The countries of the Mekong sub-region and the United States reaffirmed their long-standing relationship at the second Mekong-U.S. Partnership (MUSP) ministerial on August 2, 2021. Through the MUSP, the U.S. government, working with Congress, continues to support the autonomy, economic independence, good governance, and sustainable growth of Mekong partner countries.
Proven U.S. Engagement
The Mekong-U.S. Partnership includes 14 U.S. government agencies and departments with over 50 programs to strengthen cooperation to address shared interests and common challenges. From fiscal year 2009 to 2021, the U.S. government provided over $4.3 billion in bilateral and regional grant assistance to the five Mekong partner countries, including nearly $4.0 billion from the State Department and USAID:
- $1.4 billion for health programs;
- $837 million for economic growth;
- $709 million for peace and security;
- $636 million for human rights and governance;
- $235 million for education and social services; and
- $165 million for humanitarian assistance.
The Mekong-U.S. Partnership includes cooperation on economic connectivity, energy and climate security, human capital development, transboundary water and natural resources management, and non-traditional security. The non-traditional security sector comprises collaboration on emerging threats such as health security capacity-building and pandemic response; countering transnational crime; cyber security; and countering trafficking in persons, illicit drugs, timber, and wildlife.
The Mekong-U.S. Partnership is guided by values that are aligned with those enshrined in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the U.S. Indo-Pacific vision, including equality, good governance, openness, transparency, economic growth, and respect for sovereignty. The Partnership also promotes complementarity with the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), ASEAN, the Mekong River Commission, and with other Mekong development partners and cooperation mechanisms in line with these values.
The United States has been clear that the military coup in Burma is inconsistent with the goals of the Mekong-U.S. Partnership and has called on Mekong countries to take action to urge the military to end the violence, restore Burma’s democratic transition, and release all those unjustly detained. They and their ASEAN neighbors should take immediate action to hold the Burmese regime accountable to the five-point consensus and quickly name a special envoy who engages with all parties.
MUSP Flagship Programs
USAID Mekong Safeguards (Economic Connectivity): Mekong Safeguards provides policy makers, government regulators, financiers, and contractors with information and tools to apply environmental, social, and governance standards for infrastructure development in the Mekong sub-region. This helps MUSP countries build locally developed solutions, improve transparency in infrastructure decision-making, and accelerate the role of the private sector as a driver of development. https://www.usaid.gov/asia-regional/fact-sheets/usaid-mekong-safeguards
Mekong Water Data Initiative (MWDI) (Natural Resources): MWDI promotes the sustainable management of the Mekong River basin and the well-being of its people. Through targeted programming and key data sharing tools, such as MekongWater.org and the Mekong Dam Monitor, and capacity building initiatives, MWDI strengthens the capacity of Mekong sub-region countries to collect, analyze, and manage water- and related information to reduce water-related risks, improve responses to environmental emergencies, and promote sustainable economic development across the water, food, energy, and environment nexus. (https://www.mekongwater.org/)
MUSP Track 1.5 Policy Dialogue Series (Human Capital Development): This dialogue series convenes experts from Mekong sub-regional governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, academia, business, and other relevant policy practitioners and stakeholders committed to supporting sustainable prosperity and autonomy among Mekong countries. Dialogue themes include water governance, regional energy integration, and transmission, Mekong connectivity, economic and infrastructure development, and non-traditional security. Led by regional experts, the interactive dialogues encourage data sharing, disseminate best practices, bolster institutional partnerships, and seek innovative policy solutions to key transboundary priorities. https://www.stimson.org/project/mekong-us-partnership-dialogue/
Pathfinder Health Program (Non-Traditional Security): The Pathfinder Health Program helps Mekong sub-regional health authorities identify and respond to future emerging infectious diseases. After working with U.S. government experts to develop action plans, Pathfinder fellows will receive funds for pilot research programs to help communities prevent disease emergence and spread. The Pathfinder program complements long-standing U.S. support for public health to Southeast Asia, including ongoing U.S. assistance to combat COVID-19. (website under development)
Friends of the Mekong
The United States is a member of the Friends of the Mekong, a multinational effort that enables integrated cooperation between and among Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Viet Nam, the United States, Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the European Union, Mekong River Commission Secretariat, Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. Friends of the Mekong promote broad cooperation and coordination with donors, international financial institutions, and multilateral organizations to increase efficiency, identify and meet programmatic and resource gaps, and avoid redundancy and overlapping activities. For further information and resources, please visit our website: www.mekonguspartnership.org