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The Lower Mekong Public Policy Initiative (LMPPI), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is housed at the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) in Ho Chi Minh City. LMPPI is jointly managed by FETP and the Vietnam Program of Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation in the United States. Its activities and outputs are already helping to expand research and academic programs of FETP and, through FETP, the development of the Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV). Three contributions are noteworthy.

 

Capacity building in environmental economics and management: One of LMPPI’s objectives was to strengthen FETP’s capacity to offer courses and support research in environmental economics and management. LMPPI staff has developed environmental economics courses, integrated short modules on sustainable development into FETP’s existing courses, and supervised thesis research on issues related to the environment, agriculture and sustainable development. Research undertaken by LMPPI staff marks an important step toward expanding the scope of FETP’s activities into STEM related disciplines. This focus will be reinforced by LMPPI’s Visiting Fellows program. These Fellows, who comprise scholars and researchers from the region and the United States, will strengthen the teaching and outreach activities at FETP and boost LMPPI’s research. 

 

Developing a Sustainable Development Concentration: LMPPI staff are developing a new Sustainable Development Concentration. It will be offered in the Master’s in Public Policy program of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), the successor of FETP and the founding school of Fulbright University Vietnam, which will matriculate its first class in September 2016.  The concentration requires students to take two courses on environmental and sustainable development and carry out thesis research on environmental and sustainable development related topics. Working with the Visiting Fellows, LMPPI staff will use this concentration as a foundation for continued curriculum development to introduce an independent Master’s in Sustainable Development at FSPPM. Looking further into the future, this work will contribute to establishing an undergraduate program on environmental science and economics at FUV. 

 

Preparing for the establishment of the Lower Mekong Public Policy Center (LMPPC): LMPPI’s activities provide FSPPM with a platform toward becoming a regional hub for policy research and teaching. Steps are underway to create the Lower Mekong Public Policy Center (LMPPC). It will have three goals: (i) to promote inter-disciplinary research on public policy issues related to the economic and social development of the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) countries; (ii) to develop teaching and outreach activities on the public policy dimensions of sustaining the environment, boosting agricultural productivity, and enhancing livelihoods throughout the LMB; and (iii) to foster a regional network of scholars and policy analysts who collaborate to address the environmental, agricultural, and livelihoods challenges confronting the region.