Mekong Sub-Region (MSR)
The Mekong Sub-Region is composed of the countries of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam and is glued together by the lower parts of the mighty Mekong River. This area is amazingly diverse in many respects including biodiversity (second only to the Amazon), natural resources, cultural wealth (literally hundreds of ethnic groups with their own distinctive cultures), and, notably, social development. Three of the MSR countries are ranked among the world's least developed (Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar); while the remaining two are among the world's fastest developing. For these reasons, the MSR is a potent mixture, and a recipe for both humanitarian and ecological disasters as this is the frontier where the least developed countries fall prey to the fastest developing.
Uneven development across the MSR countries has created many disturbing issues in the region. More often than not, governments focus on the development of natural resource extraction for export, rather than the development of communities. Of the 234 million people (estimate July 2012) in the MSR, well over half are employed in agriculture - many being subsistence farmers and fishermen and living on only a few dollars per day. As the rate of urbanisation and development increases, people are under intense pressure to improve their livelihoods for survival. This is difficult to achieve because education is often lacking and illiteracy rates are higher than 25% of the population in some MSR countries.
Furthermore, health care systems are inadequate and access to clean water remains beyond the reach of many rural communities. As a consequence, the rural-urban divide is widening and rural villages, ethnic minorities, and other marginalised people are exposed to an increasingly alarming degree of exploitation. As the most vulnerable members of these communities, children face especially high risk of exploitation. Add the usual layer of corruption to this setting and you pave the way for drug and human trafficking, forced resettlement, and natural resource mismanagement. The result is some of the poorest living conditions anywhere in the world, an entrenched poverty cycle and communities who are unable to improve their livelihoods or secure those of their children.
View all our regional projects