Mekong River Commission Secretariat

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The Fifteenth Meeting of the MRC Council

Opening Statement by
H.E. Mme Khempheng Pholsena
Minister to the Prime Minister's Office
Head of the Water Resources and Environment Administration
Chair of the Lao National Mekong Committee

Vientiane, Lao PDR
6 November 2008

Excellency Mr Lim Kean Hor,
Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology of Cambodia
Chair of Cambodia National Mekong Committee,
Member of the MRC Council for Cambodia

Excellency Mrs Anongwan Thepsutin (to be confirmed)
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Chair of Thai National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Thailand

Excellency Dr Pham Khoi Nguyen
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Chair of Viet Nam National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Viet Nam

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us in Vientiane for the fifteenth meeting of the Mekong River Commission Council. May I first extend my great appreciation to His Excellency Mr Lim Kean Hor for such effective stewardship of the Council chair over the past year, and offer my guarantee to you all that the Government of the Lao PDR takes great pride in its membership of the MRC, and that we shall do our utmost to conduct our year as Chair country with equal care and attention.

These are momentous times for our countries, for the region, and for the MRC. The organisation needs our guidance to move forward so that it can fulfil our wishes for sustainable water resources development. It is thus essential that we get down to business over the next two days and arrive at agreements on how to proceed on various important issues.

Development is moving at a fast pace across the basin, and economies and populations are growing. We have the resources to fuel this expansion, and can use the situation to our future advantage.

To do this, however, we will need to work together to ensure growth occurs in line with all our wishes for use of the Mekong. The 1995 Agreement gives us a framework for this regional cooperation. It allows the MRC to support the member states in securing more effective use of the river’s water and related resources to alleviate poverty while protecting the environment.

There are several areas of special concern at the moment. One is how the organisation reacts to flood events, and how it operates the major investment that our development partners have made in the Regional Flood Mitigation and Management Centre. There is a gap here between what the MRC does, and what the public expects it to do, and this gap deserves our attention.

The Commission has taken a bold step forward in leading regional discussion of plans for hydropower development, and this is another issue that catches much public attention. The role of the MRC and the support the Member States give it in this role is another topic we must discuss together at this, the highest level of the organisation.

A decision on the permanent location of the Secretariat is needed to give stability to our staff and to reassure our development partners. This issue has been batted around many meetings and now requires cooperation at senior level to bring a resolution that is acceptable to us all.

There are other important issues, such as finances and the role of the Basin Development Plan in our national policies, which also need our close attention. These issues are also being discussed by the donors at their harmonisation meeting, and we will tomorrow have the chance to jointly present possible avenues of cooperation on all matters.

Before that we shall need to reach a certain level of agreement here this afternoon. I thus wish you all a pleasant and fruitful stay in Vientiane, and, recalling the Mekong spirit of cooperation that our friendship is built on, and suggest that we move straight on to the matter of the agenda for the Council Meeting.

Thank you.



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