Vientiane, Lao PDR, 9th Apr 2008
Lao government officials and the diplomatic community gathered at the Mekong River Commission (MRC) headquarters in Vientiane on Monday to welcome the new Chief Executive Officer of the MRC Secretariat, Mr Jeremy Bird.
The Head of the Lao Water Resources and Environment Administration, Madam Khempheng Pholsena, greeted Mr Bird and told the assembled guests that his arrival came at a time when leadership was needed to guide the traditionally strong cooperation that exists between the MRC member countries of Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Mme Khempheng, also a Minister to the Lao Prime Minister’s Office, said that the rapid development currently underway across the Mekong Basin provided great opportunities for improved use of water resources, but that there was a need to balance this use by addressing social and environmental concerns.
In his first speech to guests at the MRC Secretariat Mr Bird described his vision for the work of the Secretariat in what he called a “crucial period of its existence”. He outlined “four Rs” as the themes for this vision: the Regional dimension of the MRC, the Relevance of the organisation, its Responsibilities, and the need to reduce the Risk associated with future developments while capitalising on opportunities.
According to Mr Bird the regional role of the MRC will be enhanced in the next few years by the appointment of professionals from the four member countries to all the management positions in the Secretariat, with the next CEO also to come from a riparian country in 2011. He also emphasised the importance of strengthening cooperation with MRC dialogue partners, China and Myanmar.
The relevance of the MRC to the development process within the basin will depend on its relationships with governments, the private sector, civil society, academia and development and dialogue partners, said Mr Bird. He said the Secretariat was committed to hosting discussion and listening to the views of different sectors of society, so helping to inform decision makers on water resource development issues. He went on to say that the MRC must reflect the joint interests of its member countries, encouraging sustainable pro-poor investment, cooperation, and joint planning.
On the topic of hydropower dams on the mainstream of the Lower Mekong, the new CEO said the MRC recognises there are both opportunities and risks associated with such dams. He noted that the Secretariat would have a role to play in advising on these opportunities and risks, and in assessing the cumulative effects of proposed projects. The full text of Mr Bird’s speech is available on the MRC website.
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