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Vietnam

Case study example - Principle 11: The Mekong River Commission - "including a broad
range of knowledge and experiences in resources management "

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) was established on 5 April 1995. The MRC member countries are Cambodia,
Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. MRC maintains regular dialogue with the two upper states of the Mekong River
Basin, China and Myanmar. The MRC member countries agree to co-operate in all fields of sustainable development,
utilisation, management and conservation of the water and related resources of the Mekong River Basin, such as
navigation, flood control, fisheries, agriculture, hydropower and environmental protection. The various divisions and
work programmes of the MRC include research based activities. Scientific research, including where feasible
community-based research and knowledge is used and promoted to support resources management. “MekongInfo” is
an interactive system for sharing information and knowledge about participatory natural resource management (NRM)
in the Lower Mekong Basin. In addition to over 3,500 documents (full-text and abstract) in the Library, MekongInfo
provides: a database of individuals, projects and organisations, news and announcements of events, relevant web links,
a gallery of useful resource materials, a forum for online discussions, and a free web hosting service.

Previous initiatives of the fisheries programme have considerably enhanced awareness of the value of local ecological
knowledge and the contribution that local communities can make in the research process. For example, one study of
basin-wide fish migrations was based exclusively on using local knowledge and resulted in the development of
ecosystem-based approaches to basin-management, particularly regarding water resources management issues. That
initiative is particularly notable because it involved a network of local fishers who were distributed throughout the four
countries and collectively developed information on trans-boundary fish migrations and management issues. The
longer-term plan is to involve relevant communities in the four countries collectively in the long-term monitoring of
trends in species and the environment and to feed this information into regional NRM planning and management. One
important project is developing and using community based indicators for sustainable fisheries management in the
Lower Mekong Basin of LAO PDR where local fishers have had a long-standing involvement in local research
initiatives. The overall objective of the project is to develop an affordable and effective method of evaluating fisheries
sustainability through community-based indicators. Many of the fish migrate through the region from other countries
and the MRC is fostering further linkages with those countries under regional management initiatives. It is
acknowledged that local ecological knowledge and community-designed indicators can be useful to complement
existing fisheries information, and locally derived indicators are easier to apply directly by the local resource users as
tools for adaptive management. These and other regional experiences have recently prompted recommendations that
local communities should be the focus of attempts to improve the reliability, relevance and sustainability of information
systems for fisheries, including monitoring biodiversity.

The objectives of the MRC are essentially to manage the river basin along the lines of an “ecosystem approach” which
in this case include significant trans-boundary management aspects. Major programmes adopting or based upon
“ecosystem” approaches include the Water Utilisation Programme”, “Basin Development Plan” and the Environment
Programme.

References: Mekong River Commission (http://www.mrcmekong.org/); "Using the ecosystem approach to implement the CBD: a
global synthesis report drawing lessons from three regional pathfinder workshops", (http://www.unesco.org/mab/docs/Report.pdf);
ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation
(http://www.arcbc.org/arcbcweb/research_projects/projects/lao/re_lao_008.htm ); CBD webpage: http://www.biodiv.org/doc/case-
studies/