MANILA, PHILIPPINES — As Asia and the Pacific grapple with increasingly complex challenges in climate change, income inequality, and a global economic slowdown, deeper development partnerships can offer important new funds and ideas to help, says a new report from Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the climate change agreement reached in Paris, and the launch of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS’ New Development Bank spotlight the size of the challenges and point the way forward. To get the most from partnerships, however, governments, the private sector, civil society and financial institutions such as ADB need to better coordinate their activities, apply existing knowledge judiciously, and use finance more effectively.

“Paris, the SDGs, and the entry onto the scene of two new multilateral banks are opportunities for more partnerships, signaling the multiplicity of the problems as well as room for all to play a crucial role. Knowledge and financial collaborations need to be scaled up, but equally, approaches need to be harmonized to keep down costs,” says Vinod Thomas, director general of Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank.

ADB established some 422 partnerships from 2000 through mid-2015, such as the one with the European Investment Bank, generating €1.3 billion in loan financing from 2010 to 2014, or another with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that generated $463 million in project grants and $175 million for technical assistance, the evaluation says.

It assessed the effectiveness of 3 types: 74 coordination partnerships—such as with France’s Agence Française de Développement or the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development—261 knowledge partnerships with research institutes and others, and 87 financing partnerships for support to ADB’s operations in energy, water, agriculture and natural resources, education, the private sector, and other areas.

Financing partnerships alone generated some $45 billion during 2000–2014 in trust funds and cofinancing for ADB-initiated projects. This amounted to over 30% of ADB’s own total approved loans and grants of $131 billion during that period. Total cofinancing reached 50% in the shorter 2009–2014 period, on course to meet ADB’s ambitious target of matching every dollar of its own yearly funding with a dollar of cofinancing from other multilateral development banks, the private sector, and bilateral donors by 2020.

Contrary to popular perception, the success rate of completed cofinanced operations proved higher than those without cofinancing. The extra scrutiny of such projects during their preparation and extra supervision by multiple partners added value and seemed to outweigh the cost of delays and additional reporting to various partners that coordination can entail.

In the area of the environment, a successful partnership established in 2001 with the World Wide Fund for Nature, evolved from joint assessments of environmental threats to the financing of projects between the two organizations and geographical expansion to cover the most sensitive biodiversity areas in South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The partnership further increased its scope to eventually involve the Global Environment Facility, prepare knowledge products, and provide advice to ADB in the preparation of projects.

ADB’s own assessment is that three-quarters of the organization’s partnerships have been effective in achieving objectives—a finding that the evaluation validated using case studies. The evaluation also concluded that ADB’s drive to engage in more and deeper partnerships, despite the costs, is justified. But partnerships need to be further enabled, through better staff engagement rules, and more work in the agreements establishing them to ensure they are action oriented and regularly assessed.

The evaluation found that to remain relevant on a shifting development landscape, ADB has to continue to develop such partnerships. The 2015 Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development emphasized the role of multilateral development banks in financing sustainable development and providing expertise. It estimated financing needs just for basic infrastructure investment in developing countries to be between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion annually. And adaptation and mitigation of climate change, likewise, will come to billions and require innovation and support from ADB and the other multilateral development banks in all three areas of partnership measured.

Such needs cannot be met by one organization, one government, or even the private sector alone, and coordination through partnership is essential for the joint projects to gain in quality and to avoid gaps and duplication.

“ADB has the opportunity in the formulation of its new development agenda, Strategy 2030, to contribute to Asia’s development agenda and to its achievement of the SDGs,” says Walter Kolkma, director at Independent Evaluation. “As the quintessential Asian development institution, ADB must seize this opportunity.”.

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To download the report, visit: http://www.adb.org/documents/effectiveness-asian-development-bank-partnerships and click on the PDF.

About Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank

Asian Development Bank's Independent Evaluation, reporting to the Board of Directors through the Development Effectiveness Committee, contributes to development effectiveness by providing feedback on ADB's policies, strategies, operations, and special concerns in Asia and the Pacific.

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