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Project Case Study

Scoping Australia’s foreign aid social protection programmes in the Mekong region

Conducting a preliminary scoping study for the Australian Government's future social protection programmes in the Mekong region

The three countries of the Mekong region have experienced considerable economic growth in recent years but levels of poverty are still high, with 23% of people in Cambodia, 34% in Lao PDR and 17% in Vietnam living below the poverty line.

Vietnam is the most economically developed of the three and is now categorised by the World Bank as a lower-middle income country. Both Cambodia and Lao PDR are categorised ‘Least Developed Countries’ – those that suffer from structural handicaps to economic development including low income, low levels of human resources or capital, and high levels of economic vulnerability.

Project info

Scoping the Australian Government's foreign aid social protection programmes in the Mekong region


  • 2013



  • Australian Government

In 2013, the Australian Government’s aid program asked Adam Smith International to conduct a scoping study into the need for future social protection measures into 2015 and beyond, to guard workers against economic shocks such as loss of employment, injury or disaster, and to mitigate and if necessary alleviate the risks associated with these.

In order to establish which sectors would most benefit from intervention, we researched and analysed the effectiveness of the region’s existing social protection programmes, both donor and government-run, and compared them to projects in neighbouring countries in order to develop a number of recommendations for the Australian aid program.

We made 13 recommendations in total. These related to climate change, particularly concerning ‘adaptive social protection’, which integrates social protection, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, to investments in staff capacity, which would enable the Australian Government’s aid program to manage large programmes and engage with partner governments on these issues. We also recommended establishing a more structured approach to engaging partner governments in such programmes, and strengthening the focus on research to assess and analyse projects as they continue.

With our advice, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is able to assess which programmes will have a greater impact on the sectors in the Mekong region which most need social protection measures, reducing poverty and reducing poorer people’s vulnerability to economic shocks.

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