Shaping ADB’s new development strategy: Straight from the horse’s mouth

Published on Thursday, 15 September 2016

Published by Safdar Parvez on Thursday, 15 September 2016

Consultations on ADB's new strategy in Sydney, Australia with developing member countries from the Pacific.
Consultations on ADB's new strategy in Sydney, Australia with developing member countries from the Pacific.

ADB is starting to prepare a new strategy leading up to 2030.  The new strategy will guide our future work and help reposition ADB within the transforming development landscape of Asia and the Pacific and a rapidly changing global environment.

ADB should not be complacent about its efforts in the fight against poverty. But it should also not undervalue the contributions it has made to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people across Asia and the Pacific. This is a clear message we heard from people in the 35 developing member countries we met with over the past 6 months to seek their views on ADB’s future direction.

We have believed from the outset that the process of preparing the strategy is as important as the final document itself. Building ownership by involving stakeholders from the start has been critical for us in this process. We have understood that even the best strategy document we can write sitting in our office, but which alienates our principal partners, can never be successfully implemented. We have thus gone into these consultations with an open mind and an empty notebook. We have come back with exciting thoughts and insightful pages scribbled with the wisdom and foresight of the many people we have met.

These people, who live and work in our developing member countries and matter more to us than anyone else, have tremendous admiration for ADB’s work on the ground. Senior and mid-ranking government officials, private sector champions, civil society stalwarts, erudite professors, and top policy thinkers all recognize ADB’s outstanding support for infrastructure development. They are aware of ADB’s unique contributions to regional cooperation and integration. More than anything else, they value the fact that ADB is their ‘own’ bank, that it understands and identifies with them in a way that others do not, and that it stands with them when the chips are down and the headwinds are strong.

However, they also want to see ADB improve. They want to see ADB strengthen its presence in the field, and delegate more authority for more decisions to be taken on the ground. They would like ADB to revamp its procurement and consultant recruitment systems to reduce costly delays and accelerate implementation. Several of our countries would like us to adopt and use their systems and procedures in areas like procurement and environmental and social safeguards.

Critically, our stakeholders would like ADB to make better use of the deep knowledge embedded in the institution to propose innovative solutions for complex problems. They value ADB’s role in transferring knowledge and imparting best practice in developing member countries. They recognize the competence of our staff, and urge that their skills be constantly renewed to improve the knowledge content of our operations. It is ironic that our stakeholders seem to recognize and value the vastness of ADB’s knowledge reservoir more than the credit even bank staff are sometimes willing to give to ADB as a knowledge institution.

Of course, our friends in our developing member countries often do not speak with one voice. But we like it this way. We value the diversity of their views that adds to the richness of the dialogue we have with them. Perspectives vary across countries, regions, and government and non-government stakeholders. For example, some clients would like ADB to focus on its comparative advantage in infrastructure. Others want ADB to have a more balanced portfolio of support, including assistance for the social sectors. Most are in favor of expanding ADB’s vision to incorporate considerations of inclusiveness and resilience for better alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals and the global climate agreement. Some like the brevity and concreteness of ADB’s current vision of a region free of poverty. Almost all want us to scale up our support and speed up our processes.

We value these inputs deeply. We will seek to closely relate the views of our developing member countries in the strategy formulation process. This will result in a winning strategy. The only losers will be poverty, vulnerability, disease, and illiteracy.

ADB welcomes your feedback. Learn more about the development of ADB’s new strategy and share your thoughts and perspectives in this online consultation form.