From May 2 to 5, the 56th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was held to convene various stakeholders to discuss and influence the ADB’s administrative, financial and operation directions. With the theme, “Rebounding Asia: Recover, Reconnect, and Reform,” the meeting tackled how the Asia-Pacific region will address development challenges borne from the pandemic, economic crisis and climate change. The Reality of Aid-Asia Pacific (RoA-AP), along with members and allies, initiated this CSO Collective Statement that forwards civil society key messages for the 56th ADB Annual Meeting. The CSO Collective Statement is signed by over 130 CSOs from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. 

CSO Collective Statement for the 56th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is one of the major contributors of development finance in Asia-Pacific. This places ADB in a powerful position to influence development policies and practices of countries in the region. Its status as the leading development investor, however, comes with great accountability in the face of ever-widening development challenges in the context of pandemic recovery, economic distress, worsening conflict, and the climate crisis. 

The 56th Annual Meeting, to be held on May 2 to 5, at Incheon, South Korea, will be the first in-person meeting after years of holding it in a virtual format. With the theme, “Rebounding Asia: Recover, Reconnect, and Reform,” the meeting will tackle how the Asia-Pacific region will address development challenges borne from the pandemic, economic crisis, and climate change. The ADB will forward its own solutions and pathways for ‘sustained and sustainable recovery’, which encompasses initiatives on the just energy transition, digital transformation, food security, debt sustainability, and innovative financing.

Civil society organizations, people’s organizations, and social movements have highlighted how the bank’s blueprint for recovery overlooks their historic role and their accountability in causing the multiple crises the region faces today. The bank has also yet to demonstrate the effective development cooperation principles of democratic country ownership, focus on results, inclusive partnerships, transparency and mutual accountability. The peoples of the Asia-Pacific region continue to demand for more inclusive, transparent, and accountable mechanisms from the bank to ensure the protection of peoples’ rights, defense of the environment, and enabling environment for civil society. 

With this, members of civil society from the Asia-Pacific region forward the following key messages for the 56th ADB Annual Meeting: 

1.The ADB must end conditionalities, cancel debts, and abandon financing modalities that further impoverish developing countries and fragile states. 

a. On debt. In financing development projects, the ADB must stop imposing conditionalities and providing assistance in loans that lead to onerous debts. The ADB, along with other IFIs, has contributed to developing countries’ “chronic indebtedness,” through the pursuance of policy-based lending and conditionalities that have led to the privatization of essential services and goods, cuts in social expenditure, and preferential treatment for the private sector. Increasing debt burdens the people, as they are subjected to increased taxes, rising commodity prices, and weak social protection systems. 

b. On climate finance. Despite calling itself ‘Asia and the Pacific’s climate bank’, the ADB continues to be off-track in reaching its USD 100 billion commitment by 2030. Furthermore, it has disbursed the majority of its climate financing in the form of loans and towards mitigation projects through large infrastructure and energy projects that are often socially and environmentally destructive. The bank should provide climate financing in the form of grants that are available to local actors and towards adaptation projects aligned with democratically-owned development priorities, human rights principles, and that genuinely address the impacts of climate change on frontline communities. The ADB, along with other donor countries and IFIs, should ensure that there is a sustained and predictable flow of climate finance for developing countries and local communities to enable democratically-led adaptation and mitigation projects. This is rooted in donor countries’ historical commitments and large domestic, multinational corporations’ responsibility as they colluded in causing the current climate crisis. Furthermore, ADB should stop financing Waste-to-Energy (WTE) incinerators, carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), megadams, geothermal plants, and other false solutions. 

c. On financing modalities. The ADB must be able to exercise oversight and accountability across its operations, even with projects under co-financing and implemented with financial intermediaries. While thematic bonds and sustainable financing are purported to address the financing gap, these facilitate the entry of the private sector in development, pursue market-based and false solutions, as well as contribute to further debt distress. These modalities also lack robust standards and mechanisms to ensure their positive development impact, with most of the bond-funded projects leading to greenwashing, SDG-washing, and pink-washing. 

