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Speeches & Transcripts March 13, 2021

The Mekong Delta Conference 2021: Contributions from Development Partners

Excellency Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc,

Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh,

Ministers and leaders of central ministries and agencies,

Provincial Party Secretaries and Chairs of Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho City and Mekong Delta provinces,

Ambassadors, Development Partners, representatives of the diplomatic corps,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning,

First of all, on behalf of the Development Partners’ Mekong Delta Working Group, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the government for the strong leadership and commitment to promoting sustainable development and enhancing the climate resilience of the Mekong Delta.  The Government’s Resolution 120 issued in November 2017 was truly a groundbreaking milestone, marking a departure from the orthodox climate defense approach to steering towards an “actively living with nature” paradigm. It acknowledged that the impact of climate change with rising sea level, greater weather variability, and salinization have become the Delta’s new normal. It provided an authoritative foundation for transforming the region’s development - from a small household farm and provincial perspective to an inter-provincial, delta-wide and transboundary one; from a short-term sectoral perspective to a long-term, multisectoral and integrated approach.

Looking back at more than three years of implementation, we would like to congratulate the whole Government of Vietnam for all the accomplishments so far. Speeches and reports by Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, Ministers and provincial leaders at the Conference this morning have given clear evidence of the positive changes witnessed on many important fronts, including policy and institutional reforms, and spatially referenced and integrated actions in selected priority sectors.

As your Development Partners, we are strongly committed to the Mekong Delta and the implementation of Resolution 120. During the period 2015-2020, we mobilized approximately US$ 2.2 billion for research and investment activities in the region, most of which aligned well with the Resolution 120. In partnership with government authorities at all levels, innovative pilots and large infrastructure investments have been implemented to bolster climate resilience, natural resources management and sustainability while fostering growth for people, rural areas, cities, provinces and the region. Importantly, new perspectives, new evidence, new knowledge and relevant international experiences and expertise have been brought to the Mekong Delta for addressing its very complex challenges. Some highlights of our partnership include the preparation of the Mekong Delta Regional Master Plan, establishment of the Regional Coordination Council, launch of the Agricultural Transformation Program, upgrading the monitoring, data and decision support systems for the whole region, and updating spatially-based strategies for the Mekong Delta in key sectors such as agriculture and water, transport and connectivity, urban and construction, and sustainable energy development.

Looking ahead, we stand ready to mobilize further knowledge and financing to fulfill the visions and goals of Resolution 120. These resources will support central and provincial authorities and other stakeholders to mitigate risks and seize opportunities created by climate change, shifting demographics, emerging domestic and international markets, technological advancements, and the Mekong river basin regional geopolitics. We would like to use this opportunity to convey some points that we (DPs) consider to be important for your consideration as you continue to deliver on this extremely important agenda going forward.

First, it is imperative to ensure effective and efficient vertical and horizontal coordination. Successful implementation of Resolution 120 and its associated policies and programs requires bringing together stakeholders’ interests to define common development goals and objectives for the Delta, identify investment priorities, allocate responsibilities and share risks and benefits. Better coordination among the Delta provinces and cities, across central ministries, between central and provincial authorities and at the planning-finance-governance nexus will strengthen integrated planning, efficiency in budget execution, mobilization of financing, advocacy for policy changes and competitiveness. It is also important that the Government continues the proactive and constructive engagement with other Mekong riparian countries for enhanced cooperation. We appreciate the Government’s bold step in establishing the Mekong Delta Regional Coordination Council – the first coordination body at the regional level in Vietnam, and we look forward to its effective operationalization. We envision that, as an illustration, a potential Council’s sub-committee on flood management in the Upper Delta could coordinate an effort to restore more than 9 billion m3 of lost flood absorption and aquatic habitat in the Long Xuyen Quadrangle and Plain of Reeds floodplains. Up to 60,000 hectares of flood-based agriculture area could be phased in today with enabling value chain investments that would help transition intensive rice to flood-based agricultural systems which are up to 4 times more profitable, break pest-cycles, reduce pesticide use, and enable a further 96,000 hectares of dry season rice to shift to clean production.

Second, the Government should be commended for undertaking the tremendous and complex task of preparing the Mekong Delta Regional Master Plan 2021-2030 – another “first-ever” of its kind in the country. Moving from planning to action, in our view, will be even more of an exceptional challenge. It is critical that a strong implementation action plan that requires “whole-of-state” effort is put in place. This includes clear guidance and consensus on roles and responsibilities of all key stakeholders, strategic and pragmatic prioritization of investments, timely and adequate financial allocation with consideration of cost burden sharing among stakeholder groups, and a feedback mechanism for continuous reflection, assessment, evaluation, updating and revision of the Master Plan. Let us initiate our support to this process of Regional Master Plan implementation and further delivering on the Resolution 120 by proposing and calling for your cooperation in organizing the Mekong Delta Forum 2021 following the approval of the Master Plan.

Third, sustainability must remain at the heart of the Mekong Delta growth strategy. Being one of the most fertile river deltas in the world and playing a critical role in ensuring Vietnam’s sustainable socio-economic successes, the region should continue to promote efficient use of its natural endowments including the flood plains, brackish and saline water, solar and wind energy; sustainably manage the environment and natural resources such as fertile sediment, sand, mangrove forest, fisheries and biodiversity; systematically address the urgent issues of coastal and riverbank erosion and land subsidence; support inclusive and green economic growth and nurture human development. This shift in development approach could be enabled through considering and adopting nature-based and climate-smart solutions; embracing the digital transformation that enables better disaster preparedness and response, and evidence-based decision making; as well as making no-regret investments in integrated water resources management, transport and urban/rural infrastructures that enhance climate resilience of the people and their livelihoods, improve agricultural production systems, value chains and regional connectivity. We envision, as an illustration, that climate and environment risks will be mainstreamed into at least 60% of public investment decisions in the Delta by 2025. For example, one holistic nature-based solution is to integrate mangroves into the existing aquaculture landscape the sea dykes using tested and scalable technologies. With forward looking land management, the area of mangroves along vulnerable eroding coastlines can be expanded by up to 50,000 hectares over the next 10 to 20 years, helping to preserve the coastal biodiversity and fishery, and reduce disaster risks, ground water extraction and land subsidence while maintaining and even increasing current production of shrimp that could be certified as clean/organic products of the famous Mekong Delta.

Fourth, financing for investments is vital and should be based on the principles of long-term planning, efficiency, transparency and accountability. It is important to establish an overarching financing platform that brings together public and private resources, and allocate the resources to priority climate-smart investments; provide an enabling regulatory framework for financial partnerships among provinces and mechanisms for scaling up private finance; and establish a simplified and efficient budget allocation and execution system with robust and effective fiscal incentives for promoting regional investments.

Prime Minister Phuc, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Mekong Delta has been a showcase of the Government of Vietnam’s transformative thinking and approach to development. With great expectations comes great responsibility to make it a reality and a success, not only for the nearly 20 million people of the region, but for the whole country as an inspiration and a role model region. We share with you the recognition of the tremendous challenges being faced as the implementation of Resolution 120 continues. As Development Partners, we stand committed to continue working with you, through our strong partnership, for a climate resilient, prosperous, and sustainable Mekong Delta.

Thank you,

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