Policy Briefs   1

Deepening Inclusive Water Diplomacy Through Water Data Sharing on the Mekong-Lancang River

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  • In the Mekong-Lancang basin, intergovernmental scientific water data sharing has progressively expanded between governments since the early 1990s as an outcome of water diplomacy efforts. Much of this scientific water data has been made public via online platforms.

  • Water data underpins water diplomacy, including through trust building and providing evidence. It is crucial in the Mekong-Lancang basin given changing river conditions due to large dam operations, climate change and other development trends that have intensified hydropolitics in recent years.

  • As water data is increasingly shared between states, more emphasis also needs to be placed on effective and timely communication of water data to riparian communities including advanced warnings on changing river conditions due to upstream dam operations. 

  • For a more comprehensive evidence base informing water diplomacy, the scope of water data shared should be expanded to include more monitoring stations and more details on the operation schedules of existing mainstream and tributary dams.

  •  To make water diplomacy more inclusive and accountable, a diversity of water knowledge beyond scientific water data is required, including situated community knowledge, and civil society and academic research. Existing intergovernmental platforms could improve mechanisms to receive information from communities, civil society, and others to inform water diplomacy processes.

  •  To date, intergovernmental water diplomacy has focused on establishing agreements for water data sharing that increases transparency. A forward-looking policy priority within and beyond scientific water data sharing should be on establishing a rules-based basin-wide regime on the operation of hydropower dams with accountability mechanisms and community participation. 

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