The training programme was organised in response to requests from key stakeholders involved in water resource management in the Lower Mekong Region. More than 20 participants, mostly mid-level government officials from countries of the Lower Mekong Basin, attended the training course. They represented national environment ministries and the National Mekong Committees of Cambodia, Viet Nam and Lao PDR. There was also representation from government departments dealing with community fisheries, ground water management, and aquaculture development, as well as from some civil society groups from Myanmar.
“Water is a complex resource. It interacts with different sectors and its governance and administration cuts across various ministries and departments," said Dr Alejandro Iza, Director of IUCN's Environmental Law Centre located in Bonn, Germany. "Therefore, creating an effective and sustainable solution depends on the ability of different stakeholders to understand the available options, each other's needs and the issues they face in a shared basin."
Since 2011, IUCN BRIDGE has been working to build water governance capacities through training, demonstration, leadership, and consensus building, with particular focus on trans-boundary or shared river and lake basins.
Hydro-diplomacy has been a growing trend in South East Asia. Viet Nam recently became the 35th country to ratify the 1997 UN Convention on Non-Navigational uses of International Watercourses (UNWC). Lao PDR has issued a decree on the establishment of river basin institutions. However, effective water diplomacy requires involvement of water users at multiple levels. It also involves raising awareness and advocacy on water issues. With these in mind, the agenda of the workshop was divided into three sections: technical presentations, group discussions and practical exercises.
IUCN trainers used case studies to explain the principles governing international laws, such as the duty to cooperate, not to cause significant harm and the equitable and reasonable use of resources.
The group discussions were organized around the theme 'Challenges and benefits for cooperation in the Mekong basin'. Participants were divided into country groups-- Cambodia, Lao PDR, Viet Nam and Myanmar. There was a feeling among different groups that mechanisms and platforms for cooperation are already present in the Mekong region, but there are several challenges. The current arrangements face difficulties due to different levels of understanding and the way issues are perceived by the various stakeholders in the Mekong countries. The participants indicated a need for clear policies on cooperation to achieve community wellbeing.
The legal jargon and policy contexts explained throughout the training course were effectively applied by participants during the practical segment and came through clearly during the plenary. The principles and concepts discussed during the training course can be applied at sub-national, regional and global levels, and between provinces, and constitute the core of hydro-diplomacy in trans-boundary hotspots.
The training showed that by building water governance capacities in shared basins through strengthening institutional capacities, countries can work together better to secure their shared water resources.
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For more information, please contact:
Senior Programme Officer, Water and Wetlands
Natural Resources Group
IUCN Asia Regional Office
IUCN Environmental Law Programme
Environmental Law Centre