SDC programming in the Mekong Region
Strategy Period 2013-2017
The Swiss Mekong Region Strategy (MRS) 2013-2017 is built on a base scenario, which includes high economic growth rates, mostly resulting from resource extraction, regional integration into the ASEAN community, and progressive improvements in governance. In this strategy, we treat the four CLMV countries as one geographic region, embedded within and dependent on the wider GMS and ASEAN frameworks. The ASEAN community integration is spelled out in the “Roadmap for an ASEAN community, 2009-2015”, and the specific reference for this strategy is the “Initiative for ASEAN integration”, a work plan, designed to reduce the development gap between the CLMV countries and the rest of ASEAN. The MRS also takes into account the heterogeneous cultural, political, and economic backgrounds of the four countries. The strategy therefore has a double focus:
- The regional focus on shared development challenges of the CLMV countries, in relation to ASEAN integration planning, and the potential to address these challenges jointly with the support of specialized institutions from the wider region.
- The country focus on Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam, on similar development challenges, taking into account each country’s specific situation and development planning framework, as well as the potential to address these challenges through partnership with national and international partners.
Interventions at the regional level will be linked strategically and thematically to those at the country level. Regional initiatives are developed according to the principle of subsidiarity, in the following situations:
- When addressing issues that are transboundary, such as regional public goods, or that cannot be solved by one country alone (e.g. management of water resources; foreign direct investments in land/forests; rights of migrant laborers);
- When promoting cross-country learning and innovation (in all three domains as well as in the cross-cutting issues);
- In general, when interventions are expected to yield better or additional development results compared to national interventions alone (e.g. economic governance along economic corridors).
Overall, SDC plans to allocate 16% of financial resources to regional programs, while the rest will be allocated at a country level.
The SECO strategy for Vietnam, the HSD-activities in Vietnam, and the Swiss strategy for Myanmar are conceptually closely linked, but not formally included in the MRS.
Switzerland contributes to reducing poverty, to supporting equitable and sustainable development, and to fostering democratic governance. It strengthens CLMV governments and non-government actors in their aim to become equal and empowered partners in the upcoming ASEAN community
Thematic Focus Areas
The thematic orientation of the existing programs in Vietnam and Lao PDR will be: local governance and citizens’ participation and agriculture and food security, constituting only a slight thematic shift compared to the past strategy period, placing thematic emphasis in accordance to the new Message 2013-2016 to the Swiss Parliament on international cooperation. Political economy assessments confirmed the relevance of these two thematic domains for Cambodia as well. Improvements in governance are considered the most important factor for inclusive and sustainable growth in CLMV countries, enabling them to reap benefits from the ASEAN community integration. Agriculture and food security remains the livelihood base of the majority of the population in the GMS, and poverty is most widespread in rural areas and amongst people belonging to ethnic minority groups. In order to allow the poor to benefit more from economic development and to improve their chances for economic diversification, employment and vocational education and training is introduced as third thematic domain. Better skills will allow the many young people entering the labor force each year to find better-paid jobs, and better skills offer opportunities for those moving out of agriculture. Due to SDC phasing out its program Vietnam, no third domain program will be developed there.
Prioritized cross-cutting themes are:
- Gender equality is mainstreamed in all domain programs. Given that women equality is far from achieved in the CLMV countries, many SDC program outcomes are formulated to allow for gender-specific planning and budgeting. Gender specific targets are or will be formulated (affirmative action), and the monitoring data of SDC projects will be sex disaggregated.
- Good governance is characterized by accountability, participation, non-discrimination, efficiency and effectiveness, and transparency. The mainstreaming of these principles is reflected as outcomes, or in outcome indicators, for all programs: The principles of good governance are formulated in a human rights based perspective, in view of strengthening capacities of rights holders and of duty bearers. Non-discrimination, in Lao PDR and Vietnam especially, refers to the non-discrimination of ethnic minorities. Affirmative action for ethnic and religious minorities and other vulnerable and marginalized groups is foreseen in most outcome statements of the Swiss program. Given the particularly low levels of education and information of poor women and men in rural areas in all CLMV countries, the promotion of access to meaningful information as a means to support accountability and transparency is included in many domain programs.
- Climate change adaptation and mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction are included especially in Agriculture & Food Security programs, using existing instruments to analyze the risks and integrate preventive or mitigating activities.
- Conflict sensitive program management is key in the post-violent conflict context of Cambodia. Political economy and conflict sensitive context assessments that include ‘do no harm’ analyses are necessary in all CLMV countries. Identifying dividing and connecting forces in these dynamic and heterogeneous contexts will enable SDC to manage the potential for social tension and unrest in sensitive contexts, for example when supporting ethnic minorities or working in the area of land governance. Promoting platforms for dialogue and exchange between different communities, civil society organizations and local authorities will be an important means to support trust- and confidence-building, particularly in Cambodia and in Laos.