PHNOM PENH (June 18) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today signed a Programme Document to implement the US$1.45 million ASEAN-UNDP Partnership Facility.

This Facility will provide analytical and advisory support services to ASEAN to address current and emerging issues that will deepen regional integration within ASEAN and with other countries.

The UNDP’s technical advisory support will focus on ways to accelerate the implementation of regional trade and investment liberalization and help narrow the development gap among ASEAN member countries and with other parts of the world.

UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown said the UNDP is delighted to renew the partnership with ASEAN to address the economic disparity between the original and new members of the regional grouping.

“The vision of cooperation and partnership between the two groups of partners is an exciting one,” said Mr. Brown.

“The UNDP promotes South-South cooperation and supports the sharing of development experience with ASEAN.”

Mr. Brown said efforts will be made to generate projects by working together to find new forms of funding to reduce the economic disparity in ASEAN.

“It will bring tremendous benefit to both to achieve an ASEAN free market in the coming years,” Mr. Brown added.

ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong, who signed on behalf of Member Countries said ASEAN and the UNDP have a long-standing relationship that dates back to the 70s.

“We have learned much from the UNDP activities which have provided the ASEAN Secretariat with the confidence of working with an international organisation especially under the UN framework,” said Mr. Ong.

“The UNDP has a well-established way of organising things and executing projects and we’ve learned about project formulation and management,” he added. “We’ve done much with help from the UNDP.”

The Secretary-General said there is a need to implement projects beyond the field regional economic integration.

“We have the UNDP to help us to learn and acquire some basic techniques and other structures to bring the integration process forward much faster,” said Mr. Ong.

“ASEAN countries approve the material and moral support of the UNDP over the years and hope that at the end of the current roadmap leading to Vision 2020, we can have the UNDP stand side-by-side with us as we achieve this milestone.”

The three-year ASEAN-UNDP Partnership Facility will focus on human development, globalization and economic governance. It also aims to promote an open and balanced global trading regime that will facilitate the equal benefits of free trade and poverty reduction. It will also help promote wider perspectives on regional and global trade issues that will enhance policy synergies and analyses of the link between trade, poverty-reduction and human development.

The Facility will also focus its technical advisory support to analysis, dialogue and advocacy on strategic policy options to accelerate and complete the implementation of regional trade and investment liberalisation within the framework of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and ASEAN Investment Area (AIA). This will include the elimination of remaining non-tariff barriers to trade and restraints to foreign direct investment.

New members of ASEAN like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam will also receive assistance to integrate them with multilateral arrangements such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and to develop innovative approaches to accelerate their economic integration process into the mainstream economies of ASEAN.

The key focus is the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) and developing the conceptual framework of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), looking at the economic and social implications of efforts to boost the region’s economic competitiveness.

A common policy environment will also be promoted through the harmonisation of national laws, rules and standards affecting trade and investment like fair trade rules and environmental and product standards.

To monitor and measure the progress towards an ASEAN Vision 2020, the ASEAN-UNDP Partnership Facility will enable human development data to be collated and analyzed to help formulate strategies that will take ASEAN beyond the programmes initiated by the Hanoi Plan of Action (1999-2004).

A Southeast Asia Human Development Report (SEA-HDR) is currently being prepared by the UNDP under its Asia-Pacific Human Development Report Initiative (APRI).  ASEAN, through the Facility, is contributing to the participatory process of the HDR preparation with the view of producing a subsidiary document to monitor ASEAN’s progress in achieving the ASEAN Vision 2020.

The ASEAN document resulting from this joint endeavor will also serve as a planning tool to monitor the implementation of the ASEAN Plans of Action including the current Ha Noi Plan of Action (HPA), which will reach a conclusion in 2004. A new ASEAN Plan of Action to be announced in Vientiane at the ASEAN Summit in 2004 will also rely on the human development indicators as the key benchmark parameters to draw up programmes that will pave the way forward for regional development and integration.