180 representatives from various stakeholder groups gathered at the Seventh Mekong River Commission (MRC) Regional Stakeholder Forum to learn lessons from current joint efforts and find better ways to address urgent challenges facing the Mekong. Participants included representatives from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Viet Nam, China and Myanmar as well as research institutions, the private sector, development partners, and civil society organisations.
The Forum focused on the achievements and lessons learnt in working together on cross-border issues, impacts and opportunities drawn from the MRC Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management (M-IWRM) Project, which is primarily funded by the World Bank. Under the project, the four MRC member countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam – have been working together on five bilateral initiatives since 2014 to strengthen transboundary dialogue and promote integrated water resources management practice at the sub-basin level, including in Sekong, Sesan-Srepork, Mekong Delta, Xe Bang Hien – Nam Kam, and Sokhla – Tonle Sap. Concrete achievements realized so far include common understandings of issues, transboundary coordination mechanisms, joint action plans, strengthened data and information exchange and communication.
The Forum discussed the urgency of addressing continuing challenges and innovative approaches at both regional and national levels, focusing on three key areas: positive and transparent cooperation for shared results among the Mekong countries; upgrading the MRC data and information system using advanced technologies to improve the sharing and dissemination of data and information on water resource management; and the inclusion of cost and benefit sharing in planning and project implementation. The Forum noted that the voice and capacity of riparian communities, including women, needs to be strengthened to ensure the people can understand scientific information and participate and contribute to transboundary cooperation.
“In the lower Mekong countries, our Governments have increasingly recognised the importance of working together to resolve common transboundary challenges,” said Mr. Pradab Kladkempetch, Assistant Secretary General of the Office of National Water Resources and the Thai National Mekong Committee Secretariat in his opening remarks. “I’m pleased to say that through transboundary projects, our countries have been able to further build common understanding of key cross-border water issues, finding durable solutions to cooperate and share best practices in water resources management.’’
Dr. An Pich Hatda, CEO of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat, emphasized the principle of transboundary cooperation: “Much more needs to be done to provide a comprehensive response to climate change, reduce flood and drought risks, protect environmental assets, and increase basin-wide benefits. Achieving these goals is essential and urgent as populations and economies grow and climate change advances. This is why the Mekong River Commission has been placing a much greater focus, more than ever before, on transboundary cooperation and joint projects among and between member countries. We are committed to supporting our member countries and our people in turning potential conflict into cooperation using every mean possible.”