Written by Haidy Ear-Dupuy, Social Development Specialist
ADB’s long term blueprint for development Strategy 2020 is at the halfway mark – a milestone that calls for reflection, for evaluation, and most importantly, for discussions with stakeholders on what we need to do to meet our mission goals over the remaining 6 years.
On December 9th 2013, I had the privilege of facilitating a consultation with Philippines-based civil society organizations (CSOs) as part of ADB’s Midterm Review of Strategy 2020. The event was well attended with over 40 representatives from 32 CSOs, ranging from advocacy groups like the Freedom From Debt Coalition and the NGO Forum on the ADB, to child-focused organizations such as Plan International, and World Vision Philippines.
The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice also took an active part in the discussions, while young people were well represented by Youth for Sustainable Development Assembly, World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, and other groups.
The midterm review allows for a stock take of progress on Strategy 2020 ―which was launched in 2008― and provides a mechanism for getting feedback from stakeholders. To date, we have held consultations with CSOs in India, Cambodia, Kyrgyz Republic, Fiji, and the Philippines.
What are the CSOs telling ADB? While the responses are extremely varied, an overall message is that they would like to have more open discussions with us. Some wanted ADB to find ways to partner with CSOs, rather than just engaging them as consultants. One participant noted the comparative advantages that CSOs have including their “extensive reach into local communities”.
Along with strengthened partnerships, the CSOs also highlighted the need for a stronger focus on inclusive development. They see ADB playing the facilitator’s role in bringing governments and CSOs together to work more effectively in pursuing development outcomes which are more inclusive. To help bridge the gap between CSOs and governments, a recommendation was made for ADB to invest in CSO capacity development so they can engage more effectively.
In the Kyrgyz Republic, CSOs and representatives from academia recommended that ADB support the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as infrastructure which helps connect geographic regions and strengthens regional cooperation. They feel that such investment will enhance inclusive growth.
CSOs also expressed the view that ADB’s operations and investments should move beyond a focus on infrastructure, to become more people-oriented. This was the view from India which called for ADB to make sure its operations made a real difference in improving the quality of life of citizens. Advocacy groups in the Philippines recommended that ADB adopt a rights-based and people-centered approach to development projects, making sure that marginalized communities are included, and that they derive real benefits from our projects. A participant in the Philippines talks asked ADB to list youth as a sixth driver of change.
In addition to greater inclusion and a stronger people-centered approach, CSOs recommended that governance remain an important element of ADB’s strategic direction. Other areas of focus in the second half of Strategy 2020 should include support for secondary and vocational education, further priority assistance for the agriculture sector, and greater investment in social protection.
Along with health and social safety net support, CSOs called for ADB to work closely with governments to ensure there is sufficient capacity to implement safeguards and compliance with labor codes in ADB-financed projects. Harmonization of labor policies within the region can also help strengthen integration amongst countries.
The CSOs in Cambodia and the Philippines, meanwhile, stressed the need for ADB to do more on climate change adaptation and to invest more in clean energy. Some still feel we are not doing enough to move our energy investments towards environmentally friendly sources.
These inputs are just a few of the excellent recommendations we’ve heard from CSOs throughout the consultation process. There are many more and you can find all of them here on ADB’s website.