Remarks by ADB President Takehiko Nakao at the 2018 Staff Appreciation Event on 12 December 2018 at ADB headquarters in Manila, Philippines


Good afternoon colleagues. Welcome to ADB’s year-end staff appreciation event. 

2018 was another productive year for ADB and its staff—both at headquarters and in resident missions. ADB is only as strong as its people, so I would like to extend to you my sincere gratitude for your hard work and valuable contributions this past year.

A number of staff reached long-service milestones of 25, 30, and even 35 years in 2018. We will recognize their dedicated service shortly, but first I would like to speak about our achievements this year.

Achievements in 2018

Our signature achievement in 2018 was the adoption of Strategy 2030. The vision for Strategy 2030 is very ambitious and our efforts are now directed at implementing the strategy. Doing so will require us, collectively and individually, to (i) be more innovative, (ii) strengthen our role as a knowledge provider, (iii) work as One ADB, (iv) leverage digital technologies, and (v) strengthen our field presence and partnerships with clients on the ground. I count on your continued support as we implement Strategy 2030.

Second, demand for ADB assistance continues to grow. Our commitments are expected to reach $21.3 billion in loans and grants in 2018, exceeding our target of $19.7 billion and last year’s total of $20.1 billion. 

In this year, we quickly responded to emergencies, including Cyclone Gita in Tonga, the refugee situation in Bangladesh, the earthquake disaster in Indonesia, and post-conflict reconstruction in the Philippines. Our ability and commitment to respond promptly at times of acute need is a strength of ADB, and our member countries commend us for it. We must keep this culture of supporting countries in need promptly with the sense of sharing difficulties of countries.

In line with increased demand, we also expanded our social sector investments this year. We expect to have commitments for 12 education projects and 11 health projects, record highs for both sectors over the past decade.

Third, we held our 51st Annual Meeting in Manila. For the first time since 1999, we brought a full-fledged annual meeting back to ADB headquarters. It was truly amazing to see our headquarters transformed into a “gold standard” conference facility. 4,000 participants enjoyed lively discussions, interactions between themselves and ADB staff, and Filipino hospitality. I want to acknowledge the efforts of the Office of the Secretary (OSEC), Office of Administrative Services (OAS), Office of Information Systems and Technology (OIST), and all staff and contractors for this achievement. When I met Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Monday this week, I reiterated my great appreciation for the hard and devoted work of the Philippine government to make the Annual Meeting a success.

Fourth, ADB is expanding our role as a knowledge provider. We are providing explicit knowledge through products such as the Asian Development Outlook special theme chapter “How Technology Affects Jobs” and the new ADB Data Library. Also, key knowledge events hosted in 2018 include the Asia Clean Energy Forum, Sustainable Transport Forum, and Global Infrastructure Forum. We also held the Digital Development Forum and our first Knowledge Forum. These events demonstrate ADB’s convening function to bring together experts from the region and beyond.

We are embedding in projects and programs innovative ideas and advanced technologies in fields such as finance, education, health, agri-business, urban development, transport, and energy. ADB will continue to shape international best practices through our original ideas. Our tacit knowledge combined with financing in our operations is central to our ability to help our member countries achieve good development outcomes. 

Fifth, ADB delivered another strong year in climate investments, reaching over $4.5 billion for adaptation and mitigation efforts. In Tuvalu, ADB is providing a grant to support climate resilient maritime infrastructure in its outer islands. And in Mongolia, with financing from the Green Climate Fund and our High-Level Technology Fund, ADB is advancing climate adaptation and mitigation measures to help transform ger areas of Ulaanbaatar to low-carbon housing units with solar panels and a real-time monitoring system for building performance.

Sixth, ADB continues to make progress in our commitment to gender equality. When we design and implement projects and programs—regardless of whether they are in social development or the energy, transport, or urban sectors—we must always consider ways to include gender elements. In a recently approved power grid project in Bangladesh, women staff of the power company were given scholarships to develop their skills further as engineers.

Seventh, ADB’s nonsovereign commitments saw year-on-year growth of 32% in 2018 to about $3.0 billion. Through our nonsovereign operations (NSO), ADB played a leading role in the first privately financed waste-to-energy plants in Viet Nam, provided a loan for the first utility-scale solar projects in Indonesia, and invested equity in a commercial bank in Armenia to expand its small and medium-sized enterprise lending. To support the expansion of NSO operations, we are significantly increasing the number of Office of Risk Management (ORM) and Private Sector Operations Department (PSOD) staff.

