The history of the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific, one of the oldest regional inter-governmental organizations dates far back as 1950, when the idea was first conceived to enhance economic and social development of the countries of the region. The Colombo Plan was established on 1 July 1951 by Australia, Canada, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom and currently has expanded to include 26 member countries including non-Commonwealth countries and countries belonging to regional groupings such as ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).The Colombo Plan is a partnership concept of self-help and mutual-help in development aimed at socio-economic progress of its member countries.
Originally it was called the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic Development in South and Southeast Asia. It has grown from a group of seven Commonwealth nations - Australia, Britain, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand and Pakistan - into an international organization of 26, including non-Commonwealth countries. When it adopted a new constitution in 1977, its name was changed to "The Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific" to reflect the expanded composition of its enhanced membership and the scope of its activities.
The Colombo Plan was instituted as a regional intergovernmental organisation for the furtherance of economic and social development of the region` nations. It is based on the partnership concept for self-help and mutual help in the development process with the focal areas being, human resource development and south-south cooperation. While recognising the need for physical capital to provide the lever for growth, the Colombo Plan also emphasised the need to raise the skill level to assimilate and utilise the physical capital more efficiently. In the early years, Colombo Plan assistance from developed to developing countries comprised both transfer of physical capital and technology as well as a strong component of skills development. Hence, while infrastructure by way of airports, roads, railways, dams, hospitals, fertilizer plants, cement factories, universities, and steel mills were constructed in member countries through Colombo Plan assistance, a large number of people were simultaneously trained to manage such infrastructure and the growing economies.
Over the years, while adhering to the concept of human resource development and south-south cooperation in addressing issues of economic and social development, the programme content of the Colombo Plan has been changing to take account of the needs of member countries in a fast changing world economic environment. In the early years, the training programmes were more of a long-term nature while recent programmes have been focusing on providing advance skills and experience sharing aimed at arriving at the best practices in different fields of economic and social activities as a means of good policy making and governance.
The current programmes of the Colombo Plan are in the areas of public policy formulation in an environment of globalisation and market economy, private sector development as a prime mover for growth and in drug abuse and prevention in member countries. The Colombo Plan also provides skill development opportunities for technicians in middle level through another of its programmes the Colombo Plan Staff College for Technician Education located in Manila
The objectives of the Colombo Plan
- to promote interest in and support for the economic and social development of Asia and the Pacific;
- to promote technical cooperation and assist in the sharing and transfer of technology among member countries;
- to keep under review relevant information on technical cooperation between the member governments, multilateral and other agencies with a view to accelerating development through cooperative effort;
- to facilitate the transfer and sharing of the developmental experiences among member countries within the region with emphasis on the concept of South-south cooperation.
The Organizational Structure of the Colombo Plan:
The Consultative Committee (CCM), comprises all member governments and is the highest review and policy making body of the Colombo Plan. Its biennial meetings provide a forum for the exchange of views on current development problems facing member countries and review the work of the Colombo Plan in economic and social development within the region.
The Colombo Plan Council, comprises heads of diplomatic missions of member governments who are resident in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The President of the Council is nominated from among member countries annually on an alphabetical rotational basis. The Council meets every quarterly to identify important development issues facing its members and ensure the smooth implementation of the Consultative Committee`s decisions.
The Colombo Plan Secretariat, headed by a Secretary-General is located in Colombo, Sri Lanka, since 1951 and functions as the secretariat for the Consultative Committee and the Council. The Secretariat is responsible for the effective administration and implementation of the programmes of the Colombo Plan, in partnership with member countries and collaborating agencies.
A special characteristic of the Colombo Plan is that the administrative costs of the Council and the Secretariat are borne equally by all member countries. However, the training programmes of the Colombo Plan are voluntarily funded by traditional as well as newly emerging donors among its member countries. Developing member countries are also encouraged to meet local currency costs whenever training programmes are held in their respective countries. The Colombo Plan training programmes are also funded by contributions from non-member governments and regional/international organizations.
The Colombo Plan has 4 permanent programmes:
- Programme for Public Administration & Environment (PPA & ENV)
- Programme for Private Sector Development (PPSD)
- Drug Advisory Programme (DAP)
- Long-Term Scholarships Programme (LTSP)
Indonesia, as one of the member country of CP had been benefited from the CP activities particularly through the scholarship programmes for training and education through the year 1995-2007, and it is noted that 1131 Indonesian partisipants took part in the aforesaid programmes. On the other hand, Indonesia through National Drug Agency (BNN) have also been very active, in collaboration with CP and the Nahdatul Ulama on the implementation of joint cooperation on the countervailing of Drug Abuse programmme.
The 41st Colombo Plan Consultative Committee Meeting (CCM) in August 2008 in Kuala Lumpur agreed the Colombo Plan's Strategic Vision 2025 that will be reflected and implemented in the colombo Plan's Annual Programme. In that meeting Indonesia offered to co-sponsor Training Course on Economic and Social Studies that covers Local Economic Development, Poverty Reduction, Micro Finance and Family Planning to be held in 2010.