Joint Development Partner Statement Twentieth Meeting of the MRC Council Joint Meeting with the Eighteenth Development Partner Consultative Group, 26 June 2014

Bangkok, Thailand, 27th Jun 2014

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. Development Partners welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) at this Twentieth Meeting of the MRC Council.

    Strategic Direction of MRC
  2. Development Partners appreciate the commitment of the Member Countries to reform and increase the efficiency of the MRC, reiterated by the Heads of Government at the recent 2nd MRC Summit. The years 2014 and 2015 will be instrumental to set up a leaner organisational structure and a pooled financing mechanism to be operational for the start of the next planning period 2016-2020. Development Partners underline their commitment to support this transition period. We would propose discussing the details of this transition, as part of a broader dialogue with Joint Committee members, as well as options for fast-tracking the reform and decentralization process.
  3. Development Partners took note of the results of the mid-term review of the current Strategic Plan, of eight of the MRC Programmes, and also of the DANIDA review. We support the recommendations that the organisational structure should be reviewed to ensure that it supports the delivery of the desired outcomes, building on current strengths. The planning process can be simplified and more outcome-oriented, using an updated Basin Development Strategy, anchored in Core River Basin Management Functions, and including a strong monitoring and evaluation framework. Financial management covering all levels of MRC will also have to be improved. Focal Points for the change process will need to be nominated at the earliest opportunity. The MRC staffing policies need to be revisited to enable more long-term appointments and to support these reforms. We are looking forward to the timely, transparent and competitive selection of the new MRCS CEO and would welcome an update on the status of the selection process. We note the importance of a strong management of the MRCS at this critical point in time.
  4. The reform process is a unique opportunity to bring experts from line agencies in Member Countries more into the joint management of the Mekong River Basin and its resources. Development Partners are looking forward to working with the National Mekong Committees, NMC Secretariats and line agencies on the decentralisation process. Consistent with this, we would like to express that financing from DPs of National Mekong Committees Secretariats through MRCS will need to decrease in sync with the concentration of MRC on core river basin management functions.
  5. Motivated by the move towards a more sustainable and country-owned MRC, it is likely that Development Partner funding will not meet the levels of funding assumed for 2016-2020. This is consistent with the recommendations of a more efficient and more focused MRC in the future. Development Partners reiterate their view that the current use of the Management Administration Fee to co-fund the operational expenses of MRC is a transitional means. We therefore anticipate the commitment of Member Countries to fully cover the operational expenses of MRC under a new cost sharing formula starting 2016.
  6. In the consultations with DPs regarding the aforementioned reviews, MRCS had informed that a process to translate the recommendations of the reviews into concrete actions of MRCS and especially the programmes would be established. We would like to reiterate our request for timely information on this process, since it is linked to decisions on future financing by DPs. We are looking forward to discussing this further at the upcoming Informal Donor Meeting.

    Prior Consultation Process and Hydropower Projects
  7. We welcome the decision of Lao PDR to submit the Don Sahong project for Prior Consultation. We believe that this is an expression of the relevance of MRC as a regional dialogue platform and the Member Countries’ commitment to it.
  8. The Development Partners recognise the importance of the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) for sustainable development. Recent mainstream and tributary hydropower developments reflect the challenges of implementing the PNPCA, specifically different views about the application of Prior Consultation. 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. Development Partners welcome this review and would appreciate an update on the status of this work.
  9. Development Partners have voiced their concern regarding the potential detrimental transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi and Don Sahong as well as other mainstream and tributary dams, especially the lack of transboundary Environmental Impact Assessments. We reiterate that information sharing fulfils a central role of the MRC and ensures the legitimate concerns of Member Countries are taken into account. Development Partners would therefore welcome a response to the Joint Committee’s request for additional information on design changes to the Xayaburi hydropower plant to MRCS as agreed by the Government of Lao PDR in July 2012.
  10. Development Partners have voiced their concern regarding the potential detrimental transboundary impacts of tributary dams such as the Lower Sesan 2 dam in its current design (including on fish migration, sediment flow and the resettlement of local communities) at the last Informal Donor Meeting. Development Partners would appreciate feedback of the Royal Government of Cambodia to MRCS on the current status of this project. Development Partners encourage the MRC to consider the inclusion of tributary dams with likely transboundary impacts in the Prior Consultation process.

    Progress of the MRC Council Study
  11. Development Partners continue to support the Council Study’s prioritisation of hydropower impacts throughout the Mekong mainstream and tributary system. DPs are concerned with the delays of the Council Study. We are looking forward to being informed about the start of the implementation phase of the Study as part of an ongoing structured consultation process with DPs and the other stakeholders.

    Programme Implementation
  12. In line with the recommendations of the Mid-Term Review of the Strategic Plan, Development Partners support the concentration of MRC Programme work for the remainder of the current Strategic Plan period on those aspects of regional significance supporting Goals on dialogue and coordination and organisational transition of the Strategic Plan. It remains unclear, how MRC Programmes have so far reacted to these recommendations. National level activities supported by funding through the MRCS should be clearly contributing to regional cooperation. We request an update by MRCS.
  13. Development Partners value the expertise and on-the-ground experience of other stakeholders, including Civil Society Organisations, academic and research institutions and the private sector. We encourage MRC to use this expertise more, through involvement of these stakeholders during PNPCA discussions, regular stakeholder fora and outreach of MRC Programmes. We expect a speedy conclusion of the review of the procedures to grant observer status to MRC Council Meetings before the end of 2014. We welcome MRC plans to hold a Stakeholder Forum at the end of 2014 and would appreciate an update.

    Concluding Remarks
  14. Based on the high level of commitment shared by the MRC Member Countries and the Development Partners to the sustainability of the Mekong cooperation, and as the next Strategy Period is fast approaching, there is a need for urgent reform measures. Standing ready to work with you, we would appreciate an update on the implementation of the reform measures.
  15. Development Partners thank Thailand for hosting this meeting. Development Partners also thank the Member Countries for their continued engagement with the Donor Consultative Group. We highly value the opportunity to engage with Member Countries and the MRCS on issues of great importance to the region.

This statement is endorsed by

Australia, Belgium, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, IUCN, Japan, Luxemburg, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, WWF