Joint Development Partner Statement, 24 June 2015

Vientiane, Laos, 24th Jun 2015

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

  1. Development Partners welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the Mekong River Commission at this Informal Donor Meeting. With six months left of 2015 and the current strategic planning period, there is much work to do to finalise MRC reform arrangements, the new Basin Development Strategy, the Strategic Plan 2016-20 and corresponding institutional, financial and implementation arrangements. These processes are all critical to securing continued donor funds.
  2. We thank the MRC for their engagement last week on the joint Development Partner appraisal for the Strategic Plan 2016-20. The appraisal provides useful and concrete recommendations to strengthen the Strategic Plan and future institutional arrangements. We look forward to a continuing dialogue with the MRC on how to respond to key recommendations over the coming weeks, including on a refined conceptual framework and clearer operating procedures for the Secretariat and Joint Committee.
  3. In particular, Development Partners emphasise the urgent need for a decision on the future MRCS organisational structure, staffing, basket fund operations oversight and the cost sharing formula between Member Countries. Without clarity on these issues as a matter of urgency, many Development Partners will not be in a position to provide funding for 2016-2020. Further, without an approved Strategic Plan, some Development Partners will be unable to make final funding decisions.
  4. For practical and financial due diligence reasons, without an approved basket fund for the MRCS, the provision of new funds from many Development Partners will not be possible. It will also be important that the designated Development Partners on the Budget Committee have full representation and that there is targeted Development Partner consultation on the development of the annual work plan each year.
  5. To ensure secure leadership over this period, Development Partners underline the importance of appointing a new MRCS CEO as soon as possible. Without permanent leadership, it will be difficult for the Secretariat to effectively prepare for 2016 and for Development Partners to approve new funding. Development Partners urge the MRC to consider appointing a professional change manager to support the CEO in an effective transition process by August 2015.
  6. Since 2015 is the final year for MRC programmes, Development Partners request an update from the Secretariat on MRCs’ preparedness for their transition into the new structure, in particular on plans to manage the foreseen downsizing of staff positions. Managing staff transition has become critical. There is a high level of 2 uncertainty among staff, with many staff operating without contracts, and an unclear process for hiring under the future structure. A transparent process for rehiring based on merit is required. Development Partners request an urgent update on human resource planning and management for 2016-2020.
  7. As outlined in our January 2015 statement to the Donor Consultative Group, Development Partners also look forward to further information on how decentralised MRC activities will be integrated into national-level planning processes. As Development Partner funding in future will focus on MRC regional core functions, Development Partners stress that decentralised activities must be supported in the first place by Member Country funding, and possibly complemented by targeted bilateral Development Partner funding, in order to ensure sustainability and efficiency. Development Partners would be grateful for an update on how funding will be sourced for National Indicative Plans.
  8. On funding for the next Strategic Planning period, our current combined funding figures (approximately USD 33 million) are much lower than the amount assumed in the Strategic Plan. Development Partners recommend the MRC put in place a process to prioritise outcomes and outputs and request information on alternative plans/strategies if the MRC is unable to obtain this level of funding.

    Prior Consultation Process and Hydropower Projects

  9. Development Partners recognise the importance of the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) for effective cooperation between Member Countries towards sustainable development of the Mekong basin. Recent mainstream and tributary hydropower developments reflect the challenges of implementing the PNPCA, specifically in regard to different views about the application of the Prior Consultation process.
  10. MRC had committed itself to review the implementation thus far of the PNPCA under the Joint Committee Working Group and the Joint Platform for Procedures. This is particularly important given the lack of agreement on the Don Sahong PNPCA process. Development Partners welcome this review and would appreciate an update on its status. In addition, in the spirit of the Mekong Agreement, Development Partners urge the MRC to consider the inclusion of tributary projects with transboundary impacts in the Prior Consultation process, for example the Lower Sesan 2 project.
  11. The new Strategic Plan provides an opportunity for the MRC to strengthen its engagement with Civil Society Organisations, academic and research institutions and the private sector. We expect MRC to use this expertise more, through involvement of these stakeholders during PNPCA discussions and regular stakeholder fora. We urge Member Countries to present the results of the review of the procedures to grant observer status to MRC Council Meetings.
  12. We reiterate that information sharing fulfils a central role of the MRC and ensures the legitimate concerns of Member Countries are taken into account. As outlined in the January Donor Consultative Group meeting statement, Development Partners look forward to the release of additional information on design changes 3 to the Xayaburi hydropower plant to MRCS as agreed by the Government of Lao PDR in July 2012.

    Council Study

  13. Development Partners continue to support the Council Study’s prioritisation of hydropower impacts throughout the Mekong mainstream and tributary system. Development Partners welcome the new realistic timeframe for the Study and request clear direction on how to implement the study under current funding limitations and organisational changes. We expect that the Council Study will have a robust stakeholder engagement process. We are also interested to know how the findings and recommendations of the Council Study will feed into the future Strategic Plan 2016-2020.
  14. Development Partners share Member Countries’ commitment for a strong and effective MRC and stand ready to support you. As was initiated in previous years, we request written response to this statement within one month after this meeting.
  15. Development Partners thank MRC for hosting this meeting. Development Partners also thank the Member Countries for their continued engagement with the Informal Donor Group. We highly value the opportunity to engage with Member Countries and the MRC Secretariat 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