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.
This page provides information on key documents available from the ADB, as well as tips on how to obtain documents and information from the institution. For BIC’s full guide, please see Unpacking the Asian Development Bank:
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.
The ADB was founded in 1966 with the goal of eradicating poverty in the region. It plays the following functions for countries in the Asia Pacific 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
Headquartered in Manila, Philippines. the Asian Development Bank is comprised of shareholders from 65 members countries, the largest being Japan and the United States. Each member country has a representative serving on the Board of Governors. This body elects the ADB President as well as the members of the Board of Executive Directors. Each Executive Director (ED) also appoints an alternate (Alt ED). Smaller shareholder countries share representation on the Board.
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
Civil society organizations are concerned about a number of ADB policies and strategies. BIC has participated in efforts to promote responsible Bank policies that provide social and environmental justice. In particular, BIC has been involved in debates on the following ADB policy areas:
- Accountability Mechanism
- Safeguard policies
- Information disclosure policies
- Environmental policies
- Forest policy
The ADB Accountability Mechanism is unique from those of other institutions in that it has two arms: a consultation phase (or “problem solving” 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:
Public Communications (Information Disclosure) Policy
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
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 Country Partnership Strategies (CPS) 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.
The ADB states that a CSP is to be prepared through consultation with the government, civil society, private sector, and other stakeholders.
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.
For BIC’s full guide, please see Unpacking the Asian Development Bank:
International Accountability Project’s Community Action Guide to the Asian Development Bank: How to Use ADB Safeguard Policies to Protect Your Human Rights (2013) is also a useful resource.
Civil Society Contacts:
Acting Director, Asia Program
Tel: +91 98711-53775 (Delhi)
Research Fellow, Asia Program
Research Assistant, Asia Program
Accounts and Administrative Assistant, Asia Program
Assistant, Asia Program
Tel: +1 202 624 0635