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South and West Asia Regional


heading foldHow we are helping

2013/14 Estimated Outcome

$9.6 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate

$33.1 million


The South Asia Regional Programme seeks to promote regional cooperation and reduce trans-boundary barriers to economic growth and trade that cannot be addressed solely at the country level. The Programme is focused on two key development challenges in South Asia: regional connectivity with a focus on trade facilitation; and sustainable development, with a specific focus on improving water, food and energy security. 

Partnerships will be the main delivery mechanism for regional assistance in South Asia. We will work with multilateral agencies, regional organisations, Australian government departments, civil society organisations and partner governments to foster the cooperation needed to address regional development challenges.

Australia’s regional aid investments aim to increase cross-border cooperation to reduce poverty and address the gap between growing and lagging regions. For example:

  • Australia will support inclusive economic growth by addressing low levels of intra-regional trade and poor connectivity through an aid for trade activity which aims to reduce trade costs at priority border posts in the region. This will promote economic opportunities for women and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) by improving regulation, harmonising border procedures, and strengthening key institutions such as customs.
  • Governments in the region will benefit through capacity building and training to allow them to build an enabling environment for business and trade, which can also drive social and human development through promoting economic opportunities for women. More broadly, addressing trade facilitation issues can support integration into the global economy; increase competitiveness, diversification and development of value chains/entry into global supply chains; foster private sector development; and improve regional economic relations, foreign direct investment and growth. 

The infrastructure gap in South Asia is another major challenge to connectivity both within countries and the region, and a major driver of poverty. Australia’s investments will help to close this gap by supporting analytical work and technical assistance to facilitate policy and institutional reform in sectors including transport and energy. Technical assistance activities will examine issues of economic and social connectivity, institutional capacity, governance, and drivers of conflict and fragility to develop a knowledge base for assessing opportunities and challenges to meeting the infrastructure gap in these sectors to promote trade and integration across and within the South Asia region. 

Australia is also promoting sustainable development in South Asia, with funding supporting improved water resource management; better agricultural practices to generate higher farm productivity and incomes; and increased access to energy, benefitting women and girls. Our investments target female-headed households, agricultural productivity, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and leverage Australia’s expertise in water resource management.

Archived details of expenditure for this program for 2013–14 can be found here.

Archived details of expenditure for DFAT’s aid program, following the Government’s announcement on 18 January 2014 to revise the aid budget, can be found here.


Results to 30 June 2012

  • Supported the provision of more than 89,000 client services in areas like infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, urology, gynaecology, and obstetrics.
  • Supported a comprehensive analysis of existing political economy frameworks to better understand and promote Food and Nutrition Security programs and initiatives across seven countries in the South Asian region.
  • Developed consensus among government and non-government stakeholders (reaching 3.65 million people) in Pakistan for the Federal Government to adopt a ‘Pakistan Approach towards Total Sanitation’ framework.

Commitments 2012–13

  • Improve food security in the poorest and most food insecure regions of Nepal, benefiting about 120,000 small and marginal farmers, 50,000 young mothers, children and adolescent girls, and 25,000 agricultural wage workers.
  • Raise the profile of nutrition as an agenda for high-level policymakers in South Asia.


Results to 30 June 2012

  • Supported the integration of gender-inclusive development and women’s empowerment in World Bank’s portfolio of programs in South Asia.
  • Provision of 310 long-term scholarships to South Asian recipients and 234 short-term ALA fellowships in 2012.

Economic development

Results to 30 June 2012

  • Created a National Water Resources Knowledge Base for Nepal and built capacity for river basin modelling for the Babai and West Rapti rivers in Nepal.
  • Completed a series of environmental and social impact studies in the Indian and Bangladeshi sections of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove system, to assist with co-management of the world heritage region.
  • Developed an institutional and business strategy and a three-year institutional development program for the Nepal Town Development Fund with specific focus on how the agency can support sustainable socio-economic infrastructure development in Nepali municipalities.
  • Supported five countries in public financial management (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal).

Commitments 2012–13

  • Cooperate with development partners to strengthen regional institutions that manage water resources and improve knowledge to trigger better regional river basin management.
  • Assist countries to develop adaptation programs to reduce vulnerability to climate change through aligning regional priorities, drafting cooperative agreements, enhancing joint forward planning, and improving results reporting.
  • Support transboundary cooperation and evidence-based decision making on management of freshwater ecosystem services to improve livelihoods and increase resilience to climate change.


Results to 30 June 2012

  • Strengthened local governance in Bangladesh by supporting active community participation in 50 social audits of the lowest tier of rural local governments.
  • Increased transparency of decision making in government in Bhutan through development of a Regulatory Impact Assessment methodology and guidelines.

Commitments 2012–13

  • Support development of leadership capacity for national and regional strategies to manage sanitary and phytosanitary risks that can impede international trade.
  • Strengthen linkages between Australian and partner public sector institutions to improve ocean forecasting, strengthen adaptation to climate variability, and develop capacity in marine and fisheries management, and maritime regulation and security.
  • Continue to work through South Asia’s regional institutions, particularly the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.


Research funded by Australian Aid targets some of South Asia’s most important development challenges, such as regional economic integration, child and maternal health and climate change. Some of the highlights of this research are listed below.

South Asian and East Asian economic integration research

This project, in partnership with the Australian National University, will identify and analyse the economic and political forces driving South Asia's entry into the process of Asian economic integration. With a focus on India and Pakistan, it aims to provide policy-relevant analysis that shapes thinking surrounding the development of economic and political relationships both within South Asia and between South and East Asia. This will be achieved by engaging research and policy think tanks and governments throughout the region in collaborative research.

Improve climate forecasting to enhance food security in Indian Ocean rim countries

This CSIRO project aims to enhance food security in South Asia by reducing the agricultural production risks associated with climate variability by developing a blueprint for improved climate information usage across case study regions. The project will analyse the decision chain for existing climate information and delivery systems and policy setting; analyse existing forecasts and different predictors; and potentially develop new statistical forecasts.

Improving infant and young child feeding practices to prevent child under-nutrition in India and South Asia

This partnership with the University of Sydney aims to strengthen the partnership between governments, key NGOs and other stakeholders in South Asian countries to enable more effective development of infant and young child feeding policies. It will conduct policy and data assessment across the participating countries to assess the extent to which existing policies are evidence-based and identify areas for advocacy and policy support. This information will be shared with a wider audience of national and provincial decision makers and program managers, including the South Asian Infant Feeding Research Network.

Where is the South and West Asia region?

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heading foldWhy we give aid


South Asia is one of the least integrated regions in the world and faces long‑term challenges associated with climate change, particularly on food, water and energy security. Regional cooperation and integration is vital for long‑term inclusive growth, sustainability and stability. Australia’s support aims to advance regional economic integration, especially in lagging regions, and help the region to adapt to the impact of climate change, including improving regional water resource management.

Find out more about why we give aid to the South and West Asia region


heading foldHow we give aid

The South and West Asia regional program seeks to enhance multi-lateral cooperation on transboundary issues in South Asia, including at the scientific and technical level. Australia’s development assistance is delivered mainly through multilateral agencies and regional organisations (including the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), as well as civil society and Australian Government partners.

Find out more about how we give aid to the South and West Asia region

Read the South Asia Regional Aid Program Performance Report 2013-14


Last reviewed: 28 October, 2014