Plan of Action to Implement the Lower Mekong Initiative (2011-2015)
The Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) Plan of Action (PoA) will implement the goals and objectives outlined by the Foreign Ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the Secretary of State of the United States at the Hanoi LMI Ministerial Meeting in October 2010. This PoA seeks to promote collaboration and connectivity between the five LMI nations over the next five years in a meaningful and mutually beneficial manner to address current and future regional social, technological, and environmental challenges.
The LMI PoA builds upon the strong cooperation among the five LMI nations. The LMI, formally launched in 2009, was developed in response to the collective policy challenges and opportunities shared by Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. The LMI seeks to build capacity and human resources in these countries through mutual cooperation and the sharing of relevant human and technological expertise across four broad areas, or “pillars”: Health, Infrastructure, Education and Environment. The four regional LMI member countries will each co-chair an LMI pillar with the United States: Cambodia-Health, Laos-Infrastructure, Thailand-Education, and Vietnam-Environment.
This PoA is a non-binding agreement to promote coordination and implement capacity building activities related to the four pillars of the LMI. Our focus is on fostering partnership activities. Though activities listed herein have been recognized as of interest to the majority of LMI countries, a particular country (whether pillar co-chair or not) may lead, participate in, or not participate in any given activity herein. This PoA has been crafted to complement the existing and ongoing activities being carried out by partner countries or associated regional institutions in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Establish the LMI as a platform for cooperation and exchange among and within the LMI countries, across multiple branches of government. As such, it will facilitate communication and capacity building within and between LMI partner nations to work towards LMI priorities.
1. Develop and implement a strategy that establishes for the LMI a flexible mechanism, leadership, and metrics for determining successes:
a. Create national focal points and LMI Working Groups (WGs) that include representation from relevant ministries and agencies;
b. Determine an agreed upon LMI Concept Paper to articulate the way forward;
c. Use WGs to support LMI goals and direction, as well as to define specific action items and deliverables;
d. Use WGs to identify strengths and gaps in each of the pillars;
e. Foster awareness of need for local, district, and provincial capacity to complement national capacity; and
f. Develop Public-Private Partnerships within each pillar to enhance program sustainability.
2. Facilitate communication/coordination between LMI nations and between LMI pillars:
a. Develop a Virtual Secretariat as a platform by which to strengthen LMI coordination, intergovernmental communication information sharing, discussion of ongoing issues, and to enhance decision making;
b. Designate LMI Points of Contact (PoC) within Technical Agencies and Ministries of Foreign Affairs;
c. Train LMI PoCs on use of Virtual Secretariat; and
d. Use the Virtual Secretariat as a repository for information on LMI activities and successes.
3. Use the LMI concept/vision to identify and align already existing activities that could be enhanced by application in an LMI context:
- Emphasize strategic benefits of reprogramming existing regional programs and bilateral programs for application in an LMI context; and
b. Enhance communication and coordination with other nations and initiatives engaged in the Lower Mekong region to complement efforts and to build synergistic approaches.
4. Convene regular LMI meetings.
a. Working Group Meetings – Each pillar country coordinator agrees to “shepherd” work plans and facilitate discussions around its respective pillar; further, at least once each year, on a rotating and alphabetical basis, one regional LMI country, in conjunction with the United States, will co-host a Joint Regional Working Group Meeting for all four pillar Working Groups
- Senior Officials Meeting – An annual meeting for the interaction of LMI Senior Officials; and
- Ministerial Meeting – An LMI Ministerial meeting to confirm annual progress on implementing the plan of action and to provide clear policy guidance for the following years.
5. Enhance dialogue between scientists, technical professionals and policy makers:
a. Share best practices in engaging scientists, health professionals, engineers, and other technical professionals and policy makers in science based decision making in social and natural sciences; and
b. Utilize existing University and research institution internet platforms to foster greater communication and cooperation.
6. Enhance capacity building of LMI countries and coordinate with other donor countries and multilateral organizations to complement activities.
LMI Education Pillar
The LMI countries seek to foster regional education aimed at human resource development cooperation, narrowing economic and social disparities and ensuring economic and social development in the region in a sustainable manner. This can be realized by increasing opportunities for the peoples of lower Mekong, increasing competitiveness of lower Mekong countries in the global market, as well as enhancing the benefits of regional cooperation and integration in an equitable manner. This includes improving knowledge sharing of best practices within the LMI nations in a variety of strategic and technical areas; increasing technical English skills among relevant LMI participants; and enhancing communication between scientists and policy makers across all pillars.
