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About Mekong Watch Japan
Mekong Watch Japan (more commonly referred to as Mekong Watch) is a Japanese NGO based in Tokyo. Our activities focus on the environmental and social problems resulting from development projects in the Mekong Region. Most of our work relates to projects that involve funding by the Japanese government. We communicate directly with communities that are affected by the development projects as much as possible, so that we can have a strong understanding of the issues they face. We also discuss these issues with decision-makers in Japan, and advocate for changes in the relevant policies and plans. More details of our activities are explained below.
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 was established in 1993 as a network of seven Japanese organizations that were concerned about the role of Japan in development in the Mekong Region. Plans for several hydropower projects in Lao PDR, a controversial export of agricultural chemicals to Cambodia from Japan, and various initiatives in the GMS (Greater Mekong Sub-region) framework of the Asian Development Bank were causes for concern. In 1998, Mekong Watch became an independent NGO with its own membership and institutional structure. Our activities now include research, information production and distribution, and advocacy.
Mekong Watch's activities can be largely divided into three categories: (1)Research (2)Resource Development and Outreach (3)Advocacy
Our research activities include investigative research regarding specific development projects that we 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
Our resource development and outreach work aims to disseminate the outcomes of our 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. We publish a quarterly journal, hold public seminars, international symposiums, and coordinate study tours to Thailand.
We 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.
Our 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. We are able to use the information from our research and networking to back up our policy proposals. We 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. Our advocacy work strives to reform the current decision-making patterns so that the needs of communities are accurately reflected and respected in final decisions.
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