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Regional Cooperation Improving Lives In Mekong


Vietnamese fishermen collect catches from the Mekong river near Arey Ksat village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Feb. 6, 2014.

Leaders from four Southeast Asian nations have agreed to strengthen regional cooperation in developing and protecting the water resources on the Mekong River Basin.

Leaders from four Southeast Asian nations have agreed to strengthen regional cooperation in developing and protecting the water resources on the Mekong River Basin. Meeting in Ho Chi Minh City April 2nd through 5th, the premiers of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the Special Envoy of Thailand approved a declaration recommitting their nations to the 1995 Mekong Agreement that created a framework to build consensus among Mekong Basin nations on development and other issues.

The Lower Mekong River runs from China, through the four Southeast Asian nations, to the sea. Nearly 70 million people in the basin rely heavily on the river for their livelihoods, and those involved in irrigated agriculture and fishing make up 85 percent of the workforce there. Because problems at any point could affect millions of people downstream, nations along the river organized in 1994 to form the Mekong River Commission to work cooperatively to address them. At the commission’s second summit in Ho Chi Minh City last week, leaders identified ensuring water, energy and food security in the context of climate change as priorities they will focus on in the months to come.

The United States congratulates the commission and its member nations for nearly two decades of achievement. Through the MRC, regional governments have improved the lives of millions of people through sustainable economic development and regional cooperation.

That said, the challenges facing the commission and the river basin nations are greater than ever before. Increasing demands on the Mekong’s resources, rapid development and the effects of climate change are putting greater pressure on the river, threatening a unique environment and the livelihoods of millions. Responding to these challenges will require greater scientific and technical capacity, increased investment and still more regional cooperation.

Through programs such as the Lower Mekong Initiative and Connect Mekong, the United States is committed to supporting the efforts of the Mekong River basin nations to improve regional cooperation and management of the river’s resources, providing a sustainable future for all who depend on the waters of the Mekong.
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