The Royal Government of Cambodia hosted over 80 delegates from Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States in Siem Reap on November 6-7, 2013 for the 5th Lower Mekong Initiative Regional Working Group Meeting.  Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam established the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) in 2009 to enhance regional cooperation in response to transnational challenges under the “Pillars” of Agriculture and Food security, Connectivity, Education, Energy Security, Environment and Water, and Health.

During the two-day meeting, delegates discussed their priorities for cooperation following Secretary John Kerry’s chairmanship of the last LMI Ministerial Meeting in July 2013 during the ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial Meetings in Brunei Darussalam.  Delegates exchanged ideas for strengthening links between the Lower Mekong Initiative and ASEAN to narrow the development gap and accelerate economic integration among ASEAN member countries in the lead-up to establishing the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.  They explored regional challenges in the Water and Energy Nexus cross-sectoral discussion and enhancing engagement with the Friends of the Lower Mekong donor coordination forum.  Delegates also promoted gender equality and women’s issues in the Lower Mekong sub-region through the pillars and defined the focus of the Eminent and Expert Persons Group to provide strategic guidance for the Lower Mekong Initiative.

William E. Todd, U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, said, “The Lower Mekong Initiative is a key component of our ongoing cooperation with Cambodia to spur regional integration and close the development gap. U.S.-Cambodia cooperation on the LMI Health Pillar has helped to better control counterfeit and sub-standard medicines, helped to respond to cross-border health threats, and to improve the English language skills of health professionals.”

David Carden, U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN, said, “What we are trying to accomplish in LMI is a partnership.  All the challenges in the region are interconnected so we have to help one another make good decisions and figure out how to do what needs to be done.”

Dr. Sok Siphana, Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia said, “The LMI countries could strengthen and deepen their collaboration and connectivity in a meaningful and mutually beneficial way to address current and future regional social, technological, and environmental challenges.”

LMI supports the regional economic integration of its members to narrow the development gap within ASEAN, build technical capacity across sectors, and promote regional approaches to trans-boundary challenges.

Source: U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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