Joint Statement of LMI Second Regional Working Group Meeting
Lower Mekong Initiative
Second Regional Working Group Meeting
Vientiane, Lao PDR
November 7-8, 2011
On 7-8 November 2011, senior representatives of the Lower Mekong Basin countries, namely Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the United States gathered in Vientiane, Lao PDR, for the Second Regional Working Group Meeting of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI). Members of the five delegations reviewed progress on the LMI Plan of Action and discussed plans for future cooperative activities in the four LMI pillars of education, environment, public health, and infrastructure.
All senior representatives expressed their deep concern and sympathy for those affected by the devastating flooding that has occurred in the sub-region.
The representatives affirmed that the LMI is an essential regional mechanism and forum for building cooperation and capacity to address pressing challenges in LMI’s four areas of endeavor.
Education: The Education Pillar Working Group reviewed the implementation of the LMI English for Professional Communications Skills for Leaders project, which will provide technical English instruction to regional professionals, specialists, and government officials from the LMI partner countries. Delegates noted the need for regional cooperation in addressing climate change in an educational context. Delegates also discussed a possible regional LMI alumni conference, and future exchange programs with the United States that will focus on themes associated with the LMI Plan of Action.
Environment: The Environment Pillar Working Group welcomed progress on the U.S. Geological Survey-implemented Forecast Mekong Project, which continues to support local research efforts by providing visualization and mapping tools, data integration, and training for scientists of the Lower Mekong sub-region. The delegates noted that the U.S. Geological Survey’s satellite imagery contributed to flood response efforts in the Lower Mekong sub-region.
Delegates expressed concern over the social and economic impact of natural disasters, particularly the recent floods in the region as well as seawater intrusion, and agreed that further studies are needed to examine their underlying causes. They also emphasized the increasing need to protect, conserve, and utilize Mekong water resources sustainably.
Delegates studied the outcomes of recent LMI disaster management workshops supported by the U.S. Pacific Command. They welcomed planned workshops and staff exercises to improve regional coordination and information-sharing in the event of natural disasters. The delegates reviewed USAID’s ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking) program, and stated their intention to continue strong collaboration on this important regional and global issue. USAID presented progress on the Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (LEAF) program; the Climate Resilient Mekong program; and Portland State University’s “Planning Approaches for Water Resources Development in the Lower Mekong Basin” study.
Delegates took note of Thailand’s concept for establishing an information center to monitor changes in forest coverage and a related warning system, which would be helpful for regional flood and drought management as well as for coping with the adverse effects of climate change.
Health: In the Health Pillar Working Group, delegates examined the outcomes of recent workshops that help build regional capacity to counter emerging infectious diseases, including TB, HIV/AIDS, malaria, dengue, and others. The working group emphasized the importance of further cooperation and collaboration on the World Health Organization's International Health Regulations and the Emerging Pandemic Threat Program. Delegates also agreed to their respective countries' participation in a Counterfeit Drugs Workshop planned for the first quarter of 2012. Health Pillar Working Group delegates took note of the draft of a letter that, if agreed, would formally recognize the LMI partner countries' individual entry into the Global Alliance on Clean Cookstoves.
In the context of cross-pillar discussions of disaster preparedness, Thailand shared its experiences during the ongoing floods, with a focus on health impacts and consideration of social support needed for people affected by the crisis. Thailand reviewed innovative and flexible provisions made for continued disease surveillance and outbreak control despite logistical and organizational challenges. The delegation noted that this surveillance and public health network had identified food poisoning and diarrhea, but no cholera to date. Thailand plans to share its experience and lessons learned with international agencies and at a future Health Pillar Working Group meeting.
Infrastructure: The Infrastructure Pillar Working Group underscored the importance for LMI partner countries to link infrastructure development to the goals of ASEAN connectivity, and the need for sustainable and environmentally-friendly infrastructure development proposals. Delegates took note with appreciation a proposal for a Best Practices Exchange on Infrastructure Development. This exchange will bring together LMI government officials responsible for infrastructure development and experts from the private and public sectors. The U.S.-ASEAN Business Council supports this endeavor. Delegates considered a series of bridge-and-road construction seminars focused on infrastructure needs in the region. Delegates discussed the importance of the Education Pillar’s technical English language instruction with regard to infrastructure development.
Plenary Discussion: In the Plenary Session, the heads of delegations addressed future LMI activities. They took note of a U.S. proposal for an inaugural LMI Women’s Policy Dialogue to be held in July 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This policy dialogue would bring LMI partner country officials and private sector leaders together with advocates for women’s issues in sectors such as health care, education, environment, infrastructure, economic empowerment, and governance. The delegates committed to returning to capitals for further consideration of the proposal.
The delegates underscored the importance of donor coordination, expressing a desire to continue the Friends of the Lower Mekong mechanism launched in Bali in July 2011, and discussing specific collaborative efforts among donors.
The delegations affirmed the Virtual Secretariat as a valuable tool to foster collaboration, share best practices and lessons learned, and to facilitate the planning of LMI activities.
The LMI partner countries concluded with an agreement to hold the Third Regional Working Group Meeting in 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand, at a time convenient to the partner countries and prior to the July 2012 LMI Ministerial Meeting in Cambodia.