Resolution recognizes the vital importance of the Mekong River to Southeast Asia and the Mekong-United States Partnership in supporting the prosperity of the region

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Alaska’s U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan teamed up to announce a bipartisan resolution to bring awareness to the environmental, humanitarian, and economic issues facing the Mekong River. The Mekong River is vital for the livelihoods of 60 million people throughout Southeast Asia, and for those who live along the river there is increasing peril due to upstream dams, climate chaos, and transnational crime.

“The Mekong River is not only the most important river in Southeast Asia, but one of the most important rivers in the world, and the challenges facing the river continue to grow more severe each year” said Senator Merkley, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “These challenges threaten the environment, economy, and lives surrounding the Mekong River. Senator Sullivan’s and my resolution serves to acknowledge these significant issues and calls on the U.S. to strengthen our Mekong-U.S. Partnership and ensure these precious resources are being used and allocated equally, equitably, and with as little climate impact as possible.”

“The Mekong River is vital to the cultures, economies, and health of tens of millions of people living in six different nations across Southeast Asia,” said Senator Sullivan. “As a leader in the Indo-Pacific region, the United States has an important role to play in bringing these nations together and facilitating discussions that address disagreements and the numerous threats to this shared resource. I’m glad to put forward a bipartisan resolution with Senator Merkley to support the important work of the Mekong-U.S. Partnership, which is dedicated to achieving sustainable solutions that will protect the Mekong now and into the future.”

The Mekong-U.S. Partnership (MUSP) is led by the State Department and serves as the flagship program for engagement with the countries along the Mekong River Basin. The Partnership builds on the success of its predecessor, the Lower Mekong Initiative, by flexibly expanding cooperation and programming to address emerging challenges, including economic connectivity, human capital development, transboundary water and natural resources management, and non-traditional security, such as health security, pandemic response, countering transnational crime, cyber security, and countering trafficking in people, drugs, and wildlife.

The Senators’ resolution promotes the economic and environmental well-being of the people of Mainland Southeast Asia in the five countries that the Mekong River flows through. It is strongly encouraged that all ASEAN members view the environmental, humanitarian, and economic threats to the Mekong River as a danger to the entire region. The vital partnership with the Mekong River Commission supports initiatives for the long-term health of the river, and notes the essential role in sharing information among countries and people along the river to prepare for irregular water flows, and mitigate the economic and environmental impacts of these flows, including through the Mekong Dam Monitor.

In order for future generations to benefit from the richness of the Mekong River, the international community must prioritize the building of quality infrastructure. The bipartisan resolution calls for leveraging U.S., Japan, South Korea, Australia, and other partners’ expertise on high quality infrastructure to support the economic development needs of the countries of the Mekong River Basin; support quality infrastructure development through prioritization of funding for U.S. International Development Finance Corporation projects in the Mekong River Basin countries; support a whole-of-government approach in providing and coordinating federal aid and assistance throughout the Mekong River Basin under the Mekong-U.S. Partnership; and support the development of the region’s capacity to respond to non-security threats.

The Resolution calls for the Senate to:

  • Support a whole-of-government approach in providing and coordinating federal aid and assistance throughout the Mekong River Basin;
  • Promote engagement and buy-in of the United States private sector to support inclusive economic growth, resilience, global health, education, and long-term development in the region;
  • Support the development of quality infrastructure, including through projects financed by the United States International Development Finance Corporation;
  • Promote effective water use policies, natural resources management, and environmental conservation and protection;
  • Work together with countries in the Mekong River Basin to combat pollution, over-fishing, natural resource degradation, and the effects that changes in the global climate systems are having on the Mekong River;
  • Support freedom of expression in the countries in the Mekong River Basin through promoting independent journalism and the freedom to access information;
  • Continue to call for the cessation of violence in Burma and support the return of Burma to a path of inclusive democracy;
  • Prioritize the strengthening of people-to-people ties through United States exchange programs such as the Fulbright Program, the Peace Corps, the International Visitors Leadership Program, and the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative; and
  • Recognize that strong democratic institutions, the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms, independent civil society, and free and fair elections are central to implementing the shared vision of a Mekong River region, and an Indo-Pacific region, that is free, open, secure, and prosperous.

Full text of the resolution can be found here.