fund identifies and prepares cross-border power projects and capacity development for regional cooperation and integration in the energy sector under the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation program. The project covers Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

To share lessons and promote regional cooperation on climate change, biodiversity, and sustainable development, ADB, ADB Institute, and the Ecology and Environment Department of Hunan hosted the second East Asia Forum in the PRC. The 6th CAREC Energy Investment Forum also brought development partners and other stakeholders together to discuss regional action on sustainable energy.

Stories on regional cooperation
2023 Project Snapshots