How far is ADB from its 2020 strategy goals?

Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao with pupils at the Bisilig Elementary School in Leyte, Philippines. The bank's long-term development plan, called Strategy 2020, aims to reduce poverty and improve the lives of people in Asia and the Pacific. Photo by: ADB

The Asian Development Bank is halfway through its long-term development plan dubbed Strategy 2020 aimed at reducing poverty and improving the lives of people in Asia-Pacific.

But with six years to go, how close (or far) is the Manila-based institution away from its development targets?

For the bank’s internal independent evaluation team, the region is seeing progress especially in poverty reduction, health care and infrastructure development. Despite this, however, the finish line is far from sight and more is needed to be done — and a greater focus on social inclusion and environmentally-sustainable growth could provide a much-needed boost.

“Amid ADB’s great strengths, there’s an important gap to be addressed in gearing the institution’s operational priorities more squarely with its strategic agenda for inclusion, sustainability and regional integration,” Vinod Thomas, head of ADB’s independent evaluation board, said in a statement.

Thomas added that the next six years of the bank’s operations should focus not only in announcing the intent to pursue development goals but in “making them an operational reality on the ground.”

The report recommended seven crucial steps on how ADB can raise its development footprint and impact:

  1. Focus on poverty reduction and social inclusion.

  2. Increased attention to climate change programs.

  3. Push for regional cooperation and integration.

  4. Promoting good governance and private sector development.

  5. Cultivating synergies and teamwork.

  6. Ensuring more efficiency in processes.

  7. Careful evaluation of social and cultural impacts.

The focus on evaluation and careful supervision of programs’ effect on local communities will be of great interest given the bank’s recent controversy regarding the admission of its lapses in a thorny railway rehabilitation project in Cambodia that drastically affected a number of families.

ADB, the document added, should also consider strengthening staff competency, improving incentives and career development initiatives, pushing for more local ownership to partner communities and strengthening evaluation functions for better organizational learning.

The institution, one of the consultants cited by the report said, “as a regional public institution can and should do more.”

What do you think ADB should prioritize and focus on to meet its 2020 development goals? Do you agree with the report’s 7 pointers and additional recommendations? How can a development finance institution improve its operations, both internally and externally? Please let us know by leaving a comment below, joining our LinkedIn discussion or sending us an email to

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About the author

  • Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a former Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. He previously covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics.