With temperatures above 40 degrees and hundreds of delegates converging from all over the world for the 4th Mekong River Commission International Conference and Summit, Vientiane was literally and figuratively a hot place to be the first weekend in April 2023.
Our home in the Lao PDR National Convention Centre was the ‘Australia’ booth in the Exhibition Space – a collaboration between AWP, eWater, ACIAR and Charles Sturt University. Our booth attracted a great deal of attention as home to one of the conference’s ‘wildest’ attractions, a model fishpath, complete with live fish! The model demonstrated the work Australia has been supporting to study and facilitate the movement of fish through the Mekong, using similar paths to bypass dams, weirs and other infrastructure in the river’s stream. The fish drew attention from delegates from all over the world and showcased Australia’s expertise and commitment to innovation and research.
AWP was thrilled to be part of ‘Team Australia’ with representatives from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as Australian universities, private sector actors and other partners. AWP was proud to have multiple partners and collaborators presenting their work at the conference including Simon Tilleard from Alluvium, eWater’s Principal Hydrologist, Dr Paradis Someth and Dr Wayne Robinson, Senior Research Fellow at the Gulbali Institute. In addition to be a distinguished panellist, Wayne had a busy week in Laos as head fish wrangler at the booth and as a judge for the inaugural MRC River Monitoring Technology Competition!
In partnership with the World Bank, AWP and DFAT hosted a session featuring our ‘Valuing Water’ publication and sharing reflections from Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. Panellists spoke about the cultural, environmental, and economic values of water in their respective countries and included:
- Ms Nguyen Hong Phuong, Deputy Director General, Vietnam National Mekong Committee
- Mr Oudomsack Philavong, Deputy Secretary General of Laos National Mekong Commission Secretariat
- Ms Kaneka Keo, Mekong Water Governance Program, Oxfam, Cambodia
- Dr Wimolpat Bumbudsanpharoke Khamkanya, Senior Economist, Office of National Water Resources, Thailand
Our session closed with a wrap up and reflection from Dr Jane Doolan, Member of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
Dr Doolan also shared the stage with Dr Anoulak Kittikhoun CEO of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat and Dr Jung Pak, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Deputy Special Representative for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in the final session of the conference. In her reflections, Dr Doolan spoke of the importance of the ‘Mekong Spirit’ which underpins the connection between all Mekong countries and continued dialogue on the river and the region’s future. The Vientiane Declaration, signed by heads of state and ministers from Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos after the high level summit, reconfirmed this commitment to cooperation and collaboration.
Although the 5th MRC Conference won’t be held for another four years, ‘Team Australia’ will continue to work with our partners in the Mekong region to promote the sustainable and inclusive management of water resources.