Vientiane Times, February 03, 2015
Pakxe, Champassak province: Representatives from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam yesterday met here with experts from the United States, donor countries and international institutions to discuss sustainable economic growth and development in the Mekong sub-region.
The two-day conference titled ‘Extraordinary Friends of the Lower Mekong and Mekong Sustainability’ was co-chaired by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Saleumxay Kommasith and Counselor of the US Department of State Mr Thomas A. Shannon.
In his opening address, Mr Saleumxay said Laos attached great importance to the Friends of the Lower Mekong Forum.
He said the conference was a significant platform for sharing experiences and approaches for improving sustainable economic development in the region, which will contribute to poverty reduction and prosperity in the lower Mekong countries and the region as a whole.
He assured the meeting that Laos will continue its active participation, together with other Mekong countries and development partners, in supporting the development of the region toward the establishment of the Asean Economic Community in 2015 as well as the fulfillment of sustainable development goals.
Also speaking was Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Mr Viraphonh Viravong, who said “In the words of our law, and the work we have done, the Lao government and people have been steadfast in pursuing the highest level of sustainability in development.”
“In the energy sector we have demonstrated this commitment to the development of hydropower projects that are technologically advanced and socially and environmentally responsible.”
Mr Viraphonh said Laos is fully aware of the many sustainability criteria put forward by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, development partners and the International Hydropower Association.
“We cannot promise to score 100 percent on every protocol but I can assure you that Laos strives for the highest level of sustainability possible, with regard to technical environmental and socio-economic sustainability,” said Mr Viraphonh.
The Friends of the Lower Mekong (FLM) is a broad dialogue that aims to improve donor coordination in the Mekong sub-region and supports integrated cooperation between and among the Lower Mekong countries of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam as well as the United States.
FLM members include Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the European Union, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
The overarching goal of the meeting is to find ways the FLM group can work together to bolster regional economic growth and strengthen the environmental and social aspects of regional development, including smart infrastructure, hydropower, and alternative energy.
The FLM group’s efforts also include building peer-to-peer technical networks and developing practical solutions that incorporate environmental and social safeguards in relation to economic growth and energy security planning.