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ADB ramps up help for DMCs to cover SDG backlog

THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) committed to scale up its efforts to help developing member countries (DMCs) get back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the first SDG Dialogue on Wednesday, ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said scaling up the Manila-based multilateral development bank’s efforts will focus on partnerships, particularly for mobilizing resources.

This is the reason for ADB’s creation of a regional hub on domestic resource mobilization and international tax cooperation in September 2020. This regional hub will be formally launched at the ADB’s 54th Annual Meeting next month.

“ADB is scaling up its effort in this area through partnerships with governments, businesses and international peer organizations,” Asakawa said. “This hub will create an inclusive and regional tax platform for strategic dialogue, institutional development, and knowledge sharing and cooperation.”

Asakawa said efforts to help DMCs get back on track on the SDGs also include promoting green growth while responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said ADB hopes to strike a balance between its Covid-19 response and efforts to promote green growth in the region. Green growth can help the region respond to long-term issues on climate change and inequality.

Last year, Asakawa said, ADB’s commitments reached a “historic high” of $31.6 billion which included support for Covid-19 efforts in the region. ADB also plans on investing in knowledge-sharing efforts and strengthening its partnerships with private and philanthropic organizations.

“The Asia and the Pacific has been a major engine of economic growth and made important progress in poverty reduction over the past decade. But even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the region was also falling short on all 17 SDGs,” Asakawa said.

“The Covid-19 crisis then laid bare underlying economic and social vulnerabilities that have hindered efforts to contain and overcome the pandemic. That is why it is imperative to renew our focus on the SDGs as countries seek to recover from Covid-19,” he added.

In the same dialogue, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme Helen Clark said that while many countries in the region have been successful in reducing poverty in the past decade, pockets of poverty remain and must be addressed.

She added that SDG efforts moving forward cannot be “business as usual,” and there has to be a higher degree of vigilance and greater effort to achieve inclusivity and sustainability.

This can only be achieved by understanding the interconnectedness of policies and efforts to meet the SDGs. This is where organizations such as ADB can help by making countries aware of the “risks of misinformed development” and by providing the bigger picture.

“We’ve seen how this incredibly ill wind of Covid has thrown the world even further off course on the SDGs,” Clark said. “The SDGs had been in some trouble prior to Covid but then Covid came along and just hit the capacity to reach these goals even further away.”

ADB Executive Director Roger Fischer said ADB is well-placed to help DMCs in getting back on track to meet the global goals. He said it was worth noting that the world has less than 10 years to meet the SDGs and no one is on track to meet them.

Fischer said ADB can help because it “knows about resilience” and can help partner countries improve on these efforts in this regard. This capacity of the ADB was already demonstrated in the creation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

Further, he said, ADB already had privileged access to the region’s decision makers. He cited Clark, who said in the same dialogue that meeting the SDGs not only required resources but also political will.

Fischer said with this, ADB can help policymakers “connect the dots” between and among issues such as the impact of trade policy on tax policy, what tax policy can do to infrastructure, and so on.

“It’s not easy but necessary. I think access to decision makers in different countries allow ADB to help countries connect these dots. Because without high level access, we wouldn’t find the opportunities to support (these efforts),” Fischer said.

Fischer also said ADB is a convenor in the region and this bodes well for SDGs efforts in this part of the world. As such, the ADB can bring together varying points of reflection and help the region arrive at a “resilient consensus” to move all countries forward in their SDG commitments.

However, Fischer said meeting the SDGs should not be the end of ADB’s engagement when it comes to the global goals. ADB should also help countries from regressing in goals or targets which they are making good progress on or have already achieved.

In a briefing last month, Rony Soerakoesoemah, Head of Escap Sub-regional Office for South-East Asia said the region is regressing in 18 SDG indicators except in SDGs 2, 5, 6, and 9.

These indicators include resilience to disasters; substance abuse; road traffic accidents; equal access education; and the share of renewable energy.

The list showed that the region’s performance is stagnant in 47 indicators in all SDGs except for SDG 13 and 16. The Asean was making progress in achieving 15 indicators in SDG 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 9.

This includes indicators such as resources for poverty programs; malnutrition; sustainable agriculture; communicable diseases; tobacco control; access to energy services; formalization of small and medium enterprises; and reduction in waste generation, among others.

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