JAIF Support for the Initiative for ASEAN Integration


Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam (CLMV) were the last four countries to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) between 1995 and 1999. By this time, it had been around 30 years since the regional grouping was established. The entry of the four Member States into ASEAN raised concerns over the possible emergence of a “two-tier ASEAN” where a “development gap” is evident not only 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 infrastructure, level of competitiveness, and other development aspects. In an attempt to address the concern about the “two-tier ASEAN,” ASEAN leaders adopted the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) and the Ha Noi Declaration on Narrowing the Development Gap for Closer ASEAN Integration in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

Japan has been supporting the ASEAN integration efforts since the adoption of the IAI Work Plan I in 2002. With most of its assistance focusing on capacity building in the CLMV countries, Japan has contributed to the vision of the IAI, i.e. “to narrow the divide within ASEAN and enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness as a region”. In November 2020, the IAI Work Plan IV (2021-2025) was adopted to promote effective cooperation and mutual assistance to narrow the development gap among the ASEAN Member States as well as between ASEAN and the rest of the world by devoting special efforts and resources to assist the CLMV countries to meet ASEAN-wide targets and commitments towards realising the goals of the ASEAN Community. The new Work Plan moves forward with the same five strategic areas of the IAI Work Plan III (which was adopted in 2016) but also with revised and new actions. It 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 the COVID-19 pandemic on ASEAN. Japan has continued its support to the  implementation of the IAI Work Plan IV (2021-2025) since it started in January 2021.

Source: Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan IV (2021-2025)

Areas of Support and
Key Contributions

Since its establishment in March 2006, the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF) has been a key instrument for the Government of Japan to support the ASEAN integration efforts. Amongst many JAIF-funded projects contributing to the IAI Work Plans, the Attachment of Officers from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam (CLMV) to the ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC) – or simply called as the “Attachment Programme” is a flagship project which has fostered a number of senior officials who hold critical and strategic positions in their respective governments, such as deputy ministers, ambassadors,  and directors-general.

The following are the key achievements of the JAIF projects conducted under the IAI Work Plans.

JAIF Flagship Project under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration

Japan has been a long-term partner of the IAI since the adoption of the first IAI Work Plan in 2002. Through JAIF, it has continuously supported the Attachment Programme which continues to develop the capacities of CLMV officials to participate in regional initiatives and to fulfil their regional commitments.

H.E. Mr. Ekkaphab Phanthavong, the Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) of ASEAN for Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC)

More than a decade since joining the Attachment Programme, H.E. Mr. Ekkaphab Phanthavong proudly looked back saying that the experience helped him change his life. Since working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1996, his foreign service has been devoted to ASEAN-related matters. Further solidifying his skills early on in his career, he summed up three things he took from his experience as an Attachment Officer, the same things he now observes among Lao officials who also participated in the Programme: 1) English improvement, especially noting that during his time, there were very limited opportunities for Lao officials to learn and practice the language; 2) creating networks between Attachment Officials and the ASEAN Secretariat, and Attachment Officials and external partners, the most important intangible benefit especially for government officials; and 3) ways of working, the knowledge gained being transferred back to the respective ministries.

“For CLMV, especially for Laos, we feel that the Programme meets what we need and is very relevant until now with the new generation of officials,” said the Ambassador. Ambassador Ekkaphab Phanthavong is currently the Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) of ASEAN for Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). Read more on his story in Beneficiaries’ Voice.

In addition to the Attachment Programme, JAIF has also been supporting a number of projects in the strategic areas of Food and Agriculture and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) under the IAI Work Plan III (2016-2020). The ongoing projects are: Efficiency Enhancement of Regional Irrigation Water Management in Gravity Irrigation System and Common Standard Curriculum in Industrial Electronics for CLMV Countries. Although the IAI Work Plan III was completed in December 2020, the implementation of some projects continues and are closely monitored by the ASEAN Secretariat and the JAIF Management Team (JMT).

Japan continues to extend its supports to the implementation of the IAI Work Plan IV (2021-2025) through the JAIF projects on Enhancing Capabilities of Public and Private Sector to Implement Regional Digital Agenda for CLMV Countries, Needs Assessment Workshop for Skilled Birth Attendants (SBAs),  Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund Capacity Development Program for ASEAN RiceNet, and IAI Attachment Programme at the ASEAN Secretariat for Junior Diplomats of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam (17th Batch) and 6th Batch: Attachment of Officers from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam for AEC and ASCC Involvement at the ASEAN Secretariat (2022-2023).

As of 30 September 2023
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