Written by Mekong Institute

The MEKONG INSTITUTE (MI) was pleased to host the Mekong Forum 2011. As an Inter-Governmental Organization chartered by the six Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) governments, its principal mandate is to serve the human resource development needs for regional integration and cooperation in the GMS. MIs own goals and strategies for the next 5 years are framed within the context of an integrated ASEAN community. As such, MI took the initiative to construct a broader platform for meaningful dialogue on Human Resource Development (HRD) and capacity building in the GMS and ASEAN region.   

The Mekong Forum was designed to provide a unique opportunity for a cross-section of organizations interested in regional cooperation and integration to learn about the latest developments in integrating the GMS into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), to discuss the implications for GMS countries, and to identify issues and barriers while exploring collaborative solutions for integration. Forum activities focused on how best to help narrow the development gap between the less developed GMS countries, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) and the rest of the ASEAN states.

It was MIs intention to create an open, informal and supportive environment to bring together delegates from a variety of organizations – private and non-profit, governmental and intergovernmental, civil society, research and academic institutions as well as development partner agencies. The Forum offered the opportunity for delegates to learn about recent developments and collectively identify the benefits, challenges and issues of GMS integration into the AEC by 2015. There are too many HRD and capacity building needs in the Subregion for any single organization to address. Therefore it was hoped that by bringing interested organizations together they would find ways to initiate the exploration of opportunities for future collaboration and partnerships. Exhibit space was provided for those organizations who wished to distribute further information to Forum delegates.

The Forum was organized in two parts. Expert speakers set the context for the journey from GMS to AEC 2015 in an Opening Plenary Session on the morning of the first day. Over the next day and a half, delegates worked together in parallel Discussion Groups to identify key constraints and mitigating actions.

Forum speeches covered the history of regional cooperation, set out requirements to achieve the AEC by 2015, compared the challenges and opportunities faced by the CLMV countries with the poorer countries of Europe during the formation of the European Union, identified the tangible connectivity already taking place and planned within the Subregion and identified specific HRD and capacity building issues facing the CLMV countries. Two common themes emerged from those speeches:
integrating GMS into AEC presents both opportunities and challenges for individual countries in the Subregion
HRD and capacity building are the catalyst for accelerating the economic and social development of the CLMV countries, which is a prerequisite for a successful AEC.
Discussion Groups were formed around the three most pressing HRD and capacity building issues: Implementing Free Trade Agreements, Integrating Small and Medium Sized Enterprise into ASEAN and Global Value Chains, and Improving Cross-Border Contract Farming Facilitation and Implementing Good Agricultural Practices.

Discussion Group participants deliberated the barriers and constraints faced by CLMV countries in addressing each of these issues. They then identified potential collaborative partnerships and arrangements to overcome these barriers and constraints. Specific Ideas covered: policy dialogues, training, research, seminars and workshops, forums, outreach, study visits, peer support programs and media campaigns.

The following three areas emerged as the highest common priority needs going forward:
Institutional there is a need to put in place appropriate and enabling institutions to engage with and communicate to all impacted stakeholders
Implementation there is a need to strengthen the capacity of government agencies tasked with implementing different AEC requirements and private sector organizations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce and Industry) to disseminate information, particularly at the provincial and local levels
Innovation – there is a need to enhance the ability of all stakeholders to cope with the changing environment and rapid developments that integration with AEC is bringing.

The Mekong Forum resulted in a number of significant outcomes including:
Heightened awareness and understanding of the challenges and opportunities for the CLMV countries as they move to integrate with the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015
A shared understanding that strengthened public-private partnerships are needed to implement AEC 2015 requirements
Recognition that a wide range of stakeholders need to be involved in all stages of the process, from development to implementation
A shared sense of urgency to initiate responsive HRD and capacity building initiatives.

The Mekong Institute remains committed to playing a key role moving forward.

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