On July 22, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Foreign Ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam met in Hanoi, Vietnam within the framework of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), to highlight the growing cooperation between the United States and the Lower Mekong countries in key areas of common concern.
Environment: The United States will spend more than $22 million in 2010 on environmental programs in the Mekong Region. Programs supported through the Lower Mekong Initiative include the following:
- The United States will launch a three-year program to assist the four Lower Mekong countries in developing cooperative strategies to address the impact of climate change on water resources, food security and livelihood. The United States has identified $3 million for the first year and intends to continue similar levels of funding in the second and third year of the program.
- The establishment of a “sister-river” partnership agreement between the Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission signed on May 12, 2010, which aims to improve the management of trans-boundary water resources.
- The continued development of “Forecast Mekong,” a predictive modeling tool to illustrate the impact of climate change and other challenges to the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin.
- Funding a two-year research program among universities in the lower Mekong countries to study persistent organic pollutants in the Mekong River Basin.
Health: U.S. assistance to the Mekong countries in the health field will total over $147 million in 2010, and focus on the following areas:
- The United States looks forward to working with the four Lower Mekong countries to initiate a program targeting Emerging Pandemic Threats in the region with a U.S. contribution for 2010 of $14 million. The program will improve the identification of and response to new public health threats that originate in animals and strengthen animal and human health systems to combat outbreaks of infectious diseases.
- Cross-border partnerships to respond to infectious diseases by training health professionals and veterinarians to detect, track and contain outbreaks, and to establish a regional network to detect drug resistant malaria. These funds will build on the work of the first LMI Conference on Transnational Infectious Disease Cooperation, hosted by U.S. Embassy Hanoi and the Government of Vietnam on June 17-18, 2010;
- Ongoing U.S. assistance has provided HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention services to over 2 million people across the Mekong region, contributing to a 50% reduction in the HIV/AIDS infection rate in Cambodia; providing life-saving antiretroviral treatments worth $90 million in Vietnam; and in Thailand, supporting the largest clinical trial to date, which demonstrated that a vaccine regimen could be both safe and effective in preventing HIV infection.
Education and Training: U.S. assistance in the area of education for 2010 totals over $18 million. Education projects supported through the Lower Mekong Initiative include:
- The upcoming Mekong-focused U.S.-ASEAN Forum on “Rural Internet Connectivity, Education and Development,” which will bring together development experts, government officials, the private sector, civil society, and donors to share best practices on expanding internet availability into poor, rural areas;
- The International Visitors Leadership Program, offering regional professionals in the fields of education, environment, and health the opportunity to visit the United States to consult with colleagues on best practices and to build both regional and international working connections; and
- Support for English-language training through in-country scholarships that assist professionals working in the Lower Mekong Initiative focus areas to improve their ability to communicate regionally and internationally.