Closing remarks by Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, at the ADB Gender Forum: The Power to Transform: Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific, 25 November 2021

Good afternoon from Asia. It is my pleasure to speak at the closing of ADB’s first ADB Gender Forum. Without a doubt, it has been an inspiring 4 days.

It was an excellent opportunity for such a diverse group of people to share their experiences and lessons learned. We had 4 days of important dialogue on four interrelated themes. It allowed us to focus on and dig deeper into highly relevant and critical areas for advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment across Asia and the Pacific. We have also been able to examine emerging challenges, explore new frontiers for gender equality, and see how we can better support Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender.

ADB’s journey in gender and development

Twenty-three years ago, in 1998, our first policy on Gender and Development was approved. To this date, it remains relevant. The policy formally recognized ADB's gender mainstreaming approach.

In 2012 we issued the Guidelines for Gender Mainstreaming Categories of ADB Projects. Updated in 2021, it defined our gender categorization system to measure, count, and report on gender equality issues in our projects. As you know, Strategy 2030 highlights Accelerating Progress in Gender Equality as one of the seven operational priorities. We established new targets for gender mainstreaming—with at least 75% of our committed projects to be gender-inclusive by 2030.

While we have come a long way since 1998, our gender agenda remains unfinished. We are grateful to you, our speakers, moderators, and participants for challenging us to do better and be more innovative. We must continue to strive for a region where girls and women have every opportunity to lead lives free from discrimination and violence.

The pandemic reminds us that progress on gender equality cannot be taken for granted. Women are more vulnerable to pandemic–related impacts because of existing gender inequality. These effects are pronounced in the Asia and Pacific region due to pre-existing cultural biases on gender and various social norms that make women and girls particularly vulnerable.

About the Gender Forum

The timing of this forum was critical. We are collectively and urgently tackling both the pandemic recovery and the climate crisis. We must 'build forward better' for a more gender-equal and resilient world.

We ran 27 different sessions with more than 1900 registered participants. It was a busy yet invigorating week! We were also very happy to see such high-level participation from our members, development partners, and ADB staff. Because of this, we had the chance to demonstrate how to apply and implement new practices on gender-related policy and programmatic interventions. We heard many inspirational voices and stories in the process. And we know it will take all of us working together to make gender equality a reality across our region.

Highlights of ADB Gender Forum: Day 1

Let me briefly take you through some highlights of the Gender Forum.

On Day 1, we discussed how to make economies work for women. The session on that day raised important questions on the potential long-term impact of COVID-19 on the workforce. We learned that countries need to prepare and support women for the work of the future while leveraging  automation and digitalization, and eliminating gender gaps in digital and financial inclusion.

A key recommendation was to continue to invest in the care economy, address social and gender norms, and support women's access to modern knowledge and skills so they can be an active part of the changing economy.  We need also to look at new emerging sectors as essential job generators for women.

Highlights of ADB Gender Forum: Day 2

Day 2 discussed quality infrastructure for gender equality. The central question to tackle was: can future cities become gender-responsive by considering the needs of women and girls as part of the city planning and design process? I am sure you all have walked away with many thoughts, after the panelists discussed crucial aspects of access, participation, livability, mobility, security, and urban governance while designing city infrastructure.

What we learned from these discussions on Day 2 was how important it is to keep investing in gender-sensitive infrastructure planning and inclusive access to services. There must be gender-based analysis of urban space, and inclusive urban design through systematic data generation and gender-focused decision-making. In short, we want to ensure women and girls are active participants in city planning and design. 

Highlights of ADB Gender Forum: Day 3

Day 3 focused on how climate action and a just transition can help gender transformative change—specifically, how to create opportunities for empowering women and increasing their role in society during the just transition process. We were challenged to think differently about decent work and how the shift to green jobs can create a new paradigm for gender equality and economic empowerment. If climate finance can build a holistic ecosystem of climate, business, and inclusion, then women will benefit. In the Good Practice session, panelists discussed the essential role gender plays in climate change mitigation and adaptation including many examples of how women lead as agents for change. 

With the conclusion of COP26 fresh in our mind, the key takeaway from the Day 3 sessions is very timely. We must continue bolstering women-led climate action and ensure that climate finance strengthens women's resilience to climate change.

Highlights of ADB Gender Forum: Day 4

I hope you have all joined today’s commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to conclude the Forum.

By bringing out the prevalence and impact of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment in development projects, today’s sessions raised an important question: what must we, as a development bank, do to tackle gender-based and sexual violence in our work? How can we support our members address this endemic problem?

Today’s sessions also reminded us  why the informal economy should be at the center of our conversation about reducing poverty, addressing gender inequalities, and supporting women’s empowerment. To further enhance the gender equality agenda, gender-responsive governance should be central in our policy dialogues, knowledge work, and investment programs.

Development partners

We are grateful to our development partners, who over these 4 days hosted 16 sessions of knowledge labs with more than 40 speakers. Discussions ranged from STEM education, storytelling through data, water and sanitation, to supporting women's energy entrepreneurship and addressing gender-based violence.

I want to sincerely thank our colleagues from a long list of contributors.

I also want to thank all our distinguished speakers, panelists, and knowledge lab partners for making this Gender Forum such a huge success.

ADB’s commitment to gender equality

This first ADB Gender Forum has left us with many rich ideas and a pathway to follow to accelerate progress on gender and women's empowerment. This is critical for meeting our region’s goals of inclusive and sustainable development.

We also prioritize the creation, development, and sharing of gender-related knowledge with our development partners. We must also continually renew our efforts to intentionally address the persistent gender norms that continue to limit girls' and women's potential, opportunity, and agency. At the same time, we must continue our efforts to collect, analyze, disseminate and use sex-disaggregated data to inform gender-responsive evidence-based development policy. Finally, we must ensure that empowering women and girls remains at the forefront of our development agenda.

In closing, I want to underscore our unwavering commitment at ADB to work with our development partners to use well-tested approaches and innovative ideas for gender equality. We must ensure that women and girls have equal participation, representation, and leadership roles as we seek more sustainable, gender-responsive, and climate-resilient development. This we owe to you—and to the people of our region.

Thank you.


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