That was the key message delivered by Viet Nam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the 3rd Summit of Mekong River Commission held on 5 April 2018 in Siem Reap, Cambodia under the theme “Enhancing joint efforts and partnerships towards the achievement of the development goals of the Mekong River Basin”. Considered as the top forum of the Commission’s cooperation framework, Prime Ministers of the four MRC Member Countries have met in Siem Riep, the ancient and tourism-hub city of Cambodia for the third time, after two MRC Summits in Hua Hin, Thailand (2010) and Ho Chi Minh City of Viet Nam (2014). The one-day meeting was aimed at reviewing the MRC achievements to date, updating the opportunities and challenges both for Mekong basin and the cooperation organization, and more importantly mapping out a series of top priority actions needed to be taken for the coming period. It was also an excellent opportunity for the Member’s Leader to join hand reaffirming at the highest level their commitment to the Mekong Agreement in particular and the sustainable development for the Mekong River Basin in general, not mentioning chances to strengthen ties with the MRC Strategic Partners and related stakeholders.
The Summit took place amid increasing international and regional concerns on noticeable evidence of transboundary impacts caused by development projects, especially those on the Mekong mainstream, in the context of climate change that may now felt more and more obvious in the Mekong Delta. “Frequent prolonged drought, saline intrusion, erosion of land, land slide in river banks … have threatened the livelihood of more than 20 million people in the Delta” stated the Viet Nam Leader in his Remarks to the Summit. Fresh from an International Conference on Sustainable and Climate-Resilient Development of the Mekong Delta of Viet Nam in Can Tho City (September 2017), Prime Minister Phuc concluded his Remarks with a group of measures proposed for actions at regional level, including effective implementation of the 1995 Mekong Agreement and related MRC regulations/guidance; adoption of a Basin Development Plan with proposed joint projects; strengthening the role as the regional knowledge hub through data and information sharing, basin-wide monitoring network, and effective forecast and warning system…; further coordination and cooperation with all Strategic Partners and regional water-related cooperation initiatives.
In order to prepare for the Summit, a two-day International Conference with a large participation from more than 200 delegates who were representing for other international river basin committees, international and regional organization and communities, scientific and academic institutions, and related and concerned stakeholders and a Ministerial Meeting had been organized. “The sustainability of Mekong Basin and even its existence depend a great deal on our capabilities and willingness to join hand in concerted efforts for integrated and transboundary management and efficient use of water and related resource”, told the Ministerial Gathering Minister Tran Hong Ha, Chairman of Viet Nam National Mekong Committee, in his Statement to the meeting. The Minister also expressed his firm belief that the Mekong River Commission continued to play the role widely regarded as the unique regional cooperation channel with the most solid legal foundation for sustainable development of water resources in the Mekong River Basin and to achieve further accomplishments in efficiently and sustainably utilizing water and related resources of the Basin for the benefits of all riparian countries and people. Outcomes of those sideline events have been integrated into the draft of a Summit’s Joint Declaration, widely known as Siem Reap Declaration.
By adopting the Siem Reap Declaration, Leaders of MRC Member Countries have once again confirmed the MRC’s vital role as the primary regional cooperation framework and their highest political commitments to the more effective implementation of Mekong Agreement 1995. The top Leaders further agreed that the Mekong River Basin offer great development opportunities that in turn embedded with risks of environmental asset loss, biodiversity degradation, people’s livelihood damage etc.… The Document also mentioned the recent completion of a MRC-led Study on Sustainable Management and Development of the Mekong River including Impacts of Mainstream Hydropower Projects (widely known under the abbreviated name Council Study) and recommended that its key findings needed to be considered thoroughly in both national and regional context. With vision toward 2030 when the MRC is expected to successfully reach the targeted self-sufficient status, the MRC Leaders reaffirmed their solidarity and the Mekong Spirit that would be extremely essential for the way ahead.
“The Mekong River Commission is one of the important mechanisms for Mekong River Basin cooperation. China attached great importance to the cooperative relations with the MRC, and has carried out diversified, fruitful and practical cooperation with the MRC and its Member Countries in the realms of technical exchange, capacity building and joint research. China is willing to continue practical cooperation with the MRC and welcome the MRC and its Secretariat to play a constructive role in Mekong – Lancang water resources cooperation” stated at the Summit, Chinese Minister of Water Resources Mr. E Jingping.
“The measures to achieve such a self-sufficiency should not be misled by listing the annual contribution from Member Countries, but more importantly, that aimed at transforming the MRC Secretariat to be more and more efficient and compact together with the revolutionary movement of increasingly decentralizing river basin related tasks to the Member Countries will be very decisive if not vital” spoke Dr. Le Duc Trung, Director General of VNMC, who led the Viet Nam’s SOM Team in all preparatory works for the Summit.
As agreed within the MRC, the 4th MRC Summit would go to Lao PDR in April 2022.