2. The ADB must end the corporate capture of development that discards the democratic rights of the marginalized and vulnerable, and must uphold rights-based and environmental principles and standards to ensure a transformative, people-centered sustainable development. 

a. On partnering with the private sector. The ADB is a staunch advocate of public-private partnerships (PPPs), claiming that large corporations have the necessary capacities and resources to undertake large infrastructure and development projects. However, the bank’s own review of its private sector operations have revealed that only about half of the projects are successful and remain off track to meet its targets. The promotion of PPPs facilitates the entry of foreign investors to gain profit, while assigning higher costs to governments and citizens, due to corruption, hidden costs and weak currencies. The lack of corporations’ transparency and accountability, which is enabled by weak state regulatory mechanisms, leads to environmental degradation and gross human rights violations. For development initiatives, partnerships with domestic companies and MSMEs must be promoted with their potential role in contributing to job creation, domestic development, and overall self-reliance. 

The bank should also ensure that its own and partners’ operations are aligned with international human rights guidelines and regulations, the Kampala Principles for Effective Private Sector Engagement, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) core labor standards, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the OECD Guidelines on Due Diligence, and other such agreements.

b. On the role of digital transformation in development. The ADB should pursue a rights-based, people-centered and gender-responsive digital transformation that can adequately address the digital divides, improve delivery of assistance and facilitate inclusion of marginalized populations. In pursuing digital solutions, the bank should ensure that these are based on sound risk and impact assessments that entail inclusive, meaningful, and participatory consultations with recipient governments, civil society, women’s organizations, and affected communities and sectors. The bank should not foster partnerships with Big Tech companies for development initiatives but rather, contribute to the establishment of democratically-owned digital infrastructure and technologies, and ensure data justice that upholds peoples’ collective rights over data and overcomes the digital divide that disproportionately impacts women, Indigenous Peoples, and rural communities. 

c. On strengthening food and energy systems. Recognizing that the current crisis has impacted food and energy systems, causing rising prices, inaccessibility, and widened inequalities, the ADB must genuinely contribute to publicly-owned and climate-resilient energy and food systems. Partnering with corporate entities to produce energy and food have led to the exploitation of natural and human resources of the global South, with the loss of livelihoods, land grabbing, rights violations, pollution, and biodiversity loss, as they rake in profit. Instead of partnering with large multinational corporations, the ADB must provide assistance to local food systems and community-based renewable energy systems that can provide access and ensure food, energy security for all. 

3. The bank’s new Energy Policy must genuinely address the climate crisis by halting all financing to fossil fuels and false solutions, decarbonizing its portfolio, promoting universal energy access, scaling up funding to community-led sustainable renewable energy projects, and adhering to the development effectiveness principles. 

a. On the just and equitable transition. Given that the ADB financed the construction of fossil fuel power plants in the region, it must provide a detailed action plan  to mitigate negative social, health, and environmental impacts they have caused. The bank must also abandon energy projects that negatively harm the environment, peoples’ sovereignty, peace and security, such as coal-fired power plants, large hydropower projects, Waste-to-Energy incinerators and other fossil fuel-based energy solutions such as fossil gas and oil. Furthermore, grants and technical assistance provided by the bank shall not dilute national safeguards on the energy transition. As the world transitions to more sustainable energy systems, the bank must also follow through in its commitments to address the needs of the affected sectors and communities, especially workers, from the decommissioning of power plants, by building capacities and increasing opportunities to cushion socioeconomic impacts of the transition on the marginalized. The just energy transition must be rooted in the needs of people and not the interests of profit mongering corporations.  

b. On the Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM). The ADB should halt operations of the Energy Transition Mechanism, as it failed to undergo meaningful, inclusive consultations with formal and informal workers, affected communities and civil society, and to provide compelling evidence for its positive impact. The ETM was made to ensure profit for energy corporations as they receive financial incentives to decommission or repurpose coal power plants earlier than their operational end. The ETM also opens up to false solutions, particularly through fuel switching, which includes burning ammonia, biomass, or municipal solid waste for existing fossil fuel power plants. While the people bear the brunt of increased government debt and rising electricity prices during the energy transition, the ETM further facilitates profit for energy corporations who have largely contributed to the climate crisis today. The ETM also lacks a mechanism to exact accountability from energy corporations who have contributed adverse impacts to people’s development and environment. 