Eighth, we have advanced our internal digital transformation through the ongoing Real-Time ADB IT reforms. Our IT capital investment plan for the next five years was approved by the Board in October. We are strengthening our data governance through the Data Management Sub-Committee. To support the use of digital technologies in our operations, ADB created the Digital Technology for Development Unit in the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department (SDCC).

Ninth, to support our new procurement framework, comprehensive guidance notes were prepared and training is being provided for staff in ADB and in implementing and executing agencies. One important achievement this year is a procurement arrangement between ADB and the World Bank, which allows both institutions to use each other’s procurement policy and procedures in their co-financed projects. With this, developing member countries will no longer have to deal with two sets of procurement rules and documents. 

Tenth, ADB approved an Access to Information Policy, which will replace the current Public Communications Policy on 1 January 2019. The new policy will increase public access to ADB historical information through presumption in favor of disclosure, and help ADB remain a leader in international disclosure among donors globally. 

Human resources management

Now, I would like to speak about our human resources (HR) management, which is an area of high importance for our staff. Throughout 2018, ADB continued efforts to modernize our HR practices.

First, we have accelerated recruitment by streamlining processes and putting in place flexible position management. As of the end of November, we recruited a record 355 new staff. This includes 22 Young Professionals, our largest intake ever. I wholeheartedly welcome our new staff and the ideas and talent they bring to ADB. 

Second, we are strengthening our commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce where everyone is treated with respect regardless of gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, and thinking style. Our policies explicitly welcome diversity in recruitment and our benefits apply to common-law and same sex partners. We are continuing efforts to improve our gender balance at ADB. Women international staff (IS) now account for 36% of staff. I expect the strong support of all Heads of Department (HODs) and Directors to promote and strengthen diversity, inclusiveness, and gender equality at ADB. This is central to our effectiveness as an organization. 

Third, our tracking of work-from-home arrangements over a period of one year shows that approximately one-third of all staff made use of this opportunity. It is being utilized by staff across all categories and departments, and in headquarters and resident missions. This is encouraging and it provides much needed flexibility for all of us.

Fourth, under the new mobility framework, lateral staff movements have increased over the past year. And, since the launch of short-term assignments in May, 30 have been approved involving 25 national staff (NS) and administrative staff (AS) and 5 IS, of which 7 were from resident missions.

Fifth, performance management at ADB is being strengthened. We have introduced a stronger link between performance review and work plans, and more frequent feedback from supervisors. The new rating system will be used to assess staff performance in 2018. For the second year in a row, we have conducted 360-assessments for all IS 7–10 managers. 

Earlier this year, we held the Staff Engagement Survey (SES). It found that there was an overall increase in staff engagement since the previous survey in 2015. It also identified areas where we need to improve. These include Innovation, Empowerment, Working Relationship, and Work Organization and Efficiency. We particularly need to foster much greater collaboration across divisions and departments and create a work environment where staff at all levels can share their ideas. 


Before concluding, I would like to mention a lunch occasion I had with some of ADB’s younger staff. I saw firsthand their strong enthusiasm in working at ADB and their sense of mission in contributing to the development of Asia and the Pacific. They have new ideas and energy to take on new challenges.

Based on the discussion with them, I would like to share some thoughts. 

We should become more innovative. I would like to encourage all staff to think for yourselves, question how to do things better, and incorporate new ideas in your work. When appropriate, we should take calculated risks. 

I urge HODs, Directors, and more experienced staff to give high priority to mentoring and coaching our new staff. We should adopt more of their ideas and give more responsibility to our new staff. 

As I have mentioned many times, we need closer and more frequent communication between staff and managers, especially with HODs and Directors. In some departments and divisions, I have noticed that there is room for improvement. Managers should be accountable for communicating with staff regularly and clearly, and encouraging staff to voice their ideas. 

I would like to express again my strong appreciation for the hard work of ADB staff at headquarters and resident missions in 2018, including those who continue to work in difficult security environments such as Afghanistan. The dedication of all ADB staff is critical to our mission of achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.

Next year will be another good year. Let us work together to make it happen. 

I hope all staff have time to relax this holiday season with family and friends. Have a safe holiday and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.