On March 23, 2016, the leaders of the Mekong countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam) and the People's Republic of China jointly announced the establishment of the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Framework at the First Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Leaders' Meeting in Sanya, China. The MLC member countries have jointly set the goal of comprehensive socio-economic development on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and narrowing the development gap by focusing on three pillars: Political and Security, Economic and Sustainable Development, Social Cultural and People-to-People Exchange, with concentration on 5 priority areas: Connectivity, Production Capacity, Cross-Border Economic Cooperation, Water Resource Management, Agriculture and Poverty Reduction. Since then, the cooperation among MLC countries has further enhanced and expanded into other potential areas of cooperation such as education, public health, trade and investment facilitation, financial and technical support to strengthen capacity building in order to contribute to the economic growth and the well-being of the people in the Mekong-Lancang sub-region.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak in late 2019, the international community has faced unprecedented challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely affected the livelihood and mobility of the people, undermined the economic development and claimed million of lives. In the midst of such difficulties and challenges, the MLC countries have spared no efforts to achieve the goal of cooperation while also continuing to strengthen internal cooperative relations as well as providing mutual assistance to fight against the pandemic.
Toward this end, China hosted the 6th MLC Foreign Ministers' Meeting in 2021 in Chongqing, China, under the co-chairmanship of China and Myanmar. The Meeting provided good initiatives to deepen and widen the areas of cooperation, such as promoting cooperation for sustainable development and strengthening cooperation between local authorities and others.
In addition to elevating the role of the Lao PDR in sub-regional, regional and international arenas by participating and contributing to the MLC in various ways, the Lao PDR has also obtained tangible benefits through the implementation of various MLC projects and programs, especially the Early Harvest Projects, such as the Laos-China Joint Poverty Alleviation Project of 33 million Yuan implemented in 2020 in Vientiane capital and Luang Prabang province which has importantly contributed to small-scale infrastructure development of the respective cities, comprising public health centers, teachers' dormitories, garbage management, and training programs on clean and organic farming. Moreover, since 2017, under the MLC Special Fund, the Lao PDR has received 56 projects with a total value of over USD 15 million. To date, 11 projects have been completed and 45 projects are ongoing. All these projects have importantly contributed to the socio-economic development of the Lao PDR and the Mekong sub-region.
The Lao PDR highly values the achievements made under the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation framework based on the spirit of peace, stability, unity and solidarity towards the development of the Mekong sub-region as well as strengthening, deepening and broadening cooperation in an effective way to ensure mutual benefit to all member countries. Therefore, the Lao PDR would like to take this opportunity to express its sincere gratitude to the Government of the People's Republic of China for the continued cooperation and contribution, particularly the financial support to the MLC Special Fund to implement various sub-regional programmes and projects which have brought tangible benefits to the Mekong sub-region.
On behalf of the Government of the Lao PDR, I would like to express my congratulations to the 6th anniversary of the MLC and wish the MLC a prosperous growth towards quality and sustainable development as well as ensuring peace, stability and comprehensive development in the Mekong sub-region, thus contributing to the ASEAN community building, the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, South-South Cooperation and the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals. The Lao PDR, as a member country, will continue to work closely with China and other Mekong countries through active participation in MLC activities and implementation of the Leaders’ declarations, including the MLC Five Year Plan of Action (2018-2022) as well as continuing active implementation of MLC projects to ensure actual benefits to all MLC members.