Study tour of the members of the working group on improving the institutional and legal framework of IFAS to the Mekong River Commission, Laos

The study tour of the IFAS working group (WG) to the Commission on the Mekong River organized by the Central Asian Water and Energy Program, managed by the World Bank and the OECD, was held from 2 to 7 April 2023.

The purpose of the study tour was to acquaint the IFAS WG members with the experience of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), as well as to take part in an international conference organized by the MRC where the IFAS WG members can share relevant information with the MRC partners. According to the plan of the organizers, the information about the MRC experience on similar issues should help the IFAS WG members in the process of further discussion and assist in reaching agreement on the organizational structure and legal framework of IFAS.

The study tour group included representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as the World Bank.

 The IFAS Agency Head, GWP CACENA Technical Council Chairman Vadim Sokolov took part in the study tour as the IFAS WG member.

 On April 1, 2023, Vadim Sokolov met with partners from South Korea, who were also in Laos within a project funded by KOICA. During the meeting, issues of preparing a joint project proposal on the creation of a monitoring system for local water bodies in the Amudarya delta (Aral Sea zone) to KOICA were discussed.

On April 2-3, the Working Group members took part in the MRC INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE "Innovation and Cooperation for a Water Secure and Sustainable Mekong”. The conference provided an opportunity for stakeholders from the Mekong riparian countries, NGOs, academia, regional/international organizations, the private sector and other organizations to exchange views, best practices and innovative ideas. The main topics of the conference were:

1) How innovative technologies are changing water management;

2) How responsible finance and gender inclusiveness are changing water management.

The key decision-makers within the MRC spoke at the conference opening ceremony.

At the opening ceremony, the head of the IFAS delegation, Chairman of the IFAS Executive Committee Sulton Rakhimzoda presented to the attention of the conference participants the results of the UN Water Conference 2023, which was held from March 22 to 24 in New York under the co-chairmanship of Tajikistan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He noted the importance of this historic conference for a better understanding of the current situation in the field of water resources and the decisions taken to intensify actions to achieve internationally agreed goals and targets related to water resources.

During the conference, the IFAS working group members had a great opportunity to meet and exchange information and views with representatives of other transboundary basins of the world. Thus, there were discussions with  the Director of Water Resources, Head of the Department of Basin Management and Water Protection of the Ministry of the Interior of Hungary Mr. Peter Kovacs on the Danube River Basin; with the former director of the Deltares office in Vietnam (Netherlands) Dr. Marcel Marchand about the Rhine River Basin; with the Head of Program Support, US Corps of Military Engineers, Mr. Evan Ting about the Columbia River Basin.

On April 4, 2023, the study tour participants visited the Nam Ngum Dam. 

At the Nam Ngum Dam

On April 5-6, 2023, the 10th Working Group meeting in a hybrid format was held to improve the IFAS organizational structure and legal framework. The meeting was attended the IFAS Executive Committee members too, as well as the World Bank representatives. On the first day of the meeting, the IFAS Executive Committee Chairman Mr. Sulton Rakhimzoda, made a presentation on the results of the UN Water Conference 2023. Particular emphasis was placed on the successful holding of a high-level side event by the IFAS Executive Committee on March 23 on the theme “Central Asia: Commitments to the Water Action Programme”.

10th Working Group meetingThen, the Working Group members shared their impressions of participation in the International Conference, and the 4th MRC Summit, as well as visiting the Nam Ngum Dam. They also discussed options for more active interaction between the IFAS institutions with the MRC stakeholders.

 On the second day of the meeting, presentations on creation of two or four commissions, as well as further steps towards the Summit of Heads of State, including the Conference dedicated to the 30th anniversary of IFAS and the 11th WG meeting preparation were considered. Following the meeting, the members agreed on the Final Document of the 10th Working Group meeting on improving the IFAS organizational structure and regulatory framework.

Visit to the MRC Secretariat officeOn April 7, 2023, the study tour participants visited the MRC Secretariat office, where they met with the MRC Secretariat representatives and a representative of the Lao National Committee.

The IFAS Agency Head, GWP CACENA Technical Council Chairman Vadim Sokolov shared his impressions of the study tour: “With over 65 years of experience, the Mekong River Commission today serves as a unique platform for water diplomacy and regional cooperation. A special impression was left by the general attitude and the attitude of everyone with whom our group met in Laos - for fruitful cooperation only together, and not separately, not for the achievement of personal or national goals, but for the understanding that the common river basin is a single common home and responsibility for his well-being lies with all equally. In this regard, I consider it very useful to take into account the MRC experience on the use of five innovative procedures that the Mekong River Commission uses to manage the transboundary water resources of the Mekong River.”