Open Letter to Asian Development Bank

6th of May 2013

MR. TAKEHIKO NAKAO

President

Asian Development Bank

Dear Mr. Takehiko Nakao:

Our cordial greetings to your recent confirmation as ADB president. Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific has been following important discussions on development effectiveness and civil society participation in regional and international fora while promoting development effectiveness that is centered on human rights, women’s rights and gender equality, decent work, environmental sustainability and democratic ownership.

 

The Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness confirmed key spaces for greater civil society involvement in development decisions and processes. This forum also recognized the role of civil society organizations as independent actors in their own right. Yet, we express our disappointed of the limited extent and influence of civil society participation in ADB processes, including the Annual ADB Board of Governor’s Meetings.

 

While we recognize the opportunity to raise questions and challenge ADB during the Civil Society Meeting with the ADB President, it is hardly a meaningful dialogue as recommendations from the civil society are not taken on board the official discussion. The limited support extended to civil society organizations to participate in the Governor’s Meeting usually result to participation of those NGOs who can self-fund and not of those representating groups and communities most affected by ADB projects.

 

Strategy 2020 states that partnerships with various stakeholders including “NGOs, community-based organizations, and foundations will become central to planning, financing, and implementing ADB operations”, warranting space for the poor and marginalized communities to participate in programme processes. Yet in practice, ADB processes do not adequately address issues pertaining to transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness of all relevant stakeholders, particularly those of civil society. In many instances, government institutions have the decision on which CSOs to ‘invite’ in consultations on ADB country-level operations. This inhibits a broad and inclusive CSO engagement, as CSOs critical of the government are usually not invited. . Furthermore, civil society does not have significant influence in the whole development process. There

is no mechanism for demand-driven assistance and how inputs from relevant stakeholders are taken on board in actual decision-making. Moreover, the bank’s last resort, the Accountability Mechanism, has loopholes, which do not maximize civil society participation. And this mechanism is watered down by the country-safeguard systems, which prioritizes the concerns of the governments.

We welcome your recognition of the deep-seated issues of poverty besetting the region resulting to uneven development in the Asia Pacific region. However, we are dismayed and deeply concerned that you intend to pursue more vigorously private sector development by providing an enabling environment for private sector, including support to public-private partnerships. There is now a growing realization that economic growth does not necessarily lead to human development, especially without concrete accountability to the rights and needs of Asia’s poor and marginalized. We are troubled that your address in the Board of Governor’s Meeting gives precedence to support to private sector than strengthening engagement with representatives of communities affected by ADB projects.

As the 46th ADB Board of Governor’s Meeting formally closed yesterday in New Delhi, Reality of Aid would like to restate its demand for greater and more meaningful space for civil society participation in all ADB processes. Constraints in space for CSOs to participate in the ADB Governor’s Meeting have been a convenient excuse to limit CSO participation in this event. ADB must establish a more robust space for CSOs, not just in this annual meeting but also in other key ADB processes. We urge that the ADB leadership to resolve this deficiencies in future Governor’s Meetings respecting the enhanced and formalized space that civil society secured in Busan High Level Forum and subsequent processes related to effective development cooperation.

We remain committed to maximizing our contributions to development cooperation. Civil society organizations have an important role to play in building stronger and more accountable development partnerships. As development actors in our own right and through a human rights based approach to development, CSOs offer unique experience that should be drawn upon in policy-making discussions. We are convinced that strengthening the development effectiveness agenda of ADB will require systematic and substantive CSO participation and adequate representation in the whole configuration.

Sincerely,

The Reality of Aid Network – Asia Pacific