Insight into Policy: Sumernet Phase 2: Programme Summary
Sumernet Phase 2 Project Profiles
Insight into Policy: Sumernet Phase 2: Programme Summary
Sumernet (the Sustainable Mekong Research Network) is a programme intended to build a long-term research network that informs and influences policy development on sustainable development issues in the Mekong region. Launched in 2005 with support from the Swedish government, Sumernet grew to include 14 member institutes in the first phase and has successfully catalyzed research on a number of critical development challenges in the Mekong region.
The Goal of Sumernet is to achieve sustainable development in the Mekong region catalyzed by strengthening knowledge-based policy processes. Phase 2 will continue to contribute to this long-term goal of the region in its new phase of 3 years (2010-2012).
To achieve this goal, Sumernet has a strategic role to play in enhancing:
- Knowledge-policy interface, especially the deployment of networks to produce policy impact.
- Regional ownership with expanded membership and engagement with other regional policy forums and networks.
- Delivery of credible research products on key sustainable development issues of the region.
- Enhancing policy impacts through communications and outreach.
- Stimulating independent discourse on the key sustainable development issues of the region to support policies for sustainability.
Sumernet Phase 2 will put knowledge-based policy engagement at the heart of its activities. Building on the research collaboration established in Phase 1, the network will constructively engage with policy processes to understand how researchers can provide policy-relevant knowledge that is available to and understood by policy makers in the region. This will be achieved through four programme components, which together will produce the following outputs by the end of Phase 2:
- Sumernet has delivered and will be able to continue delivering independent, policy-relevant and credible research to support policy making for sustainable development in the region.
- Sumernet as a regional research network will have been strengthened as a knowledge-based regionally-owned policy engagement platform, both benefiting and being contributed to by the Sumernet partners – institutions and individuals.
- An independent discourse on the key sustainable development issues of the region will have been formed as a regional think tank to support policies of sustainability of the region.
- Sumernet will have higher visibility and virtual appearance in the region, through active communications with and outreach to all the stakeholders in the region, particularly research partners, knowledge users and policy makers at different levels and in different sectors.
Supporting and sustaining high quality research is at the heart of Sumernet. From the wide vista of sustainable development challenges in the region, four research areas have been identified as the strategic research themes for Phase 2:
- Ecosystem services, resource use and impacts, including: (a) conservation of critical ecosystems, (b) environmental sustainability, (c) biodiversity corridors, and (d) economic corridor sustainability.
- Trans-boundary issues. The focus is on the analysis of long-term impacts of national economics including trade and natural resources use on the sustainability of the region, and on searching for sustainable paths for regional cooperation and development.
- Energy & climate change: energy security, climate change and linkages of the two with economic development. The research under this theme directly aims at this target to support the formulation or development of national strategies in this area.
- Poverty and livelihoods: This theme is linked with the other three themes described above and will be a thread that runs through all aspects of Sumernet research activities.
These themes are themselves broad in character: they will be refined, prioritised and turned into specific research questions by the network members and in consultation with policy makers to understand what knowledge they need and how decisions on key sustainable development issues can be informed and influenced by better understanding of the immediate and long-term implications of key environmental and development trends in the region.
Sumernet 2 will once again commission small research projects to be executed by network research members. There will be two calls for proposals, with the research to start in summer 2010 and summer 2011. The research programme will be managed and supported by the Research Coordinator and the Sumernet Secretariat. A first meeting of existing and potential new research partners is planned for the first quarter of 2010, to discuss the specific priority research themes and to agree the process for commissioning and supporting research activities. Collaborative research by network members from two or more countries will be will be encouraged.
The next phase of Sumernet will see a sustained effort to strengthen the network through expanding the membership, strengthening the capacities of members and increasing the policy engagement of the network to capitalize on the uniqueness of Sumernet and build its regional identity – a knowledge-based policy engagement process. The outcome of this will be a Sumernet brand that is owned by partners from the region with greater policy influence and a resource base which the partners benefit from and contribute to.
To achieve these aspirations, the network will expand to include partner institutes with greater access to policies, to have higher profile in the countries which were less represented in Phase 1, such as Cambodia, China and Myanmar, and Thailand, and to meet the needs of the partner institutes, particularly the needs for capacity building.
The Secretariat is still consulting with members to define different categories of partners, including (i) institutional research partners who will be directly involved in Sumernet research projects; (ii) institutional policy partners who are interested or involved in policy development in the region but not directly engaged in research activities; and (iii) individuals, including the Advisory Committee, who are involved and interested in the development of policy debates on sustainable development issues in the Mekong region. Details on the definition and roles of different partner categories will be circulated to existing partners for discussion.
An important new initiative in Sumernet 2 will be to establish think tanks on sustainable development issues in the Mekong region. The outcome of this component is a strengthened, independent discourse on key sustainable development issues in the region. Phase 1 has already engaged the main development thinkers and institutions in the Mekong Region. Phase 2 will enhance the visibility of this discourse. This will include activities such as seminars or roundtables on the key issues of regional sustainability, as well as interacting or engaging with other regional networks, the preparation of ‘think pieces’ on key issues to stimulate discourse and interacting with media and the wider public. Sumernet plans to hold the first Mekong Forum on Sustainable Development in the autumn of 2010, and a number of discussion papers will be commissioned from leading regional thinkers in the period leading up to the Forum.
Sumernet recognizes the important of communications in making policy impacts. The outcome of this component is the higher visibility and virtual appearance of Sumernet as a knowledge-based policy engagement platform in the region. Communications are prioritized in phase 2 of Sumernet in order to accomplish the goal of the Programme – to influence decision making on sustainable development. This will include an annual policy forum, in which the main players from policy and research arenas will participate. The network also aim to produce an annual flagship publications produced by partnership with an existing journals. This will greatly strengthen the functions of the Sumernet website as an on-line information resource.
The governance of Sumernet will be strengthened in the next phase to include:
The Governing Council made up of representatives from Sumernet partners is the decision making body with the ultimate authority of Sumernet, in which the direction and strategic decision‐making are vested.
The Sumernet Advisory Committee, consisting of high‐profile academics, policy makers, and NGO and donor representatives, will provide strategic advice on the development of research and policy engagement.
The Sumernet Secretariat has evolved into a coordinated implementation body, with the roles and responsibilities increasingly shared by and distributed into the partner institutes.