Project Name: ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU (ARISE)
Client: ASEAN Secretariat and European Commission
Location: Jakarta, Indonesia and South East Asia
Time Span: 2013-2017

About the project:

The ASEAN[1] Economic Community (AEC) is the realisation of the regional economic integration of the ten economies of the ASEAN Member States, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. The AEC was established to promote free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and freer flow of capital, with the goal of transforming the region into a stable, prosperous and highly competitive bloc with equitable economic development. AEC was formally established on 31 December 2015, marking an important milestone in ASEAN economic integration agenda. It was preceded by implementation of measures in the first AEC Blueprint (2008-2015), which was adopted in 2007. This Blueprint outlined the framework for regional economic integration in the ASEAN region.

The AEC Blueprint (2008-2015) had the following key achievements:

  • More open market, with intra-regional tariffs virtually eliminated and formal restrictions in services sector gradually removed;
  • Reduced trade costs through simplification of cross-border trading processes, including on customs procedures and rules of origin, harmonisation of technical regulations and mutual recognition arrangements;
  •  More attractive investment regime, and a more business-friendly and innovation supportive environment through the adoption of common frameworks, standards and mutual cooperation in various areas; and
  • Better connectivity in transportation and other infrastructure networks.

The ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU (ARISE) programme was launched to support ASEAN economic integration through the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2008-2015. This programme provided the much-needed expertise and resources to facilitate efforts to realize the objectives of the AEC Blueprint (2008-2015).

Drawing on EU experience, the principal objectives for the ARISE programme were to operationalise policies, strategies and agreements within ASEAN’s national member states and to enhance the capacity of the secretariat to support their efforts.

As part of the long-term technical assistance team that managed the programme, Imani Development was contracted to provide technical assistance to support monitoring and evaluation of the programme.

Our technical assistance support involved:

  1. Development of benchmarks and indicators of success for the ARISE programme.
  2. Capacity building support to the ASEAN Secretariat in monitoring and evaluation and impact analysis.
  3. Design and development of an Enhanced Regional Integration M&E system.
  4. M&E reporting for the programme including development of baselines and indicators of success and outcomes for core components of Trade Facilitation and Customs, and Standards.
  5. Designing the ARISE project M&E tiered framework.
  6. Coordination of Priority Integration Sectors review.
  7. Design of on-line platform for private sector to raise trade and investment issues with ASEAN bodies.
  8. Awareness raising and coordination of M&E training workshops.
  9. Technical support to preparing selected Sector Strategic Plans and formulation of KPIs in the context of new AEC Blueprint 2025.
  10. Supporting the development of the ASEAN Economic Community 2025 M&E Framework.

During the entire project, 115 workshops were held with over 4,300 participants. Some key results included significant work on Non-Tariff Measures and the ASEAN Trade Repository, launching of the ASEAN Customs Transit System, launching the ASEAN Risk Assessment Centre for Food Safety, developing policy guidelines on harmonisation of standards, supporting the development of the ASEAN Economic Community 2025 M&E Framework, and funding for additional professional staff at the ASEAN Secretariat.

All the stakeholders considered ARISE’s flexibility and efficiency to respond to emerging demands as its greatest strength. The focus was on addressing needs through a transparent and well-structured process. A participatory approach was at the forefront in the project team’s thinking and engagement with the ASEAN Secretariat, the ASEAN institutions, the EU Delegations, ASEAN Member States, the private sector and other dialogue partners.

Lessons learnt:

Working towards an enhanced outcome-based framework was a lengthy process. At operational level within ASEAN, the focus on outcomes was not well developed, with a tendency for an activity driven approach in the measurement of results. At sector level, M&E was also not a well-developed function within the ASEAN Secretariat and this was a key area in the technical assistance support we provided.

Some of the lessons learnt during this project implementation included the following:

  1. In the context of dialogue partner (donor) funded projects, the objective should be to ensure that each project has a robust, well-resourced and comprehensive communications plan which serves both the needs of ASEAN (client) and the partner. A major positive factor for the project was being based in the ASEAN Secretariat where close working relationships, swift communications, trust and friendships were at the forefront.
  2. Attribution of impact when undertaking technical assistance at the regional level is problematic due to the number of variables at play. This is a common challenge and the response requires both a clear understanding of the logic of change, as well as deciding on appropriate, verifiable indicators of project impact.
  3. A key lesson was the need to ensure that there are both institutional capacities to implement robust M&E processes as well as the mandate from appropriate ASEAN bodies for an enhanced monitoring process.
  4. Implementing changes in member states regulations and systems requires a long-time frame and constant contact with counterparts; this would be best achieved through in-country experts working in tandem with regional experts.

 

[1] Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)