SUMERNET partners are committed to the sustainable development of the Mekong Region.

Launched in 2005, SUMERNET partners carry out policy-relevant research and outreach activities to inform and engage policy-makers, planners and diverse stakeholders.

SUMERNET began at a time of accelerated economic development in the Mekong Region. Major infrastructure projects such as roads, hydropower dams and irrigation projects were being planned and built. Many bilateral and multilateral trade agreements were being made, and there was a vigorous debate going on about the future of the Mekong Region. Many development agencies expressed concerns and called for an integrated approach that would incorporate a greater diversity of views and perspectives into regional planning and policy.

SUMERNET was established to meet the need for integrated research by supporting and promoting the use of scientific evidence in policy-making, with the overarching goal of contributing to sustainable development in the Mekong Region.

SUMERNET has already established a successful and expanding network of collaboration across the region in several critical policy areas, with 50 members, including research and policy-making institutions, and a strong track record of publications and outreach activities. Research in Phase 1 (2005-2009) and Phase 2 (2010-2013) focused on ecosystem management, transboundary issues, climate change and energy, livelihoods and poverty, and sustainable urbanization.

Key research themes in Phase 3 (2014 to June 2017)

Climate-compatible development: promoting human development while addressing both mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.
Regional economic integration: seeking mechanisms for ensuring both environmental sustainability and social equity in a region developing together
Ecosystem services and local development: assessments of ecosystems and the services they provide for local development in rural and peri-urban settings.

Engaging with policy-makers

We attempt to bridge science and policy by working on research questions that are directly relevant to current policy debates, engaging decision-makers in all aspects of our activities, and building capacity for sustainable development through workshops and other activities.

Ever since its inception, SUMERNET has sponsored a wealth of policy-relevant research and worked to create an ‘enabling environment’ for researchers and decision-makers to engage with one another.

The network partners pursue an evolving research agenda in response to questions and policy issues that arise in the Mekong Region.  Our support for independent research in the Mekong Region is through grants for institutions and individual researchers.

We emphasize collaboration, networking and knowledge-sharing, connecting partners in different countries through our projects and events, and strengthening research capacity across the region. SUMERNET’s Secretariat is hosted by SEI’s Asia Centre.

SUMERNET is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

Selected publications

Journal Articles
Thongyou, M., and R. Savangnokg (2011). “Negotiating Livelihoods in an Urban Hinterland: A Study of Fishing Households at Thung Sang Lake, Khon Kaen Province”. International Conference on Humanities, Society and Culture, 2011. IPEDR Vol. 20 (2011), IACSIT Press, Singapore.
Lebel, L. (2012). “Governance and Coastal Boundaries in the Tropics”. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4(2). 243–51.

Book
Lebel, L., CT Hoanh, Chayanis K, Rajesh D. (Eds.) (2014). “Livelihoods, ecosystem services and the challenges of regional integration in the Mekong region.” SIRD: Kuala Lumpur. The chapters explore contemporary issues of ecosystems management and transboundary integration in the Mekong Region.

Policy Briefings
A number of policy briefings – both at national and regional levels – are produced by the various research partners to synthesize key insights and offer recommendations for policy makers and others in the region. The briefings are produced in booklet form and are available on request and also downloadable as pdf’s in the website.

External website: www.sumernet.org/

Funder: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency

The Mekong Region today is one of the world’s fastest growing regions, and most of its countries have been able to channel the returns from growth into raising income and improving people’s well-being.

Despite this progress, many social and economic challenges remain, particularly in terms of integrating social, economic and environmental concerns which are increasingly threatening the sustainability of the region. The rapid change is coupled by the increasing regional integration and inter-dependence of Mekong Region countries and Yunnan province of China. To meet the challenges there is a need for a regionally-based and owned knowledge production and management community to support policies and push the policy actions in the direction of greater sustainability.

The Sustainable Mekong Research Network (Sumernet), a regional programme financed by Sida, was established in 2005 to meet this need. Sumernet was launched in partnership between SEI and the regional research institutes.

Phase 1 established Sumernet as a genuinely independent regionally-owned platform and has a “voice” in a way that other comparable networks do not, which are often seen to be activist and essentially foreign-driven and discounted in influence as a result. Sumernet Phase 1 also had positive impacts for its partners (both individuals and their institutions) in terms of capacity-building through both training and conduct of research and also through the promotion of cross-border linkages.