4. In fragile, conflict-affected contexts (FCAS) and small island developing states (SIDS), the bank must be able to address immediate humanitarian needs, contribute in addressing the root causes of conflict, and pursue long-lasting development and peace efforts with other development actors. 

a. On the climate-fragility trap. The ‘context-specific tailored support’ to FCAS and SIDS must be able to address the climate-fragility trap, or the presence of climate and fragility risks. Despite the experience of conflict-affected contexts with the negative impacts of large infrastructure projects on the state of peace and security, human rights, and the environment, the bank has continued to pursue these. While infrastructure remains crucial for long-term development, these must be implemented with appropriate safeguards and through inclusive mechanisms. Especially in FCAS and SIDS, there is a need for climate-resilient infrastructure that has minimal environmental impact, can withstand extreme weather events, and can deliver basic services to communities. 

5. The updated Safeguard Policy of the ADB must be robust and responsive, ensure transparency and accountability of the bank and its partners, based on a people-centered and rights-based framework, and with a principal role given to affected communities, sectors and civil society. 

a. On the Safeguard Policy’s Environmental and Social Framework. Following the “do no harm” principle, ADB’s safeguards must be able to effectively prevent, reduce, and control potential risks and adverse impacts from its development projects. Projects financed by the bank that neither contribute towards mitigating environmental and climate challenges, nor aid in facilitating achievement of the sustainable development goals, must not be pursued. The expansion of the safeguard policy to cover other environmental, social, and cultural aspects is welcomed by civil society. It must also utilize its resources and capacities to adequately address emerging and cross-cutting issues or intersections of environmental, social, and cultural impacts. As it modernizes its safeguards, the ADB must uphold the primacy of human rights over its policies and operations, and ensure rightful participation of affected communities in its processes. 

b. On transparency and accountability. The ADB should ensure that its safeguards are implemented across financing modalities and member countries, as it exercises significant oversight and accountability over its partners’ activities. The bank must also remain accountable from the gaps in its previous policy, providing proper redress and reparations to affected peoples. Sufficient oversight mechanisms over private sector partners and financial intermediaries should also be included in the updated policy. Project information, risk assessments, and management plans must be made available to affected communities and sectors. Outcomes of consultations must also be published publicly. The information should be accessible, translated to local languages, easily understood, and provided in a timely manner. 

Grievance redress mechanisms must be made available to affected communities and sectors, both at the project level and through an institution-wide redressal mechanism of the ADB. Furthermore, they should be involved in the design, implementation, and monitoring of such mechanisms. Complaints and grievances should be adequately addressed by the ADB by providing plans to investigate and remedy violations. 

c. On reprisals, retaliation, and an enabling environment for civil society. Under the Safeguard Policy and across its operations, the ADB should adopt a zero tolerance policy towards reprisals, a mandatory human rights due diligence policy, country and project-specific retaliation risk assessments, and reprisal-sensitive engagement with affected communities and CSOs. In contexts where there are heightened risks of reprisals, such as fragile and conflict-affected states, the bank must be able to properly assess and implement measures for preventing and addressing these threats. In tackling reprisals, the bank should not depend on private sector partners and governments to address, mitigate, and prevent reprisal risks. Instead, the bank should lead and conduct its own participatory, independent, ongoing, transparent, and accountable assessments. 

