New funding helps Mekong River Commission meet basin challenges

Savannakhet, Lao PDR, 4th Apr 2006

The donor community had continued to show strong support for the work of the Mekong River Commission over the past six months with several new agreements being signed to stimulate new programme work H.E. Mr Sithaheng Rasphone, Chairman of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Joint Committee for 2005/2006 told delegates at an MRC Joint Committee meeting today.

Mr Sithaheng, who is also Vice Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, and Vice Chairman of the Lao National Mekong Committee, was speaking at the opening of the 23rd Joint Committee Meeting of the MRC, being held in Savannakhet, Lao PDR. He said that this continuous support was a positive encouragement to the MRC and would help it fulfil the goals set out in the 1995 Agreement on Cooperation for Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin, the agreement which founded the MRC.

He added that there had been much progress within the MRC’s Water Utilisation Programme and MRC could look forward to the signing of the Procedures for Maintenance of Flows on the Mainstream soon. At this meeting MRC Joint Committee members were expected to sign the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Procedures for Water Use Monitoring which would enable the member countries to facilitate the implementation of two important previously signed procedures concerning water use monitoring and data and information sharing.

This meeting would be also be discussing the progress of the work of the MRC programmes and sharing their views on the finalisation of the MRC’s next five-year Strategic Plan 2006-2010. Mr Sitaheng said this plan was being developed in consultation with the member states and the donor community and would reflect their views and demonstrate a strong shared vision of the need for a regional perspective in development.

Mr Sithaheng said over the past year MRC’s relationship with China and Myanmar had strengthened. MRC was now poised to move toward more concrete technical cooperation within its established dialogue partnership and was in the process of discussing and identifying a number of possible work areas.

MRC Secretariat Chief Executive Officer Dr Olivier Cogels added his thanks to the donor community for their support and told delegates that new funding agreements worth more than US$8.3 million had been signed with Australia, Belgium, the Challenge Programme on Water and Food, Denmark, Finland, France, Japan, Sweden and the United States of America during the past six months. The Belgian funding had enabled the launching of the Navigation Programme, while Denmark had provided the bulk of funding needed to support the Fisheries Programme for a further three years.

Dr Cogels said the MRC had also strengthened its partnerships with development banks working in the region, such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, French Development Bank AFD and KfW German Development Bank. MRC had also formed a new relationship with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). The MRC had been heavily involved in the World Bank’s emerging Mekong Water Resources Assistance Programme (MWRAP) which was developed in close consultation with the country governments, the MRC and civil society and using MRC data and expertise.

He said there seemed to be a consensus that the role of the MRC was to take leadership in strategic planning and management of the basin’s water and related resources and to identify important joint and basin wide projects and programmes, while supporting line agencies with knowledge and expertise.

The MRC Joint Committee consists of one member from each country at no less than Head of Department level. It is responsible for the implementation of the policies and decisions of the MRC Council and supervises the activities of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat.

-ends-

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