First regional workshop
6 May 2002
Opening speech by Joern Kristensen, Chief Executive Officer, Mekong
H.E.Dr Mok Mareth
Minister, Ministry of Environment
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honor and pleasure to welcome you to this important workshop
on "Review of Protected Areas and Development in the four countries
in the Lower Mekong Basin. On behalf of the Mekong River Commission, I
wish to extend a warm welcome to our partner organizations, participants
from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and China, and to NGOs
and International Organizations. I would like to thank the International
Center for Environment and Management (ICEM), IUCN and other partners
for assisting with organizing this workshop.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Mekong River Commission was established under an agreement signed
in 1995 between Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam where the four
countries agreed to cooperate in the sustainable development of the Mekong
Basin. They now coordinate their development for the mutual benefit of
all four riparian states, and work together to protect the environment
from the harmful effects of poorly planned development activity.
In Viet Nam, around 40% of national food requirements come from the Mekong
Delta. In Cambodia, close to 80% of the population depend in some way
on the River and it associated waterways. In Lao PDR much of the population
depends on the Mekong and its tributaries for food and livelihoods. Many
of these people are among the poorest in the world. For them development
is vital if they are to have the opportunity to escape from poverty. But
they are also the most dependant on the natural resources of the region,
which can sometimes be threatened by development that is not carefully
The MRC has recently commenced the implementation of a regional development
process for the lower Mekong basin. It will involve a process of basin
wide planning, and produce the first integrated basin wide development
plan. The inception report will be presented in Ho Chi Minh City next
week. It will outline a participatory planning process, which will draw
on the expertise of government agencies from all four countries as well
as the work of the MRC sector programmes. The planning process will seek
ways to promote economic development. At the same time it will ensure
that access to the natural services and products that are obtained from
the environment is maintained.
One way that these two parallel goals can be achieved at the same time
is through the wise use of protected areas.
The countries of the region have already identified the implementation
of protected areas as a development strategy. Almost 15% of the lower
Mekong region contains protected areas of various kinds. This represents
a very large commitment of resources, and a new perception of what constitutes
wise development. An increasing range of development sectors, such as
Forestry, fisheries and tourism are all making increasing use of protected
This workshop is built around the national reviews of protected areas
being undertaken by MRC's four member countries. The national consultative
processes have now been running for six months so this is an opportune
time to bring together the national teams and begin to distil common approaches
and possible regional strategies.
The initial reviews of national lessons and field studies have been completed,
and we will be hearing of them over the next two days. This will lead
to the preparation of national reports that set out options for the future.
Importantly for the MRC Basin Development Programme it will also lead
to a regional report that will input to the planning process.
I opened my talk by welcoming you to this important forum by emphasising
development and protection. Our discussions are about protected areas,
but they are equally about development, and the vital role protected areas
will play in meeting the future economic and social aspirations of the
people of the Mekong.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Once again, on behalf of the Mekong River Commission, I would like to
wish all the participants, facilitators and workshop organiser a very
successful workshop and a pleasant stay in Phnom Penh.
Now I have the honor to declare the first regional workshop on "Review
of Protected Areas and Development in the Lower Mekong Basin" open.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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Review of protected areas and their role in socio-economic development
in the four countries of the lower Mekong River region
page updated: 29/05/02