“The BRIDGE forum provided us with the much-needed opportunity to interact with other civil society organisations, share knowledge, learn from each other's work and collectively develop solutions to manage our shared river basins.”
The above quote from Mr Payou Thammavongseng, Fishery Section Leader for Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Company Limited, summarizes the highlights of a two-day forum held in Bangkok, Thailand on 16-17 December 2015.
The BRIDGE 3S CSO Forum, organised by IUCN through the BRIDGE project, brought together 25 representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working on sustainable water resource management and ecological conservation in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam.
The main objective of the forum, the first in a series of consultations to be held over the next two years, was to provide a platform for CSOs to network and to share their thoughts and ideas on what the priorities should be for integrated water resource management in the 3S Basins.
3S stands for the Sekong, Sesan and Sre Pok Rivers which flow through Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam. Collectively their basins provide food and livelihoods to over three million people. As the Asian region develops, the 3S Basins have seen rapid social and economic growth and with it a rise in issues such as pollution and habitat loss.
“Increasing transboundary impacts from infrastructure development are threatening the environment and livelihoods of riverine inhabitants, especially those that are poor and marginalized. There is also insufficient information sharing on the 3S Basins between all actors,” said Dr Dao Trong Tu, Director for Center for Sustainable Development of Water Resources and Adaptation to Climate Change (CEWAREC).
The BRIDGE project involves different stakeholders from across Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam in the management of transboundary river basins. “NGOs are important because they bring dialogue down to the grassroots level, allowing people-to-people contact and the creation of community strategies to combat trans-boundary river basin management issues,” said Mr Raphaël Glémet, Senior Programme Officer for IUCN Asia Regional Office.
In discussion sessions, participants considered the objectives and outcomes necessary for achieving long-term goals in the integrated water resource management strategy, before working in groups to create specific versions of the strategy, adapted to their own local settings. These dialogues identified “strategic planning”, “capacity building”, “networking” and “information sharing” as key priorities for better water management in the 3S Basins. Other key points highlighted by participants were the need for better collaboration with the private sector and engaging them in conservation related work.
The forum also explored potential synergy between the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a global programme that provides grants to NGOs and other private sector partners to protect critical ecosystems, and the BRIDGE project. During the discussion on long-term goals of the integrated water resource management strategy, participants brought up values that showed strong similarities to some of the CEPF strategic investment priorities, such as safeguarding populations of threatened species; engaging local communities in the management of key biodiversity areas; mainstreaming biodiversity, communities and livelihoods into development planning; and strengthening civil society organisations through better networking and capacity building.
Following this forum, the BRIDGE project will compile priorities that have been highlighted for the development of the integrated water resource management strategy into a synthesis document, which will subsequently be used to initiate dialogues with other sectors involved in the 3S Basins.
About BRIDGE The BRIDGE (Building River Dialogue and Governance) project aims to build water governance capacities through learning, demonstration, leadership, and consensus-building in trans-boundary hotspot river basins. Facilitated by IUCN and financed by the Water Diplomacy Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), BRIDGE is a multi-regional project, implemented in 14 river basins located in South America, Meso-America, Africa and Asia. In Asia, the BRIDGE project focuses on the 3S Basins (Sekong, Sesan and Sre Pok rivers shared by Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao PDR). Since 2011, the project has provided opportunities for dialogue and training on hydrodiplomacy, and produced data and studies to support technical discussion for stakeholders from different sectors and levels.