H.E. Mr. Suwit Khunkitti
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Chairman of Thai National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Thailand
Hua Hin, Thailand
26-28 November 2009
Excellency Mr. Tram Iv Tek
Minister of Public Works and Transport
Alternate Member of the MRC Council for Cambodia
Excellency Madame Khempheng Pholsena
Minister to the Prime Minister's Office
Head of Water Resources and Environment Administration
Member of the MRC Council for the Lao PDR
Chairperson of the MRC Council for 2008/2009
Excellency Dr. Nguyen Thai Lai
Deputy Minister of the Natural Resources and Environment
Alternate Member of the MRC Council for Vietnam
Dr. Saksit Tridech
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Head of the Delegation of Thailand
Member of the MRC Joint Committee for Thailand
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to extend my warmest welcome to all the distinguished delegates of the joint session of the Sixteenth Meeting of the Mekong River Commission Council and Fourteenth Meeting of the Donor Consultative Group.
Let me start by extending my sincere congratulations to Her Excellency Madame Khempheng Pholsena, Chairperson of the MRC Council for 2008/2009 for her contribution to the success of MRC. Under her tenure, the MRC has enjoyed a time of consolidation and noteworthy achievements. The MRC has further strengthened its regional partnership not only with China and Myanmar but also with ASEAN and GMS. The launch of new initiatives on strategic topics such as climate change and Integrated Water Resources Management is another milestone of the tenure of Madame Khempheng.
Let me also mention the significant progress towards riparianisation, a process by which international positions in the Secretariat are progressively replaced by experts from the region. This is, undoubtedly, a sign of the increased maturity and ownership of the MRC.
As the current Chairman of MRC Council, let me reassure you I will devote the same effort and commitment to contribute to the success of the MRC.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Almost fifteen years ago here in Thailand, our predecessors signed the Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin where all parties committed themselves to promote the cooperation for sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin, in a constructive and mutually beneficial manner. Since then we have been working together towards a more comprehensive application of our Agreement including the refinement of our framework of procedures and technical guidelines.
The Mekong IWRM Project [that we approved yesterday] will provide an appropriate avenue for us to fulfil this important objective. It was the spirit of cooperation that allowed the MRC to grow in stature over the past years and it will enable the Member Countries to maintain the vision of the MRC of ensuring the economic, social and cultural prosperity of the sixty million people living within the basin, and their future generations. A critical element in maintaining this achievement is for the Countries to commit to the potential of water resources in development while ensuring that consideration of the natural resources and existing uses of the Mekong are fully integrated and taken up in the development planning processes.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The MRC remains a strong and relevant organisation, perhaps even more so than when the Mekong Agreement was signed due to the growth in private sector financing of project developments and the new challenges posed by climate change.
It is a unique regional body that can act as a facilitator of dialogue across a range of interested parties and help the Member Countries use the river system as a vehicle for poverty alleviation and economic growth.
No other organisation has the unique mandate or capacity to do this. The MRC has helped the Member Countries cooperate through its expertise and knowledge base in, amongst others, sustainable hydropower, fisheries, navigation, irrigation, livelihoods, water quality and wetlands.
Now looking forward at our near future, environmental security is high on the agenda for all the Mekong countries. We all stand to lose if, for example, we do nothing to adapt and mitigate the threat of climate change.
The Copenhagen climate change conference is only a few weeks away. It will have a profound impact on this region, which is why I am pleased to see the MRC’s Climate Change Adaption Initiative began this year. This could not have happened without the co-operation of the four Member Countries and its Development Partners.
On the other hand, we all collectively stand to gain from the sustainable use of water resources. Likewise, sustainability cannot be achieved without cooperation.
The formulation of the IWRM-based Basin Development Strategy and the MRC Strategic Plan 2011-2015 which we will discuss today are both clear illustrations of the regional willingness to cooperate.
We will talk today about how the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the eleven proposed Hydropower Schemes planned on the Mainstream of the Lower Mekong links in and complements the Basin Development Plan.
I mention this because it also illustrates how closely we are working with our Dialogue Partners. China has agreed to be support and provide inputs to the Strategic Environmental Assessment process. This is just one of the areas of technical cooperation that we share with the Chinese Government. Through cooperation on navigation, hydropower and flood data exchange, China and Myanmar are integrating themselves more closely into our work and have expressed a strong willingness to collaborate further. We are, after all, part of one Basin.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Integrated planning of the Mekong’s water resources in order to alleviate poverty will keep the MRC as a relevant organization for the Member Countries.
Such sustainable use of the resources of our countries has gained even more importance in the last year as economic growth has slowed across the globe. It is therefore even more important that we can contribute to our goals of pro-poor economic growth with our own means and resources. The river system provides just such a resource, but it must be managed in a sustainable manner.
In addition to the few topics already mentioned, today we will also discuss the emerging Stakeholder engagement policy of MRC, the successful implementation of the several recommendations of the independent organisational review, progress in preparing for the MRC Summit, MRC funding priorities and the alignment agenda of the MRC to further improve aid effectiveness.
We have many important matters to consider today. Recalling the Mekong spirit of cooperation that our friendship is built upon, I look forward to hearing your views today and I suggest that we move straight on to the matter of the agenda for the Council Meeting.