The ADB should also be proactive in addressing cases of retaliation, by establishing a reprisal response protocol, conducting in-depth investigations, providing appropriate remedy, and building capacities and leverage to adequately respond to these risks. In designing and implementing mitigation measures and responses for reprisals, the bank should meaningfully involve members of civil society, especially marginalized communities and sectors, community-based organizations, CSOs, human rights and environmental defenders. Proper mitigation can be done by the bank by adequately regulating and overseeing private sector and state partners’ project implementation, and ensuring a safe space for communities, CSOs, human rights and environmental defenders.

The bank must foster an enabling environment for civil society, through inclusive and participatory processes without risks of reprisals and retaliation, ensuring that the democratic rights of civil society organizations, peoples’ organizations, and communities are upheld in designing and implementing development projects. This would entail recognizing the role of civil society as development actors in their own right, involving them in relevant processes and upholding their watchdog role. The reversal of shrinking civic spaces in the region will protect civil society organizations, affected communities, human rights and environmental defenders, as well as contribute to positive development outcomes. Furthermore, as multilateral institutions continue to work and respect the role of CSOs in development cooperation, “trust” among actors essential for a people-centered, rights-based, climate-resilient future will be strengthened.

  1. Ageing Nepal, Nepal
  2. Aid/Watch Australia, Australia
  3. Alliance on Civic Initiatives Promotion (ACIP), Kyrgyz Republic
  4. Asia Dalit Rights Forum (ADRF), Regional
  5. Asia Development Alliance (ADA), Regional
  6. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Regional
  7. Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (AsiaDHRRA), Regional
  8. Asia Pacific Network of Environmental Defenders (APNED), Regional
  9. Asia Pacific Research Network, Regional
  10. Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE), Regional
  11. Association for Promotion Sustainable Development, India 
  12. Aware Girls, Pakistan
  13. BALAOD Mindanaw, Philippines
  14. Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Bangladesh 
  15. Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC), Bangladesh 
  16. Beyond Beijing Committee Nepal, Nepal
  17. Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur), India 
  18. Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc., Philippines
  19. Centre for Financial Accountability, India
  20. Center for Good Governance and Peace, Nepal
  21. Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
  22. Centre for Research and Advocacy-Manipur, India
  23. Centre for Sustainable Community Development (S-CODE), Vietnam
  24. Centre for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas, Vietnam
  25. Center for Women’s Research, Sri Lanka 
  26. Citizens’ Disaster Response Center Foundation Inc., Philippines
  27. “Citizens for Development” Public Association, Kyrgyzstan 
  28. Coastal Development Partnership (CDP), Bangladesh 
  29. COAST Foundation, Bangladesh
  30. Community Development Society (CDS), Nepal
  31. Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network (CEMSOJ), Nepal
  32. Community Health and Inclusion Association (CHIAs), Laos
  33. Community Initiatives for Development in Pakistan (CIDP), Pakistan
  34. Community Legal Education Center, Cambodia
  35. Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG), Philippines
  36. Dewan Adat Papua, West Papua
  37. Education Training and Service for Community (ETSC), Nepal
  38. Empower India, India
  39. Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN), Nepal
  40. Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), Nepal 
  41. Gender and Development for Cambodia, Cambodia
  42. GenDev Centre for Research, India
  43. Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, Regional
  44. Good Food Community, Philippines
  45. IMPARSIAL, the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor, Indonesia 
  46. Indus Consortium, Pakistan
  47. Initiative for Right View (IRV), Bangladesh
  48. Inspirator Muda Nusantara, Indonesia 
