International experts call for Mekong leaders to look beyond water to achieve real impact

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Vientiane, Lao PDR, 3rd Apr 2014

Intensified and balanced interactions are key to achieve practical goals to tackle climate change woes amidst increased water, energy and food demands, concluded an International Conference

Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, 3 April 2014 - More than 300 international water management experts today called for the governments of the Mekong countries to include energy and food into their continued dialogue across water sectors through innovative and more adaptive means as the needs for water resources increase.

Under the theme of Cooperation for Water, Energy and Food Security in Transboundary Basins under Changing Climate, the two-day International Conference, held by the Mekong River Commission (MRC), focused on the areas of climate change adaptation, sustainable development and benefits of cooperation.

At the end of the two-day gathering, the participants called for the national leaders of the MRC Member Countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to embrace integrated polices that involve challenges and opportunities in the energy, food and water sectors with recognition of climate variability.

Appropriate use of this linkage could help transform challenges in water management into opportunities.

"For those to work effectively, a combination of political, technical cooperation and an inclusive process is required," said a statement of the International Conference that gathered about 300 participants including chief and senior representatives from some 20 transboundary river basin bodies, international and regional organisations, government officials and non-governmental organisations.

The statement added that interaction with policy-makers should be intensified to have an effective science-policy dialogue with real impact and that, for the benefits of cooperation, interests among different players need to be balanced and strengthened.

"It is never just about water. The nexus is useful because it allows for different perspectives. Climate change provides challenges and also opportunities, but to put them into practice there is and there needs to be political will to put them into actions that deliver results," said Hans Guttman, Chief Executive Office of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat (MRCS).

Participants agreed that when it comes to sustainable development of water resources, the private sector, a key player in the designing of development projects, should be guided on how to assess cumulative impacts of multiple developments to mitigate potential consequences.

International acknowledged that progress has been made partly because of increased cooperation, especially at the transboundary level. However, they also agreed that there are still gaps in important areas such as water quality, fish population and ecosystem impacts, which will need to be jointly addressed through existing mechanisms and institutions.

"It is important to always have a plan and a way forward, but also a constant dialogue with partners and stakeholders to make sure that we’re building some flexibility," said Mr. Guttman.

It is intended that the outcome of the conference will be useful in future policy-making and to bring worldwide attention about water issues in upcoming international events. The Conference Statement will be presented at the MRC 2nd Summit of heads of government from the MRC Member Countries to be held on 5 April 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City.

Notes to editors:

The MRC is the intergovernmental body responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin whose members include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. It is established to promote cooperation amongst the Member Countries and thus it is not a supra-national or regulatory body.

In dealing with this challenge, the commission looks across all sectors including sustaining fisheries, identifying opportunities for agriculture, maintaining the freedom of navigation, flood management and preserving important ecosystems. Superimposed on these are the future effects of more extreme floods, prolonged drought and sea level rise associated with climate change. In providing its advice, the MRC aims to facilitate a broad range of dialogue among governments, the private sector and civil society.

The MRC Secretariat provides technical, advisory and administrative services to the member states. It facilitates regional meetings of the Member Countries and provides technical advice on joint planning, coordination and cooperation. It also works closely with the four countries’ coordinating bodies, the National Mekong Committees (NMCs), and other state agencies. Currently, the People’s Republic of China and the Union of Myanmar are engaged as MRC Dialogue Partners.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Surasak Glahan, Communication Officer
Office of the Secretariat in Vientiane
Tel: +84 (0) 1677436063 (Vietnamese mobile number until April 5th)

Email: Surasak@mrcmekong.org

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