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New Zealand and Flanders renew support to improve Mekong water management

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The Mekong River Commission (MRC) and the Governments of New Zealand and Flanders Thursday signed funding agreements worth close to $5 million to back the MRC in implementing its new Strategic Plan 2021–2025.

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“The renewed support from New Zealand and Flanders comes at a very critical time when the Lower Mekong governments need it most to jointly address water management and development challenges and impacts in the Mekong River Basin,” said Dr An Pich Hatda, CEO of the MRC Secretariat, at a virtual signing ceremony held on the sidelines of the 27th Meeting of the MRC Council in Paksong.

The new funding agreement with New Zealand, worth NZ$ 5 million (approx. $ 3.5 million), was signed by Dr Hatda, and New Zealand Ambassador to Thailand, Taha Macpherson.

Spanning over five years from 2021 to 2025, the funding from New Zealand aims to strengthen cooperative basin management that promotes trust, stability and sustainable growth among the four Lower Mekong countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

“Our funding will hopefully boost the MRC’s ability in striking a balance between economic, social and environmental outcomes to meet water management objectives in the region, and to improve the well-being and prosperity of the people dependent on this river,” said Ambassador Macpherson.

The new funding from New Zealand restores the country to the MRC Development Partners group and resumes their long-standing relationship with the MRC. New Zealand started funding the MRC in 1996, supporting gender mainstreaming in the water sector, capacity building and environmental protection.

With the Government of Flanders, the new financial agreement, worth EUR 1.1 million (approx. $1.31 million), was signed by Dr. Hatda and Minister-President of the Government of Flanders, Jan Jambon.

The Flemish funding will be spread over five years from 2021 to 2025. The primary aim of the support is to enhance navigation, environmental protection, and climate resilience in the four Lower Mekong countries.

Speaking at the virtual signing ceremony, Mr. Jambon noted that both Flanders and the Mekong shared similar challenges regarding sustainable water management and the combination of the functions of waterways.

“Along with this funding we will also offer our expertise to help the MRC in turning challenges into opportunities by ensuring that the environment is protected and the region is resilient to changing climate,” Mr Jambon said.

The funding from Flanders, a region of the Kingdom of Belgium, builds on the Belgian membership of the MRC Development Partners group in the past. Between 2005 and 2016, Belgium was a strong supporter to the MRC work on safe navigation and navigation development across the Lower Mekong River Basin.

The MRC is an intergovernmental organisation for regional dialogue and cooperation in the lower Mekong river basin, established in 1995 based on the Mekong Agreement between Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Heng Panha – AKP

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