Economic growth is essential for poverty reduction. But rapid economic expansion in the developing world is often associated with environmental degradation.
Here in Asia, the tremendous growth over the past few decades has put sustainable development at the forefront of the public agenda. People of Asia are now suffering from the huge costs of growth: vastly diminished mangrove forests, dying coral reefs, the depletion of fisheries, land degradation, alarming levels of air pollution, and the extinction of species, just to name a few.
Growth must continue. Sustainable growth is key to achieving a poverty-free Asia-Pacific region. But the "grow now, clean up later" approach to development is simply not sustainable.
Fortunately, we are now starting to see a shift in the political will in Asia to address the environmental consequences of growth. We also see the private sector, especially companies based in Europe, North America and Japan, moving towards greater corporate social and environmental responsibility and accountability.
The conservation community has led the way in building successful frameworks for cooperation with the private sector, but much more can and should be done. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is currently preparing a report entitled Asian Environment Outlook 2005, to be completed early next year, which examines how cooperative approaches can promote environmentally sustainable development.
The report will explore how corporations can improve their environmental performance and accountability, and suggest new business opportunities as the region moves towards a more sustainable pattern of growth.
There is tremendous scope for building partnerships among governments, the private sector, the development community and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to address environmental sustainability in a collaborative, more effective manner.
At the ADB, we are committed to working with our partners to halt environmental degradation. For example, ADB is working with the Global Environmental Facility and the People's Republic of China to arrest land degradation in north and northwest China. We are working with partners in the Pacific to better manage fish stocks and protect coral reefs. And we are working with partners in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal to improve regional air quality management in South Asia.
ADB relies on institutions like the World Conservation Union (known as IUCN) and others to complement and build on our development expertise by contributing specialized knowledge and experience. ADB and IUCN have collaborated on a number of environment and conservation projects over the years. We have just signed a Memorandum of Understanding that reinforces our partnership, and acknowledges our common aims of poverty reduction and environmentally sustainable development.
Both institutions recognize that, given the scale and complexity of the development challenges facing Asia and the Pacific, collaboration is essential to build on each other's strengths, and to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Institutional collaboration is also fundamental for addressing the challenge of meeting the Millennium Development Goals, the international community's agreed targets for improving global living conditions by 2015. The complex and inter-related issues of poverty, disease, inequality and environmental degradation require partnerships at all levels to strengthen our performance, and to achieve lasting results.