Vientiane, Lao PDR
19th February 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat, I am delighted to welcome Her Excellency Dr Michele Forster, Ambassador of Australia to the Lao PDR, to our headquarters here today to sign two important agreements to support the work of the MRC. The Government of Australia has shown its ongoing and highly valued commitment to the goals of the 1995 Agreement on Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong Basin and today’s ceremony marks the latest manifestation of that support.
We look forward to signing two agreements today, one which will fund the crucial task of technical coordination among all MRC programmes and projects, and one that will help finance Phase 2 of the Basin Development Plan, a programme that will underpin the activities of our Member States and partners in coming years. Australia, which was a major supporter of Phase 1 of the Plan, is committing substantial sums of money – over six hundred and fifty thousand US Dollars - to these operations, and in doing so it is indicating the importance of cooperation and planning in the development process occurring in this region.
Formulation of the Basin Development Plan is a requirement of the MRC stipulated by the 1995 Agreement. Its purpose is “to promote, support, cooperate and coordinate in the development of the full potential of sustainable benefits to all riparian States, and the prevention of wasteful use of the Mekong Basin waters, with emphasis and preference on joint or basin-wide development projects and programmes”.
To accomplish this, the MRC uses the principles of Integrated Watershed Resource Management to maximise economic and social welfare in a balanced way without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems. The BDP prepares information that informs discussion and decisions on achieving an acceptable balance between development of the basin, and maintenance of its ability to sustain livelihoods and environmental values. The first phase of the Plan created a framework for participatory planning. This second phase will institutionalise this process and further develop assessment tools and planning capacity to produce a rolling strategy for water resource management.
The input and viewpoints of our clients and partners will be very important in this process, and the first stakeholder forum for Phase 2 of the BDP will be held next month here in Vientiane. As envisaged in the current MRC Strategic Plan, the BDP will serve as the plan for the Mekong Partnership Programme as proposed in the Hanoi Conference on the MRC last year. The Mekong Partnership Programme, which will be owned by Mekong countries in partnership with donors, development banks, the private sector, stakeholders and NGOs, will provide a regional cooperation framework for the sustainable development of water and related resources in the Mekong River Basin.
Australian support to this is financially significant and symbolic of Australia’s commitment to transboundary cooperation in water management matters. Today’s agreements are part of a much wider support that Australia has shown to the work of the MRC and we are very grateful for this continued confidence in our mission. We at the MRC will endeavour to justify that confidence by applying our knowledge, skills and experience in coordinated efforts to achieve the goal of sustainable development of the basin’s water resources for the benefit of the poorest people.
I thank you all for your attention, and would now like to ask Her Excellency Dr Forster to say a few words.