Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Southeast Asia Regional Program

Table of Contents

© Mélanie Lambert


Home to more than 575 million people, Southeast Asia, encompassing 11 countries—is one of the most diverse and dynamic regions of the world. Despite strong economic growth, disparities in wealth continue to persist throughout the region. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is committed to increasing regional economic integration and narrowing the gap between development levels among member countries.

Southeast Asia is the most disaster-prone region on the planet, with climate change and environmental degradation contributing to the rising number. Given the size and often devastating effects of those disasters, ASEAN has identified disaster risk reduction as a priority for increasing economic growth in the region. Beyond their human toll, natural disasters seriously damage assets and livelihoods—especially those of the poor—destroy infrastructure, reduce food security, hinder social and economic progress, and reverse gains made in reducing poverty. They often strike more than one country at a time.

The human rights of vulnerable populations, particularly those of women, children, migrants and ethnic minorities, continue to be at risk across Southeast Asia. Countries of the region have agreed to joint action to promote and protect fundamental freedoms through ASEAN. In 2009, Canada joined 12 other countries in appointing an ambassador to ASEAN, reflecting the region's importance to Canada. Today, there are more than 55 ambassadors accredited to ASEAN.

Thematic Focus

The goal of Canada's international development assistance Southeast Asia Regional Program is to reduce poverty in the region by supporting the ASEAN agenda on economic growth and improving human rights. This program aims to strengthen regional institutions, networks and organizations working on these trans-boundary issues. It is aligned with ASEAN and national government development priorities.

Canada focuses on stimulating sustainable economic growth and strengthening democratic governance. All international development projects funded by Canada as part of this program involve at least three Southeast Asian developing countries as active participants.

Economic growth

Canada is focusing on stimulating sustainable economic growth by reducing the risks of natural disasters. This includes:

  • Supporting innovative approaches by or through ASEAN to improve the region's ability to mitigate and respond to the trans-boundary elements of natural disasters and hazards
  • Helping ASEAN launch a regional legal framework for multilateral cooperation and collaboration in disaster risk reduction
Selected examples of expected results
  • Strengthened cooperation among regional institutions; civil society organizations, including regional networks; and national governments on the transboundary issues of disaster risk reduction (e.g. tsunamis, typhoons).


Democratic governance is one of the Government of Canada's priorities for international development. Strengthening human rights is an important element of democratic governance.

Canada is focusing on strengthening human rights by:

  • Helping ASEAN strengthen its recently established human rights mechanism
Selected examples of expected results
  • Seven countries will strengthen their legal and policy frameworks to protect and promote the human rights of the most vulnerable groups at the national and regional levels

Progress on Aid Effectiveness

Canada is helping regional organizations strengthen their capacity to implement aid effectiveness principles and is trying to align its work with that of other donors in the region. Canada's international development projects in Southeast Asia promote local ownership.

Achievements 2010-2012

  • Contributed to the Second International Conference on Human Rights and Peace and Conflict in Southeast Asia in Jakarta, Indonesia, in October 2012, which raised knowledge and skills among Southeast Asian scholars and members of civil-society organizations on human rights and peace studies.
  • Raised awareness and helped build capacity among seven Southeast Asian governments to fulfil their commitments under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  • Helped civil society organizations acquire knowledge to hold governments accountable to the Convention, for example through the publication Time for Action: Implementing CEDAW in Southeast Asia (PDF, 2.7 MB, 41 pages)
  • Contributed to the development of a regionally-based group of more than 100 experts in environmental economics, focused on ways to reduce the impact of natural disasters, sustainably manage natural resources and address climate change, as well as helped deliver courses addressing these areas to policy makers, journalists and jurists
  • Supported human rights organizations' efforts to exchange information and pool their resources to increase the protection of international human rights standards, which contributed to the creation of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the ASEAN Commission on Women and Children.

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