Lower Mekong Initiative Launches "Connect Mekong"
The Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) is a multilateral partnership effort initiated by the United States in 2009 for promoting cooperation in the Mekong sub-region in the areas of education, health, environment and water, connectivity, agriculture and food security, and energy security. Over the past four years, LMI has implemented programs through a variety of interagency partners on both sides of the Pacific to meet some of the most pressing trans-boundary challenges in the region.
Looking forward, the United States has committed substantial resources to LMI over the next three years through the Asia Pacific Strategic Engagement Initiative (APSEI), which allows LMI members to support regional efforts towards political and economic integration and narrowing the development gap in ASEAN over the long-term.
On November 20, 2012, President Obama held a photo op with LMI country leaders Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong of Laos, President Thein Sein of Myanmar, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand, and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This photo op was a demonstration of the commitment of all members to develop strong collaboration to address the most important transnational challenges of the region.
Building on the priorities identified under ASEAN’s Economic and Socio-Cultural Pillars and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity, “Connect Mekong” leverages U.S. expertise in fostering entrepreneurship and trade, cultivating technical expertise to promote infrastructure connectivity, and expanding educational access to support development of sustainable infrastructure systems and technical capacity in the sub-region. “Connect Mekong” increases investment opportunities in the region by providing avenues for public-private cooperation, establishes formal channels of communication between LMI and ASEAN to fast track LMI programs which contribute most effectively to ASEAN connectivity, and initiates new efforts to generate grassroots entrepreneurship in the Mekong sub-region.
- “Connect Mekong” is the result of the collaboration and consultation with government agencies and offices, including USAID, as well as LMI member governments.
- The signature program under “Connect Mekong,” the Mekong Technology Innovation Generation and Entrepreneurship Resources (TIGERS), is a new public-private platform supported by the Secretary's Office of the Global Partnership Initiative aimed at boosting competitiveness and growth in targeted Mekong economies by supporting young innovators and entrepreneurs.
- “Connect Mekong” also includes the next phase of the Professional Communication Skills (PCS) program, which aims to train up to 1,000 public officials in LMI countries working in technical sectors essential to ASEAN connectivity, such as civil aviation, urban planning and river navigation.
- “Connect Mekong” will support a series of best practice exchanges with a wide range of U.S. and LMI partners, focusing on how to develop infrastructure which enhances competitiveness and allows better access to transportation, electricity, information technology, education, and improved sanitation and quality of life for the people.