On July 1, 2022, representatives from embassies in Bangkok, development partner organizations, governmental and non-governmental agencies interested in the development cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion, and the MI Governing Board gathered in a hybrid consultation held at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Hotel in Bangkok.
In attendance, the representatives discussed how to build the GMS's capacity for regional cooperation and integration, to share experiences, and to think through strategies for more productive engagement and collaboration with development partners in capacity development, particularly in light of the GMS's post-COVID-19 recovery.
“It was a very fortunate time for MI because we were able to learn a lot of new ideas and approaches that greatly aided MI's continuing projects and programs in achieving sustainable and resilient development in the GMS.” Mr. Suriyan Vichitlekarn, MI Executive Director said.
A panel discussion that was divided into two rounds focusing on view and perspective on the Strengthening Capacity Development for a Robust GMS towards Post COVID-19 Recovery and (ii) Sharing ideas and exploring in enhancing and strengthening synergy for a more effective Development Partners engagement and cooperation to promote capacity development in the GMS and beyond was discussed by Dr. Jean Pierre A. Verbiest, Honorary Advisor to the MI Council, Mr. Anouj Mehta, Country Director, Thailand Resident Mission-Asian Development Bank (ADB), and H.E. Dr. Poch Bunnak, Secretary of State, Ministry of Planning, Cambodia, which was moderated by Mr. Suriyan Vichitlekarn.
During the first round, Dr. Jean Pierre A. Verbiest pointed out issues to be considered during the post COVID-19 recovery and the evolving circumstances. These included regional capacity building, financial resources, significant disruptions in the global value chain, the global food crisis, global political instability, and climate change.
H.E. Dr. Poch Bunnak, Secretary of State, Ministry of Planning, Cambodia offered his insightful opinions. He shared challenges faced by his country during the COVID’s response and recovery, namely low-level educated labor forces, the use of technology and developing new skills to meet emerging labor market needs, economic recovery for a new normal, defining key policy directions for key sectors. He underlined three different approaches to national planning, which include. 1) Economic recovery; 2) economic reform; 3) enhancement of inclusive and sustainable resilience; and 4) capacity development for various population segments and for each nation.
Mr. Anouj Mehta, Country Director, Thailand Resident Mission-Asian Development Bank (ADB), also emphasized three important areas—food, energy, and climate—to support a strong economic recovery for the area. He further stressed on the three underlining consideration, namely innovative financial strategies, the effectiveness of the institutions in charge of providing services, and the use of technology to the discussion.
"Additionally, MI found the statements provided by USAID, RECOFTC, MTCO, MOAC, ITD, and UNOCCS to be quite helpful for us and the GMS. They are very much appreciated." The MI Executive Director, Mr. Suriyan Vichitlekarn, added.
During the second round of the discussion, MI received a lot of beneficial recommendations, counsel, and suggestions for improvement in the GMS. The meeting was attended by a total of 52 delegates, from development partner organizations based in Bangkok, and from other GMS countries via online.
The meeting emphasized the importance of partnership and synergies among Development Partners in promoting green and resilient economy, maintaining functionality of Mekong River and its ecosystem services, and adaptation to extreme shocks and changes (i.e. COVID-19, impacts of climate change). It also underlined the evolving needs for capacity development for GMS stakeholders in response to the changing dynamics of regional cooperation and integration.
Dr. Narongchai Akrasanee, the chairman of the MI Steering Committee, mentioned three significant challenges in his closing remarks. 1) As the backbone of economic activity, domestic and regional labor migration needs to be handled. Given this, the tourism industry and the use of digital technology to aid in business recovery should be the joint focus of MI and development partners. 2) To respond to and deal with regional developments, including environmental concerns, energy availability, food security, inflation, and shifting supply chains (trade, investment, cooperation), while taking off-shoring to the region into consideration. 3) Foreign exchange reserves, particularly the cost of fuel, including in Laos, as a general problem related to oil prices.