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The Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the MRC Council and Joint Meeting with the Twenty-Fifth Development Partner Consultative Group

(01:53:36 PM, 30/11/2020)

The Vietnamese delegation attending the meeting was led by H.E. Tran Hong Ha, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment and Member of the Council of MRC Viet Nam.

The Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council and Joint Meeting with the Twenty-Fifth Development Partner Consultative Group was held in November 26 via videoconference.

 The meeting was chaired by H.E. Mr. Sommad Pholsena, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Chairman of the Lao PDR National Mekong Committee, currently Chairman of the Council of the MRC in 2020. Council members of 4 member countries, representatives of Development Partners, Dialogue Partners and international organizations in the region have attended the meeting.

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. 

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. 

Ministerial delegates from the MRC approved a list of strategic documents, charting a new course for the Commission and beefing up its efforts to balance environmental protection and economic development in the Mekong Basin.  

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 Vietnamese delegation participated in the Signing Ceremony of commitments

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. 

In addition, the meeting also discussed with the Dialogue Partners, Development Partners on the situation of cooperation, developments in water resources in the basin, Joint Environmental Monitoring Program for hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream, and response solutions to extreme weather this year and may continue to happen next year, etc.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Lao Minister Sommad Pholsena highlighted the achievement in this term as the completion of the implementation of the Basin Development Strategy and the Strategic Plan 2016-2020.

“Located at the most downstream part of the Mekong, the Mekong Delta part of Viet Nam has been strongly affected by increasing water resources utilization in the region. In addition to earlier occurrence of and deeper salinity intrusion to the mainland, the phenomena of riverbank and coastline erosion, as well as land subsidence became more and more complicated in both extent and severity, directly threatening people’s lives and properties. Extreme weather phenomena, signs of climate changes, including floods and droughts, occur more often, with higher intensity and less predictability, like the series of typhoons affecting Viet Nam in recent months, posing great challenges to our Government.”, Minister Tran Hong Ha spoke at the meeting.

Speaking at the meeting with donors, Minister Trân Hong Ha also emphasized besides the efforts of each country, cooperating with the MRC through the exchange, sharing and application of knowledge and international experience is of utmost importance. The Minister also mentioned the Prime Minister's recent statement at the G20 Summit that “Regional sustainable, peace and stability can only be achieved if our multilateral cooperation bases upon international laws and norms, mutual respect, understanding and trust "to affirm the cooperation principle of the Commission in the current context and the highest commitment of Viet Nam.

At the end of the meeting, Minister Sommad Pholsena, Chairman of the MRC Council for the term of 2020 transferred the position of Chairman of the MRC Council for the 2021 term to the Commission Council member of Thailand. The 28th session of the Council will be held in late 2021 in Thailand.


Xuan Huong