CSEAS Colloquium with Dr. Philip Hirsch

Transboundary environmental governance of the Mekong: rethinking borders and rescaling the commons

by Philip Hirsch

Date: April 25, 2019, Thursday 13:30 to 14:30
Venue: Middle-sized Meeting Room, Inamori Foundation Building

Transboundary environmental governance in Southeast Asia is normally conceived in terms of shared resources and environmental impacts that transcend national borders. In the case of the Mekong, “fugitive resources” of water, fish and sediment tend to dominate discussion.
Similarly, assumed national interests tend to shape actors and institutional arrangements for governance of the transboundary commons.
That these institutions signally fail to address the governance challenges tends to be explained in terms of their politico-cultural failings (eg the “ASEAN Way” of non-interference), the weak regulatory remit of agencies with a specific transboundary governance role (Mekong River Commission), the dominant developmental agenda of sub-regional cooperative arrangements (Greater Mekong Subregion) or the geo-political dominance of China (Lancang-Mekong Cooperation). This presentation builds on these critiques in two main ways. First, it suggests other ways of thinking about “borders” than fixed political boundaries and about flows across them, including investment and governance flows as well as the material environmental footprint of large scale investments.
Second, it considers the relationship between the local commons impacted by transboundary projects, on the one hand, and the framing of the commons at an inter-governmental level on the other.

Philip Hirsch is Emeritus Professor, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney and Affiliated Researcher, Regional Centre for Social Sciences and Sustainable Development, Chiang Mai University

Chair: Yasuyuki Kono, CSEAS