Opening remarks by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, at the Meeting Between Civil Society Organizations and ADB Management, 54th ADB Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors, 3 May 2021

I. Introduction

Good afternoon. I would like to extend a warm welcome to all our Civil Society Organization (CSO) partners to the 54th Annual Meeting. 

This is the second time that ADB is holding its Annual Meeting virtually due to the constraints of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. And this time, we are glad to be able to organize, in addition to our formal Business Sessions, a Civil Society Program. 

This year, the Annual Meeting theme is Collaboration for Resilient and Green Recovery. The theme provides an opportunity for us to reflect on how ADB and CSOs can continue to collaborate toward a resilient and green recovery for our region. I hope that all of you will actively participate in the discussions, especially those organized by our CSO partners, over the next 3 days. 

We recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many changes on our lives—personal and professional. Going virtual has increased opportunities for online dialogue, but this has also brought challenges. The digital divide has widened, creating communications gaps with grassroots organizations and our vulnerable and marginalized stakeholders who are not connected. We rely on CSOs to help bridge these communication gaps.

II. Collaboration between CSOs and ADB in operations

Despite the limitations posed by COVID-19, CSOs have maintained engagement in our operations and policy work over the last 12 months., both for tackling the crisis caused by COVID-19, and for addressing the long-term development agenda. 

For example, ADB is pioneering a program to engage CSOs to reduce the impact of COVID-19 through demand-driven community-led interventions targeting the poor and vulnerable. Funded through a $2-million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, the project supports five CSO consortia in Armenia, Cook Islands, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, and the Philippines to expand their ongoing COVID-19 interventions on community-based crisis mitigation, social protection programs, and livelihood support for communities affected by the pandemic.

Another example is in Nepal, where ADB’s Youth for Asia team has supported the ADB-funded Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project by working with Nepalese youth-led CSOs engaging with young citizens across 20 grassroots communities. Local youth have successfully raised awareness to promote 3R:  “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” of community waste to improve the local environment and contribute to the SDGs.
Let me draw your attention to the emerging opportunity of collaboration. 

As many of you know, ADB is helping our developing member countries procure safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and deliver them efficiently and equitably through our $9 billion new financing facility called APVAX (Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility) that we announced last December. In parallel with our efforts, I expect that CSOs can raise community awareness and address vaccine hesitancy. Given that there are many CSOs that work as good health service providers at grassroots level in many developing countries, CSOs can be an important force to ensure that safe and effective vaccines will be delivered to the most poor, marginalized, and vulnerable populations. And of course, CSOs can also play an important monitoring role to ensure accountability and help to control any misuse of funding.

Going forward, I also want to continue to identify opportunities to engage more systematically with CSOs in our country operations. For example, in Mongolia, where our new Country Partnership Strategy is under preparation, we have pledged to step up efforts to increase engagement with CSOs to strengthen project design and implementation, improve beneficiary feedback, implement social and environmental safeguards, and enhance gender inclusion. ADB will also deepen its work with CSOs in Mongolia through the Civil Society Advisory Committee, which was established in 2019 to ensure that our strategy, programs and projects are evidence-based and reflect grassroot-level priorities and needs.

III. CSOs role in policy making

We also appreciate CSOs’ active participation in a number of ADB’s policy reviews. The reviews of our Safeguards Policy Statement, the Energy Policy, and the Disaster and Emergency Assistance Policy are all ongoing. In the case of the safeguards review, we have decided to extend the review period to 2023, to ensure there is adequate time for in person meetings with grassroots stakeholders.

The Energy Policy consultations have attracted a lot of interest. I would like to thank CSOs for the constructive and proactive engagement in the consultations to date. We have noted the concerns around fossil fuels, waste-to-energy, and safeguards impacts of geothermal and large hydropower projects, among others. Please be assured that we will carefully consider these elements as we continue our consultations and complete our new policy by COP26 in November.  

The energy policy, and the wider climate agenda are of primary importance to us at ADB.

Total climate financing from ADB resources from 2011-2020 was $36 billion.  We have two ambitious climate financing targets in Strategy 2030. One is to reach $80 billion in cumulative climate financing for 2019-2030, and another one is 75% of our total number of operations will contribute to either or both mitigating or adapting to the climate change impact by 2030. Let me make it clear that ADB keeps unwavering commitment in achieving these targets.   

ADB is also developing implementation guidelines that will enable our operations to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Our climate initiatives are fully in line with the priorities of the upcoming COP26 being hosted by the UK.

IV. Conclusion

In closing, I would like to thank one again the CSOs for your active involvement and participation in the development of Asia and the Pacific. 

I trust that you will share your rich development experiences and expertise with peers and partners in the next three days. And I look forward to the day that I will be able to meet many of you in person once this pandemic is over.

Thank you and I am now happy to take your questions.