The 1995 Mekong Agreement provides the legal mandate of the Mekong River Commission (MRC). It defines the scope of the work and cooperation required for coordination and joint planning to achieve balanced and socially just development in the Mekong River Basin while protecting the environment and maintaining the region’s ecological balance.
The Agreement also sets out a framework for achieving the strategic objectives of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), recognising that development decisions by sector agencies in the sovereign riparian countries of the Mekong River Basin may have transboundary consequences and that the MRC as an inter‐governmental river basin organisation relies on Member Countries’ endorsement of its orientations and initiatives.
Article 1 of the Agreement calls for “cooperation in all fields of development, utilisation, management and conservation of water and related resources to optimise the multiple use and mutual benefits and minimise the harmful effects.” Article 2 charges the MRC with the responsibility of formulating a Basin Development Plan for “the development of the full potential of the Mekong River Basin waters” and ensure protection of the environment, natural resources, aquatic life and conditions, and ecological balance of the Mekong River Basin (Article 3). Article 4 recognises that any Basin Development Plan should be based on respect for sovereign equality and territorial integrity while Article 7 ensures the right of each country to develop projects, provided that they cause no harm to others.
Ultimately, the objective of cooperation among Member Countries is to promote optimal and well‐balanced development of the Basin while ensuring the equitable sharing of benefits among all users of Basin water and related resources. The objective also aims to prevent any harmful effects that may hinder the continued functioning of the Mekong River systems to ensure the continuation of the multi‐generational benefits that the Mekong River Basin brings to all its people (Article 1).
Over the last ten years, fundamental procedures and associated technical guidelines on reasonable and equitable utilisation of the waters of the Mekong River system, required under the 1995 Mekong Agreement, have been developed and gradually approved by Member Countries for implementation. Reflecting the Member Countries’ shared views on the future, in 2010 the MRC Council approved an IWRM-based Basin Development Strategy that was updated in 2015 and endorsed in early 2016. This forms the overarching strategic framework for development‐oriented work of the MRC over the next five years. It provides a framework for transboundary governance of this development process, including alignment of national plans and projects, basin management processes and the identification of strategic analyses to address current knowledge gaps. The Basin Development Strategy will be refined and updated every five years.
The following links provide access to the original documents, wherever possible, of key MRC agreements, policies and strategies, procedures and guidelines:
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