Since its establishment in 1992, the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) has increasingly cooperated and integrated to promote the flow of goods and services through the GMS Economic Corridor, as well as in tourism and hospitality, food security, and energy resources. However, in the last two years, the GMS countries have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 to varying degrees depending on the resilience of their economies and the capacity of the public health system. At the regional level, challenges exist in building back socioeconomic stability, especially among the poor and vulnerable groups where opportunities to generate new progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are limited.

After taking immediate actions in response to the pandemic, the world is now moving toward COVID-19 recovery. It is an opportune time for countries to redefine prosperity and facilitate socioeconomic reconstruction. Consequently, several initiatives have been implemented focusing on recovery plans which emphasize more integrated, inclusive, green, resilient, sustainable, and stronger reforms. These include smart agriculture, sustainable tourism, green economy and finance, and food-energy-water nexus.

Furthermore, as GMS is an integral part of ASEAN, the GMS COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan 2021–2023 is aptly in line with ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) which is the consolidated exit strategy from the COVID-19 crisis. The GMS COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan 2021–2023 highlights balancing health, economic, environmental, and social priorities as well as communicating with and engaging local governments, private sectors, and communities. One distinctive feature of the plan is its emphasis on greater regional cooperation and integration (RCI), such as the Building Back Better initiative. RCI has proven to be a powerful instrument during the pandemic response, particularly in cross-border management and vaccination roll-outs. Likewise, during the transition period to 2030, a more proactive stance of RCI should be taken to enhance synergy and complement existing cooperation frameworks to ensure a strong recovery, region-wide solidity, and preparation for future crises.

Given this context, Mekong Institute (MI) as an intergovernmental organization owned by the GMS, with the aim of strengthening the capacities of human resources for regional cooperation and integration, has initiated a flagship program together with its partners. The program seeks to promote post COVID-19 resilient economies by providing various proactive events such as GMS City Nodes Network and GMS Knowledge Network. Initiated by MI, the Mekong Forum has been identified as one of the activities to provide an interactive platform for the discussion and sharing of visions of stakeholders to build synergy and address challenges to ensure a successful recovery of the GMS as well as the attainment of long-term sustainability across the subregion.

This year’s Mekong Forum will highlight the importance of increasing long-term resilience and building back better. With all the policies and action plans on COVID-19 already in place, the forum will also discuss how existing cooperation frameworks can be synergized and conducted successfully in real situations. Using this opportunity, the forum shall create common understanding among stakeholders and underline the importance of capacity development, making future implementation complementary and effective, and in turn, helping to revitalize GMS economies for greater and lasting impact in the post COVID-19 world.

October 19 | Forum Structure

I. Plenary sessions

The day will start in plenary with the official welcome and opening remarks followed by several keynote speeches from distinguished speakers who are experts, practitioners working in the field of development cooperation or at the regional (GMS/ASEAN) levels.

II. Parallel breakout sessions

Parallel breakout sessions are thematic workshops which are directly related to the theme of the conference: “Accelerating Post COVID-19 Recovery and Building Resilience in the Greater Mekong Subregion”. Depending on the interests, participants are to pre-select the breakout sessions before the conference.

In total, there are two rounds of rotation (morning and afternoon) with 3 sessions on offer for each round. The foreseen topics and are:

A. Inclusive and Resilient Society

B. Seamless Connectivity

C. GMS’ Priority Sectors

Objectives of the session

  • Create opportunities for participants to share knowledge and experiences and discuss interesting projects, approaches, initiatives, and solutions related to Post COVID-19 recovery and resilience building as well as other topics

  • Catalyze peer learning for collaborative reflection and developing ideas to address questions and challenges

  • Promote networking among participants – enabling the exploration of new emerging topics

III. Panel Discussion on “Accelerating Recovery from COVID-19”

Panelists will include representatives from the thematic workshop speakers and one additional speaker to discuss practical implementation issues related to accelerating recovery and building resilience in the GMS. At the same time, the session will seek to harness the power of leveraging resources, including finance, technology, knowledge, and human resources, and explore how to converge COVID-19-related efforts initiated by governments, private sectors and development organizations.

For session panelists, MI will identify experts from the field to join each session by considering the future/potential collaboration with MI in specific areas.