Regional Collaboration Focus of Lower Mekong Early Warning System Conference

Photo Credit: Manuth Buth/UNDP Cambodia
Phnom Penh, December 2019 - The Lower Mekong Early Warning Systems Conference, held from the 3-4 December 2019 at Phnom Penh Hotel, has played an important role in the future of the Lower Mekong system.
The conference is the result of a transboundary study on Early Warning Systems in the region and brought together key representatives from five countries including Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
“As climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, disasters will continue to be major impediments to sustainable development so long as the economic incentives to build and develop hazard-prone locations outweigh the perceived disaster risks. In the Mekong region, while the Mekong River provides us with impressive economic growth, today, our river is facing an uncertain state, due to the accelerating pace of unsustainable growth, together with cumulative impact of climate change. These growing risks and uncertainties make it more important than ever to study, understand and act together to ensure resilient futures for all of us in the Mekong River basin”, said Dr. Winai Wangpimool, Director of Technical Support Division at the Mekong River Commission.
With a key objective of contributing to strengthening connectivity and transboundary policy dialogue on flood-related early warning systems in the Lower Mekong sub-region, a total of 81 participants took part in the two-day conference. The conference also had a specific focus on unveiling and discussing key findings of the new regional study, conducted by People in Need with support from the United States of America Department of State and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) -supported project ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’ funded by GEF-Least Developed Countries Fund. “We need to ensure that good practices on early warning systems are shared within the Lower Mekong Sub-region in order to strengthen the capacity of Disaster Management Organisations and hence increase resilience of vulnerable populations,” said Mr. Federico Barreras, Disaster Management Program Manager at People in Need.
Early warning systems play an important role in the Lower Mekong Sub-region, which is exposed to high levels of natural hazards leading to disasters on a regular basis. While each country has its own strategies and policies for disaster management, impacts of hazards in one country can impact its neighbours. As a result, it is important to consider transboundary approaches for data sharing and best practices.
During the conference, each country of the Lower Mekong Sub-region was invited to give a presentation of the early warning systems of their own countries.  Discussions and demonstrations were also had regarding early warning systems technology, including 3D printing of a water sensor (led by People in Need), with other presenters including Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, Mekong River Commission and Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES). Finally, civil society and other organisational structures took part in a plenary discussion proposing ways forward for transboundary early warning systems in the region. Participants were actively supported to develop networks which will lead to increase best-practice and data-sharing.
One of the presenters, Ms. Carlyne Yu from RIMES, shared stories of which demonstrate the need for early warning systems in the region. For example, she described how use of a specific early warning tool in Myanmar allowed farmers to proactively harvest early due to an incoming cyclone in 2017, thus reducing the negative impacts of the hazard on the agricultural industry. She also emphasised how capacity building should be a long-term and sustained approach, in order to be usable at all levels of a country. 
While the conference was only a two-day event, it is hoped that it is the beginning point in addressing a long-term collaborative and inclusive approach to regional disaster risk reduction in South-East Asia.
View the meeting miutes here.
For more information contact Muhibuddin Usamah (Project Manager) at
See the ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’ Twitter timeline here.
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