Mekong Watch is a Japanese NGO based in Tokyo. They combine research and advocacy to address and prevent the negative environmental and social impacts of development in the Mekong Region. They are especially concerned about the lack of consultation with affected communities in development planning and implementation and the role Japanese financing. By contacting communities directly, they try to bridge the information and communication gaps between them and decision-makers in Japan.
Mekong Watch envisions a Mekong Region in which its people enjoy the region's natural environments and sustain lifestyles that are rooted in the integrity of their environments, without becoming victims to the harmful impacts of destructive development.
Mekong Watch's mission is to create a framework such that the views and opinions of affected communities will be respected and lessons learned from past projects will be reflected at every stage of development in the Mekong Region.
Mekong Watch's activities can be largely divided into three categories: (1)Research (2)Resource Development and Outreach (3)Advocacy
Their research activities include investigative research regarding specific development projects that they are monitoring, field research, and research of various policies. Project-specific research usually involves interviews and networking with local communities affected by the development projects to document precisely what kinds of impacts they will (or are already) facing. For example, we have done a survey of refugees from Burma who were familiar with the human rights situation around a hydropower plant to be repaired with Japanese development aid. We have also worked with Thai NGOs and local community leaders to collect information about the impacts of the Samut Wastewater Treatment plant, which is being built with Japanese and ADB financing.
Field research has included a study of ichthyic biodiversity in the Mekong River, a study of inland fisheries and livelihoods on the Ing River in Thailand, and community forestry and participatory forest management in Laos. Policy-related research has focused on the inspection functions of multilateral development banks, environmental guidelines (particularly relating to the Japan Bank for International Cooperation), and the new information-disclosure policy which went into effect in Japan in April 2001.
(2) Resource Development and Outreach
Their resource development and outreach work aims to disseminate the outcomes of their research and monitoring, and to promote information exchange among key stakeholders. It is also useful to draw the media's attention to problematic development projects and the need for policy reform in the Japanese government, particularly in relation to development initiatives in the Mekong Region. They publish a quarterly journal, hold public seminars, international symposiums, and coordinate study tours to Thailand.
They are also establishing a Mekong Lipary, with books, papers, magazines, and other printed materials on issues related to development in the Mekong Region. Our expanding network with academics and students in Japan is also a resource to be drawn upon when academic expertise is required.
Their advocacy work has 2 main purposes. One is to ping the voices of people affected by Japanese-financed development projects in the Mekong Region to relevant decision makers in Japan. The other is to facilitate policy and institutional reform. They are able to use the information from our research and networking to back up our policy proposals. They believe that it is necessary to create a decision-making system where local people are included in decision-making for development planning from the very earliest stages. Their advocacy work strives to reform the current decision-making patterns so that the needs of communities are accurately reflected and respected in final decisions.See more