U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged continued assistance on Thursday for US—led environment programmes in the Mekong Delta.
Ms. Clinton spoke in Hanoi at the ASEAN Regional Forum, a gathering of delegates from the ten—member Association of South—East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The programmes are part of the Lower Mekong Initiative, a joint effort of the United States and the four lower Mekong countries — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam — focused on health, education, infrastructure and the environment.
“Managing this resource and protecting it against threats is a transnational challenge,” Ms. Clinton said on Thursday of the Mekong River Basin. “Regional cooperation is essential to realizing that challenge.” The US will provide more than 220 million dollars in funding to Lower Mekong countries in fiscal year 2010, two—thirds of which goes to environment, health and education.
Addressing ASEAN delegates, Ms. Clinton announced a “sister river” partnership between the Mekong River Commission and the U.S.—based Mississippi River Commission. She also announced a new three—year programme designed to promote adaptive responses to climate change.
“We expect to continue similar levels of funding for the next two years,” Ms. Clinton said.
The U.S. is also funding programmes to combat HIV/AIDS and pandemic influenza in the region, she said.
The Lower Mekong Initiative was created after a July 2009 meeting between Ms. Clinton and the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
More than 60 million people live in the Lower Mekong Basin, an area comprising about 606,000 square kilometers in South—East Asia. Climate change will likely increase flooding and threaten food security in the region, the Mekong River Commission reports.
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.