Format of the Forum

Siem Reap, Cambodia , 20 Nov 2014 - 22 Nov 2014


The forum will consist of five sessions within the first two days and a field visit on the third day. Plenary sessions will provide information related to the ongoing implementation of the Basin Development Strategy and the longer-term development needs and opportunities and associated risks to prepare participants for the more in-depth discussion of strategic topics during the parallel sessions.

Key messages from the event will be identified and drafted with support from the forum and session facilitators, and from a panel of representatives from the Mekong basin countries, civil society organisations, and Development Partners.

Session 1: Opening of Consultation

After the welcome address by a Minister of the MRC Council and the CEO of the MRC Secretariat (MRCS), there will be a short recapitulation of the main events that have taken place since the last basin planning forum in 2010 (as seen by the MRCS). Thereafter, participants will have the opportunity to voice their views of the MRC basin development planning process and the Consultation itself. The session will end with the presentation of the Consultation’s objectives and how they are planned to be achieved.

Session 2: Getting engaged (Plenary)

This plenary session will provide information related to the ongoing implementation of the Basin Development Strategy and the longer-term development needs and opportunities and associated risks. The session will prepare everyone for the more in-depth discussion of strategic topics during the subsequent parallel sessions. There will be room after each presentation for raising questions, providing opinions and starting a dialogue with a panel of MRC Secretariat staff. The topics that will be presented and discussed are:

  • Implementation and impact of the current Basin Development Strategy. The Consultation will take stock of progress and achievements of implementing the Strategy and discuss how implementation can be further improved, including bringing regional and national planning closer together;
  • Development trends and long-term outlook for the Mekong basin. The Consultation will discuss the MRC assessment of how the Mekong basin might look in the long term, say 2060. It will review and further identify the main needs that should be factored into national development planning in the MRC sectors (irrigation, hydropower, navigation, flood control, fisheries, tourism, etc.), i.e. actions and developments that definitely need to be done to protect national economic, social and environmental assets in the light of autonomous developments. In addition, there might be further opportunities to enhance regional cooperation and integration to achieve the goal of the 1995 Mekong Agreement. The Consultation will also identify some major risks that may affect the ability to meet those needs and opportunities, such as shocks.
  • Updating the Basin Development Strategy. The MRC programmes and the Member Countries have largely addressed the strategic priorities set in the current Basin Development Strategy. The Consultation will discuss newly proposed strategic priorities and actions for 2016-2020, which have been put forward in earlier meetings with regional and national stakeholders.

Session 3: Focused dialogue (three parallel sessions)

Parallel Session 3a: Results from Implementation of the current Basin Development Strategy

The current Development Opportunity Space (DOS) in the Basin Development Strategy includes development opportunities in hydropower (mainstream and tributary), irrigation, fisheries, navigation, flood and drought management, watershed management, tourism, etc. The Strategy then stipulates strategic priorities related to capturing these opportunities whilst minimising transboundary adverse impacts. The session will discuss:

  • How Mekong countries are implementing the Strategy through development in sectors such as irrigation and hydropower, and how MRC procedures, guidelines, and guidance are being beneficially used;
  • how cooperation with China is being advanced to capture the benefits from upstream development and address risks;
  • How regional perspectives are being integrated into national planning and vice versa; and
  • How key knowledge gaps on key issues such as sediments, fisheries and floodplain management are being addressed.

Senior government officials and scientists will make the presentations. After each presentation there will be ample time for Q&A and interaction with a panel of MRC and line agency staff on the processes and opportunities to bring regional and national planning closer together. This Session will also shed light on the challenges that the MRC faces to implement its mission of promoting and coordinating sustainable development and the emerging pathways to overcome these challenges in the medium term.