  49. Institute for National and Democracy Studies (INDIES), Indonesia
  50. Institute for Strategic and Development Studies (ISDS), Indonesia  
  51. International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) Pax Romana, Regional
  52. International Nepal Fellowship (INF), Nepal
  53. International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia
  54. Jubilee Australia Research Centre, Australia
  55. Karapatan Alliance Philippines, Philippines
  56. Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre (KIRDARC), Nepal
  57. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights Rule of Law, Kazakhstan
  58. Komunitas Peduli Lingkungan Hidup di Timika, Papua
  59. Korean Advocates for Global Health (KAGH), South Korea
  60. Korean House for International Solidarity, South Korea
  61. Korea SDGs Network, South Korea
  62. Ladlad Caraga, Inc., Philippines
  63. Lao Civil Society Coordination Committee (LCCC), Laos
  64. LBH Bali Women Crisis Centre (BWCC), Indonesia
  65. Lembaga Teraju Indonesia, Indonesia
  66. Lifesavors, Pakistan 
  67. Lokenatya O Sanskritik Unnayan Kendro (LOSAUK), Bangladesh
  68. Mines, Minerals & PEOPLE, India
  69. NAAP-Nepal, Nepal
  70. Nakor Alam Youth Association, Vanuatu
  71. Nash Vek Public Foundation, Kyrgyzstan
  72. National Campaign for Sustainable Development Nepal, Nepal
  73. National Center Against Violence, Mongolia
  74. Nepal Water Conservation Foundation (NWCF), Nepal
  75. NGO Federation of Nepal, Nepal
  76. NGO Forum on Cambodia, Cambodia
  77. Niue Australian Vagahau Association (NAVA), Pacific 
  78. North-East Affected Area Development Society (NEADS), India
  79. Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Organization Public Union, Azerbaijan
  80. Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia
  81. Palangka Raya Ecological and Human Rights Studies (PROGRESS), Indonesia
  82. Pacific Australian Womens Association (PAWA), Pacific 
  83. Pacific Greens Network (Asia-Pacific), Regional
  84. Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (PIANGO), Pacific
  85. Pacific-Migrant Women’s Forum (Asia-Pacific), Regional
  86. Pacificwin Pacific, Pacific 
  87. Pakistan Development Alliance, Pakistan 
  88. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan
  89. PA Women’s Organization Alga, Kyrgyzstan  
  90. Philippines Australia Union Link, Australia
  91. Psychological Responsiveness NGO, Mongolia
  92. Public Organization “Dawn”, Tajikistan
  93. Public Organization “Iktidor”, Tajikistan
  94. Reality of Aid-Asia Pacific, Regional
  95. Rivers Without Boundaries Mongolia, Mongolia
  96. Roots for Equity, Pakistan
  97. Sahara Nepal, Nepal
  98. Sankalpa Darchula Nepal, Nepal
  99. Sansristi Asha Hans, India
  100. SDGs National Network Nepal, Nepal
  101. SERAC-Bangladesh, Bangladesh
  102. SERUNI Indonesia, Indonesia 
  103. Taiwan AID, Taiwan
  104. The Awakening – Pakistan, Pakistan
  105. Think Centre, Singapore 
  106. Trinamul Unnayan Sangstha (TUS), Bangladesh
  107. Universal Versatile Society (UVS), India
  108. Vijaya Development Resource Center-Nepal, Nepal 
  109. Vikas Adhayayan Kendra, India
  110. Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
  111. Women for Social Development (WSD), Nepal
  112. Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Nepal
  113. Women Working Group (WWG), Indonesia
  114. Youth Council in Action for Nation (YOUTH CAN), Nepal
  115. Youth’s Forum for Protection of Human Rights (YFPHR), India
  116. Youth Group on Protection of Environment (YGPE), Tajikistan

    Global Allies
  117. Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM), Luxembourg 
  118. African Child E-Learning Initiative (ACE-LI), Nigeria
  119. Albinism and Disability Advocacy Centre (ADAC), Nigeria 
  120. Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment & Management (CECIC), Uganda
  121. IBON International, Global
  122. International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), Global
  123. Faith Dawa Foundation, Ghana
  124. MARBE, SA, Costa Rica
  125. Marea Roja, Argentina
  126. Recourse, the Netherlands
  127. Red Nicaraguense de Comercio Comunitario (RENICC), Nicaragua 
  128. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour le Développement du Tonkpi (ROSCIDET), Ivory Coast
  129. Waif Foundation, Nigeria 
  130. Witness Radio, Uganda
  131. Zambia Social Forum (ZSF), Zambia



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