Mekong basin gets US$13mil from Australia, Germany, and Switzerland to improve livelihoods

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN): Australia, Germany, and Switzerland are committing to provide nearly US$13 million in funding to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to respond to pressing challenges while safeguarding the ecological function of the Mekong River and improving people’s livelihoods.

The contribution aims to assist Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam as well as follows a recent wave of Development Partners funding 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 and 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 maximise 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 other partners throughout Asean and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, for the benefit of all Mekong constituents.

The new funding commitment was signed by MRC Secretariat CEO Dr An Pich Hatda and three development partners from the Australian Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Mr Paul Kelly, the German Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Mr Jens Lütkenherm, and Mr Jean-François Cuénod, Regional Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Australia is providing AUD 5.1 million or about US$3.8 in additional technical support to the MRC on other key areas, including the MRC Flood and Drought Management Centre, and the reinvigoration of the MRC data and information systems.

Meanwhile, a German contribution of EUR3 million (approx. US$3.55 million) in support of the new plan, the funding would be dispersed over three years beginning in 2022, with US$1.2 million allocated to the MRC’s core funding mechanism, and the balance allotted to the MRC–GIZ Cooperation Programme for technical support.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, committed US$5.3 million to support the implementation of the new Strategic Plan over the next five years to work with the MRC, its Member Countries and other Development Partners in shifting the region towards a more sustainable and resilient path.

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 to address current and emerging challenges while improving the overall state of the basin in the coming decade. - Vientiane Times/Asia News Network

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