- Bring existing English language opportunities more in line with LMI goals:
a. Seek opportunities to make greater use of Public Diplomacy, USAID, Peace Corps, and other ongoing programs in the service of LMI goals.
b. Explore new ways to use emerging technologies, such as internet-based distance learning (webinars, chats, Facebook, etc.) and mobile delivery systems to provide focused, distance learning and training.
c. Seek other approaches to increase English language training capacity, including potentially partnering with other donor countries, working with U.S. colleges and universities, NGOs, etc.
d. Enhance English language training programs with emphasis on English for a Specific Purpose. Use creative ways to develop technical English language ability among experts working in the fields of the LMI pillars, such as educational technology transfer, web technologies, and online education tools.
e. Enhance capacity of existing centers for technical English language skills in the Lower Mekong Countries.
2. Continue International Visitor programs and possible other exchanges in each of the LMI pillars: Education, Environment, Health, and Infrastructure:
a. Engage decision makers, managers, and trainers from the LMI countries through projects focusing on the specific goals of the LMI strategic plan.
b. Advance the numbers of scholarship, fellowship and training grants programs, as future LMI funding permits.
3. Strengthen Human Resource Development to promote regional competitiveness:
a. Enhance educational and HRD program quality and ensure the relevance of the programs to regional human capital as well as market needs and challenges.
b. Improve adaptability of education as well as technical/vocational/skills development training in LMI through technical assistance programs.
c. Raise awareness of good practices and training sessions by convening best practices workshops and conferences in areas of mutual interest, encouraging participation of other regional and international partners.
d. Promote the use of existing LMI host country regional training centers and institutes in human resource development programs.
4. Strengthen institutional links and mechanism for cooperation among LMI countries and with other regional and international institutions to develop partnerships to promote capacity building in education and human resource development:
a. Encourage partnership and networking among academic institutions, training centers, and development agencies for educational and human resource development activities as well as development agencies for educational and human resource development activities.
b. Support academic cooperation such as joint research, publication, and joint degree program.
c. Provide assistance in curriculum development, teacher training and capacity building for educators and administrative personnel.
d. Support wider access of rural communities to education and training by expanding distance learning opportunities into rural areas.
5. Take advantage of programs from other LMI pillars, specifically the environment and health pillars, to promote health, climate change and environment education.
LMI Health Pillar
LMI countries agree on the importance of health working group activities through the LMI to improve human health and thereby narrow poverty and development gaps. This PoA more clearly defines specific health programmatic goals and areas of cooperation under the LMI, and is based on the outcomes of the meeting in Vietnam in June 2010. Cross border and migrant issues are a particular concern and should be examined under each of the four main areas of activity. Health pillar activities will take place along four main areas:
1. Communicable and Emerging Infectious Diseases. The LMI partners will focus attention on certain diseases, including TB, HIV/AIDS, malaria, dengue, and other emerging infectious diseases including pandemic influenza, and to build on the report on the LMI Infectious Disease Conference in Hanoi and the need to build on recommendations contained in that report.
a. Develop and strengthen a coordinated response to the management of these diseases in the Lower Mekong countries.
b. Areas of cooperation should include laboratory capacity, risk communication, and business continuity planning.
2. Prevention and control of counterfeit and substandard medications (CSM), which pose a public health problem and also contribute to drug resistance in communicable and emerging infectious diseases of particular concern in LMI countries. Actions to combat CSM include information sharing and capacity building.
a. Share information and good practices related to counterfeit drugs and substandard medications and drug resistance, including good manufacturing practices (GMP);
b. Establish an informal network of single points of contact within LMI countries to share information.
c. Cross border collaboration on prevention and control of smuggling of counterfeit drugs.
3. Regional collaboration to support implementation of the International Health Regulations. Countries are at varying degrees of compliance due to varying capacity. There is an opportunity share expertise by countries further along in compliance in different IHR capacities to share techniques and lessons learned with the other LMI countries.
a. The entry into force of the revised International Health Regulations (2005) paves the way for LMI countries to attain core capacity requirements for surveillance and response at designated ports of entry.
b. LMI countries should share practices and coordinate communications with neighboring countries and the public in the event of public health emergencies of international concern in LMI countries.
c. At the regional level, emphasis should be on surveillance and response, laboratory capacity strengthening, cross border collaboration, and pandemic preparedness and response.
4. Sharing good practices in other areas, including, for example:
- Infection control in health facilities.
b. Information about other alliances and activities, such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air, the Emerging Pandemics Threats program, the Global Health Initiative, and the Pacific Partnership, where appropriate.
LMI Environmental Pillar
Promote dialogue between LMI countries on sound and sustainable environmental management and link activities, where appropriate, to global and LMI countries’ climate change policy.
