MRC Discuss Lessons Learnt from Its Procedure on Water Diplomacy

Bangkok, Thailand, 25th Feb 2016 - 25th Feb 2016

Bangkok, 25 February 2016 – Aiming to improve the official process of water diplomacy, high-level representatives of the lower Mekong River basin countries and experts from the Mekong River Commission Secretariat gathered in Thailand to discuss lessons learnt from the MRC’s first two cases of hydropower diplomacy.

mtg procedure water diplomacy

The one-day workshop on the Dialogue of Lessons Learnt from the Implementation of the Procedure for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) and Guidelines drew 64 participants from the National Mekong Committees of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, their governmental line agencies and the secretariat. The PNPCA is one of the MRC’s five procedures to govern water diplomacy among the four member countries for sustainable development of the basin, and stipulates the official process of dialogue on water use such as hydropower development and water diversion of the Mekong mainstream and tributaries.

The MRC has so far dealt with two hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream – Xayaburi and Don Sahong – through the PNPCA and underwent the Prior Consultation process, in which the hydropower project proposing country, Lao PDR, was required to consult with the other member countries to prevent possible adverse transboundary impacts on riverine communities and the environment downstream. In accordance with the procedure, both cases were referred to the MRC Council, the highest body consisting of four ministers, when no consensus on the projects was reached at the MRC Joint Committee with four ministerial department directors. In the case of Don Sahong, the Council further referred the case to the government to resolve through diplomatic channels as stipulated in the procedure.

The workshop was organized to draw lessons from those two cases in order to improve the process. It was supported by the World Bank and the GIZ.

“I would like to encourage your active and effective participation and discussion by opening your minds and sharing views together,” said Ms. Nuanlaor Wongpinitwaradom from the Thai National Mekong Committee in her opening remarks. “Through our discussion and sharing of experiences and view, I do hope that the member countries and the secretariat may learn together to adapt past experiences for improvement of the PNPCA implementation in jointly managing our Mekong.”

Facilitated by five international experts on water law and public engagement, the participants discussed various issues such as how to increase clarity to the process, how to engage with the public to manage their expectation and what to learn from international conventions and water governance laws, among others. It became clear that there are multiple different understandings with all stages of the process, and that it is necessary to add more clarity around the roles and responsibilities with the PNPCA process and public consultation.

Based on the inputs from the workshop, the MRC Secretariat will complete a working paper on the lessons learnt as a living document to support the future PNPCA implementation, and will report the issues raised in the workshop to the Joint Committee at an upcoming meeting in March.