Messages of the MRC International Conference
- The Mekong River Basin and its resources are of unmeasurable value to people, communities and riparian states. This includes not only the tremendous socioeconomic value of water resources, but also the cultural value people of the basin attach to the river as well as the value the basin provides as a source of cooperation.
- The Mekong River Basin has seen significant changes in the past years: Climate change is affecting the basin. Droughts and low flows have put the Mekong – including the Tonle Sap – and its riparian people at risk. Infrastructure development is rapidly progressing – with all its opportunities and challenges. The same applies to economic growth and development and post-COVID recovery.
- A joint legal basis for cooperation that incorporates international water law principles into a basin-specific arrangement is crucial for long-term cooperation over shared water resources. The 1995 Mekong Agreement and the Procedures provide such basis and have proven to be decisive for ensuring cooperation between riparian states. The Mekong River Commission (MRC) as the embodiment of the Mekong Spirit is at the heart of implementing joint commitments of member states and acting as a water diplomacy platform. Its successful work over the past years in basin management has made the MRC a role model of basin cooperation worldwide.
- Efforts need to be scaled up to maintain the balance between different needs in the Mekong River Basin and understand and then prevent or mitigate negative impacts of developments by one sector or actor on others, focusing on the best outcomes for the entire basin. Strong cooperation China, Myanmar and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism supports such integrated basin-wide perspective and needs to be further advanced.
- Joint proactive basin planning on the basis of joint principles, procedures, guidelines and assessment as pursued by the MRC and its Member Countries is a key instrument for ensuring sustainability, but also for addressing flood and drought risks the basin is already facing. This must include the coordinated management of water infrastructure across basin states in order to ensure the benefits of infrastructure development outweigh its potential environmental, economic and social costs.
- People and communities, including youth and children, need to be at the core of all basin management efforts, with specific attention to the most vulnerable groups, but also future generations that will bear the costs of today’s decisions but are also at the heart of finding the solutions for tomorrow. Ensuring the awareness and action of communities at local level of the conditions of the basin and its resources and the changes is the basis for future resilience.
- New technologies such as artificial intelligence applications, VR, machine learning and other Earth Observation tools can help leverage the development potential of shared water resources while monitoring and mitigating negative impacts. Innovative financing mechanisms need to support these new developments and stand ready to take action that leads to real impact, including support community adaptation.
- Capacity development at all levels is required to make the most out of the many opportunities that arise from innovative water management and cooperation approaches. Access to information, knowledge and capacity thereby needs to be equitable, ensuring that all stakeholders have the chance to understand and engage in change.
The messages were summarized by the Conference facilitators and presented by the following youth participants:
- Ms Meas Chanthou, Cambodia
- Mr Siphachanh Sawatvong, Laos
- Ms Joonlaykha Savayo, Thailand
- Ms Nguyen Le Hong Nhung, Viet Nam