ADB’s Approach to Regional Cooperation and Integration | Asian Development Bank

ADB’s Approach to Regional Cooperation and Integration

Article | 23 November 2017

ADB supports countries and subregions across the four dimensions of RCI—connectivity, competitiveness, regional public goods, and collective action.

Regional cooperation and integration (RCI) plays a critical role in accelerating economic growth, reducing poverty, raising productivity, and strengthening institutions.

Bringing Asia and the Pacific together through dialogue, planning, and projects that promote RCI has been a cornerstone of the Asian Development Bank’s work since it was created. The fruits of these efforts are myriad and include the development of subregional transport networks, cross-border power interconnections, efficient border crossings, closer trade integration, intraregional supply chains, and stronger financial links.

Arjun Goswami, who leads ADB’s Thematic Group on Regional Cooperation and Integration, explains the bank’s approach to RCI.

What is regional cooperation and integration, or RCI?

We should think of RCI, primarily, across four dimensions. One important dimension is connectivity, a second is competitiveness, a third is regional public goods, and a fourth is really collective action. And, in fact, that is the way we have defined it in an ADB operational plan which we put out last year.

How is ADB involved in RCI?

ADB has a series of roles that it has played in order to operationalize these dimensions of RCI. It does so by acting as a so-called honest broker between countries and on behalf of individual countries. It does so by building capacity. It does so, also, in terms of acting as a financier for project delivery. These are all important dimensions.

ADB needs to look at ways cooperation between different subregions works and how to maximize and optimize those connections.

As we go forward, there is a step-up needed in these roles and ADB is committed towards doing that in the regional cooperation programs that we run in different parts of the region, as well as in terms of the knowledge function that we run across the region. We’re stepping up to those roles.

What does RCI mean for middle-income countries?

Middle-income counties expect to connect up not merely with the countries in their immediate neighborhood. They are also looking for opportunities beyond their immediate neighborhood. So ADB needs to look at ways in which the cooperation between different subregions works and how to maximize and optimize those connections.

The second aspect is that middle-income countries increasingly want high productivity to keep coming up the middle-income curve and eventually go beyond becoming middle-income countries. They want to make sure that the inequalities within their countries are properly addressed. The competitiveness aspects of RCI in terms of inclusive trade and investment and inclusive business development through RCI is something that ADB can contribute and respond to the demands and needs that are emerging from middle-income countries.

How can countries navigate the many RCI programs in Asia-Pacific?

The honest broker role that ADB has needs to step up in terms of its technical capacity, objective assessment, transparent reporting of data and information so that each country, each class of consumer, each income group, each segment of business can reach a decision, and, in fact, stakeholders whether they are in the region or outside the region can reach an informed decision as to whether they wish to participate in an initiative and how. That really is a crucial function that we can provide and I think that would be consistent with the role that we’ve been playing on behalf of the region as a whole.

The second role is in terms of project financing. We’ve got a very long-standing track record over many, many years of delivering projects that are strong in terms of economic, financial, social, environmental due diligence and I think if we bring that kind of project delivery to bare to these visions so that they are translated into bankable and sustainable projects that also will serve the region well. It will mean that we bring good quality standards to bare on the ground level so that visions get translated into meaningful benefits and reality.