Water resources are central to the food security, energy needs, public health and economic development of countries of the Greater Mekong region and their neighbours. It is in Australia’s national interest that water resources in the region are effectively managed and equitably shared, high social and environmental standards are applied for water-related investments, water governance is more informed and more inclusive, and rules-based transboundary cooperation takes place.
Australia has been involved in the region for over two decades, with DFAT’s Greater Mekong Water Resources Program (GMWRP) run out of DFAT’s Vientiane Post – a key part of Australia’s support to more equitable, transparent and effective water resources management in the Mekong region.
The Australia-Mekong Water Facility (AMWF) is a new four-year AU$9.86 million GMWRP investment which offers a direct government-to-government line of engagement between Australia and countries in the Mekong region. It aims to augment Australia’s international water diplomacy by providing a responsive, nimble and flexible mechanism for Australia to further enhance existing water-related partnerships with the governments of the Mekong region. The Facility’s geographic focus includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as Yunnan Province in southwest China.
By 2023, the Facility is expected to have contributed to:
- strengthening the capacity and resilience of Greater Mekong governments to holistically manage water and respond to challenges posed by climate change;
- promoting higher standards for water infrastructure and water governance in the Greater Mekong region in support of greater water, food and energy security;
- augmenting demand for Australian expertise in water management from Greater Mekong governments; and
- increasing Australia’s influence in the management of the region’s strategic water resources.
Whilst it is still in its inception phase, the Facility already has several activities underway with, at country-level for instance, the appointment of an Australian dam safety expert to assist the Lao PDR Government with its Emergency Dam Safety Inspection; the sharing, with Thailand’s Office of National Water Resources, and other partners, of Australia’s experience in water data management at a recent workshop in Bangkok; and timely technical advice to a large World Bank climate resilience and sustainable livelihoods project in Vietnam.
At the regional level, experts were mobilised to attend and represent Australia at the Mekong River Commission’s 2019 Regional Stakeholder Forum and at the Mekong Water Data meeting in Washington DC. Ongoing support is also provided to the Commission in the area of sustainable hydropower.
Further activities are in the pipeline, including the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework and of communications, knowledge and Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) strategies.
The Facility runs from March 2019 to June 2023 under a Complex Grant Agreement between DFAT GMWRP and eWater Ltd and is managed by AWP from Canberra. It will complement, rather than replace, AWP’s past and present engagement in the region funded out its core grant.
In terms of governance, AWP works closely with GMWRP on a day-to-day basis. A Facility Coordination Group, comprising two representatives from GMWRP and two from AWP, is already operational. A Facility Coordinator, to be based in the region, is currently being recruited to coordinate the development and implementation of the Facility’s investments. Meanwhile, in the AWP Canberra office, a new Program Officer recently joined the small team overseeing the implementation and management of the Facility.