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.” This “development gap” is manifested not only in the difference between the average per capita income of the six older ASEAN Member States (AMS) 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.
Source: Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan IV (2021-2025)
Japan has been continuously 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 CLMV countries, Japan has contributed to the vision of IAI, i.e. “to narrow the divide within ASEAN and enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness as a region”. Following the commitments, the IAI Work Plan IV (2021-2025) was adopted in November 2020 to promote effective cooperation and mutual assistance to narrow the development gap among ASEAN Member States as well as between ASEAN and the rest of the world, by devoting special efforts and resources to assist CLMV countries to meet ASEAN-wide targets and commitments towards realising the goals of the ASEAN Community. It moves forward with the same five strategic areas of the IAI Work Plan III (which was adopted in 2016) but with revised and new actions. It has also 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.
Areas of Support and
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. Among a number of JAIF projects contributing to the IAI Work Plans, a flagship project is 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”, 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 II and III.
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: Training on Writing Business Plan for Entrepreneurs, and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam (CLV); 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 continue 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 Needs Assessment Workshop for Skilled Birth Attendants (SBAs), Sharing Best-Practices on the Development and Promotion of On-Farm Irrigation Management among the Water-User Groups in CLMV Countries, 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).