Ten years ago, recognizing the need for integrated research by supporting and promoting the use of scientific evidence in policy-making, SUMERNET was established in 2005, hosted at SEI’s Asia Centre, to work on research and policy engagement with the overarching goal of contributing to sustainable development in the Mekong Region.
Over the last ten years, SUMERNET has grown into a strong network of researchers from the countries of the Mekong Region: Cambodia, China (specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, carrying out policy-relevant research and outreach activities to inform and engage policy-makers, planners and communities as wel as media and the public.
From 26th-28th January, SUMERNET will celebrate its tenth anniversary with an annual meeting and policy forums where about 100 regional people including prominent policymakers, dignataries, academics and researchers, and SUMERNET researchers with their boundary partners are expected to attend.
The meeting will highlight ten stories of change written by research partners who have collaborated in the network over these last ten years with SUMERNET.
The stories illustrate how transboundary research teams have combined research with policy and local community engagement to make a difference to the lives and livelihoods of people in the region.
SUMERNET’s research teams have used their expertise in both the natural and social sciences to further knowledge and understanding of a range of issues that include climate risks, gender, forest conservation, regional economic integration, ecotourism and working with local community knowledge.
The positive impacts of these projects range from the local, community level to policymaking at national and regional levels.
Dr. Nguyen Duy Can from Cantho University, Vietnam, worked on a SUMERNET project called “Reducing flood risks for local communities along the Cambodia-Vietnam border”. The project used the “livelihood capitals approach” to develop a livelihood vulnerability index. The index and associated methodology have since been applied and refined, a training course has been developed, and the method has been disseminated in local languages.
Dr. Can said that: “The dissemination of our research findings and the Assessing Livelihoods Vulnerability (ALV) trainings have directly improved people’s livelihoods and helped reduce flood damages in the provinces along the Cambodia-Vietnam border.”
The project “Gender and climate risks in the deltas of the Mekong region” shows how research identified the different perceptions and understandings of risk and vulnerability to better inform communities and policymakers of climate risks.
All these inspiring stories are compiled in a commemorative booklet to be released at the meeting on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of SUMERNET.
Mekong drought topic in SUMERNET Policy Forum
The Mekong Region continues to go through an unusually long and intense dry spell that started in 2015 and is attributed partly to the El Niño effect. Drought will be a key topic at the policy forums in a panel titled "Drought in the Mekong: A new normal?". The panel features several prominent senior policymakers, water and drought specialists and policy advisors from the Mekong Region along with SUMERNET researchers and boundary partners.
Some of those expected to attend include senior representatives from the: Irrigation Department, Mekong River Commission’s Drought Management Programme, Mekong SERVIR project, and Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC) project of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Other panels that will take place during the SUMERNET Policy Forum are:
- How can researchers contribute more to planning and policy decisions? Practical experience from the policy makers and regional networks
- The values of conserving and restoring wetland services
- Trade-offs and synergies between climate and other considerations in development
Reflecting on ten years of its work, Dr Chayanis Krittasudthacheeva, SUMERNET Programme Manager and Deputy Directory of SEI Asia, said that: “Although the journey has been long and hard, we have built an active and engaged network of regional experts that have grown from an initial 14 to 60 institutes at present. SUMERNET continues to work towards achieving sustainable development, and we will continue trying to bring positive changes to the lives of the people in the Mekong Region.”
Please find the SUMERNET booklet "Stories of change form the Mekong Region" available for download below.