The Initiative for ASEAN Integration Development Cooperation Forum (IDCF) was succesfully held yesterday at the ASEAN Secretariat to discuss the Initiative for ASEAN Integration and ways to address disparities, or so-called development gaps, in and among ASEAN Member States in order to realise the ASEAN Community by 2015.

As outlined in its 2009-2015 work plan, the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) is a tool to help narrow development gaps in ASEAN by helping newer Member States Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Viet Nam or CLMV in implementing their commitments to building the ASEAN Community, ensuring that benefits of ASEAN integration are equitably shared.

Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, emphasised a sense of urgency in achieving the ASEAN Community in 2-3 years’ time, and an equal sense of urgency for ASEAN countries to get there as one integrated community, making the implementation of IAI an important endeavor. The Secretary-General added that ASEAN cannot afford to have a two-layered ASEAN on the road to building an ASEAN Community – a community built on shaky foundation. Dr. Surin further stressed the importance of participation by all stakeholders in the process especially the private sector who will bring in the necessary resources to spur investment and economic activities.

In his key note address, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, HE U Zin Yaw expressed, on behalf of CLMV Countries, its appreciation to ASEAN-6 countries, dialogue and development partners for their continued support to IAI Activities. He conveyed CLMV’s utmost support to achieve IAI’s goals and requested for continued support and transfer of technical know-how to ensure that benefits to CLMV are sustained.
The status of IAI Work Plan’s implementation and highlights of a publication commissioned by the ASEAN Secretariat on defining and measuring the ASEAN development gap were then presented to provide timely and relevant information to guide IAI stakeholders on how to proceed. The book is scheduled to be published in 2013.

The main session of the Forum was a showcase of achievements under the IAI and a discussion of areas that require more support, presented by high-level delegates from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam. The four country representatives share a common sentiment; while they are grouped together, each country has their own specific needs and levels of development. As such, for IAI to be effective, it should also consider activities that target CLMV, not only as a group, but also individually and in part. Increased support for infrastructure, apart from the usual capacity building support, was also requested. Representatives from ASEAN Dialogue Partners and development agencies provided information on their own work plans and continued commitment to support the IAI following the presentations.

HE U Min Lwin, Myanmar Permanent Representative to ASEAN and Chairman of the IAI Task Force concluded the Forum with a set of suggestions focused on working at better prioritization and mobilization of resources for IAI together with CLMV, other ASEAN countries (ASEAN-6), and dialogue and development partners.

The IDCF has been held in 2002, 2007, and 2010, making this the fourth.