Strategic Plan 2016-2020


This Strategic Plan sets out how for the period 2016-2020 the MRC will deliver the role established by the 1995 Mekong Agreement: to promote and coordinate sustainable development and management of the Mekong’s water and related natural resources.

A solid foundation grounded in basin-wide perspectives

The Plan has been developed based on:

  • the updated IWRM-based Mekong Basin Development Strategy (BDS) for 2016-2020, which identifies basin-wide development and management needs, challenges, opportunities and priorities; and
  • MRC’s organisational reform agenda as stated in the 2014 Roadmap and 2010 & 2014 Summit Declarations.


Four focused key result areas

For the next five years, the MRC will focus its work on four key result areas to achieve its agreed outcomes. Under each outcome, outputs and activities have been specified and will be operationalised through five Annual Work Plans.

Key Result Area 1:

Enhancement of national plans, projects and resources based on basin-wide perspectives

Outcome 1: Increased common understanding and application of evidence-based knowledge by policy makers and project planners

Outcome 2: Environment management and sustainable water resources development optimised for basin-wide benefits by national sector planning agencies

Outcome 3: Guidance for the development and management of water and related projects and resources shared and applied by national planning and implementing agencies

Key Result Area 2:

Strengthening regional cooperation

Outcome 4: Effective and coherent implementation of MRC Procedures by the Member Countries

Outcome 5: Effective dialogue and cooperation between Member Countries and strategic engagement of regional partners and stakeholders on transboundary water management

Key Result Area 3:

Better monitoring and communication of the Basin conditions

Outcome 6: Basin-wide monitoring, forecasting, impact assessment and dissemination of results strengthened for better decision-making by Member Countries

Key Result Area 4:

Leaner River Basin Organisation

Outcome 7: MRC transitioned to a more efficient and effective organisation in line with the Decentralisation Roadmap and related reform plans


Streamlined planning and improved way of delivering results

New approaches to strategic planning, including the updating of the BDS and preparation of the Strategic Plan and National Indicative Plans, have already eliminated the previous fragmented method of programmatic planning (a separate planning process for each of the previous 12 programmes) and increased efficiency, saving costs and potential duplication of work.

Delivering our key results over the Strategic Plan period, however, also requires substantive changes in the way MRC operates. The MRC has streamlined its staff (reduced from almost 180 to 90 during the transition and 70 for the new structure) and has approved a new structure based on core functions.

The main part of the Strategic Plan will be operationalised through basket funding arrangements.  This fresh approach will bring new focus to the MRC’s activities by promoting greater integration and alignment of efforts, more agility in allocating resources and responding to implementation experience and increased efficiency and transparency in the use of resources.

Well established high level governance and leaner technical operations

MRC’s key governance bodies, the MRC Council and Joint Committee, will lead the implementation of this Plan, by providing and guiding the strategic direction of MRC’s work over the period. The MRC Secretariat is responsible for administrative, advisory and technical aspects of Plan implementation. 

Member Countries themselves, in the form of line and implementing agencies in water and related sectors as well as those relevant to Mekong cooperation, also play a critical role. Working through their National Mekong Committees (NMCs), and supported by their respective NMC Secretariats, they establish the necessary national implementation arrangements in four National Indicative Plans (NIPs). The NIPs promote implementation of development opportunities identified in the BDS and contribute to common MRC outcomes and outputs identified in this Strategic Plan. The NIPs therefore are a key instrument to bring basin perspectives and functions into national plans and systems, and vice versa. In short, the MRC SP and the NIPs are the collective MRC response to implementing the BDS.

An operational risks management tool in place

The Plan advocates a more systematic approach to both risk management and monitoring and reporting than has been the case in the past. Key external, technical and operational risks will be tracked and reviewed on a regular basis. 

A common M&E system to measure and ensure success

Progress indicators have been established at all levels of implementation for the Strategic Plan, including strategic outcomes. A key feature of this strategic planning period will be the mutual accountability frameworks established between MRC national and regional bodies through the Strategic Plan and NIPs, to ensure coherent planning, shared monitoring and collective responsibility. Progress will be reported to the Joint Committee, Council and development partners six monthly and annually. External reviews are envisaged at the half-way point and end of this Strategic Plan period.


A distinguishing feature of the new MRC SP is that it was mainly prepared by a team composed of riparian staff, under the guidance of senior management and working with experts from MRC programmes, development partners and member countries. The process took over one year of internal working sessions, national consultations, regional review and endorsement. 

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