The Mekong (called Lancang in China) River runs across 6 countries, originating from Chinathrough MyanmarThailandLao PDRCambodia,and finally entering into the South China Sea in the Delta of Vietnam. The Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) is home to more than 300 million people, of which ~75 million havenatural-resource-based livelihoods. The natural ecosystems of the GMS are of critical importance and the Lancang-Mekong River itself is arguably the most essential to supporting rural livelihoods and maintaining the functionality of associated ecosystems as it serves as a transboundary resource and support system by delivering numerous ecosystem goods and services to some of South-East Asia’s poorest people. Regardless of their regional importance, the ecosystems of the GMS face a wide range of both climatic and anthropogenic pressures that put at risk their capacity to provide goods and services for local communities.

Ties between China andthe downstream countries are growing under the Belt & Road Initiative’s ‘China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor’ and China-ASEAN cooperation, where GMS countries are parts of both formations. More importantly, the emerging cooperation platform Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism(LMC) has started to take the spotlight in the region. A draft of the Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation Strategic Framework (2020-2025) has been developed jointly by the six countries, which includes both ‘Ecosystem Management and Biodiversity Conservation’ and ‘Climate Change’ as priority areas. It is expected that the implementation of the UNEP-IEMP’s Flagship Programme on Climate, Ecosystems and Livelihoods (CEL)in the GMS will contribute to moving the LMC process forward.

Specifically, UNEP-IEMP will further the Mekong spirit by engaging partners from the GMS countries to collaborate on the region’s common interests such as ecosystem management that will generate benefits for local communities to improve their livelihoods while adapting to the impacts of climate change, as well as to enhance the relevant policies at the regional level despite the political complexity of the region. Building on the past and ongoing efforts in collaborating with the relevant governmental  agencies and the Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation Center, UNEP-IEMP will continue to engage with well-established academic institutions, development agencies, and members of the private sector that have strong expertise and experience in the region. Working with these strategic partners will facilitate the South-South knowledge exchange among GMS countries, as well as strengthen UNEP-IEMP’s regional position as the “Mekong hub” for UN Environment.

Key actions under the GMS portfolio include:

  • Generating knowledge onsynergies between ecosystem-based and community-based approaches related to climate change, ecosystems and livelihoodsin the Lancang-Mekong region;
  • Facilitating capacity development, South-South knowledge exchange, and concrete demonstrations on integrated ecosystem management and ecosystem-based approaches to address climate change challenges in the Lancang-Mekong countries;

Promoting relevant policy uptake, particularly at the regional level, especially by proactively supporting the Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation as an effective platform for information sharing and policy dialogue.


South-South Capacity Building for Ecosystem Management in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region

Water resource changes and adaptive management in the Greater Mekong River Basin