Keynote speech by Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, at the UN General Assembly, 24 September 2021

Distinguished colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, we are happy to co-organize this panel and offer our support and commitment to learning for all.

The pandemic has disproportionately deepened our learning crisis―and the inequality felt by the most vulnerable school-age children. In response, there is a global consensus that we must mobilize more resources for education and prioritize spending on foundational learning, especially of the most affected children. At ADB, we are doubling our efforts to increase annual lending to support the education sector. We are looking at increasing education lending up to $2 billion by 2024.

ADB and Qatar’s Education Above All Foundation, or EAA, signed a framework partnership agreement in July 2020 to support out-of-school children in ADB’s developing members. Our partnership is a prime example of how collaboration works. We blend ADB loans and EAA grants and combine our expertise to make our support attractive to our developing member countries. This is a win-win for all with high economic returns. But most importantly, it benefits those that need it the most.

The EAA Foundation is, in fact, the very first private foundation to co-finance ADB’s results-based financing program in education. It means that the partnership is playing an important role in promoting this financing modality in the education sector of our countries. Let me say a few words about how results-based financing helps ADB support become more efficient, more effective, and more impactful.

We first pioneered results-based lending in education in 2013. This new approach moved away from measuring the programs’ inputs, but instead, focuses on assessing their outputs and outcomes. The main strength of this approach is that it enhances the capacity and ownership of the government institutions that are involved in achieving the agreed development results. It also reduces transaction costs for our developing member countries. Because of the higher program efficiency and effectiveness, results-based financing modality has been attracting support both from governments and partners like EAA.

Good progress is being made in preparing and launching the two results-based lending programs that we are co-financing with EAA in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In Bangladesh, we are implementing the “Supporting Fourth Primary Education Development Program.” The objective is to provide quality education to all children from pre-primary to grade 5 by creating an efficient, inclusive, and equitable education system.  ADB co-finances $500 million—with additional $900 million coming from the European Union, the World Bank, Japan’s JICA, and UNICEF.

EAA is also contributing $12.4 million. But the value of the Foundation’s support to this program goes much beyond this number.  More importantly, the EAA’s participation has helped this program amplify the focus on out-of-school children. When completed, the program will have assisted around 650,000 out-of-school children between the age of 8 and 14 obtain primary education.

The second results-based lending program is the Pakistan Integrated Social Protection Development Program. This program for $600 million is at an advance stage of preparation.

EAA's contribution will support one of the program's key goals of providing 960,000 out-of-school children aged 7 to 16 years with primary education―especially the poor and those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let me reiterate that these two programs are good examples of how strong partnerships are needed to address the learning crisis, while targeting the most vulnerable groups. To turn the crisis into an opportunity, we need to draw on lessons learned from the pandemic. The most important lessons could be related to how best to leverage online learning to improve pedagogical practices and better target lagging students.

This is also a critical time to join the global forces to address the many priorities in the education sector. Foundational learning for all is one. Digital learning to scale up learning and equity is another. School health, hygiene, nutrition, water, and sanitation to ensure safe and learner-friendly environment is the third. The list is long, and we cannot tackle these alone.   

This event is an important one for ADB’s partnerships—both for deepening the existing ones as well as for exploring new ones. In this regard, I am delighted that we are joined today by  Mr. Khalifa bin Jassem Al-Kuwari, the Director General of Qatar Fund for Development; Mr. Fahad Al Sulaiti, CEO of EAA;  and other colleagues. We at ADB look forward to exploring new opportunities to partner with the Qatar Fund for Development to support our common development goals in Asia and the Pacific.   

Before I conclude, let me express our deep gratitude to the EAA Foundation for the excellent collaboration and organization of today’s event.

Thank you. And I look forward to a vibrant and valuable discussion.

Speaker

  • Susantono, Bambang
    Susantono, Bambang
    Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development
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