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Development assistance: ASEAN and Mekong Program

Enabling regional economic cooperation and inclusive growth in South-East Asia


Australia is using its regional aid program to support the ASEAN regional economic integration agenda and the aid-for-trade objectives under the Australian Government's aid policy Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty and enhancing stability. We support the ASEAN Secretariat's efforts to implement the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by providing high quality economic research and policy advice in priority sectors such as investment, connectivity, trade-in-services and consumer protection. We will also continue to assist ASEAN countries to maximise the benefits of the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA).

By supporting trade and transport facilitation and private sector development in the Mekong region and helping low income men and women access well-regulated and affordable financial services, we strengthen our position as an effective and practical supporter of inclusive regional economic growth. Collectively, these investments directly address the women's economic empowerment and aid-for-trade objectives of the Government's aid policy.

Australia's Greater Mekong Water Resources Program helps countries in the region to develop and better manage the region's water resources for sustainable livelihoods. The five major rivers in Southeast Asia are vital to the economic future of the countries in the Mekong region (60 million people rely on the Mekong River alone for their livelihoods) and their transparent management is critical to the stability of countries and regional links. Through targeted investments in quality planning, our program is helping countries of the region manage the construction of hydropower dams sustainably.

ASEAN–Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II

$57 million, 2008-2019

The ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II (AADCP II) is a partnership program between Australia and ASEAN that supports ASEAN's goal of implementing an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2025. The program provides high quality economic research and policy advice in priority economic sectors, including investment, trade in services, consumer protection, connectivity and financial integration in the region. The program aims to:

  • develop a better knowledge and evidence base for regional policy making for the AEC;
  • support development of norms and standards in ASEAN's economic integration blueprint;
  • help socialise concepts, benefits and opportunities involved in the AEC; and
  • assist the ASEAN Secretariat to improve its capacity to support AEC implementation.

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ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) Economic Cooperation Support Program

$32.1 million, 2010-2019

The Economic Cooperation Support Program assists ASEAN countries to maximise the benefits of AANZFTA, which entered into force on 1 January 2010. The Agreement includes an arrangement for Australia and New Zealand to provide funding to assist in AANZFTA implementation across nine key components. This includes progressing AANZFTA's built-in agenda, promoting business utilisation of AANZFTA opportunities, and advancing economic integration. The program includes funding for an Economic Cooperation Work Programme, a set of agreed annual activities to build the capacity of developing ASEAN countries to implement the AANZFTA and funding for a Support Unit within the ASEAN Secretariat to implement program activities.

Alongside the AANZFTA General Review (2017-18) Australia intends to work with ASEAN and New Zealand to design a successor program to replace the AANZFTA Economic Cooperation Support Program.

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ASEAN-Australia Smart Cities Initiative

$30 million, 2018-2023

The ASEAN-Australia Smart Cities initiative provides support for ASEAN to develop cities across Southeast Asia in smart and sustainable ways. This builds on previous support for ASEAN's connectivity agenda and complements work underway on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025 and Master Plan on Connectivity 2025 (MPAC).

The initiative will provide:

  • capacity building and training to grow smart city capabilities in ASEAN countries
  • scholarships for people from ASEAN countries to undertake study in the area of smart and sustainable cities at participating universities
  • competitive innovation funding that supports cities to implement solutions which improve how they use data, integrate digital platforms and better manage resources.

The initiative will help ASEAN develop future cities that are sustainable, productive and liveable. This will contribute to economic growth and stability in the region and will strengthen Australia's relationships with ASEAN and its member states.

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Mekong Business Initiative

$13.8 million, 2013-2018

The Asian Development Bank and the Australian Government jointly launched the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) in 2015. The MBI is an advisory facility that promotes private sector development in emerging ASEAN markets, focusing on Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. The program has three areas of focus: an improved business regulatory environment; a more robust financing environment; and a more dynamic innovation ecosystem, with a strong focus on engaging with young entrepreneurs, especially women.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
Mekong Business Initiative mid-term evaluation 2017 Mid-term evaluation

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Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) in ASEAN Program

$9.9 million, 2014-2018

The Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) in ASEAN program was launched by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) with the support of the Australian Government in 2014. SHIFT addresses the needs of emerging ASEAN markets, with a focus on Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. The program contributes to inclusive regional economic growth by supporting low-income individuals, particularly women, to use money more productively through increased access to financial products and services.

SHIFT supports challenge fund projects with the private sector, data mapping of national financial inclusion, banking data analysis to improve client services and regional and national policy technical assistance.

By 2020, SHIFT in ASEAN aims to transition at least six million low income/micro-small-medium enterprises (MSMEs) from informal to formal, high-value, and regulated financial services. Australia's investment will contribute to the increased financial inclusion of 300,000 low-income individuals and MSMEs by 2017.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations Mid-Term Evaluation 2018 Mid-term evaluation

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Greater Mekong Subregion Trade and Transport Facilitation (GMS TTF) Program

$6 million, 2011-2017

The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Trade and Transport Facilitation (TTF) program works with the Asian Development Bank to address the most significant constraints to efficient cross-border trade in the Mekong. It aims to reduce the time needed to export and import goods in the Mekong by focusing on three areas: strengthening transit operations, expanding traffic rights and traffic routes, and developing subregional trade logistics systems. This investment builds on Australia's past support to the implementation of the GMS Cross-Border Transport Agreement and aligns with Australia's broader support for ASEAN economic integration.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
Mid Term Review - Support for Implementing the Action Plan for Transport and Trade Facilitation in the Greater Mekong Subregion- Summary Report 2014 Mid-Term Review
Quality at Entry Report–Support to Trade and Transport Facilitation in the Mekong Subregion 2012 Research report

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Women's Economic Empowerment and Leadership in ASEAN

$1 million, 2014-2017

This program, implemented by Oxfam Australia and International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP), strengthens women's networks and builds the capacity of Women's Rights Organisations (WROs) to engage with ASEAN institutions and influence policy reforms to support women's economic empowerment and leadership. It concentrates efforts across Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam, as the most vulnerable subregion in ASEAN with the least developed civil society and WRO capacity.

