Joint Development Partner Statement on the occasion of the Informal Development Partners Meeting Phnom Penh, 31st of August 2016

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 31 Aug 2016

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Development Partners (DPs) appreciate the opportunity to continue to engage in a dialogue with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) at this Informal Development Partners Meeting (IDM).

2. The DPs take this opportunity to formally welcome the first riparian CEO of the MRC Secretariat, Dr Pham Tuan Phan, as well as the new directors and other new staff of the MRC. We value our cooperation and look forward to working on the implementation of the Strategic Plan with the entire team in the years to come.

3. DPs congratulate MRC for having greatly improved its policy on communications both on the MRC website and on social media. DPs believe that making the minutes of both Council and Joint Committee meetings public will further increase the trust of external stakeholders in the MRC.

4. DPs welcome the recent decision of the MRC member countries to have a single office of the Secretariat in Vientiane. This will have a positive financial and logistical impact on the work of the MRC. DPs would appreciate clarification concerning the Regional Flood Centre remaining in Phnom Penh.

Reform, Decentralisation and Strategic Plan 2016-2020

5. During the transition phase, progress was made, including on structural reforms and decentralisation. However, there are still issues to be addressed, primarily in terms of finalising the recruitment process and establishment of new financial and accounting systems. These delays have direct implications for DP funding and the implementation of the Strategic Plan.

6. MRC's efforts in improving its anti-fraud prevention, of which the development of code of conduct to prevent fraud and related misconduct is a concrete example, are appreciated. DPs look forward to its adoption and implementation and encourage the MRC to proceed with training of staff in fraud prevention and to set-up a mechanism to anonymously report concerns and are ready to share lessons learnt.

7. DPs welcome Member Countries efforts to implement MRC decentralized activities. It is crucial that these activities are fully integrated into national policies, plans and budgets. DPs stand ready to support activities and welcome information on country specific plans for the implementation of the National Indicative Plans (NIPs).

8. Poverty reduction and gender mainstreaming are highlighted as Basin Challenges in the Strategic Plan. They are crucial in order to achieve sustainable development in the Mekong basin. In line with our UN SDG commitments, DPs would support indicators for poverty reduction and gender equality to guide both the formulation of Annual Work Plans and targeted activities, and the reporting of the MRC.

9. Water, energy and food security are inextricably linked, with many synergies and trade-offs between water and energy use and food production. DPs encourage the MRC to continue the work on the Water, Energy and Food Nexus especially in relation to the distribution of wealth and implications for livelihoods of vulnerable groups.

10. Notwithstanding budget constraints, DPs wants to ensure that the MRC continues working on sediment transport, climate change and navigation.

11. Recent studies on sediment transport, sediment trapping and sand mining have highlighted changes that have significant impact on the Mekong river system and delta (affecting hydropower efficiency, aquatic productivity, agriculture and delta stability). DPs support the planned work of the MRC to conduct further investigations in this area.

12. DPs acknowledge efforts made by the MRC on the completion on the climate change vulnerability assessment and the definition of the basin wide climate scenarios. DPs support the finalisation of the Mekong Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (MASAP) in line with the high priority given to climate change by the Member Countries.  

13. DPs would also like to congratulate the MRC on the successful work in the area of navigation. Navigation is rapidly expanding, bringing benefits of trade and transport to the region while also creating risks of accidents and spillages. DPs encourage the MRC to continue with the implementation of the Regional Master Plan for Waterborne Transportation, and seek clarification on the linkages to the Lancang-Mekong Regional Navigation Plan.

14. DPs note that the basket fund affords the MRC flexibility to re-prioritise funding as new priorities emerge. DPs encourage the MRC to use this new flexible funding mechanism, which should limit the need to seek additional funds through ad-hoc requests. There is a need to analyse, prioritise and plan for an adequate use of current and future funding.

Procedures and Hydropower

15. DPs continue to underscore the importance of implementing the MRCs five Procedures. This will require strong MRC coordination and the re-invigoration of the joint platform for Procedures.

16. DPs consider that the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) are of vital importance for minimising any negative social and environmental impacts of significant water infrastructure in the Mekong Basin. We welcomed MRCs convening a PNPCA lessons learned workshop. It is important that these lessons inform future PNPCA processes, particularly in relation to timely information sharing and consultation. The PNPCA process also covers water diversions from the mainstream; we look forward to an update on the notification of water diversion plans.

17. In the absence of a transboundary EIA protocol DPs encourage the MRC to consider the inclusion of tributary projects with transboundary impacts in the PNPCA process, for example the Lower Sesan 2 project.

18. DPs encourage the MRC Secretariat to engage with the Government of Laos to complete the assessment of the design changes to the Xayaburi hydropower project and share it with the other Member Countries. DPs also welcome information on the outcome of the negotiations between the Member Countries about the Don Sahong hydropower project. As the projects move forward, the MRC’s continued involvement in mitigation and monitoring efforts will be essential.

Stakeholder outreach

19. DPs are pleased to see the inclusion of a Regional Stakeholder Forum in the Strategic Plan and of stakeholder outreach in the 2016 AWP. We express our strong support for the implementation of these activities, and would appreciate an update on implementation.

20. Civil Society Organisations play an important role in the Mekong basin; they represent the views of communities and the interests of other stakeholders with at times limited access to decision makers. Member Countries should consider broad-based representation of civil society in MRC governance meetings as well as regular outreach activities to civil society on key issues and decisions.

International Cooperation on Water

21. DPs represent a range of experience in relation to transboundary water agreements and stand ready to share their knowledge on how global Water Conventions and cooperative mechanisms can complement the Mekong Agreement.

22. MRC ASEAN cooperation is prioritised in the Basin Development Strategy and the Strategic Plan. DPs see a strong partnership between MRC and ASEAN as being of strategic importance for both parties and is fully in line with the ASEAN initiative for integration. DPs look forward to an update on the cooperation.

23. China and Myanmar are key stakeholders in the Mekong River Basin. DPs understand that a dialogue with China is ongoing to strengthen regular cooperation and exchanges of information, and would support a similar initiative for Myanmar. DPs encourage the MRC to strengthen its role in the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation particularly in relation to the proposed water cooperation centre.

Council Study

24. DPs would like to highlight the importance of the timely conclusion of the Council Study. We look forward to an update on the revised scope of the Council Study and implementation timeline. We also look forward to an update on how the study outcomes will be used.

25. DPs share Member Countries’ commitment to a strong and effective MRC and stand ready to support the region. As in previous years, we look forward to a written response to this statement.

26. 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, the European Union, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UNDP, the United States, and the World Bank.