Washington, D.C. – On March 26th, the Stimson Center and the International Union of Nature (IUCN) successfully concluded the first Mekong-US Partnership Track 1.5 Policy Dialogues. More than 200 attendees from 10 countries, including the five Mekong countries and the United States, actively participated in the four-day virtual event which kicked-off on March 19th. The dialogue provided a platform for local stakeholders to voice key concerns across topics related to connectivity, energy, infrastructure, non-traditional security, transboundary water governance, and nature-based solutions. Attendees identified scores of opportunities to deepen partnerships in the region and with development partners like the United States. The opening plenary session was livestreamed and featured Ambassador Atul Keshap, U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs; Dr. An Pich Hatda, CEO of the Mekong River Commission, and a high-level panel. The opening plenary session was open to the public and press. A dialogue summary report will be issued at a public event later this spring. Five additional Policy Dialogues will take place over the next three years.
Ambassador Atul Keshap, U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs said post-conference, “The Mekong-U.S. Partnership puts coordination with Mekong governments and like-minded partners front and center. We are working with the Mekong River Commission to improve river governance and water data sharing. We are harnessing technology with the Republic of Korea to enhance flood and drought forecasting. We are investing in regional energy connectivity and renewable energy deployment through the Japan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership. We are fighting cross-border trafficking in coordination with Mekong governments and Australia. We are exploring Mekong infrastructure coordination with India and looking to harness the combined efforts of the Quad. We are also strengthening the Friends of the Mekong—a group of 17 countries and institutions committed to a free and open Mekong region.”
During the opening plenary, Dr. An Pich Hatda, CEO of the Mekong River Commission said, “We will continue to work with the U.S. and hope to have additional earmarked funding from Washington to implement our new strategy, especially in satellite technology use, and data and information visualization.”
Nguy Thi Khanh, 2018 Goldman Prize Winner and Executive Director of Green Innovation and Development, a Hanoi-based NGO said, “The conference provided a sound platform for sharing and exchanging dialogue on cross-border issues related to the water and energy nexus in the Mekong region. I do expect to gain more good practices from other countries regarding a just energy transition.” Nguy Thi Khanh gave a presentation to the dialogue’s energy and infrastructure sessions.
Chea Seila, Program Officer at the USAID Wonder of the Mekong program based in Cambodia said, “The Mekong-U.S. Partnership aims to increase support for the autonomy, economic independence, good governance, and sustainable growth of Mekong partner countries. The Mekong–US partnership should continue support to save the Mekong River through applied research and use the research results to solve the practical problems.” Chea Seila gave a presentation to the dialogue’s connectivity sessions.
Jintana Sriwongsa, Advisor to the Global Health Security Agenda at Thailand’s Ministry of Health and participant at the dialogue said post-conference, “It’s a great platform to network with friends, colleagues and partners beyond health. Learning from COVID–19 and having networks in countries and the region has been greatly helpful for appropriate resource mobilization, especially surged capacity needed. Continuation of support from the U.S. and partners to nurture resilient partnerships at the global and regional level for timely detection, response, and preparedness for pandemic are vital.”
Brian Eyler, Director of the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Program, said “More than 30 local stakeholders from key government and non-government organizations and communities around the Mekong Region made good use of this opportunity to express needs and challenges facing the Mekong region. This was a highly effective listening exercise for U.S.-based stakeholders seeking to make an impact in the region through improving partnerships. I particularly look forward to U.S. government stakeholders putting recommendations derived during the dialogue to good use.”
The Mekong-U.S. Partnership promotes the stability, peace, prosperity, and sustainable development of the Mekong sub-region through cooperation among the Mekong partner countries and the United States. It further reinforces the strong and longstanding relationship among the United States, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The Partnership builds upon 11 years of cooperation and progress through the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) to expand collaboration in the face of new challenges and opportunities. The Partnership supports the implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision and is an integral part of support and cooperation between the United States and ASEAN.
More at https://mekonguspartnership.org/.
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