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Raising Development Impact through Evaluation

Regional Cooperation Assistance Program Evaluation for the Greater Mekong Subregion: Maturing and Moving Forward (2008)

Evaluation Document | 31 December 2008

This evaluation assesses ADB-cofinanced Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) operations during 1992-2007, and will provide directional inputs toward the next regional cooperation strategy and program for the GMS.

This evaluation assesses ADB-cofinanced Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) operations during 1992-2007, and will provide directional inputs toward the next regional cooperation strategy and program for the GMS. It is the first regional cooperation assistance program evaluation carried out by the Independent Evaluation Department (IED), using the evaluation framework developed for country assistance program evaluations involving assessments of "strategic and institutional performance" and "project and operational performance."

The GMS program is an activity-based subregional economic cooperation program, which began in 1992 under the sponsorship of ADB. It comprises Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China. ADB assumed the role of the GMS Secretariat as well as roles of a facilitator, financier, honest broker, and technical adviser. An evaluation study of the GMS program by IED in 1999 found overall progress in the first 7 years of operation was satisfactory. Only a third of the lessons have been adopted to date.

Better awareness of the regional cooperation benefits and greater country involvement at the highest political level in the GMS has been seen recently. Member countries have benefited from subregional cooperation in the GMS although tangible progress in terms of significant regional economic impact has been slow. ADB has effectively played a catalytic role in the GMS, encouraging and supporting member countries with technical expertise while providing its own funding and leveraging that of other agencies.

Key findings

The overall assessment rating for the GMS program is successful. It has fared well in its early phase of development, and its strategic focus on connectivity is aligned with ADB corporate strategies on infrastructure sector.

For the ADB-sponsored GMS program, ADB provided 40% of the funds (about $3.5 billion including GMS loan and grant projects and technical assistance), while another 35% came from member countries, and 25% more from other development partners.

Lessons learned from subregional experience include the importance of an

integrated approach in ADB involvement,

  • a balanced program,
  • developing tools to assess effectiveness, and
  • improving the investment climate for the private sector.

For ADB to continue to add value, it should

  • promote focusing on the "regional" nature of the program,
  • give ample support for connectivity in the past by providing additional support at the policy level, and
  • facilitate the formulation of a strategy to gradually make the GMS institutional structure more dependent on the member countries.


The evaluation provides recommendations for ADB's consideration in the following strategic and institutional areas:

  • taking stock and charting a revised GMS strategy,
  • developing and strengthening developing member country regional institutions,
  • expanding cofinancing,
  • making coordination more effective, and
  • clarifying the interphase between Strategy 2020 and regional cooperation and integration.

To improve the program- and project-level performance, suggestions were to (i) emphasize regional benefits in the projects, (ii) engage in greater policy dialogue with members, (iii) support the implementation of policy and procedural reforms, and (iv) give more attention to monitoring and evaluating results.


  • Executive Summary
  • Map
  • Introduction
  • Top-down Assessment (Strategic and Institutional Performance)
  • GMS Evaluation Bottom-up
  • Conclusions, Issues, Lessons, and Recommendations
  • Appendixes

Note on IED's Country Evaluations and Validations

Using its 2015 Guidelines for the Preparation of Country Assistance Program Evaluations and Country Partnership Strategy Final Review Validations, the Independent Evaluation Department (IED) intends to provide an objective and informed judgement of the performance and results of country partnership strategies (CPSs), particularly in terms of their relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability and development impacts.

In ascertaining relevance, IED considers not only the alignment of the program with country needs and government objectives, but also cross-sector CPS objectives, appropriateness of modalities and sector program designs, and sufficiency of donor coordination.

The effectiveness of a country program in delivering results is also an important aspect of an IED evaluation. Primary focus is on the achievement of the outcomes and outputs of ADB interventions (and the likelihood of achievement if the program is still ongoing), as worded in CPSs and their results frameworks. These include knowledge products and institutional development efforts.

Performance and results are likewise judged from an efficiency perspective, that is, whether the program was delivered in a cost-effective and timely manner, and generated value for money. It also considers the capacity of executing agencies that may contribute to start up and implementation delays, and cost overruns.

Another critical element of IED's evaluation is the likely sustainability of results over the medium term, technically, financially, environmentally, socially, politically, and institutionally. Further, IED looks at how results led to development impacts. Specifically, whether ADB contributed to achieving the CPS objectives, directly through its sector programs and implementing cross-cutting agenda(s) across various modalities in different sectors and by various development partners.

IED gives special importance to cross-cutting objectives by considering how the cross-sectoral and thematic objectives of the CPS are articulated in the results framework and provided with appropriate indicators and targets; and how the program achieved the cross-sector thematic results. Equal weights are given to the achievement of sector and cross-cutting objectives in the relevance and development impact assessments, in both country assistance program evaluations (CAPEs) and CPS final review validations (CPSFRVs). This aligns with ADB's increasing emphasis on achieving corporate strategic priorities.

In preparing its country evaluations and validations, IED conducts document reviews, consults with concerned departments, staff, governments and other stakeholders, and undertakes evaluation missions. IED has put in place a quality assurance system to ensure consistent application of its 2015 guidelines. In CPSFRVs, IED's primary focus is to validate the evidence presented in the CPS Final Review.