The Association of Southeast Asian Nations came into being on 8 August 1967 with five founding nations – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined ASEAN in 1984, while Viet Nam entered ASEAN in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999.
The entry of the latter four member states into ASEAN raised concerns over the possible emergence of a “two-tier ASEAN.” This “development gap” is manifested not only in the difference between the average per capita income of the six older ASEAN member states and that of the newer four, but also in terms of human resources, institutional capacity, the state of the infrastructure and the level of competitiveness.
Against this backdrop, the ASEAN Heads of State/Government, at their Summit meeting in November 2000 in Singapore, adopted a special programme for narrowing the development gap, calling it the “Initiative for ASEAN Integration” or “IAI”. Following through on the Leaders’ decision, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers adopted at their annual meeting in July 2001, the Ha Noi Declaration on Narrowing the Development Gap for Closer ASEAN Integration. The declaration expressed the ASEAN members’ resolve to “promote, through concerted efforts, effective cooperation and mutual assistance to narrow the development gap among ASEAN members and between ASEAN and the rest of the world,” with infrastructure, human resource development, information and communications.
The ASEAN Leaders in their 2003 Declaration of the ASEAN Concord (Bali Concord II) stressed that the deepening and broadening of ASEAN integration shall be accompanied by technical and development cooperation to address the development divide and accelerate the economic integration of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV) through the road map for the integration of ASEAN to enable all member states to move forward in a unified manner and that the benefits of ASEAN integration are shared. In this regard, the Vientiane Action Programme 2004-2010, a medium-term development plan to realise ASEAN Vision 2020, highlighted the strategic importance of narrowing the development gap to realise the ASEAN Community and that the IAI be strengthened to address the needs of CLMV.
IAI Work Plan III
The IAI Work Plan III (2016-2020) was adopted by Leaders at the 28th ASEAN Summit in September 2016 as an integral part of the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together to support the implementation of the three Community Blueprints. The Work Plan is designed to assist CLMV countries to meet ASEAN-wide targets and commitments towards realising the goals of the ASEAN Community. It consists of five strategic areas, namely food and agriculture, trade facilitation, MSMEs, education, and health and well-being. The actions are closely aligned with the ASEAN Community Blueprints 2025 and relevant ASEAN sectoral work plans. A copy of the IAI Work Plan III can be downloaded here.
The projects of the IAI Work Plan III can be viewed under Activities
An implementation review of the IAI Work Plan III and its monitoring, reporting and evaluation (MRE) system was conducted in 2019. It aims to (a) review the progress of implementing IAI Work Plan III and identify challenges during implementation; (b) assess the existing MRE system; (c) provide recommendations for strengthening implementation; and (d) draw lessons learned and suggestions for the formulation of the next IAI Work Plan. The assessment report can be downloaded here.
IAI Work Plan IV (2021-2025)
The IAI Work Plan IV (2021-2025) was adopted by the Leaders at the 37th ASEAN Summit on 12 November 2020. The Work Plan IV continues to promote effective cooperation and mutual assistance to narrow the development gap among ASEAN Member States (AMS) and between ASEAN and the rest of the world, devoting special efforts and resources to assist CLMV countries. The IAI Work Plan IV maintains the five strategic areas of the IAI Work Plan III, namely food and agriculture, trade facilitation, MSMEs, education, and health and well-being, with revised and new actions.
The IAI Work Plan IV has been developed in close collaboration with CLMV countries, other AMS and stakeholders, and is aligned with the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the various sectoral Work Plans. Furthermore, IAI Work Plan IV has taken into account new challenges and emerging issues, such as Industry 4.0, Gender and Social Inclusion and Environmental Sustainability, as well as the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. A copy of the IAI Work Plan IV (2021-2025) can be downloaded here.
IAI Task Force
The IAI Task Force comprising of the ten Permanent Representatives to ASEAN provides policy guidance and directions in the development and implementation of the IAI Work Plan. The Chair of the IAI Task Force serves a term of one year and rotates according to alphabetical order among the CLMV countries. The IAI Task Force reports to the ASEAN Coordinating Council.
The IAI&NDG Division of the ASEAN Secretariat serves as secretariat to the IAI Task Force as well as assists in the monitoring and coordination of the IAI Work Plan’s implementation.
For more information on the Initiative for ASEAN Integration and its activities, please contact the IAI & NDG Division at email: IAI@asean.org