Address by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, to the Board of Governors Opening Session, at the 56th Annual Meeting, 3 May 2023, Incheon, Republic of Korea


My dear friends, greetings, and welcome to the 56th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank. I am so thrilled that we can gather in person, here in Incheon. I want to thank our host, the Republic of Korea, for making these meetings possible. 

Just three years ago, in 2020, the Republic of Korea also chaired our annual meeting. In those early months of the pandemic, we held only an abbreviated session. It was the first of three annual meetings held online or in hybrid form. We have come so far since then. 

We have an exciting schedule for our meetings this year. I look forward to productive discussions and lively cultural events. I am honored by the presence of President Yoon at our Opening Session. Like some of you, I recently learned about President Yoon’s talent as a singer. I am sure the musical performances later today will be just as impressive! I am also grateful to ADB Governor and Chair of the Board of Governors, Kyungho Choo, and Mayor of Incheon, Yoo, Jeong-Bok, for all the splendid arrangements. 

I. The path to development

Let me also recognize how far the Republic of Korea has come as an ADB member. Korea is a founding member of ADB, and it has made a remarkable transition from a borrowing member to a donor country. 

I remember visiting Seoul in 1985 for the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, where there was much discussion of the country’s economic progress. We called it “the Miracle on the Han River.” I am proud of ADB’s contributions over more than half a century to Korea’s transformation into a global economic powerhouse. 

Like Korea’s journey, ADB is fully committed to supporting the journeys of all our developing members. As we move forward together, we need to confront the big challenges of our times. To do this, we should have a clear understanding of what needs to be done to rebound and recover.  This includes the need to adapt and evolve, so that we can continue to serve our region effectively.

II. The need for evolution

My friends, I want to focus on the need for ADB and other multilateral development banks to evolve. You may have heard this referred to as “the MDB evolution” agenda.

Fortunately, we find ADB in a strong starting place. For decades, we have been a steadfast partner on poverty reduction and regional development. We have been actively promoting resilience and sustainability through our Strategy 2030 and commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. And our public and private sector operations are already strongly integrated under a single roof, One ADB.

At the same time, we face enormous challenges. The scale and urgency of these challenges cannot be met with “business as usual.” We know, for example, that climate events are causing destruction on a scale never seen before; debt and other crises are limiting the ability of governments to meet the needs of their people; and millions of people are at risk of falling back into poverty, and losing out on the opportunities of growing economies.

III. The agenda for evolution

So, what do we need to do to meet these challenges? Let me offer three areas for consideration.

First, we need to recognize that development is no longer possible without effective climate action. Green and resilient economies offer the only path to strong and lasting growth. Supporting this is fully compatible with the long-term development agendas that we have been pursuing with our developing member countries. So, let’s make every effort to help economies transition, swiftly and justly, to a net zero future. Let’s also ensure that people, including women and their communities, can adapt to climate change. 

I am proud to highlight ADB’s work with the Government of Korea to establish a climate technology hub right here in Korea, and to unlock new levels of climate finance through an innovative platform that we will launch this week.

Second, we need to be leaders in investing in global public goods. In addition to the environment, these are key building blocks for development. The pandemic showed us how public health crises require coordinated responses, as well as access for poor and vulnerable groups. We must build resilience across borders, and we must be ready to provide swift and effective support to meet future crises.

And third, we must be a key player in the effort to mobilize the levels of financing now required for development, from billions to trillions. The traditional models of lending and grantmaking will not be enough. We need to answer the call for MDBs to do more to maximize our financing capacity through game-changing new mechanisms; to leverage the enormous investment potential of the private sector and philanthropies; and to maintain our place as a stable, reliable financial institution.  

IV. The faces of development

My friends, let’s place these needs at the top of our minds at our meetings this week. Let us also remember the many faces of those whom we serve. Our work must always provide for good livelihoods and resilient communities; ensure opportunities – for example, for women and girls to participate in high quality, green jobs; equip developing member countries to sustain growth and generate resources domestically; and support transitions that are just and equitable.


Let me close by emphasizing again that ADB’s evolution is vital for the future of development. So, I urge you to take up this important topic at this annual meeting. With our continued work together, I am certain that we will achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.