The Italian Development Cooperation has been present in Vietnam since 1990, when the first Technical and Financial Cooperation Agreement was signed between Italy and the Vietnamese government. The first office in Hanoi was opened in 1998, and since 2007 it has also been responsible for activities in Cambodia and Laos. From January 2016, following the Italian cooperation reform (L. 125/2014), the Hanoi office became the Foreign Office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and acquired financial and administrative autonomy.
On 12 June 2020, by resolution No. 42, the AICS Joint Committee ordered the closure of the AICS Hanoi Office and, as of 1 November 2020, the agency's activities in Vietnam became the territorial responsibility of the AICS Yangon Office. Subsequently, on 18 October 2021, by resolution No. 114, the AICS Joint Committee resolved to close the AICS Headquarters in Yangon and, at the same time, to establish the AICS Headquarters in Hanoi by the first half of 2022 with regional competence and over all the countries in the Far East area not already assigned to other offices. The opening of the new Regional Headquarters was formalised on 1 April 2022 with the arrival of the Head Office Holder in Vietnam.
During 2022, the Italian Cooperation in Vietnam operated within five macro-sectors of intervention for a total of about 118 million Euros. The priority sectors of AICS Hanoi's programming are WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), support to the private sector, health, combating climate change and strengthening institutions - statistics. The Italian Cooperation's support to Vietnam pursues the 2030 Agenda and related SDGs within the Team Europe initiatives approach and in line with the EU's Green New Deal. The Italian Cooperation's projects are designed within the framework of the Italian Cooperation's Programming Document 2021-2023 and are well aligned with Vietnam's socio-economic-environmental policies, including the Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2021-2030 (SEDS) and the Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2021-2025.
Myanmar and Bangladesh
In Myanmar, Italian cooperation has been present since 2011, the year of the start of the country's democratic opening process and the transition between the military junta and the civilian government, a process that was interrupted when the army seized power in February 2021. Italy's cooperation portfolio in Myanmar, the only country in the region to be included in the list of priority countries in the 2021-2023 three-year cooperation programme, amounted to around €91 million as at 1 February, with a well-structured programme of interventions with grant and aid credit funding in various sectors considered strategic. Italian support to the country was articulated mainly through institutional capacity building, peacebuilding support, and the development of rural areas and small businesses, as well as through interventions in areas in which Italy boasts internationally recognised expertise, such as the protection and enhancement of cultural and environmental heritage. The events that followed the events of 1 February, with their wake of violence, forced an internal reflection within the Donor Community in Myanmar, concerning the continuation of development cooperation activities and the reshaping of Official Development Assistance (ODA) flows. Acknowledging the instructions received from MAECI in 2021, AICS concluded or suspended all initiatives in support of central and local authorities, favouring initiatives that directly benefit the Burmese population and humanitarian assistance interventions.
In Bangladesh, AICS supports humanitarian assistance activities in favour of the Rohingya population and the local host community in the area of Cox's Bazar, on the border with Rakhine state, where in 2017 the Rohingya minority was the victim of violent ethnic cleansing actions by the Burmese army. Around one million people, as a result of the persecution, crossed the border and found shelter in this area of the country, which is poorly developed and affected by extreme climatic conditions. Over the years, Italian cooperation has financed contributions to emergency programmes implemented by United Nations agencies and international organisations in coordination with the Dhaka government.
The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), created to foster the socio-economic integration of its member states, fosters a global network of alliances, follows numerous international dossiers and hosts diplomatic missions from all over the world. In this context, on 9 September 2020, Italy was granted the status of Development Partner: a partnership that provides for the strengthening of cooperation between our country and ASEAN, and the coordination of joint projects aimed at enhancing the potential of the two regions. As Development Partners, ASEAN and Italy have therefore identified the Practical Cooperation Areas 2022-26, the priority areas of intervention, and among these are connectivity; combating climate change and sustainable development; managing natural disasters; protecting cultural heritage; enhancing the role of women; peacekeeping and countering the spread of Covid-19. The AICS regional office in Hanoi provides technical support for the identification, formulation and management of development cooperation initiatives within the Italy-ASEAN partnership. Current key initiatives supported by AICS cover the areas of Health and Sustainable Agriculture, Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Since 25 August 2021, Italy has been a member of the UN ESCAP Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian countries with a contribution of Euro 260,000.00. With this contribution it acts as a voting member of the Trust Fund's advisory board. The Trust Fund was created in response to the devastating consequences of the tsunami of 26 December 2004. The initiative is promoted and managed by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) and acts as an integrated early warning mechanism through the consolidation of a network of local structures linked in turn to sub-regional and regional platforms. AICS Hanoi participates in Trust Fund meetings and provides technical assistance to the Italian Embassy in Bangkok, which represents Italy in the Advisory Council.