JAKARTA, 24 February 2014 – While over the past 20 years the CLMV countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam) have experienced robust growth, existing gaps in development may hinder the plans for the creation of an ASEAN Economic Community and may hold back progress in regional cooperation efforts in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural and Political-Security communities. This is one of the findings shared with senior ASEAN officials at the “Mid-Term Review on the Implementation of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan II” held in Jakarta last week.

H.E. Ambassador Kan Pharidh, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Cambodia to ASEAN and current Chair of the IAI Task Force reasserted that ASEAN continues to attach great importance and attention to narrowing development gap, promoting equitable economic growth and reducing economic disparity among member states of ASEAN. “While we recognize our significant achievements, we shall acknowledge that our task and objective in narrowing the development gaps are huge and challenging. More still need to be done.”

With the support of Australia through the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program (AADCP II), a team from the Mekong Institute was commissioned to review the IAI Work Plan and assess its current implementation approaches and modalities.

Representatives from the Senior Officials (SOM), Senior Economic Officials (SEOM), Senior Officials Committee for the ASEAN Social-Cultural Community (SOCA), and the IAI Task Force joined the meeting and shared their views on the progress of the development challenges faced by Member States, particularly CLMV countries. They underscored the timeliness of the review to allow the strategic focus of the IAI as well as to make it more effective and efficient.

Issues discussed include improving coordination among the various ASEAN sectoral working groups and stakeholders, given that the IAI covers all three Community Blueprints; enhance monitoring of relevant initiatives and programs in the region especially those of Dialogue Partners and international institutions; and building capacity of CLMV and the ASEAN Secretariat to implement the IAI work program.

Meetings were also held with ASEAN Dialogue Partners and international institutions to solicit their views on how to support IAI in the next few years and beyond 2015. Representatives from the Dialogue Partners expressed their continued technical support in the aspects of monitoring & evaluation; program management; and resource mobilization to help in ASEAN’s efforts to further narrow the development gap. A special session was also held with the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) and ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) to promote gender mainstreaming in the projects of the IAI.

The IAI was launched by the ASEAN Leaders at the 4th ASEAN Informal Summit in 2000 to narrow the development divide within ASEAN and to enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness as a region. In an effort to advance the goals of the IAI, the Leaders during the 22nd ASEAN Summit in 2013 called for a mid-term review (MTR) of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration Work Plan for 2009-2015.

The MTR is expected to be completed in April 2014 and reported to the Leaders at the 24th ASEAN Summit in Yangon, Myanmar in May 2014.

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To learn more about the IAI and narrowing the development gap in ASEAN, follow this link.