The Mekong River Commission (MRC) in Stakeholders' Eyes | Lao Tribune

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) in Stakeholders’ Eyes

Between December 2016 and January 2017, MRC-GIZ Cooperation Programme, the German project implemented by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit), has conducted a series of in-depth interviews in four member countries – Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia – to understand the perceptions, expectations and recommendations of different stakeholder groups on MRC’s role and contribution towards promoting transboundary water cooperation.

Representatives from 29 organizations were interviewed, including representatives from government, private sector and civil society.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) criteria for evaluating development assistance and UN Policy Guidance Note on the Benefits of Transboundary Water Cooperation were used to develop the methodology for the mission.

Although this was not a comprehensive assessment of MRC and there are some certain limitations due to time constraint, the results provided some important insights for MRC to consider.

The majority of interviewees understand MRC’s key roles as a knowledge power house and a platform for high level negotiation and discussion among member countries.

Almost all interviewed participants stated that MRC’s role is highly relevant and it is essential to have a regional organization to support the management of an international river shared among several countries.

Respondents acknowledged MRC’s effectiveness in producing extensive amount of knowledge products that help increase the understanding of the basin.

Others appreciated MRC’s contribution to reduce knowledge gaps on climate change adaptation and to provide a forum for countries to meet and discuss controversial issues such as hydropower development.

Respondents also shared their concerns about MRC, including issues around efficiency, sustainability, stakeholder engagement, and cooperation mechanisms between MRC secretariat and member countries.

Most respondents have high expectations for MRC, wishing that it becomes a strong international river basin organization effectively implementing the 1995 Mekong Agreement.

At the time of the interview, many recommendations were made by the interviewees to strengthen MRC. It is noted that some of these have now been improved by MRC.

To increase MRC’s influence and impact, many respondents are of the opinion that the 1995 Mekong agreement should be updated.

MRC’s mandates should be clarified and extended to adapt to new challenges, such as considering developments on the main tributaries and adopting clearer conflict resolution mechanisms.

To reinforce its clout and leverage, MRC should strengthen collaboration with China, Myanmar and foster strategic partnerships with influential actors in the region, such as ASEAN, foreign affairs and civil society.

With regards to the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) process, participants recommended that MRC engages with stakeholders in due time to ensure meaningful participation as part of the technical review assessment.

Increased uptake and application of MRC knowledge products is of significant importance to strengthen MRC’s contribution. Respondents recommended that MRC adopts a more effective mechanism to obtain inputs from line agencies and other stakeholders in all stages of knowledge production.

MRC should also promote the development of products by national and regional experts rather than international experts. Similarly, a more effective consultation mechanism between MRC Secretariat and member countries for the Basin development of basin wide strategies should be established.

This would ensure that the process is participatory and that the final products address the countries’ needs and capacity.

Finally some respondents mentioned that the role of National Mekong Committee Secretariat (NMCS) is not very clear and should be explained further to stakeholders.

Overall, the interviewed participants provided constructive comments and the results are encouraging. GIZ plans to conduct such in depth interviews on an annual basis.

Source: Lao News Agency