Washington, DC - Today, Secretary of State John Kerry led the United States’ delegation to the Eighth Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. LMI addresses cross-border development and policy challenges facing the five Lower Mekong partner countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. LMI holds six official meetings and supports numerous project and program events annually in the region.

As an important part of the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, the United States has committed substantial resources in support of LMI, totaling $100 million from 2009 to 2015, including support for LMI’s regional efforts on political, social, and economic integration and narrowing the development gap within ASEAN.

At their annual gathering, Ministers released a statement entitled “Building a Sustainable Future for the Mekong” that affirmed the importance of considering social and environmental impacts of infrastructure development; using integrated natural resources management and planning approaches; and developing collaborative approaches to address complex, transnational development and policy challenges.

The Master Plan of Action to Implement the Lower Mekong Initiative 2016-2020 highlights the cross-cutting areas of the water, energy, and food security nexus and gender equality and women’s empowerment. In addition, the Plan of Action outlines six LMI Signature Programs across the initiative’s six pillar areas: agriculture and food security, connectivity, education, energy security, environment and water, and health. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of integrating gender equality in development planning.

Ministers confirmed the emphasis on institutional alignment with ASEAN regional priorities in support of the ASEAN Community and the objectives identified in the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity. Ministers encouraged concerted outreach and engagement by the LMI Eminent and Expert Persons Group, Friends of the Lower Mekong donor members, and regional institutions such as the Mekong River Commission.

LMI Signature Programs include:

  • Connect Mekong– promoting regional economic integration and the realization of the ASEAN Community in 2015 by fostering trade, entrepreneurship, and innovation;
  • Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM)– a technical and scientific assistance program for environmentally sound, socially equitable infrastructure, clean energy, and land and water use;
  • Connecting the Mekong through Education and Training (COMET) – a workforce development project implemented in partnership with major technology companies that strengthens educational institutions in increasing the number of skilled workers in ASEAN priority sectors;
  • Professional Communication Skills for Leaders (PCSL)– develops proficiency in regional teachers for English language instruction in technical areas related to the LMI Pillars;
  • Women’s Entrepreneurial Centers of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) – women’s entrepreneurship project provides safe spaces for women to access education, tools, and resources to start and scale their businesses; and
  • One Health Program– promotes early detection and response to diseases in animals before becoming threats to human health, and enhances regional capacity for disease prevention, detection, and response across human and animal health, and the environment.

An overview of LMI is available at the Lower Mekong Initiative website www.lowermekong.org