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The Indo-Burma region has been identified as one of the most threatened global biodiversity hotspots. The region’s natural resources are at risk and this is driven by pressures of economic development and the needs of a rural population with high levels of poverty. The Mekong River and its major tributaries is one of the most critical riverine ecosystems in Indo-Burma. People protecting their Ecosystem in the lower Mekong (PEM) is a 10-year collaborative program bringing together development and conservation efforts to reduce threats to biodiversity and livelihoods posed by large scale development projects in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam.
Given decisions on how resources are shared, developed and managed occur at community, national, and regional levels, PEM seeks to bring about change at the community and policy levels by employing four linked intervention strategies:
Community Group Support
Funding for this project has enabled Oxfam to support members of the regional ‘Save the Mekong Coalition’ who coordinate activities such as strategy meetings and information sharing among its members. A significant community level achievement was the first ‘Mekong People’s Forum’ which has was held in An Giang Vietnam and attended by dam-affected communities from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. The forum enabled affected communities to share information and raise joint concerns over dams planned and under construction on the Lower Mekong mainstream.
Oxfam’s partnership with youth groups has enabled young women and men from urban areas and rural communities to access space to raise awareness about hydropower dam development in the Mekong and for formal stakeholders to understand that youth are interested in these issues. Through workshops, fora, debates, and key international days, young people discussed the potential social and environmental impacts of dams on communities and the need for young people to engage in water decision making.
Oxfam’s support to the group, Social and Environmental Protection Youth (SEPY) in Cambodia enabled SEPY to utilize social media channels such as Facebook and radio to raise awareness of the potential impacts of dam building on key biodiversity areas in the Mekong as well as the impact on the livelihoods of communities who are dependent on resources in the river for their survival. SEPY’s campaign centred on sharing community experiences and submitting a petition to the company and Cambodian National Assembly to demand a halt in construction. Their strong voices were heard and the third Committee of the Cambodian National Assembly responded positively, promising that the Government will conduct visits to affected communities and further study the causes of water pollution in that area.
Youth Training Program
Oxfam started a youth training program on ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’. These techniques have been found to be culturally appropriate, effective and particularly popular with young activists. The aim is now to develop a regionally based core group of facilitators or ‘jokers’ (as the key facilitator is referred to in Theatre of the Oppressed methodology). The tools and techniques empower communities to identify their problems and possible solutions by creating participatory theatre. The initiative aims to raise funding for subsequent workshops to be held in Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Vietnam so that ‘joker’ trainees learn about each other’s country and sharpen their skills to facilitate these techniques. Once trained, these young people will have the skills to take the methodologies back to their respective countries and communities and mobilise affected communities to engage and find solutions to their problems.
Oxfam supports two community advocacy placements, one in Cambodia and one in Vietnam, who are the alumni of EarthRights Mekong School. The placement in Cambodia focuses on working with youth groups and affected communities to assist in a range of areas such as providing training on human rights, free prior and informed consent or hydropower and its impacts; awareness raising amongst urban and rural youth; and supporting communities affected by specific dam projects to make petitions and statements. The placement in Vietnam aims to raise communities’ awareness around the potential impacts on local livelihoods of large scale hydropower projects. This is achieved by the alumni working closely to educate and mobilize communities (farmers, fishers, and women’s associations) to advocate to government and developers on these issues. The placement approach is effective by locating the support within the affected communities and providing technical support to facilitate trans-boundary cooperation between the communities.
Thank you so much for your support. Without you this vital work would not be possible.