Joe Athialy South Asia Coordinator jathialy*southasia.bicusa.org
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a multilateral development finance institution whose mission is to reduce poverty in the Asia Pacific region.
Although the ADB claims to operate in the interest of Asia’s poorest citizens, civil society groups have long been concerned about the ADB’s role in promoting sustainable and equitable growth in the region.
- Provides loans and equity investments to its developing member countries (DMCs)
- Provides technical assistance for the planning and execution of development projects and programs and for advisory services
- Promotes and facilitates investment of public and private capital for development
- Assists in coordinating development policies and plans of its DMCs
Though well-intentioned, ADB-funded operations have been responsible for causing widespread environmental and social damage, adversely affecting some of the regions poorest and most vulnerable communities.
Though publicly financed by taxpayer dollars, ADB activities (and those of other multilateral development banks) are often carried out without the informed participation of affected people, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or, in many cases, the elected officials in the borrowing countries. A global movement to reform the MDBs has based its activities on the assumption that sustainable development and poverty alleviation are impossible without informed public participation in the decision making process.
Civil society concerns with the ADB include:
- Access to information about the ADB’s operations
- Public participation in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of ADB projects
- The social and environmental impacts of ADB programs and projects, and the Bank’s accountability for those impacts
- The ADB’s private sector lending
- The ADB’s role in regional and sub-regional economic cooperation
The Bank Information Center is no longer working on the ADB, but you can get updates from our partner, The NGO Forum on the ADB.
Citizens of ADB member countries should contact their ED/Alt ED to share their concerns and complaints, as the Board should be responsive and accountable to the citizens of the countries they represent. It is therefore also important for civil society organizations to engage with Board members.
The ADB structure identifies five regions within the ADB’s lending sphere, designed to group countries with similar characteristics in the following areas: geographic proximity; similarities in culture, economic systems, and social organization; stage of development; operational convenience; scope for sub-regional cooperation and linkages within existing sub-regional groups; and least disruption to ADB operations. Each region has a regional management team and country teams reporting to the regional heads.
East and Central Asia: Azerbaijan, China, People’s Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Mekong: Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam
The Pacific: Cook Islands, Fiji Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Federated States of, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu
South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore
- Accountability mechanism (Inspection Function)
- Safeguard policies
- Information disclosure policies
- Environmental policies
- Forest policy
Policies and Operations
The ADB has developed policies, strategies, and frameworks to guide its operations. ADB Board-approved policies are translated into an Operational Manual which serves as a guide for staff implementation of the policies.
The Regional and Sustainable Development Department (RSDD) at the ADB develops policies and guidelines for all the sectors and aspects of development relevant to the ADB’s work. RSDD also monitors the ADB’s compliance with its own policies and guidelines.
The ADB’s Inspection Function is intended to provide project-affected communities a mechanism through which to raise concerns about the harmful, or potentially harmful, impacts of the ADB’s operations in their countries.
The ADB Accountability Mechanism is unique from those of other institutions in that it has two arms: a consultation phase designed to address problems faced by project-affected communities, and a compliance phase, established to conduct independent assessments of the ADB’s compliance with its policy framework when it is believed that failure to do so has, or is likely to, result in material harm to local communities.
The ADB Safeguard Policies are intended to account for potential social and environmental risks in Bank-funded projects. The Bank has three Safeguard Policies:
Information Disclosure Policies
The following documents, among others, should be available on the ADB website or made available to in-country stakeholders within the stated timeframe:
- Draft Country Strategy and Programs (CSP)
- Pre-CSP assessments such as poverty and sector analyses
- Board minutes and tentative Board schedule
- Chairman’s summaries of Board discussft Policy and Strategy papers
- Environmental and social monitoring reports
- Draft Operations Evaluation Department reports
Although the improved disclosure policy is a step in the right direction, the ADB continues to make slow progress when measured against the increasingly refined transparency agenda of critics. ADB has yet to publicly disclose the following documents:
- Board transcripts
- Board documents such as Report and Recommendations of the President and R-Papers, prior to Board discussion
- Project concept clearance paper for private sector projects
- Final draft CSPs upon circulation to the Board
- Aide Memoirs and Project/Program Progress Reports
- Operational budgets
- Names of blacklisted companies
The ADB is also being encouraged to set up an independent external appeals mechanism (instead of the current internal Public Disclosure Advisory Committee) to process refused information requests.
The Asian Development Bank prepares a Country Strategy and Program (CSP) for each borrowing country to define a medium-term development strategy. The CSP lays out the ADB’s country-specific poverty reduction strategies, thematic/sector priorities, and lending levels. CSPs are supposed to reflect the priorities set out in the ADB’s Long-Term Strategic Framework, Medium-Term Strategy, and the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
CSPs are usually prepared every five years. The ADB states that a CSP is to be prepared through consultation with the government, civil society, private sector, and other stakeholders.
The ADB also produces CSP Updates every year that provide an assessment of the implementation of the CSP and changes in the operational program. BIC has prepared a timeline with staff contacts for upcoming CSP processes in eight countries:
ADB NGO Center
The NGO Center, located in the Bank’s headquarters in Manila, can also be a point of engagement for civil society groups. The NGO Center is responsible for helping the ADB strengthen its cooperation with civil society actors and respond to their concerns.
Annual Meetings are statutory occasions for Governors of ADB member countries to report on ADB administrative, financial, and operational directions. The meetings provide opportunities for member governments to interact with ADB staff, local and international non-government organizations (NGOs), the media, representatives of observer countries, academics, and the private sector. Over 3,000 participants have attended each previous Annual Meeting. Over the years, civil society organizations have made use of the Annual Meetings to raise issues with the country delegations and the Board members representing ADB member countries.
Civil Society Contacts
- NGO Forum on ADB
- International Rivers Network
1847 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94703
Tel: 510-848-1155 ext. 312
Sarah McNeal Research and Advocacy Fellow smcneal*bicusa.org