Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Colombo Plan

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Headquarters  Colombo, Sri Lanka
Type  Economic forum
Official languages  English
Colombo Plan

Member countries  Current (27)  Afghanistan  Australia  Bangladesh  Bhutan  Brunei  Fiji  India  Indonesia  Iran  Japan  Laos  Malaysia  Maldives  Mongolia  Myanmar     Nepal  New Zealand  Pakistan  Papua New Guinea  Philippines  Saudi Arabia  Singapore  South Korea  Sri Lanka  Thailand  United States  Vietnam Former (4)  Cambodia  Canada  South Vietnam  United Kingdom

The Colombo Plan is a regional organisation that embodies the concept of collective intergovernmental effort to strengthen economic and social development of member countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The primary focus of all Colombo Plan activities is on human resources development.



In the Spring 1949, the Indian Ambassador to China, Kavalam Madhava Panikkar, proposed a multilateral fund to the British and Australian ambassadors, in order to help the states of southeast Asia to battle communist movements in their countries. The United States was to be by far the largest contributor of aid to the organisation.

Formally, the organisation was born out of a Commonwealth Conference of Foreign Ministers, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in January 1950. At this meeting, a plan was established to provide a framework within which international cooperation efforts could be promoted to raise the standards of people in the region. Originally conceived as lasting for a period of six years, the Colombo Plan was extended several times until 1980, when it was extended indefinitely. Initially 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 governmental organisation of 27, 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.

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, plant fertiliser, 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.


The Colombo Plan is not intended as an integrated master plan to which national plans were expected to conform. It is, instead, a framework for bi-lateral arrangements involving foreign aid and technical assistance for the economic and social development of the region.


  • 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.
  • Organisational structure

    The principal organs of the Colombo Plan are - the Consultative Committee, the Council and the Secretariat. Administrative costs of the Council and Secretariat are borne equally by the 27 member countries.

  • 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.
  • Funding

    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 organisations.

    In a speech made in Colombo on 5 July 2010, the 4th Secretary-General Dato' Patricia Yoon-Moi Chia said: "The gearing up of the level of our activities is made possible through the voluntary contributions of member countries and international agencies such as OPEC fund. Last year our programming was over US$10 million and we expect a more than US$12 million programming this year with almost another US$2 million in terms of cost-sharing from our member countries. With funding from the United States Government and 13 other member countries, the Colombo Plan is now the biggest stakeholder in drug demand reduction in the Asia-Pacific, with a special initiative in Afghanistan."


    The Colombo Plan has four permanent programmes:

  • Long-Term Scholarships Programme (LTSP, estd: 1951)
  • Drug Advisory Programme (DAP, estd: 1973)
  • Programme for Private Sector Development (PPSD, estd: 1995)
  • Programme for Public Administration & Environment (PPA/E, estd: 1995)
  • In 2014, a programme on gender called the Gender Affairs Programme (GAP) was established. The programme expects to address gender issues in the region.

    The Plan now

    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, drug use and dependence prevention and treatment in member countries and addressing gender issues. The Colombo Plan Staff College for Technician Education located in Manila also provides skill development opportunities for technicians in middle level.

    In her 2010 speech, Dato' Patricia Yoon-Moi Chia states: "The current Colombo Plan looks very different since our restructuring and revitalisation in 1995. As we continue to build upon our past successes, the new Colombo Plan uses cooperation among developing member countries or South-south Cooperation between the developed member countries and developing member countries, to underpin all our activities. Since our restructuring in 1995, we have now provided 16,082 scholarships to 23 member countries for both long-term and short-term training programmes."

    Past Secretaries-General

    The Colombo Plan underwent an organisational transformation and renewal in 1995, and the Colombo Plan Bureau became the Colombo Plan Secretariat to be headed by the Secretary-General, instead of a Director. The first Secretary-General was Dr. Kim Hak-su from Korea (January 1995 – March 1999) who was succeeded by Dr. Sarat Chandran, India (April 1999 – June 2003), Mr. Kittipan Kanjanapitkul from Thailand (June 2003 – August 2007), Dato’ Patricia Yoon-Moi Chia from Malaysia (August 2007 - August 2011), the first Asian woman to hold this position, and Mr. Adam Maniku from Maldives (15 August 2011 - November 2013). The incumbent Secretary-General, Mr. Kinley Dorji from Bhutan assumed duties on 2 May 2014 as the organisation's 6th Secretary-General.

    Colombo Plan scholars

  • Dr. Baburam Bhattarai (Nepal), former Prime Minister of Nepal.
  • Ong Teng Cheong (Singapore), fifth President of Singapore, former Deputy Prime Minister in Singapore.
  • Khaw Boon Wan (Singapore), current Minister for National Development in Singapore.
  • Raymond Lim (Singapore), former Cabinet Minister in Singapore.
  • Yeo Cheow Tong (Singapore), former Cabinet Minister in Singapore.
  • Dato' Hajji Abdul Ghani Bin Othman (Malaysia), former Chief Minister of Johor state in Malaysia.
  • Prof. Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman, astrophysicist,Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
  • Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan (Malaysia), Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Rural Development of Sabah.
  • Dr. K.V. Thiruvengadam (India), Indian physician and medical teacher.
  • Mapatunage James "M. J." Perera (Sri Lanka), he made broadcasting history by being the first Ceylonese Director General of Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in South Asia, taking over the helm from John Lampson of the BBC.
  • Livy Wijemanne (Sri Lanka), pioneer of Radio Ceylon.
  • J. Soedjati Djiwandono, Indonesian political scientist and founder of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.
  • Early criticism

    The Plan has been criticised on various grounds. Some Asians see in it only the hand of British imperialism, especially as it is not aimed at developing national self-sufficiency. It offers an almost exclusively economic solution for problems which are also political and social. Dangerous issues such as landlordism and the organisation of labour, which invite Communist exploitation, are barely touched on, doubtless because it seemed politically inexpedient to raise such questions.

    Present members

    The Colombo Plan currently has 27 members, including countries in the Asia-Pacific region, 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).

    Past members

    There have been four Past members of the Colombo Plan including two founding members in 1950, Canada and the United Kingdom. South Vietnam joined in 1951 and on 2 Jul 1976 was succeeded by Socialist Republic of Vietnam which withdrew in 1978. Vietnam was a provisional member from 5 Nov 2001 to 18 Nov 2003 until it was accepted in 2004.


    Colombo Plan Wikipedia