Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET)

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

sei sumernet project page

SUMERNET partners are committed to the sustainable development of the Mekong Region.

Launched in 2005, SUMERNET partners carry out policy-relevant research and outreach activities to inform and engage policy-makers, planners and diverse stakeholders.

Click on the menus to the right to access related publications, news, projects and contact persons.

SUMERNET began at a time of accelerated economic development in the Mekong Region. Major infrastructure projects such as roads, hydropower dams and irrigation projects were being planned and built. Many bilateral and multilateral trade agreements were being made, and there was a vigorous debate going on about the future of the Mekong Region. Many development agencies expressed concerns and called for an integrated approach that would incorporate a greater diversity of views and perspectives into regional planning and policy.

SUMERNET was established to meet the need for integrated research by supporting and promoting the use of scientific evidence in policy-making, with the overarching goal of contributing to sustainable development in the Mekong Region.

SUMERNET has already established a successful and expanding network of collaboration across the region in several critical policy areas, with 50 members, including research and policy-making institutions, and a strong track record of publications and outreach activities. Research in Phase 1 (2005-2009) and Phase 2 (2010-2013) focused on ecosystem management, transboundary issues, climate change and energy, livelihoods and poverty, and sustainable urbanization.

Key research themes in Phase 3 (2014 to June 2017)

Climate-compatible development: promoting human development while addressing both mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.
Regional economic integration: seeking mechanisms for ensuring both environmental sustainability and social equity in a region developing together
Ecosystem services and local development: assessments of ecosystems and the services they provide for local development in rural and peri-urban settings.

Engaging with policy-makers

We attempt to bridge science and policy by working on research questions that are directly relevant to current policy debates, engaging decision-makers in all aspects of our activities, and building capacity for sustainable development through workshops and other activities.

Ever since its inception, SUMERNET has sponsored a wealth of policy-relevant research and worked to create an ‘enabling environment’ for researchers and decision-makers to engage with one another.

The network partners pursue an evolving research agenda in response to questions and policy issues that arise in the Mekong Region.  Our support for independent research in the Mekong Region is through grants for institutions and individual researchers.

We emphasize collaboration, networking and knowledge-sharing, connecting partners in different countries through our projects and events, and strengthening research capacity across the region. SUMERNET's Secretariat is hosted by SEI's Asia Centre.

SUMERNET is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

Selected publications

Journal Articles
Thongyou, M., and R. Savangnokg (2011). “Negotiating Livelihoods in an Urban Hinterland: A Study of Fishing Households at Thung Sang Lake, Khon Kaen Province”. International Conference on Humanities, Society and Culture, 2011. IPEDR Vol. 20 (2011), IACSIT Press, Singapore.
Lebel, L. (2012). “Governance and Coastal Boundaries in the Tropics”. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4(2). 243–51.

Lebel, L., CT Hoanh, Chayanis K, Rajesh D. (Eds.) (2014). “Livelihoods, ecosystem services and the challenges of regional integration in the Mekong region.” SIRD: Kuala Lumpur. The chapters explore contemporary issues of ecosystems management and transboundary integration in the Mekong Region.

Policy Briefings
A number of policy briefings – both at national and regional levels - are produced by the various research partners to synthesize key insights and offer recommendations for policy makers and others in the region. The briefings are produced in booklet form and are available on request and also downloadable as pdf’s in the website.

External website:

Funder: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency