Australia, Germany, and Switzerland today committed nearly USD13 million in funding to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to assist Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam to respond to pressing challenges while safeguarding the ecological function of the Mekong River and improving people’s livelihoods.
The contribution follows a recent wave of Development Partners funding to the MRC, as the Commission begins implementing its Strategic Plan 2021–2025 under a new direction to overcome the multiple threats that the basin faces.
“This support is timely and crucial to the MRC in implementing activities that balance the demands of economic development, social improvement, and protection of the environment,” MRC Secretariat CEO Dr. An Pich Hatda said on the sidelines of a signing ceremony during the Informal Development Partners Meeting in Vientiane on Thursday.
Under the new Strategic Plan, the MRC will ensure that new national power generation plans consider the full range of viable generation sources, including water-food-energy as well as the complementary use of wind and solar energy. It will promote gender diversity, equity, and inclusion in the water sector.
The MRC will also explore how the operations of water infrastructures throughout the basin should be coordinated to maximize their benefits and limit adverse environmental impacts on the Mekong mainstream and people.
It will continue to foster regional dialogue among the basin countries, and deepen its engagement with China as well as all of other partners throughout ASEAN and Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, for the benefit of all Mekong constituents.
The new funding commitment from Australia, worth AUD5.1 million (approx. USD3.8 million), was signed by the Australian Ambassador to Lao PDR, H.E. Paul Kelly, and Dr Hatda. The support will span five years from 2021 to 2025, and forms part of the new Mekong Australia Partnership.
“We hope the grant of these funds will assist the MRC and its Member Countries to enable inclusive and sustainable use of water and related resources of the Mekong, as a contribution to economic recovery from the pandemic, building environmental resilience, and strengthening regional cooperation,” Ambassador Kelly said.
Australia is also providing additional technical support to the MRC on other key areas, including on the MRC Flood and Drought Management Centre, and the reinvigoration of the MRC data and information systems, the ambassador added.
Meanwhile, the German Ambassador to Lao PDR, H.E. Jens Lütkenherm, pledged a German contribution of EUR3 million (approx. USD3.55 million) in support of the new plan. He said the funding would be dispersed over three years beginning in 2022, with USD1.2 million allocated to the MRC’s core funding mechanism, and the balance allotted to the MRC–GIZ Cooperation Programme for technical support.
“We believe this funding will help the MRC establish the core river monitoring network in the Mekong region, thus contributing to informing decisions over the development and management of water resources and to boosting the MRC’s ability to manage flood and drought risks more effectively,” Ambassador Lütkenherm said.
Mr. Jean-François Cuénod, Regional Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, committed USD5.3 million to support the implementation of the new Strategic Plan over the next five years.
“We congratulate the MRC on launching the new visionary strategies that are critical to the Mekong River Basin,” Mr. Cuénod said. “We look forward to working with the MRC, its Member Countries, and other Development Partners in shifting the region towards a more sustainable and resilient path, making sure that no one will be left behind.”
Switzerland has been supporting the MRC since 1995 and believes the MRC plays an important role in the Mekong region water cooperation, Mr. Cuénod added.
The MRC Strategic Plan 2021–2025 is a key tool for the Commission to implement a new ten-year Basin Development Strategy, one that presents a new paradigm shift for the basin. Together, they enable Mekong countries to address current and emerging challenges while improving the overall state of the basin in the coming decade.