On July 22, 2011, the Foreign Ministers and senior representatives of the Lower Mekong Basin countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Viet Nam -- and the U.S. Secretary of State met in Bali, Indonesia for the 4th Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) Ministerial Meeting. The five participants emphasized the value of the LMI in addressing regional challenges, particularly in the areas of education, environment, health, and infrastructure.
They emphasized the importance of close cooperation between the United States and the countries of the Lower Mekong Basin to support regionally sustainable and environmentally-responsible growth. They shared the view that countries should reinforce efforts to promote sustainable development and management of the Mekong River basin’s water resources in the spirit of the Mekong River Commission’s Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin, 5 April 1995. They agreed to the importance of thorough assessments of potential multifaceted impacts in cooperation and consultation with concerned parties before undertaking any new constructions and alterations on the Mekong River.
The ministers welcomed the success of the first LMI Regional Working Group held in Cambodia 17-18 March 2011 which brought about drafts of the LMI Concept Paper and Five-Year Plan of Action. These documents provide vision for the Initiative and a strategic framework for future priorities. The ministers agreed that the Concept Paper and Plan of Action will be useful tools to enhance cooperation and begin the process of planning and designing collaborative activities.
The web-based “Virtual Secretariat,” which will facilitate information sharing among the partner countries and increase public awareness of LMI cooperation and specific programs, was launched by the ministers.
The ministers reviewed implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding for a “sister river” partnership between the Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission, including the inaugural exchange program which took place in June 2011. The ministers requested that the two Commissions promptly identify priority areas and directions for future cooperation, contributing to the implementation of the LMI Plan of Action.
The partners acknowledged the continued success of the Forecast Mekong Project, which is conducted through the partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey and national governments and universities in the lower Mekong region. Forecast Mekong builds regional capacity related to addressing climate change challenges. The ministers also agreed that further capacity building and facilities upgrading are needed to fully realize the Project potential.
The ministers also reviewed the successful “LMI Cookstoves Design and Testing Workshop,” hosted by Laos in March 2011, where we worked together to facilitate greater collaboration among regional actors to promote improved health practices. The United States will also organize workshops in August 2011 and October 2011 for representatives from each of the Lower Mekong countries to discuss regional disaster management and pandemic preparedness.
The ministers also expressed their appreciation for the planned expansion of English language initiatives. Through the new “LMI English for Specific Purposes Program,” English language fellows will teach English to officials and professionals working on issues related to environment, health, and infrastructure development.
The ministers affirmed that the LMI is an essential mechanism for furthering regional cooperation and both national and local capacity in the Lower Mekong Basin countries in addressing some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century and expressed their desire to continue education, environmental, and health programs and to initiate infrastructure programs. There was unanimous agreement to continue this effort through senior officials’ meetings, regional working groups, additional consultations, and targeted program activities.
The ministers welcomed the offer by Laos to host the 2nd Regional Working Group Meeting on the four LMI priority areas and the plenary in Ventiane this year, where LMI representatives will plan the collaborative programs and projects for implementation. The ministers also looked forward to the convening of the fifth LMI Ministerial Meeting in 2012 in Cambodia.