The Lower Mekong Policy Forum on Environment, Agriculture, and Livelihoods was held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on August 11–12, 2016. Senior government officials, researchers, practitioners, civil society representatives, and members of the business community participated in the forum. The forum featured international and regional experts who are leading efforts to encourage public policy analysis and dialogue on emerging challenges and opportunities related to the Lower Mekong Basin’s environment, agriculture, and rural livelihoods.
The first plenary session discussed problems and policy approaches in the context of trans-boundary water governance in the Lower Mekong Basin. Key issues raised included water management strategies, energy development policies, and trans-boundary resource protection. The second session focused on strategies used by rural households to cope with emerging threats and natural disasters. Topics included appropriate resource management and sustainable agricultural systems, household adaptation and resilience to natural disasters, and the role of government policies in facilitating adaptive livelihoods. The session’s keynote was delivered by Malcolm McPherson, a senior fellow with the Ash Center’s Vietnam Program. McPherson asserted that, by any definition of “sustainability,” the current growth trajectory in the Mekong River basin is not sustainable. The third session examined the synergies and tradeoffs of economic development policies on resource-dependent livelihoods. A major challenge noted is the need to reconcile the quest for rapid natural resource-led economic growth with the problem of sustaining the environment while offsetting the burdens these developments impose on vulnerable groups, particularly women.
The forum, funded by USAID, was organized by the Lower Mekong Public Policy Initiative (LMPPI); the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and the Sustainable Mekong Research Network, Bangkok, Thailand. The Ash Center administers LMPPI with the support of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. At the conclusion of the forum, FETP director Nguyen Xuan Thanh discussed the future of LMPPI after the project officially concludes in mid-2017. LMPPI will be transitioned to a regional research center, called the Lower Mekong Public Policy Institute in the newly formed Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management of Fulbright University Vietnam.