Joint Statement of Friends of Mekong “Recovery and Resilience”

The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and the Governments and Members of the Friends of the Mekong Group on the occasion of the 2021 Friends of the Mekong Ministerial Meeting.

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The Heads of Delegation of the Friends of the Mekong (the Friends) met virtually on August 5, 2021. We welcomed the Heads of Delegation from the ASEAN Secretariat, the United Kingdom, and India, who participated as observers.

We recommitted ourselves to shared values and common principles in the Mekong sub-region, including those enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and other relevant regional mechanisms, such as transparency, good governance, ASEAN unity and centrality, multilateralism, equality, mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual benefit, consensus, and a rules-based order with respect for international law. Together, we pledged to continue our transparent and collaborative approaches to sustainable and inclusive development of the Mekong sub-region.

We celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Friends of the Mekong, previously known as the Friends of the Lower Mekong, and underscored that we view the engagement of the Friends of the Mekong in the Mekong sub-region as integral to our work with ASEAN and across the Indo-Pacific, supporting the principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, and contributing to maintaining and promoting peace and stability in the region and beyond.

We welcomed the membership of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat. We emphasized complementarity with existing cooperation frameworks, including the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), other Mekong cooperation mechanisms, and the East Asia Summit. We encouraged cooperation where possible between these groups to reinforce locally led solutions to the sub-region’s needs.

Commemorating 10 years of cooperation and development, we commended the substantive and extensive collective efforts of the Friends of the Mekong in support of the Mekong sub-region, and we pledged to continue working to enhance cooperation and discuss opportunities to further mark the 10-year anniversary.

We reaffirmed the importance of the Friends of the Mekong’s role and cooperation in addressing transboundary challenges, supporting resilient and inclusive growth in the aftermath of COVID-19, and enhancing sustainable development in the Mekong sub-region. To this end, we decided to increase cooperation among members, as well as with other regional Mekong mechanisms, to strengthen recovery, resilience, and development across the Mekong sub-region. The priority areas of cooperation include but are not limited to: socio-economic development, health, climate, environment, water, energy, food security, natural resources management, sustainable infrastructure, digital transformation, human development, and emphasizing a green and sustainable recovery from COVID-19. We also reiterated our shared commitment to achieve the goals in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to fully implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

We underscored the importance of data-driven, proactive basin planning in the Mekong sub-region to achieve equitable and sustainable use of water and related resources, and to address transboundary issues. We reiterated support for the role of the MRC, the only treaty-based Mekong River basin organization, in Mekong Basin development and transboundary cooperation and encouraged continued support of MRC principles, objectives, and goals. We congratulated the MRC and its member countries for the timely and transformative Basin Development Strategy 2021-2030, its transparency and its shift toward pro-active regional planning, benefit and risk-sharing, and inclusive and science-based decision-making.

We reiterated the intention to convene regular dialogues, consultations, senior officials and ministerial meetings and increase information sharing and exchange of best practices to explore and realize ways to further deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interests.

The Friends of the Mekong includes: the Asian Development Bank, Australia, Cambodia, the European Union, Japan, Lao PDR, the Mekong River Commission Secretariat, Myanmar, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United States, Viet Nam, and the World Bank. The ASEAN Secretariat, the United Kingdom, and India participated as observers.

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