Sustainable Mekong Research Network

Download the Vision Guide

The Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET) is an initiative for research and policy engagement bringing together research partners working on sustainable development in the countries of the Mekong Region: Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

SUMERNET is a regional network made up of partners from the Mekong that are committed to the sustainable development, poverty alleviation, gender and social equality and the incorporation of a rights-based approach in natural resource management. During this phase of SUMERNET, the network will engage with other Southeast Asian countries beyond the Mekong Region to promote greater regional collaboration and knowledge exchange.

Launched in 2005, SUMERNET supports policy-relevant research and outreach activities to inform and engage decision-makers, planners and stakeholders. Within this context, it pursues an evolving agenda in response to questions and policy issues that arise in the region. SUMERNET Phase 1 covered 2005–2009; Phase 2, 2010–2013; Phase 3, 2014–April 2018; and the present phase 2019–2028.

SUMERNET 4 All (S4A) 2019-2028

In this phase of SUMERNET 4 All we will focus on:

Reducing water insecurities for all, in particular, the poor, marginalized and socially vulnerable groups of women and men in the Mekong Region.

SUMERNET 4 All (S4A) has a mission “to improve the policies and practices in reducing water insecurity by conducting collaborative research, engaging in the policy process, and promoting scientifically sound research and innovation while considering gender and social equality, human rights, conflict sensitivity, environmental integrity and poverty reduction in the Mekong Region.”

S4A will continue working towards sustainable development of the Mekong Region by putting knowledge-based policy engagement at the heart of its activities.

S4A will support the formation of long-term innovative partnerships among research institutions, knowledge users and policymakers at different levels and in different sectors.

With the focus on reducing water insecurity for all, the programme will continue its efforts, in conducting regionally-relevant research, capacity building in research and communications, engaging in the policy process, and promoting scientifically sound research and innovation while considering gender and social equality, human rights, conflict sensitivity, environmental integrity and poverty reduction in the Mekong Region, based on current strong partnerships, and fundraising, while seeking to expand its membership to include a diverse mix of institutions concerned with transboundary natural resources management.

The mission of addressing water insecurity is pertinent to the long-term success of SUMERNET 4 All. Water insecurity is defined as “not having the rights or access to sufficient water of adequate quality or being made increasingly vulnerable to unacceptable levels of water-related risks.”

Water insecurity has important implications for health and wellbeing, gender equality, as well as livelihoods, income generation and productivity. Water insecurity is multi-scale: spatially, it may be applied to individuals, households, communities, nations and region; temporally, it may refer to just a particular time of year or season with high risks, or it may apply to entire years or decades, in particular under impacts of climate change which are highly uncertain.

Bridging science and policy

A key component of SUMERNET’s work is to bridge science and policy.

We do so by choosing research questions that are directly relevant to current policy debates, engaging decision-makers in all aspects of our activities, and building capacity for gender-responsive sustainable development through workshops and other activities.

We also emphasize collaboration, networking, raising awareness on gender dimensions of sustainable development and knowledge-sharing, connecting partners in different countries through our projects

Research themes

SUMERNET’s research themes in the past have included ecosystem services for local development, transboundary issues, climate compatible development, sustainable regional economic integration livelihoods and poverty, and sustainable urbanization. Embedded within these thematic areas are concepts of gender equality and mainstreaming.

In response to changing demands and policy debates in the Mekong Region, S4A will focus on three research themes: 1. Water access, rights & allocation in times of scarcity; 2. Governance and management of flood disaster risks; and, 3. Transboundary interactions with water systems. (Read more in the section on themes in the website.)

Vision Guide

This “vision guide” presents an overview of SUMERNET (– its origins and governance structure, background to the network, aims, key research areas, engagement with policy, and outreach products from the last 14 years since the network was established, and the focus in coming decade under SUMERNET 4 All or S4A (2019-2028).

This is an evolving document that will be revised regularly to reflect the needs and perspectives of the SUMERNET Steering Committee and the partners that form the network.

Questions, comments and suggestions are welcome and can be addressed to the SUMERNET Secretariat (email: that is hosted in the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Asia Centre, Bangkok.

Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET)

Sustainable Mekong Research Network

Building research for policy towards sustainable development in the Mekong Region

Read more about SUMERNET

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