Remarks by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, at the The SDG Dialogues - A Decade of Action: Enabling the SDGs, 7 April 2021

1. Introduction

Distinguished guests, colleagues. It is a pleasure to welcome you to this first in a series of SDG Dialogues. These dialogues aim at exchanging views between ADB management, staff, and global leaders on what it will take to help our Developing Member Countries (DMCs) get on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

It is an honor to be joined by Ms. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and UNDP Administrator, for today’s discussion. I also thank German ED Mr. Fischer, Ms. Drollet, Directors Advisor from the Cook Islands, and Vice-President Susantono for joining us to share their reflections.  

2. Progress thus far on the SDGs

Asia and the Pacific has been a major engine of global economic growth and made important progress on poverty reduction over the past decade. But even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the region was also falling short on all 17 SDGs. 

The COVID-19 crisis then laid bare underlying social and economic vulnerabilities that have hindered efforts to contain and overcome the pandemic. That is why it is imperative to renew our focus on the SDGs as countries seek to recover from COVID-19. 

Last month, ADB launched its first corporate report on its support for the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific. The report outlines our approach to integrating the 17 Goals and their associated targets across ADB’s work. The report also highlights the many ways that we are helping countries make progress on the SDGs. 

The SDGs are firmly embedded in our long-term corporate Strategy 2030. Our corporate targets on gender, climate change, and private sector mobilization are all strongly aligned with the SDGs. 

ADB’s integrated and country-focused approach— combining finance, knowledge, and partnership— uniquely positions us to support our DMCs in their efforts to achieve the SDGs. Yet there is much more to be done, and much to learn from our ongoing efforts. 

3. What it will take to achieve the SDGs

Let me discuss briefly how ADB can be an even more reliable and trusted partner for our DMCs to be back on track toward achieving SDGs. 

Here, I would like to highlight four actions.

  • First, let us be flexible and agile in balancing our operations between our COVID-19 response including ADB’s initiatives on vaccine access and our support for a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery.
    In this regard, I want to highlight that even during the exceptional year of 2020—when our commitments reached a historic high of $31.6 billion and included substantial and much-needed support for COVID-19 response—about half of our investments sought to address long-term development issues, such as addressing climate change and investing in high quality infrastructure.
    We should also identify areas that not only help to contain the pandemic but also support a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery. Investing in digital infrastructure, for example, can help people restart their social and economic activity safely while ensuring access to basic social services such as health and education.

  • Second, ADB must continue to promote learning, reflection, and practical solutions by investing in knowledge that helps countries and stakeholders take on issues related to SDG implementation, especially localization of the SDGs. Implementation of the Knowledge Management Action Plan, and recommendations in the Resident Mission Review, will be strong enablers for us in this regard.

  • Third, ADB needs to strengthen and sustain partnerships for the SDGs with development partners and the UN system. New partnerships with private sector actors and philanthropic organizations can also play a vital role.

  • Fourth, we must help our DMCs mobilize the widest range of sources of private and public finance to invest in the SDGs. ADB has an important role to play in helping DMCs maximize financing opportunities by supporting implementation of SDG 17. 

Domestic resource mobilization will be a crucial pillar in this effort—because, SDG 17 is the foundation for achieving all of the other SDGs. 

ADB is scaling up its efforts in this area through partnerships with governments, businesses, and international peer organizations.

In this regard, ADB announced the creation of a regional hub on domestic resource mobilization and international tax cooperation last September, and it will be officially launched at ADB’s 54th Annual Meeting in May this year. 

The hub will provide an open, inclusive, and pan-regional tax platform for strategic dialogue, institutional and capacity development, and knowledge sharing and cooperation. 

4. Closing: ensuring ADB’s own sustainability

Before ending my remarks, I want to stress the importance of “walking the sustainability talk.” 

For ADB to remain a reliable and trusted partner for DMCs in their efforts to achieve the SDGs, our own work style, internal management, and institutional footprint must also be sustainable. 

So, let us work in a sustainable manner, encouraging each other to balance life and work. Let us continue to make every effort to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our own workplace. And let us ensure that ADB maintains the financial sustainability and organizational resilience it needs to carry out its work through uncertain times.  

I would like to conclude by thanking you for your commitment to achieving the SDGs through the joint efforts of our DMCs and ADB. I look forward to an engaging panel discussion on opportunities for ADB to deepen and strengthen its support for the SDGs at this critical juncture for our region.