The Mekong River Commission (MRC) is an intergovernmental organisation that works with the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to manage the shared water and related resources of the Mekong River for the sustainable development of the Mekong region. It was founded by the Mekong Agreement of 1995, building on previous cooperation through the Mekong Committee established in 1957.
Hence with more than 65 years of experience, the MRC serves today as a unique platform for water diplomacy and regional cooperation in which member states share the benefits of common water resources. It also acts as a regional knowledge hub on water resources management that helps to inform decision-making processes based on scientific evidence. Overall, the MRC is an established organisation with a clear mandate, procedures, strategies, guidelines and knowledge products that help ensures the Mekong is utilised for the countries’ benefit and the people’s well-being.
The MRC Summit is convened every four years, bringing together political leaders to address the prevailing challenges and opportunities facing the Mekong Basin. It is an opportunity for the Heads of Governments of the four MRC Member Countries to revisit the commitments made four years earlier and agree on strategies for the future and beyond.
Three summits have been held to date – the first in 2010, hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand in Hua Hin, and the second in 2014, hosted by the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam in Ho Chi Minh City and the third in 2018, hosted by the Kingdom of Cambodia in Siem Reap. Ministerial representatives from MRC Dialogue Partners, China and Myanmar, participated in the three Summits.
The fourth Summit, which focuses on the theme ‘Innovation and Cooperation for a Water Secure and Sustainable Mekong”, will be hosted by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and held on 5 April 2023 following a preparatory Ministerial Meeting on 4 April and an International Conference of Stakeholders on 2-3 April 2023. The venue for all events is Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR.
The Summit objectives are set as follows:
- Reaffirm the highest political commitment to the 1995 Mekong Agreement and the mandate of the MRC as a treaty-based inter-governmental river basin organisation for Mekong cooperation;
- Recognize the progress and achievements of the MRC in fostering cooperation and managing transboundary issues since the last Summit and its role going forward;
- Recognize the broader regional developments, challenges and opportunities and the need for a multilateral cooperation, joint effort and partnership; and
- Provide directions and guidance on enhancing innovation and cooperation for the water-secured Mekong in line with the priorities stipulated in the Basin Development Strategy 2021-2030.
The International Conference will provide an opportunity for the MRC and stakeholders from the riparian countries, NGOs, academia, regional/international organisations, the private sector, and other river basin organisations to exchange perspectives, best practices and cutting-edge ideas. Leading by the theme “Innovation and Cooperation for a Water Secure and Sustainable Mekong”, the Conference covers two sessions: 1) How innovative technologies are transforming water management and 2) How responsible financing and gender inclusiveness are making a difference in water resources management.