Merkley, Sullivan Introduce Resolution Spotlighting Environmental, Humanitarian, and Economic Issues Facing the Mekong River

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), today, introduced a bipartisan resolution to bring awareness to the environmental, humanitarian, and economic issues facing the Mekong River. Vital for the livelihoods of 60 million people throughout Southeast Asia, the Mekong River and the people that live along it face increasing peril due to upstream dams, climate chaos, and transnational crime.

“The Mekong River is the most important river in Southeast Asia and one of the most important in the world, but is now at risk because of upstream dams,” said Senator Merkley. “With two of these dams, in particular, accounting for over 50 percent of water storage, the environment, economy, and lives of the Mekong River area are threatened. This 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 Sen. 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 is the flagship program for engagement with the countries of 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 through which the Mekong River flows, and encourages all ASEAN members to view the environmental, humanitarian, and economic threats to the Mekong River as a danger to the entire region.

The resolution further recognizes the vital partnership with the Mekong River Commission for the long-term health of the river. It also 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 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.

Additionally, the Resolution calls for the Senate to:

  • Support freedom of expression in the Mekong Countries through promoting independent journalism and the freedom to access information;
  • Continue to call for the cessation of violence in Burma and support the country’s transition to a path towards an inclusive democracy so that it can fully contribute to regional development;
  • Prioritize the strengthening of people-to-people ties through U.S. exchange programs such as the Fulbright Program, the Peace Corps, International Visitors Leadership Program, and the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Program, including the YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam; and
  • Recognize that strong democratic institutions, the protection of human rights, independent civil society, and free and fair elections are central to implementing our shared vision of a Mekong Region, and Indo-Pacific, that is open, inclusive, and sustainable.

Full text of the resolution can be found here.