The 4th meeting of the ASEAN Integration Development Cooperation Forum (IDCF) took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, on October 29 to discuss ways of narrowing the development gap between ASEAN member nations.

The forum also debated the ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan II for the 2009-2015 period.

Participants at the event also mulled over measures to strengthen cooperation between ASEAN and its dialogue partners, to narrow development gaps in the bloc as soon as possible.

Also on the agenda was how to support ASEAN’s new member countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, to speed up their integration into the region, to realise an ASEAN Community by 2015.

In his opening speech, ASEAN General Secretary Surin Pitsuwan highlighted the key challenges for ASEAN’s integration programme, saying that disparities in development amongst member states is one of the major obstacles to integration.

He stressed that it is necessary to reduce the development gaps not only amongst ASEAN nations but also between the bloc and external nations.

The IAI Work Plan II was adopted at the 14th ASEAN Summit in Thailand, held in March 2009. It focused on economics, socio-culture and politics-security to hasten narrowing the development differences in ASEAN and fostering integration within the bloc.

The IDCF was established as the main forum for engaging ASEAN’s partners and other donors in collective talks on the IAI Work Plan. The previous IDCFs were held in 2002, 2007 and 2010.-VNA