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Lower Mekong Policy Forum on Environment, Agriculture, and Livelihoods, Siem Reap, Cambodia

11-12 August 2016

The Lower Mekong Policy Forum on Environment, Agriculture, and Livelihoods was held at the Sokha Ankhor Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, August 11-12.  Over 130 senior government officials, researchers, practitioners, civil society representatives, and members of the business community participated in the forum. The Forum was honored to host HE. Mr. Mam Amnot, Secretary of State, Vice Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of the Royal Government of Cambodia, and Mr. Ezra Simon, Social Development Unit Chief of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Hanoi. The Forum was jointly organized by the Lower Mekong Public Policy Initiative, housed at the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET), Bangkok, Thailand. It was funded by USAID. 

The Policy Forum featured international and regional experts who are leading efforts to encourage public policy analysis and dialogue on emerging challenges and opportunities related to the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB)’s environment, agriculture, and rural livelihoods. There were three plenary sessions. The first discussed problems and policy approaches in the context of trans-boundary water governance in the LMB.  Key issues raised included water management strategies, energy development policies, and trans-boundary resource protection. The second session focused on strategies used by rural households to cope with emerging threats and natural disasters.  Topics included appropriate resource management and sustainable agricultural systems, household adaptation and resilience to natural disasters, and the role of government policies in facilitating adaptive livelihoods. The third session examined the synergies and trade-offs of economic development policies on resource-dependent livelihoods. A major challenge noted is the need to reconcile the quest for rapid natural resource-led economic growth with the problem of sustaining the environment while offsetting the burdens these developments impose on vulnerable groups, particularly women. The Forum also included panel discussions designed to encourage participants to share their experiences and discuss appropriate development strategies for each country, and the region as a whole. 

The forum concluded with an internal meeting among LMPPI research partners, LMPPI experts, advisors, and the leadership of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP). Research partners took this opportunity to discuss their projects, shared their experience with members of the LMPPI research network, and raised questions about the upcoming tasks they need to complete. LMPPI notified its research collaborators about the availability to them, upon request, of a wide range of technical and institutional support to ensure that the final outputs meet with the stringent research and policy objectives set out by the initiative and its donor. FETP director Nguyen Xuan Thanh then discussed the future of LMPPI after the project officially concludes in mid-2017. LMPPI will be transitioned to a regional research center, called the Lower Mekong Public Policy Institute in the newly-formed Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management of Fulbright University Vietnam. This Institute will further the objectives set out by LMPPI and its achievements during its four years of operations.