Laos to host Mekong stakeholders forum in October
The Mekong River Commission is holding another public forum, highlighting eagerly anticipated updates on topics such as the "Joint Study" between the MRC and northern neighbours, China and Myanmar, the "State of the Basin Report 2023”, and various hydropower projects.
The 13th Regional Stakeholders Forum, entitled "Data Sharing for Transparency and Trust”, will be held on October 5 in the historic Laotian city of Luang Prabang. The event, which will be broadcast live, will cover a range of pressing issues and provide a platform for all relevant parties to voice their opinions and recommendations.
"Our stakeholders deserve to know what's happening in the basin," says Anoulak Kittikhoun, the CEO of the MRC Secretariat. "We need to provide facts and figures in order to objectively understand the challenges and what's being done. And I call on all interested parties to join the forum to know more and help us address the challenges together.”
These RSF gatherings reflect the broader MRC mission to serve as a knowledge hub and platform for water diplomacy, and to set an example for transparency and how to build trust among partners. At their 4th MRC Summit earlier this year, the leaders of the Mekong countries reaffirmed the 1995 Mekong Agreement and the role of the MRC as the region's leading intergovernmental agency entrusted to optimize the sustainable development of Mekong water resources, while minimizing the impact on both the environment and riverine communities.
While the 13th RSF was originally planned for December 2022, its planned content – including gender and inclusion and soliciting cooperative solutions – was folded into the International Conference of the 4th MRC Summit, in April 2023.
This coming 13th RSF will spotlight several issues. First, the initial findings of the landmark "Joint Study" launched last June between the MRC and the Mekong Lancang Water Resource Cooperation. The Study explores how climate change and development impact the Mekong's water flow, which reached historic lows in recent years. "Adaptation strategies" are being proposed and stakeholders are invited to provide input on their implementation.
Next, attendees will hear about the draft "State of the Basin Report 2023," which will illuminate progress in five priority areas: Environmental, Social, Economic, Climate Change, and Cooperation, backed by facts and figures of past trends and current conditions. Having been informed by how the Basin is affected by the development of water resources, stakeholders are invited for a discussion on what course of action should be taken.
This will lead to the latest updates on hydropower projects, including the one at Luang Prabang, as well as a discussion of the MRC's own Proactive Regional Planning – and how it craft strategies for challenges like the river's changing flow regime, sediment management, and water-energy integration. The MRC will upgrade its Decision Support Framework from a planning tool into an operational management tool.
The 13th RSF expects to welcome some 200 participants from a wide range of stakeholders. The attendees will be government officials from the MRC Member Countries, including their National Mekong Committee Secretariats and implementing agencies related to energy, environment, fisheries, irrigation, and other water-related developments; the private sector, including hydropower dam developers and others engaged in management, development or investing in dam projects along the Mekong mainstream or its tributaries; MRC Development Partners; and representatives of civil society organizations, riverine communities and research institutes.
Participation is free, but registration is required. For any civil society or community-based organization that faces financial difficulty, limited financial assistance is available. The Forum will be in English, yet to further encourage diversity and engagement, it will be translated into multiple Mekong languages.