Support to the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia

$1.5 million, 2014-2018

Australia's support to the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) helps deliver capacity building activities for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam including training and participation in ERIA research relevant to the ASEAN Economic Community and regional economic integration more broadly. The assistance will also support the work of ERIA's Policy Department where appropriate.

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Australia's Mekong Water Resources Program

Australia's Greater Mekong Water Resources Program (GMWRP) is the cornerstone of our support to more equitable, transparent and effective water resources management in the Mekong region. This five-year program ($30 million, 2014-19) is an Australian contribution to water, food, and energy security and sustainable economic development in Southeast Asia. The program complements our bilateral aid programs in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, while also engaging China and Thailand. It aims to strengthen water governance in the region, building on Australia's support to regional water management that dates back to the early 1990s. The program focuses on five major river basins - Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy), Nu-Salween-Thanlwin, Chao Phraya, Lancang-Mekong, and Red.

The GMWRP mixes technical interventions and diplomatic engagement in areas of political significance to the region, such as major hydropower investments and regional climate change action. It primarily engages the four main actors important to regional water governance: governments and regional organisations; private sector representatives; civil society; and local research institutions. Activities carried out under the program include:

  • supporting the Mekong River Commission and national-level reforms to help limit the cross-border impacts of human development;
  • increasing the accountability and transparency of regional hydropower governance by building the capacities of government officials and representatives of the private sector;
  • supporting research institutions to build knowledge of the region's waterways and the impacts of human developments;
  • increasing civil society participation and engagement in water resources governance; and
  • promoting policy dialogue and constructive engagement amongst all actors.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
Greater Mekong Water Resources Program's approach to policy dialogue: evaluative study and management response 2017 Study and management response
Mekong River Commission Integrated Capacity Building Program Independent Evaluation Report 2016 Independent evaluation
Mekong Water Resources Program–Aid Program Performance Report 2013-14 2014 Annual performance report
Australia's Mekong Water Resources program Sector Investment Plan 2014 Investment plan
Australian Mekong Water Resources Program Aid Program Performance Report January 2012 – June 2013 2013 Annual performance report

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Related initiatives

Cambodia Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) Support Program

$5 million, 2011-2018

Australia is contributing to improvements in water governance in Cambodia through better irrigation systems and integrated water resource management. This includes supporting IWRM education and scholarships at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Technical Assistance to Cambodia Water Resources Sector Development Program Final Report 2015 Final report
Technical Assistance to Cambodia Water Resources Sector Development Program Mid-Term Review Report 2013 Mid term review
Design Summary and Implementation Document–Cambodia Water Resources Project 2010 Design summary

Sustainable Hydropower in the Mekong Countries

$8 million, 2013-2019

Australia is providing core support to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Hydro Advisory program in Laos and Myanmar, which is focused on improving the quality of the hydropower sector particularly with respect to social, environmental and governance performance. This includes improvement and introduction of the old and new regulations related to sustainable hydropower development and Hydropower Developer Working Groups established as a platform for dialogue between private sector and governments. Efforts are well-advanced with the adoption by governments of new tools (for Laos and Myanmar) such as River Basin Profiling (Nam Ou in Laos), Cumulative Impact Assessment (in Laos), Strategic Environment Assessment (in Myanmar).

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Oxfam-Civil Society Engagement in Water Governance

$9 million, 2013-2019

Australia is providing core support to Oxfam Australia's regional water governance initiatives, specifically a multi-level Inclusion Project focused on promoting gender equality, women's leadership, community water management and civil society engagement/influence on water-related public and private decision-making through policy dialogue.

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Research for Development on Water Governance

$6 million, 2014-2018

Australia is providing grant funding to the International Water Management Institute and CGIAR's Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystem to work with leading local research institutes in the Greater Mekong region to conduct research on water governance that will generate sound and scientific evidence to support informed decision making on water governance.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Evaluation Report of Water, Land and Ecosystem 2016 Independent evaluation

Supporting Mekong Water Resources Management

$6 million, 2014-2018

Australia supports the work of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to establish norms and behaviours for managing the shared water resources of the Mekong River, including enabling regional cooperation. This program helps build the capacity of MRC staff and officials to improve engagement with civil society, research institutions and private sector developers; implement procedures that govern shared water use; strengthen regional basin planning; facilitate discussions between Mekong countries on how to sustainably and equitably develop the Mekong River basin.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
MRC Strategic Plan 2016-2020 2017 Strategic plan
MRC Basin Development Plan 2016 -2020 2017 Program document

* The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is committed to high standards of transparency and accountability in the management of the Australian aid program through publishing information on our website, including policies, plans, results, evaluations and research. Our practice is to publish documents after the partner government and any other partners directly involved in the delivery of the initiative have been consulted. Not all material published on this site is created by the Australian aid program and therefore not all documents reflect our views. In limited circumstances some information may be withheld for reasons including privacy and commercial sensitivity.

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