The Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Task Force and Ambassadors and representatives from the ASEAN Dialogue Partners and External Parties kicked off its inaugural meeting to deliberate on mobilizing resources for and contribution to the implementation of the IAI Work Plan II (2009-2015).

Preceded by the 42nd IAI Task Force Meeting, the consultation was a response to the growing interest in the IAI by the Dialogue Partners and External Parties. Initiated as a new format by current IAI Task Force Chair Viet Nam, the meeting serves to share information among IAI stakeholders to foster a better understanding of the available resources for Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam (CLMV) and determines the approaches to improve delivery of IAI activities.

“ASEAN highly values the interest, participation and contribution of the Dialogue Partners and External Parties to its programmes, especially the IAI. It is necessary that a forum be created to allow an open discussion to raise any issue of concern that will help promote the mutual interest of all stakeholders,” said IAI Task Force Chair H.E. Mr. Vu Dang Dzung, Permanent Representative of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to ASEAN.

The meeting also welcomed representatives from Australia, People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, United States of America and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

H.E. Mr. Kimihiro Ishikane, Ambassador of Japan to ASEAN emphasized that successfully tackling the gap among countries in the region will help develop the quality of integration and cohesiveness of ASEAN. “It is important for Dialogue Partners, including Japan, to remain involved in the IAI process so that specialized assistance can be provided in particular areas and sectors,” said the Ambassador.

To further enhance the cooperation with Dialogue Partners and External Parties, ASEAN will be setting a clear set of guidelines and procedures for considering projects under the IAI that will aim to encourage interested partners to contribute more to the Work Plan. This new initiative was welcomed by the US Mission to ASEAN who is seeking to heighten their engagement with ASEAN, particularly with the CLMV countries through the Lower Mekong Initiative. Similar responses were also received from China and the Republic of Korea who have immediately found a strong interest in the IAI to help build capacity of CLMV officials at the sectoral level.

ASEAN expressed appreciation to all the Dialogue Partners and External Parties for their continued support and looks forward to working with them through the respective programmes.

The Initiative for ASEAN Integration was launched by the ASEAN Heads of State at their Summit in 2000 with the objectives of Narrowing the Development Gap and accelerating economic integration in the newer members of ASEAN which are Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam.