C
The Mekong River is one of the world’s great river systems, lowing 4,909 km through 6 countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It is the world’s 12th longest river and the 7th longest in Asia. It drains an area of 795,000 km2, discharging 457 km2 of water annually. The Lower Mekong basin contains many and varied wetlands that perform wide-ranging functions and sustain key social, economic and cultural values. Wetlands also play a vital role in supporting the livelihoods of local people, providing a productive environment for agriculture, aquaculture, capture fisheries, non-fish aquatic goods and tourism revenue. In addition, natural wetlands provide equally important benefits, such as flood mitigation, water storage and wastewater treatment. Aquatic biodiversity in the Mekong river system is the 2nd highest In the world after the Amazon. Its biodiversity is fundamental to the viability of natural resource-based rural livelihoods of a population of 60 million people living in the Lower Mekong Basin. Apart from providing the resource base for the livelihood of its riparian population, the Mekong River is also playing a crucial role in the economic development of the sub-region. For thousands of years the Mekong River has also been an important conduit for people and goods between many towns situated along its banks. The Mekong region is rapidly developing and energy to support economic growth is in high demand, while local energy production is very limited and the development of the Mekong River Basin hydropower is highly controversial due to its impacts but constitutes one of the most prominent elements in the discussion about the river and its management. The fact is that Mekong region is transforming rapidly, populations are booming and the demand for natural resources is reaching new heights. Countries are rolling out economic plans of unprecedented scale that include not only new hydropower dams but also irrigation, roads, and free flows of goods and people across national borders. These developments are putting increased pressure on riparian governments to manage these sustainably to avoid serious and irreversible problems, particularly in the face of climate change. It is also putting increased pressure on the riparian countries to reinforce sub-regional cooperation for a responsible, sustainable and equitable share of Mekong River Basin resources: failure to do so could lead to potential serious conflicts between these countries. In 1995, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) was created to assist in the management and coordinate use of the Mekong’s resources. The MRC is governed by 3 permanent bodies: the Council, the Joint Committee and the Secretariat. Over the recent years, the EU has stepped-up its involvement with the MRC and is now foreseeing direct funding to the organization in priority areas of EU Development Cooperation, i.e. natural resources management (NRM) and sustainable equitable growth in Least Developed Countries. The consensus amongst MRC Donors is that future funding to the organization should be in the form of a core funding to the MRC Strategic Plan (2015-2020 as a start) through a basket fund mechanism. The EU supports this position and is working on ensuring that its future funding is aligned on these principles. The Donors and Development Partners (DP) has structured itself with the establishment of an MRC Development Partners Group in 2012-2013. The purpose of this group is to harmonise DP’s positions on current operational, strategic and political issues and defend these positions towards the MRC council, Joint Committee and MRC’s Member Countries. The MRC DP group is headed by a troika of outgoing-current-incoming chairing system, with the Chair elected for a period of one year (June-May). For the period 2015-2016, the EU was the Chair of the Group with Australia as outgoing and Switzerland as incoming Chairs. The purpose of this contract was to provide technical, operational and strategic support to the EU Chair during its mandate. The specific objective of this assignment was to facilitate an effective and efficient EU support to the Mekong River Commission within existing and future mandate.

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