However, the establishment and evolutionary phase of the network now needs to be superceded by a phase that focusses its efforts on the delivery of significant knowledge products. This is the mission of Sumernet Phase 2.

The Mekong Region has undergone a transformation in recent years, with rapid economic growth, a strong drive towards regional economic integration, and a gradual shift towards more open political systems and a market economy.

 

Still, poverty and social inequality – including gender inequality – remain significant challenges in the region. Sustainability is also a major concern, as environmental degradation takes a toll on both ecosystems and livelihoods, and competition over limited natural resources becomes increasingly common, often cutting across national boundaries.

The policy choices made today are thus crucial to ensuring socially inclusive, equitable and sustainable development in this region. The Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET), launched in 2005 with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), aims to support the sustainable development of the Mekong Region through scientifically robust, policy-relevant research and outreach.

The mission of SUMERNET is to inform and influence sustainable development in the Mekong Region by supporting credible, collaborative research and regional assessment, stimulating independent discussions on key regional issues, and engaging with decision-makers and stakeholders to foster more effective and sustainable policies and programmes.

There are many other research activities under way in the Mekong Region and across Southeast Asia, but most focus on specific systems, sectors, places or countries. SUMERNET aims to address the need for integrative, regional-level analyses that compare or aggregate evidence and experiences. High-quality regional studies require extensive collaboration; SUMERNET addresses this need by bringing together researchers with links to policy, planning and practice across the Mekong Region.

SUMERNET has already established a successful and expanding network of collaboration across the region in several critical policy areas, with 50 members, including research and policy-making institutions, and a strong track record of publications and outreach activities. Together, the partners lead interdisciplinary, cross-national studies on major policy issues; engage with policy-makers, planners and stakeholders; and build capacity among both researchers and policy-makers.

Research in Phase 1 (2005-2009) and Phase 2 (2010-2013) focused on ecosystem management, transboundary issues, climate change and energy, livelihoods and poverty, and sustainable urbanization.

Building on that foundation, and reflecting shifting knowledge demands and policy debates in the region, Phase 3 (2014 to June 2017) will focus on three key issues: climate-compatible development, ensuring the environmental sustainability of regional economic integration, and maintaining ecosystem services critical to local development.

Stakeholder engagement is a central aspect of SUMERNET’s work. In each research project, we identify ‘boundary partners’, including fellow knowledge producers, knowledge users (e.g. think tanks, NGOs, media, advocacy groups), and policy-makers, all of whom help shape policies and development choices. We engage these partners from the very start, to ensure the project design, activities and outputs are policy-relevant and to build a sense of ownership.

SUMERNET will continue to take this approach in Phase 3, building on the trust and strategic partnerships we have built and working to ensure that we are widely seen as a source of reliable knowledge and policy analysis across the Mekong Region. We also intend to step up our communications efforts, aiming to reach both public- and private-sector audiences who can benefit from our research. SUMERNET’s Secretariat is hosted by SEI’s Asia Centre.

Selected publications

Journal Articles
Thongyou, M., and R. Savangnokg (2011). “Negotiating Livelihoods in an Urban Hinterland: A Study of Fishing Households at Thung Sang Lake, Khon Kaen Province”. International Conference on Humanities, Society and Culture, 2011. IPEDR Vol. 20 (2011), IACSIT Press, Singapore.
Lebel, L. (2012). “Governance and Coastal Boundaries in the Tropics”. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4(2). 243–51.

Book
Lebel, L., CT Hoanh, Chayanis K, Rajesh D. (Eds.) (2014). “Livelihoods, ecosystem services and the challenges of regional integration in the Mekong region.” SIRD: Kuala Lumpur. The chapters explore contemporary issues of ecosystems management and transboundary integration in the Mekong Region.

Policy Briefings
A number of policy briefings – both at national and regional levels – are produced by the various research partners to synthesize key insights and offer recommendations for policy makers and others in the region. The briefings are produced in booklet form and are available on request and also downloadable as pdf’s in the website.

More information is available in the SUMERNET SUMERNET-VisionGuide2014.
See all SUMERNET publications here.