Wed 29 Jun 2005
Filed under: News,Regional
Bangkok: A summit of the six-nation Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), scheduled next month in China’s Yunnan province, has refused to invite civil society organizations to the meeting, organizers said on Wednesday.
“This is a meeting of the heads of state and the heads of state determined the conditions of the meeting,” Mark Kasman, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) environment specialist, told a press conference.
ADB is co-hosting the summit as the lead funder of various ambitious infrastructure development programs for the GMS, an area that comprises all riparian countries of the Mekong River, including China, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The GMS grouping will hold its second summit in Kunming, in China’s Yunnan province, on July 4-5. The first was held in Cambodia in 2002.
Conservation groups are hoping the summit will include a commitment from the six leaders to protect the environment in the Mekong Basin area and include civil society participation in the planned infrastructure projects such as hydroelectic dams and roads.
A meeting of GMS environmental ministers held in Shanghai, China, on May 25, issued a joint statement calling for comprehensive protection of the region’s environment and bio-diversity but many worry the call will remain toothless without an endorsement by the six leaders.
“At the meeting in Kunming I would certainly like to see that the leaders endorse and accept all the things the environmental ministers have put forward,” said WWF Thailand representative Robert Mather.
The fact that the WWF and other non-governmental organizations have not been invited to the summit has raised concerns among development agencies and environmentalists about whether conservation issues will be given an equal priority with infrastructure building.
“There’s a certain irony here,” said John Dore, head of the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Bangkok office. “An expected outcome of the summit is for it to lead to partnerships with the private sector, development agencies, academics and civil society and yet – with the exception of ADB – development agencies, academics and all civil society groups have been excluded from participating.”