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Water sampling in Myanmar

SUMERNET: Sustainable Mekong Research Network

The governance of natural resources can involve a very wide range of actors. Through the example of the Sustainable Mekong Research Network - SUMERNET - we take a closer look at the importance of research, networks and knowledge-sharing in governance strategies for sustainability in the Mekong.

As we have heard, governance is about more than government: it is about the rules and regulations – social, behavioural, cultural as well as legal – that manage (or govern) interactions among people and between people and the environment. Ensuring that a shared resource is sustainably used is a complex task. It requires a large amount of reliable information and data that can be shared among different actors to make informed decisions.

Scientists and researchers can help provide this information base. Strong networks are critical for connecting scientists and their research to civil society and policy-makers to ensure the right messages can reach the right people. Without this flow of scientific information, the shift toward environmentally sustainable systems will be difficult. Active and effective networks require broad participation, multi-stakeholder involvement, and regular communication. From this perspective, relationships really matter for sustainability.

A key factor in change dynamics is trust, because people making decisions evaluate the information they are given, in large part, by how much they trust the immediate source. A transparent, integrated process of learning through scientific investigation, with stakeholder partners in universities, governments and NGOs, is one way to establish a trusted network. That is the model on which SUMERNET is built. The network has been active in the Mekong region for the past decade. With a growing number of environmental challenges and rapid development in the region, there is a critical need for rigorous and collaborative research to understand and address the impacts of these changes.


Below are two projects that give an idea of the type of work and inquiry being done by SUMERNET, along with a short video that gives us a taste of work in the field. The key underlying questions are: What needs to be managed, how and when, and for what purpose? Tell us your thoughts on these projects, or more generally on the role of research in governance.

1a. Studying wetland ecosystems in Cambodia and Vietnam.

1b. Finding common ground: co-produced wetland zoning in northeast Thailand.

2. Field notes and video from Studying wetland ecosystems in Cambodia and Vietnam.


Olsson, P., Folke, C. & Berkes, F. (2004). Adaptive comanagement for building resilience in social-ecological systems. Environmental management, 34(1), pp.75–90.

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This article is from the free online course:

Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Stockholm Environment Institute