General News Details

Lower Mekong Initiative Eighth Regional Working Group, December 15-16, 2015

Publish Date: 27-Nov-2015

Joint Programs on Sustainable Infrastructure for Lower Mekong Initiative Members and Friends of the Lower Mekong

The Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) is a multinational partnership created in 2009 to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth to LMI partner countries by collaboratively addressing regional trans-boundary development and policy challenges through six “pillars” (agriculture & food security, connectivity, education, energy security, environment & water, and health).  In 2014, Secretary Kerry and LMI Foreign Ministers agreed to elevate two cross-cutting themes - the “nexus,” of water, energy, & food security challenges, and women’s empowerment.

On December 15-16, 2015, Vietnam will host the Eighth LMI Regional Working Group (RWG) meeting. The RWG will bring together up to 100 working-level interagency delegates (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, the United States, and Viet Nam) to take stock of progress and design new approaches to the cross-cutting themes.  This LMI RWG will feature the first “Friends of the Lower Mekong” (FLM) Working Group, integrating donor members into discussions.

As this new working group replaces the FLM Ministerial, additional effort will improve donor coordination through activities that target shared objectives under LMI.  Ahead of the RWG, we would like to develop one to two ideas for complimentary programs to enhance donor collaboration on the FLM theme of infrastructure sustainability.  (The February Extraordinary Meeting of FLM discussed safeguards, planning & management, and finance for sustainable infrastructure and the 2015 LMI Ministerial endorsed the statement “Building a Sustainable Future for the Mekong.”) We would appreciate your feedback on the below ideas for multi-donor projects. 

Questions for Partners:

  1. What are your current policy and/or foreign assistance priorities under the theme of infrastructure sustainability (safeguards, planning/management, finance, data)?”
  2. What are key partnerships with local, regional, and multilateral organizations that should be reflected in LMI planning on this topic?
  3. What are key opportunities you believe could benefit from U.S. and/or other donor support (i.e. awareness-raising, political buy-in, institutional engagement, additional funding)?
  4. What other regional fora discuss infrastructure sustainability?  How could we leverage or build on existing work in other multilateral fora? 
  5. How do the program ideas below strategically complement current efforts by you and partners?

Draft Project Ideas

  1. Expand Environmental and Social Sustainability Learning Centers to the Region

What is the Learning Center?  The Learning Center, housed at the Asian Institute of Technology Center in Hanoi, Vietnam (AIT-VN), is designed to strengthen the Government of Vietnam’s social and environmental safeguards capacity.  The Center offers capacity building in social and environmental impact assessments (SEIAs) and compliance issues to government officials and provincial authorities involved in infrastructure development.  The Center was established with support from Australia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank (WBG), USAID, and AIT-VN. 

Multi-donor Project Objective: To expand the reach of the Learning Center to benefit all LMI members and engage additional donor partners. 

Advantages:  This project is already supported by four FLM donor members and fits our sustainability goals within an existing program.  Some of the current partners are interested in expanding the Center’s work to the region, and it might be possible to leverage other LMI projects, such as the COMET workforce development project to improve training on STEM, accounting and tourism topics.  This project could incorporate multi-sectoral approaches to sustainable development planning (an idea proposed by Viet Nam as a topic of multi-donor collaboration).

  • The model for course implementation is to conduct a training-of-trainers (TOT) course for the staff of the Center.  Select TOT graduates then refine the curriculum and training modules for practitioners.  Topics taught as part of the curriculum include involuntary resettlement, environmental and social impact assessment, EIA review, ethnic minorities, and environmental management in construction.  Planned TOT courses in 2016 will include strategic environmental assessments, cumulative impacts, and biodiversity and health impact assessments.  Planned 2016 roll-out courses include Ethnic Minorities, Principles of EIA Review, Environmental Management in Construction, Social Assessment, Consultation and Participation, and Strategic Environmental and Cumulative Impact Assessments. 
  1. Best Practices Exchanges (BPE) in Sustainable Mega-Infrastructure Projects

Why Hold a Sustainable Mega-Infrastructure BPE Series?: Many countries within the Lower Mekong pursue mega-infrastructure projects without the ability to access the knowledge and experience of international best practices or to consult with each other on shared challenges.  The Sustainable Mega-Infrastructure BPEs will highlight the benefits of creating modern regulatory and institutional frameworks to incorporate private capital through public-private partnerships for infrastructure project development.  Promoting “quality” infrastructure investment will help address negative social and environmental impacts through the use of social and environmental impact assessments and will ensure the long-term sustainability of infrastructure projects including life-cycle costs and safety.  These programs will be project-oriented and designed to bring together financiers, designers, builders, material and equipment suppliers, and service providers with LMI project owners and decision makers. The LMI member countries will be invited to host different sectors/workshops in different locations for this program.  Gathering best-practices will assist governments and partners in incorporating sustainability into the various stages of mega-infrastructure planning, construction, and management, and help establish sustained and supportive connections for technical exchange in implementing these programs over time. Areas of focus would include, robust alternatives analysis; terms of reference; standards and guidelines; public participation; environmental and social impact assessments and mitigation planning, including cross-sectoral analysis of cumulative impacts; assessing and developing project financing options and project financial feasibility; permit approvals; compliance; and monitoring and evaluation.

Multi-donor Project  Objective: Improve planning, including across agencies, for mega-infrastructure projects such as power projects, transmissions lines, water projects, airports, roads, ports, and mines.  

  • : A Best Practices Exchange would allow the Friends of the Lower Mekong to avoid duplicative bilateral assistance programs by addressing LMI member governments at similar stages of development and engaging with interagency representatives from across the membership.  During the August 2015 LMI Ministerial, LMI member countries signed a joint statement emphasizing the importance of sustainable infrastructure.  With this goal clearly stated, the ability to consult existing bodies of knowledge and jointly plan projects provides a mechanism to capitalize on this initiative, providing a clear narrative of success for the Lower Mekong Initiative.
  • Agencies such as the United States Department of Commerce have demonstrated that Best Practices Exchanges are efficient, useful vehicles for raising capacity within the Lower Mekong.  FLM members could devise a collaborative best practices exchange to amplify the focus in this area with countries choosing project of particular interest or focusing on areas of specific expertise sharing the responsibility for coordination and funding.  Workshops could be conducted at energy, water, sanitation, or transportation infrastructure sites that could provide an attractive, “hands-on” venue.