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The Lower Mekong Initiative Going Strong

Cambodian fishermen move their fishing net from the Mekong River as they catch fish on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Multinational effort fosters integrated cooperation and capacity building among Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

In late July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Foreign Ministers and senior representatives of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam met in Bali, Indonesia for the 4th Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial Meeting. The meeting highlighted the growing cooperation among the United States and the countries of the Lower Mekong River basin in key areas of common concern, such as education, environment, public health, and infrastructure.

The Lower Mekong Initiative, or LMI, is a multinational effort initiated by Secretary of State Clinton in 2009 to foster integrated cooperation and capacity building among Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

"We began this initiative two years ago to give rise to more frequent and effective cooperation among the Lower Mekong countries and the United States," said Secretary of State Clinton. "We saw many opportunities for effective partnership on issues that impact the people of the region: health, education, infrastructure, environmental protection, water quality, and so much else. And we thought there was value in taking an integrated approach, because all of these issues are connected. If water sources are polluted, health declines; if children are unhealthy, they struggle to learn; if education systems are weak, it affects the success of public health and environmental campaigns. So the initiative reflects the reality of this interconnection," she said.

More than 60 million people live in the Lower Mekong Basin, an area of some 606,000 square kilometers. It is the world's largest inland fishery and trans-boundary resource.

The LMI's objective is to develop regional approaches to transnational challenges in the lower Mekong sub-region by fostering greater collaboration and building capacity among Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. At the Fourth LMI Ministerial Meeting, the five LMI partner countries approved a Concept Paper and Five-Year Plan of Action which will provide vision and guidance for future LMI programs and activities. Already, LMI partner countries are strengthening local and regional capabilities and sharing technical expertise, resources, and comparative advantages. In 2011, the United States will provide $221.25 million in assistance to LMI partner countries in the areas of education, environment, health, and infrastructure.

"The Lower Mekong Initiative reflects the commitment of the United States to the well being of the people and the long-term success of the nations in the Mekong River area," said Secretary of State Clinton. "We support your efforts to build a stronger foundation for prosperity and progress, and we look forward to continuing to work with you as partners and friends for years to come."