Joint Development Partner Statement, 22nd Meeting of the MRC Council

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 13th Jan 2016

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

  1. Development Partners (DPs) welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the Mekong River Commission at this 22nd Council Meeting. Since our Informal Donor Meeting in June 2015 substantial progress on human resource, structural and financial reforms have been achieved by the MRC. DPs would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the MRC and not least its Secretariat on this progress, these were critical steps for a prosperous future of the organisation.
  2. The DPs would also like to take this opportunity to welcome the decision on the appointment of the first riparian CEO of the MRCS and the decision on the rotation arrangement. We would like to take the opportunity to thank the Officers-In-Charge, His Excellency So Sophort and Dr Truong Hong Tien for their efforts and good cooperation.

    Reform, Decentralisation and Strategic Plan 2016-2020

  3. With five months left before the new structure will enter into force there are still key issues to be addressed, primarily in terms of human resources and structural reform implementation. The substantial changes foreseen in terms of human resources will require time and thorough planning. DPs recommend commencing the recruitment of the future management positions (heads of units) as well as the Change Manager as soon as possible. We look forward to seeing the recruitment plan.
  4. The decentralisation process of the MRC needs to stay high on the agenda of Member Countries, in line with full riparianisation. For the proper institutionalisation and country level ownership of the MRC activities, it is important that the decentralised activities are integrated into national sector polices, plans and budgets. DPs stand ready to support many of these activities, but can only do so once the plans are shared. If the activities are not adequately funded and have qualified staff, there is a risk of eroding the high quality of MRC´s processes. DPs request the prompt finalisation and sharing of the National Indicative Plans.
  5. Poverty reduction and gender mainstreaming are highlighted as Basin Challenges in the Strategic Plan. These perspectives are crucial to apply in order to achieve sustainable development in the Mekong. DPs would like to see these perspectives actively guide the formulation of Annual Work Plans and targeted activities.
  6. DPs appreciate MRC's effort in improving its anti-fraud prevention in the AWP 2016. This is a critical issue and the DPs therefore urge the MRC to concretise the efforts by developing a code of conduct to define and prohibit fraud and misconduct; establish a channel for employees and others to anonymously report concerns of fraud and misconduct; provide employees with training on the code and whistle-blower policies. It sends a positive message that MRC has taken past recommendations on board and is continuing to strive towards its Vision of being "A world class, financially secure, International River Basin Organisation serving the Mekong countries to achieve the basin Vision.”
  7. The share of funding from DPs for the period 2016-2020 is below the amount needed for the implementation of the Strategic Plan. There is a need to analyse, prioritise and plan for how to manage current and future funding. DPs recommend exploring further efficiency gains such as reducing meetings and consultations costs, lowering the travel costs, and decreasing the MRCS contributions to the NMCs. We welcome the consideration of a single Secretariat office, as a cost-saving mechanism.
  8. DPs welcome the MRC’s focus on developing and implementing a strong and effective M & E plan to clearly demonstrate results and outcomes of MRC work.

    Stakeholder outreach

  9. 9. DPs are pleased to see the inclusion of the Regional Stakeholder Platform in the Strategic Plan and of stakeholders outreach in the draft 2016 AWP. We express our strong support for the implementation of these activities.
  10. 10. The MRC Member Countries granted observer status to seven organisations; ADB, ASEAN, IUCN, UNDP, UNESCAP, WB and WWF. However, under the revised Rules of Procedure (ROP) for the Council and Joint Committee the observer status has been reduced from seven to two (UNDP and UNESCAP). DPs believe that the inclusion of more stakeholders in MRC governance meetings brings important perspectives, transparency and coordination benefits. This would be in line with the MRC Strategic Plan 2016-2020 and with the spirit of the 1995 Mekong Agreement. DPs urge the Member Countries to re-consider this decision.

    International Cooperation

  11. DP’s represent a range of experience in relation to transboundary water agreements and stand ready to share their knowledge on how agreements, global Water Conventions and cooperative mechanisms can complement the Mekong Agreement and support the Mekong countries improve their water management and cooperation.

    Prior Consultation Process and Hydropower Projects

  12. DPs stress the importance of effective implementation of the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA). DPs welcome the MRC´s plans to host a PNPCA lessons learned workshop in February 2016. In the spirit of the Mekong Agreement, DPs urge the MRC to consider the inclusion of tributary projects with transboundary impacts in the PNPCA process, for example the Lower Sesan 2 project.
  13. DPs understand that a response to the Joint Committee’s request for additional information on design changes to the Xayaburi hydropower project to MRCS as agreed by the Government of Lao PDR in July 2012 is still pending. Whether and how the design changes to the dam comply with MRC’s Design Guidance for Mainstream Dams still needs to be analysed, including by the MRCS.
  14. DPs would welcome information on the outcome of the negotiations between the Member Countries about the Don Sahong hydropower project. If the project does go forward, DPs look forward to the MRC’s continued involvement in mitigation and monitoring efforts.

    Council Study

  15. DPs would like to highlight the importance of the timely implementation of the Council Study Phase 1 and Phase 2, in a cost-efficient manner without jeopardizing quality. The completion of the full Council Study will be critical to sound decision making and informing the next Basin Development Strategy. We would like to be informed about possible synergies between the Delta Study of the Vietnamese Government and the Council Study.

    Navigation

  16. DPs welcome the final Master Plan for Regional Waterborne Transport in the Mekong River Basin and look forward to the Regional Mekong Navigation Centre.

  17. DPs share Member Countries’ commitment to a strong and effective MRC and stand ready to support you. As in previous years, we look forward to a written response to this statement within one month after this meeting.

  18. DPs thank the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia for hosting this meeting. We thank the Member Countries for their continued engagement with us. We highly value the opportunity to engage with the MRC on issues of great importance to the region.

 This statement is endorsed by:

Australia, European Union, Denmark, Finland, Germany, IUCN, Japan, Luxemburg, Sweden, Switzerland, United States and World Bank.

 

1.       Development Partners (DPs) welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the Mekong River Commission at this 22nd Council Meeting. Since our Informal Donor Meeting in June 2015 substantial progress on human resource, structural and financial reforms have been achieved by the MRC. DPs would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the MRC and not least its Secretariat on this progress, these were critical steps for a prosperous future of the organisation.