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  • Author: Sunil KC
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Recently, the government of Nepal, led by Nepal Communist Party Chairman KP Sharma Oli who ascended to power in 2018, came up with an integrated foreign policy that reflects rapid changes in both the domestic and geopolitical spheres. The new foreign policy has shifted from a traditional course to a modern one with “Economic Diplomacy” as the main driver. With the slogan of “Happy Nepali, Prosperous Nepal”, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has prioritized engagement with regional groupings. It is in this context that the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation or (BIMSTEC), established in 1996, with a permanent secretariat in Dhaka, Bangladesh, could serve as an important platform in achieving Nepal’s foreign policy goals of development and prosperity. Nepal became a member of BIMSTEC in 2004.. BIMSTEC acts as a vital bridge for Nepal to connect with South and Southeast Asia to expand its trade, economy, business, investments, and cultural connections. However, due to an unstable domestic political environment, Nepal has not been utilizing regional forums in advancing the nation’s interest. Now, with a stable government in power, Nepal must look at regional forums as important gateways for conducting business and national development.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Development, Geopolitics, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Nepal, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: This report explores the trade, investment, business, diplomacy, security, education,and people-to-people connections between the United States and the five countries of mainland Southeast Asia referred to as the Mekong region. Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam are bound together and geographically defined by the Mekong River, which has historically provided a rich, natural bounty of fish, agricultural productivity, physical connectivity, and key environmental services to more than 60 million people living in the river basin. The Mekong’s importance has only grown as the region’s social, economic, and diplomatic ties export the river’s bounty to the rest of the world. As the region develops, urbanization, infrastructure development, and climate change—among other changes—are all impacting the river, its resources, and the millions who depend on the mighty Mekong. This publication was produced in partnership with the Stimson Center Southeast Asia Program.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, Environment, Natural Resources, Infrastructure, Urbanization
  • Political Geography: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Laos, Myanmar, United States of America
  • Author: Brian Eyler, Courtney Weatherby
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: On September 11, 2020 the United States, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the ASEAN Secretariat launched the Mekong-US Partnership, a regional cooperation framework which upgrades the Obama-era Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI). The U.S. Department of State says the Partnership will expand on the success of the LMI “by strengthening the autonomy, economic independence, and sustainable development of the Mekong partner countries and promote a transparent, rules-based approach to transboundary challenges.” The new Partnership comes with an initial pledge of more than $150 million of U.S. funded programming to support COVID-19 recovery, counter transnational crimes, develop efficient energy markets, and counter trafficking in persons. A revitalization and upscaling of U.S. engagement in the Mekong is long overdue, particularly given China’s increasing engagement in the region and the economic challenges that Mekong countries will struggle with as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and chronic drought conditions. While the Partnership is still in its formative stages, there are several actions that would go a long way towards bolstering its effectiveness.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Partnerships, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Laos, Myanmar, United States of America, Mekong River
  • Author: Leonie Pearson
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: With over 780 million people dependent on transboundary rivers in South and Southeast Asia, water governance is vital to regional development. Yet, the current approach to water governance is dominated by state-centric actors (sometimes called the “hydrocracy”) and is not delivering sustainable water management for people or ecosystems. The so-called “hydrocracy” is a mix of government, bureaucrats, politicians, and national development banks, often aligned with private developers. They have established strong processes for governing transboundary water and are focused on maintaining the cyclical planning-to-construction of large infrastructure projects, e.g. dams, hydropower plants, bridges, etc. These state-centric actors are focused on delivering water allocation, utilisation and management with a clear agenda of ‘the state has a duty to develop its water resources’ for national economic development. For many, the state-centric actors are delivering the governmental agenda. Therefore, it is not governance that is managing transboundary water in Asia, but government.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Development, Government, Water, Governance
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia