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


As the region opens a new chapter through the declaration of the ASEAN Economic Community by the end of 2015, 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 will continue to support the ASEAN Secretariat’s efforts to realise the AEC through the provision of 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 Member States to maximise the benefits of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (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 will strengthen our position as an effective and practical supporter of inclusive regional economic growth. Collectively, these investments will directly address the women’s economic empowerment objective and aid-for-trade target of the Government’s aid policy.

Australia’s Mekong Water Resources Program will continue to help develop and better manage the region’s water resources for greater economic opportunities as well as to protect the 60 million people that rely directly on the Mekong River for their livelihoods. Hydropower development is vital for the economic future of countries of the Mekong Basin, and its 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 build hydropower dams sustainably.

Related initiatives

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 that supports ASEAN’s goal of establishing an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by the end of 2015 and deepening regional economic integration 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 and capability to serve the establishment of the AEC and ASEAN’s Vision 2025 agenda.

Related links

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

$19 million, 2010-2015

This 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 an AANZFTA Support Unit within the ASEAN Secretariat to implement program activities.

At the 20th ASEAN Economic Ministers-Closer Economic Relations (AEM-CER) Consultations on 23 August 2015, Ministers agreed to extend the program up to 30 June 2018, subject to budget availability and relevant financial approval processes.

Related links

Greater Mekong Subregion Trade and Transport Facilitation Program

$6 million, 2010-2016

The Greater Mekong Subregion Trade and Transport Facilitation (GMS TTF) Program assists GMS countries and businesses to adapt to streamlined technologies and coordinated border management processes that will support the freer flow of trade and goods in key markets including the AEC. Comprising Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and southern China, the GMS is one of the fastest growing economic subregions in the world. Increases in export growth achieved through openness to trade, economic integration and policy reform have been a significant factor to GMS economic performance resulting in sustained poverty reduction. Accordingly improved connectivity through the ability to use efficient transport links aligned with streamlined export/import processes for intraregional trade between GMS economies will be essential for securing broader regional prosperity.

Divided into three inter-linked and mutually supportive components, the GMS TTF Program aims to contribute to this outcome through i) strengthening transit operations, ii) expanding traffic rights and traffic routes, and iii) 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

Related links

Shaping Financial Inclusion Transformations (SHIFT) Program

$8.8 million, 2014-2017

This program (implemented by the UN Capital Development Fund) aims to develop and expand pro-poor financial markets in ASEAN. In doing so SHIFT aims to transition at least 6 million low-income individuals, micro-entrepreneurs, and small and medium businesses from using informal financial mechanisms to more formalised financial services by 2020. This transition will enable individuals and businesses to increase productive investments and asset ownership as well as strengthen capacity of national financial systems to capture domestic resources that can further contribute to economic prosperity.

Related links

Mekong Business Initiative

$13.2 million, 2013-2018

The Mekong Business Initiative is a policy advisory and advocacy facility to promote Private Sector Development and business formalisation in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Its focus is on improving the business enabling environment in the frontier economies of Burma, Cambodia. Laos, and Vietnam so they are well positioned to take up the opportunities presented by the ASEAN Economic Community. Specifically it aims to improve i) the business regulatory and enabling environments which support regional harmonisation and integration of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) into global supply chains; ii) national and regional markets that provide financial services to SMEs; and iii) provision of strategic and knowledge management services which uplift private sector competitiveness. A cross-cutting theme across the MBI is the empowerment of women in businesses.

Related links

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), aims to strengthen women’s networks and build 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 will concentrate 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 million, 2014-2016

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 through regional research organisations in East Asia. The goal of this assistance is to strengthen ERIA's influence in policy making processes in these four countries. Its purpose is to identify and reach out to the key policy makers to disseminate and debate the research ERIA produces to achieve well-informed and soundly researched policy which can promote regional economic integration.

Related links

Australia’s Mekong Water Resources Program

Australia has been supporting Mekong countries to manage their water resources since the 1990s. The Australian Mekong Water Resources Program is highly relevant to the development needs of the Mekong Region given the importance of the region’s waterways to local livelihoods and the scale of current and planned investments, particularly in hydropower and irrigation. The program connects directly with Australia’s own experienced water industry, assisting it learn from and contribute to improved water resources development beyond our borders. The program strengthens governance of the region’s waterways, which is important for sustainable economic growth and regional stability.