Parallel Session 3b: Assessment of benefit sharing options

A strategic priority in the agreed Basin Development Strategy (2011-2015) is “to seek options for sharing the potential benefits and risks of development”. Under this theme, the session addresses benefit sharing at two levels: national-to-local benefit sharing within countries and regional benefit sharing between countries. This Session will start with an overview of the international experience in benefit sharing, followed by a dialogue on their relevance for the Mekong.

Then, MRC’s assessment of national-to-local benefit sharing in the Mekong’s hydropower sector will be presented. The subsequent facilitated dialogue will focus on concrete examples of local benefit sharing in the Mekong basin and how they can be increased, for example, by using the hydropower developer’s funds to conserve and manage fast deteriorating upland watershed areas for the benefit of the (displaced) people.

Next, a presentation will demonstrate that at the regional scale, benefit sharing is guided by the 1995 Mekong Agreement through two mechanisms: (i) the obligation to make every effort to avoid, minimise and mitigate harmful effects of water utilisation projects and (ii) the optimisation of development and promotion of interdependent sub-regional growth and cooperation through joint and national projects of basin-wide significance. Both mechanisms will increase regional benefits and reduce regional costs (and thus ‘make the pie larger’). The presentation and subsequent discussion will shed light on how these mechanisms are being implemented through a range of national and transboundary planning, decision-making and governance processes, including through scenario work.

In a follow-on session, the BDP scenario assessment team will present its cumulative assessment of the countries’ water resources development plans. The assessment results indicate that the economic benefits of existing and planned water resources development are large. But they also indicate that the benefits, impacts and risks might not be distributed equitably. Emerging long-term ‘exploratory’ scenarios will be presented that will investigate future development needs within the basin in response to climate change, demographic changes, rising social demands and expectations for livelihoods and flood, food and energy security. The assessment results could help the basin countries to identify where the trade-offs and opportunities lie, and how in the future they could work collaboratively to increase mutual benefits, whilst reducing costs and negative transboundary impacts through adaptation of their national plans.

In the subsequent dialogue, the participants will have the opportunity to provide further inputs to the formulation of the long-term exploratory scenarios, facilitated by the BDP scenario assessment team. A multi-disciplinary panel of experts will comment on the approach and methodology for the assessment. The panel will include experts from other river basins who can comment on how scenario-based planning is conducted elsewhere.

Parallel Session 3c: Updating the Basin Development Strategy

Building on the earlier plenary session, this parallel session will discuss each of the emerging long-term strategic priorities for basin development and management together with their near-term strategic actions (2016-2020). The session will also discuss how these strategic priorities together could set countries on the path to optimal development and increased levels of cooperation and regional integration, as envisioned in the 1995 Mekong Agreement. To stimulate discussion among the participants, two well-known Mekong followers will present their critical reviews challenging some or all of the strategic priorities and actions. The participants will be able to identify gaps and propose changes in the strategic priorities and actions, all of which will be discussed by a panel.

Subsequently, there will be a facilitated dialogue on how the implementation of the strategic priorities and actions can be further improved. After a short introduction, the participants can interact with a panel of national and regional officials. Relevant issues include: what will be the role of the MRC, national agencies and broader stakeholders in the implementation of the strategic actions; what are the criteria for allocation of responsibilities; how can the National Indicative Plans best be used to bring actions in the national planning frameworks and subsequently monitored?

Session 4: Synthesis of dialogues and formulation of key messages (Plenary)

The reporters of the parallel sessions will report back to the plenary. There will be ample time for raising further questions and providing opinions by the participants that were unable to participate in a particular session. After a break, the results of various topics that had been discussed during the two days of the conference will be synthesised, keeping the objectives of the Consultation in mind. Subsequently, the key messages from the Consultation will be identified and drafted with support from the consultation and session facilitators and a panel of representatives from the Mekong basin countries, civil society organisations, and Development Partners. Participants will have the opportunity to react to the evolving key messages.

Session 5: Closing of Forum

The CEO of the MRC Secretariat and the Chair of the MRC Joint Committee will close the Forum.


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