Vientiane, Lao PDR, 26th Aug 2010
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has said that Phnom Penh will see significant benefits as its Secretariat officially opened a new office in Cambodia today after moving some of its divisions from Vientiane, Lao PDR.
The Secretariat has now begun operating from the two co-hosted locations.
“MRC Member Countries will benefit from co-hosting such an important inter-governmental organisation,” said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the MRC Secretariat, at a ceremony to mark the occasion today. “Besides the obvious linkage between the work of MRC’s programmes with the southern part of the Mekong Basin, Cambodia will benefit from the capacity building benefits that the organsiation brings to build up national expertise.”
“The needs of Cambodia and Lao PDR are proportionately more than other countries in the Mekong Basin and we look forward to working closely with the MRC to narrow that gap,” said H.E Mr. Lim Kean Hor, Minister of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and Member of the MRC Council for Cambodia.
“The real beneficiaries of this change will be the very people who gain from the work of the MRC; those living in the basin that depend on water resources for their livelihoods.”
“The move means greater effectiveness for the MRC by establishing permanent seats for its various programmes in both Phnom Penh and Vientiane. For example, although floods do occur upstream in both the Mekong mainstream and its tributary rivers, Cambodia and the delta in Viet Nam are historically more likely to face regular and extensive annual flooding than the northern part of the basin, which is why the MRC located its Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre to Phnom Penh several years ago.”
“Similarly, the proportion of people that rely on the vast Mekong fishery for their main source of protein is higher in the southern part of the Basin, than further north, hence the MRC’s fisheries programme, has moved to the Office of the Secretariat in Phnom Penh,” said Mr. Hor.
The Secretariat, which is the operational arm of the MRC and currently employs more than 150 people in both countries, was earlier rotating its location every five years.
However, in November 2009 the MRC says that following protracted negotiations, a decision was made by the governments of the four Member Countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to decentralise the organisation into two permanent locations in the basin.
"The countries agreed that the practical reality of moving every five years according to the earlier agreement was a logistical challenge for the Secretariat,” said Mr. Bird. “The decision to revise the five-year rotation arrangement will increase efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of the organisation, and allows us to concentrate on the key development opportunities and challenges facing the basin.”
From 1998 the Secretariat was based in Phnom Penh and then in 2004 moved to its office in Vientiane.
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The Office of the Chief Executive and heads of corporate services sections, together with two divisions will remain in the current location in Vientiane, while the two divisions as well as representative staff of corporate services sections have started to move to Phnom Penh. The relocation exercise will be complete by the end of the year.
Programmes to be relocated to the Office of the Secretariat in Phnom Penh include those that are more “issues specific,” such as the Agriculture and Irrigation Programme, Drought Management Project, Fisheries Programme and Navigation Programme, who will join the Flood Management and Mitigation Programme already based in Phnom Penh. The programmes remaining in Vientiane include those that are more related to long-term basin-wide planning, such as the Basin Development Plan Programme, the Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management Project, the Initiative on Sustainable Hydropower, the Environment Programme and Climate Change Adaptation Initiative.
In 1996, both Cambodia and Lao PDR expressed strong interest in hosting the MRC Secretariat and hence the five year rotation was adopted until such time as a permanent location could be agreed in accordance with the 1995 Mekong Agreement. In 2007, the earlier decision to move the Secretariat every five years was revised and it was agreed to search for a permanent co-hosted location to reduce the cost and disruption associated with a five-year rotation.
The MRC is responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin. In dealing with these challenges, it looks across all sectors including basin planning, environment monitoring, 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 on these challenges.
Mr Khy Lim, Communication Officer
Tel: +856 20 5622 8131