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      The importance of healthy, functioning wetlands ecosystems in support of rural livelihoods in the Mekong Basin is generally well understood and documented over many years. A less well understood aspect are the conditions and factors that lead to the under-representation of certain social groups in water and wetlands decision-making processes and institutions. The groups most often recognised to be routinely under-represented (both quantitatively and qualitatively), marginalised or excluded from these governance processes have been women, ethnic minorities and the poorer sectors of society.

 

      This project aims to research the participation of and thus raise the profile of women and other marginalised groups in decision-making platforms for improved wetlands resources management, which ultimately would lead to more socially-equitable water governance outcomes in the transboundary Mekong Delta.

      The research addresses several cross-thematic policy issues at different scalar levels, including those related to gender and social equity, poverty reduction, environmental sustainability and natural resources management. In particular, it studies how relevant policies at the national level are being translated into actual practices to encourage more equitable and meaningful participation of traditionally under-represented groups in management processes and discourse at the provincial and local levels. At the higher, transboundary level, the research intends to enable multi-stakeholder dialogues concerning shared wetlands governance to take place across the contiguous border provinces of Takeo, Cambodia and An Giang of Vietnam, as well as empower minority resource users at sub-national levels to take a more active role in common resources management. The transboundary wetlands resources in this part of the upper Mekong Delta are a site of high significance in terms of ecological sensitivity and climate change vulnerability, yet at the present are largely managed through geographically discrete sites and limited wildlife conservation focus goals, that tend to involve state-centric and top-down decision-making.

 

      In the short to medium terms, the expected outcomes of the research will be to precipitate better awareness of the benefits of improved representation of women and other traditionally marginalised groups within wetlands management institutions, and by extension, wider water governance processes. In the longer term, it is anticipated that the study will lead to demonstrable increases in the level of active participation of women and minority groups in these institutions and processes, putting normative policy aims into practice.

      The general methodological approach will be to employ a Participatory Action Research framework adapted from within human and political ecology disciplines, where the exercise of power and its effects on social relations are key considerations. Hence, by its inherent recognition of power differentials between groups, the research approach will be mindful of human rights, the existence of multi-level conflicts in a historically sensitive location, that transcend localised conflicts over resource access and rights to water security and livelihoods. The main research question addressed by this study is how can women and other marginalised groups of resource users in the Mekong Delta transboundary wetlands be better mainstreamed into decision-making processes and platforms, that will ensure more socially equitable and just outcomes in the future?

      To fulfil the research objectives, the research will be conducted over 24 months duration, starting in November 2019 running through to December 2021, a period inclusive of the delivery of the main expected outputs.

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