2020 Asian Evaluation Week (AEW 2020) - Shixin Chen

Speech | 7 September 2020

Opening remarks by Shixin Chen, ADB Vice President (Operations 1), at the 2020 Asian Evaluation Week (AEW 2020), 7 September 2020.

Honorable Vice Minister Cheng Lihua; Distinguished Dr. Li Kouqin; Deputy Director-General, Jin Weimin; Director-General, Marvin Taylor; Ladies and gentlemen, very good morning. Thank you for inviting me to this important conference. 

This will be my second time participating in the Asian Evaluation Week (AEW). I would like to thank the Event organizers, the Independent Evaluation Department (IED) of ADB, Asia-Pacific Finance and Development Institute (AP-FDI), Shanghai National Accounting Insitute (SNAI), and special thanks to the Ministry of Finance of PRC for its continuous sponsorship of the event.

Firstly, let me congratulate PRC for its great achievement in performance-based budgeting. As PRC’s economy moves from high-speed growth to high-quality development, performance-based budgeting has already been expanding nation-wide. PRC has set a great example in the region and has enriched the cooperation between PRC and ADB in performance management and evaluation.

Secondly, I would also like to congratulate Dr. Li Kouqin for his great leadership, with the strong support from Shanghai Municipality for the achievements in promoting international and regional cooperation. This stands out among many noteworthy contributions, such as initiating Shanghai International Program for Development Evaluation Training (SHIPDET) and AEW, and promoting evaluation capacity building in the context of Asian development, in partnership with MOF-PRC, WB and ADB.

The year 2020 has been marked by COVID-19, an unprecedented pandemic that is affecting us all, changing how we live and work. We are pleased to see the pandemic is being well contained with the great efforts taken by the government and the people of PRC, which contributes a lot to reverse the region's economic growth trajectory.

Together with WHO, UN agencies, other international finance institutions (IFI) and development partners, ADB took immediate actions to support its developing member countries (DMCs) in the early stage of this pandemic. In February, ADB approved its first technical assistance funding of $2 million to strengthen the pandemic response capacity in PRC and other 5 GMS countries. It also approved the first private-sector loan of RMB 130 million to Jointown (九州通)Pharmaceutical Company in PRC for essential medical supplies to respond to the pandemic.

Soon after the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, ADB swiftly initiated a $20 billion COVID-19 package to provide a faster, tailor-made, and impactful response to DMCs by strengthening their health capacities, social protection networks and economic recoveries. ADB’s regional cooperation mechanisms, for instance, CAREC and GMS, served as platforms to promote knowledge sharing between PRC and other DMCs in the region, which significantly improved the efforts of the regional response.

Against this backdrop, we are delighted to see the fifth AEW is being held at a timely moment. It provides an excellent opportunity for us to exchange views and experiences on many critical development topics, including performance management and evaluation.

We are also very glad to see that the AEW has become a vibrant knowledge and learning platform, not only for this region but also across the world. It brings together development partners, policymakers and evaluators driven by their individual and institutional commitments to advance the shared goal of development effectiveness.

At the outset, let me stress the importance of the two words: “independent” and “evaluation”. Both are core values of our performance management and evaluation approach, to prevent repeating mistakes and to ensure the right lessons are learned, as well as bringing in diversified perspectives and ideas. In doing so, a self-assessment approach has also been introduced to further customize our performance evaluation methodology.

With this preamble, I would like to share my perspective on the theme of the conference today: “Evaluating for a Better Future”. The region and the world are currently battling the COVID-19 pandemic. While we believe the crisis will eventually subside and recede, we trust deeply in the potential for high quality independent performance evaluation to play a key role in building a better future. This tool is essential to enabling development institutions such as ADB and our DMC’s governments to accurately assess the effectiveness of their operations, and to formulate future projects, policies, and strategies.

Taking this opportunity, let me highlight the importance of high-quality evaluation. This is a fundamental issue to ensure that our committed funding is used as effectively and prudently as possible, particularly during crises such as the current pandemic where DMCs’ budget resources are extremely limited.

The conference has four sub-themes, all of which are relevant given the need to adapt to changing priorities, needs and constraints:

  1. the role of evaluation in providing strategic direction;
  2. the role of evaluation in public financial management;
  3. evaluating private sector interventions for development; and
  4. evaluation to support innovation.

Keeping this in mind, let me stress the role of evaluation in providing strategic direction. The best example is ADB’s current long-term strategic framework - Strategy 2030, which was born from an iterative and consultative process with continuous reviews, assessments, and evaluation of ADB’s past strategies.

As a once-in-a-century pandemic, COVID-19 will result in a fundamental change in the pattern of global and regional development. Given the long-term nature of this “new normal”, it is essential to revitalize the strategies and policies that shape our development agendas. Let me lay out three areas which will be essential to paving the way to a better future.

Firstly, globalization. While globalization has already been the subject of mounting skepticism and hesitation even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the severe impact of the crisis has rendered the global supply chains even more vulnerable. At the same time, global economic growth has contracted by a historically high ratio, which might provide additional excuses for trade- and investment-protectionism. The history of economic development shows that globalization is a win-win solution for all economies to conquer the crisis.

Secondly, multilateral cooperation. The global development agenda has significantly benefited from multilateral cooperation to ensure the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We have all witnessed the solidarity and spirit of multilateral cooperation during this pandemic, specifically, led by G20, WHO, UN agencies, and collaboration by major IFIs, such as IMF, WB, ADB, EBRD, AIIB, NDB, among others, which has reached historic highs. As we continue to fight the pandemic and global poverty is exacerbated, multilateral cooperation is now more important than ever and must be further emphasized.

Thirdly, regional cooperation and integration (RCI). The Asia and the Pacific region is the fastest growing region in the global economy, and regional cooperation has been a strong feature of this. ADB serves as the secretariat for three flagship RCI initiatives: CAREC, GMS and SASEC. Apart from its unique contribution during the regional pandemic response, we expect to use this positive momentum of RCI to further promote regional connectivity, competitiveness, regional public goods, as well as knowledge sharing. In responding to COVID-19, we saw numerous examples of knowledge sharing among DMC themselves, revealing that south-south cooperation can work very effectively. We need to build on these renewed partnerships to pursue our RCI strategy.

Finally, let me conclude with a traditional Chinese proverb, “大鹏之举,非一羽之轻也;骐骥之速,非一足之力也”。 In English, this is “The roc, a gigantic legendary bird, soars lithely not merely because of the lightness of one of its feathers; the steed, a horse for riding, runs fast not merely because of the strength of one of its legs.” Fighting this pandemic needs international cooperation, as do our efforts in evaluation. I hope this AEW 2020 will again mark an exceptional event towards our strategic goal to achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you!