MRC charts new course as Ministerial Council reaches major conclusions
Paksong, Lao PDR, 27 November 2020 –– Ministerial delegates from the Mekong River Commission (MRC) approved a list of strategic documents yesterday, charting a new course for the Commission and beefing up its efforts to balance environmental protection and economic development in the Mekong Basin.
The MRC Council represents the highest level of the organisation, with its membership composed of water resources and environment ministers from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam.
“By approving these strategic documents, we have made it clear that we are committed to addressing the mounting challenges facing the basin and to bringing about responsible developments that further improve living standards for the poor,” said Sommad Pholsena, Chairperson of the MRC Council for 2020, at a one-day virtual meeting held in Paksong.
During the annual gathering, the Council approved the next Basin Development Strategy (BDS) 2021–2030 and the MRC Strategic Plan (SP) 2021–2025. The approval of the BDS and SP recognises that the role of the MRC is shifting from one primarily focused on cooperation for knowledge acquisition and sharing, towards comprehensive cooperation on water resources development and management across the entire Mekong River Basin.
For example, the five-year Strategic Plan will assist the four Lower Mekong countries to coordinate basin management operations in order to prevent and manage water-related risks and emergencies. In addition to improving established procedures and guidelines, the new Strategic Plan will see the MRC work on critical new initiatives, such as the basin-wide sediment management plan and the valuing of ecosystem services.
The Strategic Plan will also pave the way for the MRC to focus on more integrated Mekong-Lancang management arrangements, for instance through increased data sharing and cooperation between the MRC and other regional platforms such as ASEAN and Mekong-Lancang Cooperation.
Recognising the need to protect the Mekong ecosystem in the face of climate change and rapid development, the Council approved an environmental management strategy, the first of its kind that covers the whole Lower Mekong Basin (LMB).
The Mekong Strategy for Basin-wide Environmental Management of Environmental Assets of Regional Importance 2021–2025 seeks to restore, protect, and manage environmental assets of regional importance in the LMB.
The Mekong River Basin is recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot, comprising 12 habitat types ranging from highlands to coastal waters and including peat swamps, subterranean streams, and crater lakes. These environmental assets support critical ecological services and functions for millions of people in the LMB.
The Council also approved a navigation master plan, which will enable the MRC to improve navigation rules, attract investment, and realise the potential of regional trade.
Waterborne transport along the Mekong River has been one of the main modes of transport between communities in the riparian countries since they first settled along its banks centuries ago.
Through the approved Master Plan for Regional Waterborne Transport in the Mekong River Basin, the MRC will assist the Member Countries to improve national and international transport networks using the Mekong River in the four Lower Mekong countries.
The Council also discussed other administrative and financial matters.
Note to editors:
The MRC is an intergovernmental organization for regional dialogue and cooperation in the lower Mekong river basin, established in 1995 based on the Mekong Agreement between Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The organization serves as a regional platform for water diplomacy as well as a knowledge hub of water resources management for the sustainable development of the region.
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