USAID and Australia Mekong Safeguards Program

Speeches Shim

The USAID and Australia Mekong Safeguards Program (Mekong Safeguards) is a jointly funded initiative between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Its shared mission is to accelerate the sustainable infrastructure transition in the Mekong Region by reducing negative environmental and social impacts of large-scale energy and transport projects in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Mekong Safeguards strengthens environmental, social, and corporate governance standards (ESG) at the local, national, and transboundary levels by engaging governments, banks, and communities to:

  • Improve ESG standards through regional and transnational policies, guidelines, and best practices.

  • Strengthen ESG standards of large-scale infrastructure projects with direct technical assistance and capacity building and by establishing regional collaborations and platforms.

  • Develop demand-driven tools and studies to increase access to regional planning data, standards, best practices, and research.

The Mekong River Basin is a vital biodiversity area and source of livelihood for an estimated 70 million people.  International, national, and local banks are ramping up infrastructure investments that will transform the region.  However, without strong environmental and social safeguards, many infrastructure projects are developed at the expense of communities and the environment. Implemented by an Asia Foundation-led consortium, Mekong Safeguards helps countries apply ESG standards to improve the environmental and social outcomes of new infrastructure development in the region.

This program advances the U.S. Government’s Indo-Pacific Vision by helping Lower Mekong countries build locally developed solutions, improve transparency in infrastructure decision-making, and accelerate the role of the private sector as a driver of development.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE ON SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE

Mekong Safeguards works on new and ongoing infrastructure projects directly with governments, developers, financiers, and communities to integrate strong ESG standards. In Thailand, Mekong Safeguards collaborates with the government and communities on the Bangkok-to-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed railway development to minimize negative impacts on women, local entrepreneurs, and vulnerable populations. These direct project engagements on strengthened ESG standards ensure that the region will remain an attractive destination for investors and a vibrant source of economic prosperity for local communities.  

SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE POLICIES AND PRACTICES

Mekong Safeguards supports regulators and financiers to create policies requiring developers and contractors to apply strengthened ESG standards to projects. The program identifies key gaps in policy and legal frameworks mandating ESG standards; improves standards and practices among regulators and financial institutions; supports regional bodies to advocate for regional standards; and facilitates civil society engagement on infrastructure projects.

IMPROVED PLATFORMS, DATA, TOOLS AND KNOWLEDGE

Mekong Safeguards aims to increase the flow of vital information to key stakeholders in the region and enhance decision-makers’ awareness and capacity to plan, track, and monitor environmental and social impacts of infrastructure projects. The program coordinates regional and country-specific research, events, and visual data platforms like the Mekong Infrastructure Tracker which planners and investors can use to mitigate negative impacts.

REGIONAL COLLABORATIONS & STRENGTHENED STANDARDS

Mekong Safeguards enhances infrastructure investment standards at a regional level, cascading standards down to national and local investments by collaborating with regional organizations such as the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and a network of development banks like the Asian Development Bank and World Bank.

Last updated: May 10, 2022

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