1. Promote sound and sustainable natural resource management and climate change policies and improve institutional and human resource capacity to address transnational issues related to natural resources, with particular emphasis on forests, water, renewable energy, wetlands, watershed management, biodiversity, and food security.
a. Share best practices in social and natural sciences related to impacts of natural resource management (with emphasis on forests, water, renewable energy, biodiversity, food security, etc.), perhaps on the margins of other regional dialogues;
b. Improve dialogue between scientists and policy makers to both better inform policy makers, and help scientists identify knowledge gaps that should be addressed through research and sharing of best practices; and
c. Build technical capacity and political awareness to address adaptation and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change on livelihoods, landscapes and ecosystems, including land management, watersheds, wetlands, wildlife conservation, wildlife trafficking, and sustainable forestry management programs.
2. Strengthen existing regional institutions, cooperation among national institutions, natural resource related research, and ongoing partnerships between LMI countries:
a. Strengthen the ability of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) through national Mekong committees to gather and communicate data to policy makers, including both findings within the Lower Mekong countries and lessons learned from Mississippi-Mekong River Commission (MRC-MRC) exchange program;
b. Enhance MRC-MRC exchanges through the Sister River Partnership (MOU) and increase networking;
c. Enhance capacity for wildlife management, biodiversity management, water management, and food security by sharing and utilizing best practices;
d. Continue to develop the Forecast Mekong tool and other planning tools to support water management and meet regional watershed management goals; and
e. Where applicable, build LMI-centric sessions into regional workshops and seminars related to climate change, including impacts of sea-level rise, conservation efforts, wildlife trafficking, forestry practices, clean and renewable energy, water management, and land management.
3. Encourage incorporation of good governance tools for sustainable management of natural resources into the basin development strategy and green growth initiatives into broader national development strategies:
a. Promote political and community support for impact assessments on social, economic, and ecological systems;
b. Promote integration of forests and biodiversity management considerations into broader development strategies supported by MDBs;
c. Promote capacity building through cooperation and technical assistance within and among LMI nations’ technical and relevant agencies;
d. Promote community-based eco-tourism;
Enhance capacity to implement regionally agreed upon regulations on water resources utilization, basin development strategy, and to improve studies on the impact of water resources development.
4. Improve capacity in Disaster Risk Management (DRM) practices:
a. Strengthen techniques and procedures along internationally accepted standards and conforming to the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER);
b. Build capacity to enhance DRM efforts, including promoting regular training and exercises; and
c. Build upon currently bilateral activities to expand into all LMI countries;
d. Enhance monitoring and early warning systems and preparedness in disaster management and share best practices; and
e. Share environmentally friendly disaster management technologies.
5. Develop better natural weather and climate related natural disaster forecasting tools.
a. Develop and deploy weather forecasting tools, climate change predictive tools, and other climate services that allow identification, production, and timely interpretation of data and information related to weather and climate;
b. Work with local and national governments to develop climate change adaptation strategies as a part of climate resilient development; and
c. Build capacity to respond to potential disasters through training courses, workshops, seminars, etc. on disaster risk reduction and management.
LMI Infrastructure Pillar
Strengthen capacity within and across the LMI partner countries to support programming under all LMI pillars and to complement existing regional mechanisms, using information technology, training, and donor coordination as means to achieve sustainable, trans-border hard infrastructure objectives.
1. Mobilize private sector funding through public-private partnerships to provide a market-based approach to infrastructure development:
a. Enhance the reach of technology throughout the LMI countries to promote corporate social responsibility, further rural development, and foster small and medium business development; and
b. Enhance capacity through best practice sharing, including training of logistics and infrastructure management personnel.
2. Increase information technology throughout the LMI nations:
a. Engage with projects where appropriate to increase access to mobile technology for disadvantaged and marginalized groups;
b. Promote networking to manage appropriate technology growth and increase engagement, connectivity, and social interaction among people, academic institutions, public organizations, and private enterprises; and
c. Foster coordination among Ministries and across borders on LMI related infrastructure programming.
3. Support and promote social and environmental impact assessment and effective remediation methods related to infrastructure development:
a. Build capacity in alternative use and cost-benefit analyses, trans-boundary impact assessment, and impact and mitigation monitoring;
b. Build capacity to develop and implement social and environmental impact assessments and use best practices in infrastructure and development planning among the LMI nations; and
c. Address changing infrastructure needs in light of climate change, biodiversity loss, and potential displacement associated with infrastructure development projects.
4. Develop internet connectivity to advance all LMI pillar objectives, enhance communication, increase public awareness of LMI activities and programs, and facilitate cross border trade and transportation.