Greater Mekong Subregion Senior Officials Convene Meeting on COVID-19 Response
Scenes of healthcare workers at Thailand Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute, Ministry of Public Health. Photo: UN Women/ Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Senior officials of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) met to discuss responses to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the GMS, focusing on regional approaches to promote recovery and resilience. The meeting was held via videoconferencing on 2 June 2020, with participation from all GMS countries and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
GMS countries expressed appreciation for ADB’s quick and substantial actions to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the subregion. They urged ADB to further strengthen its role in coordinating COVID-19 initiatives, and to continue to provide technical and financing support for programs related to GMS sectors.
The meeting highlighted ADB’s support for the sectors of health, transport and trade facilitation, agriculture, environment, and tourism in the GMS countries amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:
Under the health sector:
- The ongoing ADB technical assistance on Strengthening Regional Health Cooperation in the GMS received an additional $2 million grant;
- The GMS Health Security Project reallocated financing for communicable disease control in border areas, thermal scanners, testing machines and laboratory equipment, respiratory ventilators, PPEs, and other medical supplies; and
- Continued coordination with the ASEAN Secretariat, the World Health Organization, and the International Organization on Migration on COVID-19 response.
- A virtual meeting was organized by the GMS Working Group on Health Cooperation (WGHC) to discuss ways to strengthen collaboration among countries to respond to the pandemic at both the regional and country levels.
Under the transport and trade facilitation program:
- GMS countries coordinated exchange of information on the status of border crossing points at the onset of the pandemic.
- A virtual National Transportation Facilitation Committee meeting was held on 22 June 2020 to discuss (i) updates from GMS countries on border closures (or changes); (ii) coordinated plan and timetable for adjustment and/or reopening of borders; (iii) information exchange on additional health measures at the border; and (iv) how GMS Transport and Trade Facilitation Program can support/ help.
- ADB-supported projects in agriculture in the GMS could help ease the GMS countries’ agricultural sectors toward recovery from the present crisis and promote long term resilience by covering areas such as harmonization of safety and quality standards, support for livelihoods and job creation in the rural areas, improved sanitary and phytosanitary systems, prevention and control of transboundary animal diseases and antimicrobial resistance, and development and access to green agribusiness supply chains; and
- The regional TA on GMS Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Program (2020-2025) will help create enabling conditions in (i) climate-smart, inclusive, and gender-responsive agri-food value chains; (ii) food safety and quality systems; and (iii) climate-adaptive agriculture in the context of the water–energy–food security nexus.
- The GMS Working Group on Agriculture held a virtual meeting on 25 June 2020 to discuss in greater detail the COVID-19 response in the sector.
- The regional technical assistance GMS Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability Program (2020-2025) will address new and emerging challenges and opportunities in climate change and environmental sustainability.
- The GMS Working Group on Environment held a virtual meeting on 23 June 2020 to discuss issues, such as the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts toward environmental sustainability, green and climate resiliency, and the management of GOVID-19-related waste.
Under the tourism sector:
- The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office launched a one-stop resource webpage on tourism in the GMS amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Resource page. This page aims to promote GMS as a safe tourist destination, keep the subregion in tourism international radar, and help gain back tourists and investors’ confidence in the GMS; and
- ADB is currently financing two ongoing loan projects on GMS Tourism Infrastructure for Inclusive Growth covering Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam.
- The 45th Meeting of the GMS Tourism Working Group was convened virtually on 18 June 2020 to discuss the current tourism situation and COVID-19 recovery initiatives and strategies.
GMS countries noted that the initiatives of the various GMS sector working groups in responding to the COVID-19 crisis are interrelated. They proposed close coordination among these working groups in designing, preparing, and implementing a unified COVID-19 response strategy, plan, and program for the subregion.
The meeting also reviewed preparations for key GMS events: the Senior Officials’ Meeting scheduled for August 2020, the 11th Economic Corridors Forum and the 24th Ministerial Conference, both scheduled for November 2020, and the 7th GMS Leaders’ Summit in March 2021.