EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs recently announced over €6.5 billion in new support for countries and organisations in Asia for the period 2014-2020.

He announced the support during a two-day event that discussed development cooperation with authorities from the countries and regional organisations.

“The EU is committed to cooperation with Asia for the long-run,” Commissioner Piebalgs said, adding that the future programmes are expected to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the region, address climate change, promote energy efficiency, facilitate business and trade through better market access and support regional integration.

While Asian economies have shown remarkable recent growth, poverty is still widespread on the continent, with about 800 million people in the Asia and Pacific region still living in extreme poverty – live on less than $1.25-a-day – according to the Asian Development Bank.

As most countries in the region are facing challenges due to uneven regional development and increasing income inequality, EU funding for national and regional programmes in Asia for the time period from 2014 – 2020 increased by 20 per cent compared to the financing period 2007 – 2013 (€5.1 billion).

The new funds will address key priorities being discussed with the countries present in the programming seminar in Brussels, as well as with the representatives of the regional organisation the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Some of these priorities include social protection, better health and education, job creation and better integration of partner countries into regional and world markets.

Funding for EU-Asia cooperation comes from the Development Co-operation Instrument (DCI), which is part of the overall EU budget. Some 12 countries

including Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam) in Asia are eligible for bilateral development programmes.

In Nepal, 60 per cent of the EU assistance provided between 2007 and 2013 was allocated to the education sector. Major achievements have included an increase in the net enrollment rate for basic education (from 83 per cent to 87.5 per cent), in the Gender Parity Index (from 0.96 to 0.99), in the completion rate in basic education (from 52.7 per cent to 60.8 per cent) and the reduction of the number of out-of-school children (from 800,000 to 445,200).

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