MK20: A Space for Dialogue: People, Perceptions, and Principled Outcomes in the Governance of the Mekong

The Mekong River traverses six countries and over 4,300 km, with diverse stakeholders holding multiple, overlapping, and sometimes competing interests, often yielding tensions and conflict over the priorities and processes of river governance. The repercussions of various development choices on social equity and environmental sustainability have been extensively debated. Resolving these requires high capacities to assess complex problems, modes of ensuring credible commitment, and the application of broad knowledge sets. For all that is unresolved in Mekong governance, one thing is clear: in order for decisions to be perceived as binding and legitimate, intense deliberation and negotiation is required. Current barriers to consensus have been documented, including a deficiency of productive dialogue; the marginalization of important stakeholders; and limitations to the legitimacy of agreements. As such, our theme ‘A Space for Dialogue’ has three aims. 1. To facilitate the construction of indigenous definition(s) of Good Mekong Governance (GMG) that partly reconciles conceptualizations held by government, civil society, business, and communities. 2. Build capacity for deliberation over complex institutional and political challenges. 3. Establish new inroads of representation, engagement, and negotiation amongst traditional adversaries to promote more equitable and sustainable governance systems.