A view of Frankfurt’s skyline. The city will host the Asian Development Bank’s 49th annual meeting. Photo by: Markus Jaschke / CC BY-NC

Over 3,000 development leaders and influencers will convene to discuss challenges, solutions, and the future of the Asia-Pacific at the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, starting Monday.

This year’s agenda will focus on “cooperation for sustainability,” building on the adoption of global frameworks including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement. Leaders will discuss how to translate these agreements into actual results on the ground for the region.

This is something that resonates well in Asia-Pacific — a region still home to almost two-thirds of the world’s poorest populations. Infrastructure investments needs alone are projected to amount to $800 billion per year until 2020.

“The SDGs and the COP21 which was approved last year — those of course are important remaining challenges,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao told Devex in an exclusive interview.

International cooperation will also be key, he said. The 49th edition of the bank’s annual meeting is back on European soil after eight years — Germany is one of the bank’s 19 nonregional members — in a bid to bridge and strengthen the development cooperation between the two continents.

“I think [the annual meeting] will give opportunities to assure and look again at the important partnership between Europe and Asia,” Nakao said.

ADB’s 50th anniversary

This year’s annual meeting will kick off official celebrations for the ADB’s 50-year anniversary.

The bank, which until recently was the only multilateral development institution in the region, was established in December 1966 as a way to address the poverty and hunger that afflicted the world’s most populous region.

Progress has been achieved in a number of areas, with a number of economies in the region registering high growth rates. Still, development issues remain glaring and in need of sustainable solutions.

Some of the improvements that the bank is likely to see during the rest of the year (and possibly beyond) may include the gradual impact of reforms instituted during Nakao’s three-year reign — and more reforms are also expected to be announced. Bank officials have previously told Devex that the reforms are already being felt in the bank’s operations.

These reforms include merging the bank’s two main funds — the Ordinary Capital Resources and the Asian Development Fund — to improve and increase lending capacity, streamlining procurement systems, as well as establishing the bank’s first public-private partnerships office, among others.

More AIIB cooperation

Over the past weeks, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the World Bank have signed a co-financing framework to facilitate the joint funding and technical development of programs and projects.

Nakao told Devex that the ADB will also likely sign a partnership agreement with the Beijing-based institution.

While he declined to share details, the president of the Manila-based institution said that the ADB expects to sign and announce a memorandum of understanding with AIIB on certain partnership agreements — including cofinancing ones — during the event in Frankfurt.

“We are planning to have an MoU signing about cooperation,” Nakao told Devex. “We are discussing some of the projects, the first project of cofinancing may be in Pakistan for a road project.”

The institutions first expressed a desire to work together last year, following Nakao’s visit with AIIB President Jin Liqun in Beijing in September. Leadership and management officials from both banks have also said that cooperation will be better for the region’s development.

The expected partnership is expected to be in line with the Chinese-led institution’s schedule in releasing its first batch of loans. Sir Danny Alexander, AIIB vice president and corporate secretary said in a previous Devex exclusive interview that his institution is expecting to announce and release their loans in June — the same month that the Beijing-based institution is also holding its inaugural annual meeting in the Chinese capital.

Buzz topics

Other buzz topics and discussions that are expected to fill the halls of Messe Frankfurt, in the heart of Germany’s financial center, include country specific discussions on the SDG’s 17 goals and 169 targets, as well as how to access climate and other forms of development financing.

There will also be a focus on renewable energy, with various countries expected to share their experiences and discuss how they can be replicated in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region. This is a particularly important discussion topic as cleaner sources of energy are at the center of the Paris climate agreement.

Other thematic areas of discussion are likely to include private sector development — particularly support to small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as social enterprises — civil society engagement, education and employment, and infrastructure and urban development, among others.

Stay tuned for more Devex coverage of ADB’s 49th annual meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, from May 2-5 and its 50th anniversary celebrations. Next week, we will publish an exclusive interview with ADB President Takehiko Nakao on his future plans for the Manila-based institution.

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About the author

  • Lean 2

    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.