Australia’s Mekong Water Resources Program (2014-2018) aims to ensure water resources management in the Mekong Region supports economic development that is sustainable, equitable and improves livelihoods. This will contribute to water, food and energy security in the region. The program focuses on five outcomes in the area of regional water governance:

  1. Effectively managed: Strengthen the institutional frameworks and capacity of regional, national and local actors to manage their water and related resources more effectively.
  2. Accountable: Raise the accountability of government and the private sector to normalise better standards for water investments and more transparent decision making.
  3. Informed: Improve the availability and influence of research to improve water resources management and water investment decision making.
  4. Inclusive: Support civil society and local community input into water decisions and management at all levels.
  5. Policy Dialogue: Support for policy dialogue that fosters trust and open discussion between Mekong governments and other actors on transboundary water issues.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
Mekong Water Resources Program—Aid Program Performance Report 2013-14 2014 Annual performance report
Australian Mekong Water Resources Program Aid Program Performance Report January 2012 – June 2013 2013 Annual performance report
Mekong Water Resources Program—Annual Program Performance Report 2011 2012 Annual performance report
Mekong River Commission Integrated Capacity Building Program Mid-Term Review Report 2014 Mid term review
Australia’s Mekong Water Resources program Sector Investment Plan 2014 Investment plan
Mekong River Commission Integrated Capacity Building Program Independent Evaluation Report 2016 Independent evaluation

Related links

Related initiatives

Cambodia Integrated Water Resource Management Support Program

$5 million, 2011-2016

Improving water governance in Cambodia through better irrigation systems and integrated water resource management.

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

National Integrated Water Resources Management in Laos

$3.2 million, 2011-2015

Improving management of national water resources in Laos by strengthening the capability of government agencies.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Laos Integrated Water Resources Management Program—Design Summary and Implementation Document 2010 Design
Technical assistance for Lao National Integrated Water Resources Management Support Project Mid-Term Review Report 2013 Mid term review
Lao National Integrated Water Resources Management Support Project Final Independent Evaluation (Outcome Study Report) 2015 Independent evaluation

Piloting of eWater Source with the Mekong River Commission

$2.2 million, 2013-2016

Rollout of the eWater Source river modelling system to the Mekong River Commission and its member countries.

Improving Mekong Water Resource Management

$14.3 million, 2011-2015

This is a four-year program of assistance to the Mekong River Commission and countries of the region to strengthen institutions, build sector knowledge, and seek opportunities to engage in and influence the debate on the political economy of water resources use and further development.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Mekong River Commission Mid-Term Review of the MRC Strategic Plan 2011-2015 2014 Independent evaluation

Sustainable Hydropower in the Mekong Countries

$6 million, 2013-2017

Working with the private sector to improve and apply Environmental and Social Standards for investments in hydropower throughout Laos and the Mekong region.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Independent evaluation report for the Technical Assistance for Capacity Building in the Hydropower and Mining Sectors Project 2014 Independent evaluation
Related links

Vietnam Mekong Delta Study

$1.5 million, 2012-2015

Research to assess the impact of Mekong mainstream hydropower developments on the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.

Co-Financing to Mekong River Commission Council Study

$0.5 million, 2014-2016

The study will present the Mekong River Commission with a set of actionable recommendations addressing potential uncertainties, risks and information needs for development planning in the Lower Mekong Basin, including recommendations for impact avoidance and mitigation measures for future development.

Oxfam-Civil Society Engagement in Water Governance

$6 million, 2013-2017

Supporting greater inclusion of civil society in water governance and decision making in the Mekong region. This also supports communities and civil society to realise sustainable livelihoods through increasing civil society participation and engagement, strengthening capacity and convening and promoting policy dialogue.

Related links

Research for Development on Water Governance

$6 million, 2014-2018

Grant funding to International Water Management Institute to work with local research institutes in the Mekong region to conduct research on water governance that will generate sound and scientific evidence that will support informed decision making.

Supporting Mekong Water Resources Management

$6 million, 2014-2018

Through this investment, Australia supports the work of the Mekong River Commission 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; and build capacities of officials from the region to enable regional water-related cooperation.

* 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.



Last Updated: 3 October 2014