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Cablegate: Colombo Plan January Session Readout

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DE RUEHLM #0066/01 0290359
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P 290359Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1182
INFO RUEHBD/AMEMBASSY BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 0023
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 3997
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1027
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RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0044
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1339
RUEHNA/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000066

SIPDIS

STATE FOR IO/MPR/EA, IO/GS, AND INL/C

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: APER AORC ECON KUNR UN CE
SUBJECT: COLOMBO PLAN JANUARY SESSION READOUT

REF: 09 COLOMBO 1060

1. SUMMARY: The U.S. Ambassador (and current Colombo Plan
Council President) led a discussion about the Eminent
Persons' Report at the 267th session of the Colombo Plan
Council held January 20. Despite its impressive work plan,
the Colombo Plan has languished in recent years with little
funding input from its members. Most Colombo Plan activities
focus on Drug Advisory Program (DAP) activities in
Afghanistan funded by the USG, while the public and private
sector management areas and the long-term scholarship program
are funded from overhead from the USG,s DAP contribution.
Colombo Plan members discussed the Eminent Persons' Report,s
recommendations to consider other areas of focus, but some
thought the recommendations were too radical. Member states
agreed that the Colombo Plan needs to identify new funding
streams. The Colombo Plan Secretariat (CPS) presented its
2010 Work Plan to the Council, which the Council adopted.
Council members reviewed the plans for the upcoming 42nd
Consultative Committee Meeting (CCM), which India will host
February 10-11, 2010. END SUMMARY.

2. BACKGROUND: The Colombo Plan is a regional cooperation
organization established in 1951. Member countries include
Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma,
Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Laos,
Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan,
Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka,
Thailand, the U.S.A. and Vietnam. The four permanent
programs focus on public administration and environment,
private sector development, long-term fellowship
opportunities, and the drug advisory program. The Colombo
Plan promotes economic and social development, technical
cooperation, information sharing and capacity building, and
technology transfer among the member countries.

SUGGESTIONS TO REVIVE THE COLOMBO PLAN

3. Per the Ambassador's request, the Standing Committee
(U.S., Australia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and
Indonesia) met on January 9 to discuss the recommendations
included in the Eminent Persons' Report (forwarded to IO, INL
and SCA/INSB), which contains suggestions to refocus the
Colombo Plan,s activities. As expected, at the 267th
Council session on January 20, Colombo Plan members had
numerous comments on the Report. Many members (Bangladesh,
Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Philippines) expressed concern
that the recommendations are too radical or that their
favorite programs may be eliminated. Others misunderstood
the Report's recommendation that the Drug Advisor Program
(DAP) place in-country advisors in certain countries. There
was broad agreement that the CPS should pay its local
employees at least $2/day (a Millennium Development Goals
guideline). A number of countries recognized the need to
identify new funding streams. Pakistan and Bangladesh
expressed concern about having the Colombo Plan include
anti-terrorism activities. The Maldives and Australia called
on the Colombo Plan to begin focusing on global climate
change. Iran focused on an extraneous issue by insisting the
Report use the term Persian Gulf instead of the generic
"Gulf."

4. Ambassador Butenis expressed her expectation that the
Council will reach consensus on the Report and it can be
approved in India, noting that the CPS needs to begin looking

COLOMBO 00000066 002 OF 002


at 2011 and the programs and projects that it will organize.
Following the discussion, Colombo Plan Secretary General
Patricia Yoon-Moi Chia offered to collect all comments in
writing and find "common ground" in the Report prior to the
CCM. In the meeting itself, EconOff addressed member states'
concerns by noting that approving the report does not mean
the Colombo Plan will shift focus overnight. The Report's
recommendations simply allow the CPS to consider new areas in
the hopes of identifying additional donors to match with
member states' interests. EconOff also stated that
additional resources could be saved by combining the private
and public sector training programs. Finally, EconOff
pointed out the DAP in-country advisor would only be placed
with host country support.

5. Colombo Plan Secretary General Chia gave a brief
presentation on the Colombo Plan's 2010 Work Plan,
highlighting the number of programs under the DAP, the public
and private management areas, and the long-term scholarship
program. Following the presentation, Council members lauded
the Secretary General and the CPS for developing such a full
program for the year despite ongoing fundraising problems.
The Work Plan was then approved. Council members reviewed
the schedule for the upcoming 42nd Consultative Committee
Meeting (CCM), which India will host February 10-11, 2010.
The representative from India gave a brief overview of the
CCM's draft schedule. The 268th session of the Colombo Plan
Council is scheduled for April 22, 2010.

6. COMMENT: Despite an impressive amount of programming and
projects it supports and organizes each year, the Colombo
Plan has languished in recent years with little funding input
from its members. The overhead from the USG-funded DAP
projects in Afghanistan supports most Colombo Plan
activities, for example the public and private sector
management programs and the long-term scholarship program.
The Ambassador has informed the Colombo Plan that this may
not be sustainable, and is working closely with the CPS to
ensure adoption of the Eminent Persons' Report at the CCM.
BUTENIS

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