Mekong Land Research Forum is the primary resource for informed research, education, and advocacy for policy dialogue around land relations in the Mekong region. Together with Chiang Mai University and partners, it nurtures the next generation of researchers in the land sector. Land governance is a critical concern for the Mekong region, and there is a lack of qualified academics and professionals operating in the field. To address this matter, the Mekong Land Research Forum online site was developed at the University of Sydney, as part of an exercise carried out with the Mekong Region Land Governance program (MRLG). Since 2015, it has been housed at RCSD (the Regional Centre for Social Sciences and Sustainable Development) at Chiang Mai University. Primary funding is from MRLG, itself financed by Swiss, German and Luxembourg development agencies. As a leading regional research and training institution on sustainable development, RCSD together with the Mekong Land Research Forum have developed training on land governance, and become an active hub of land research for Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Through the forum a regional academic network interacts with civil society organizations, and where possible policy-makers, bolstering connections between professionals and students.
There are three main areas of work for the forum:
The online resource offers access to both published and unpublished research, and is consulted by students, educational institutions, and land experts from around the world. Articles have been tagged under 14 key themes, offering a conceptual framework to deepen an understanding of land relations in the Mekong Region. Extended synopses are offered for an in-depth analysis of each key themes. As well as providing access to selected research outputs, the Mekong Land Research Forum also produces its own body of work. Outputs include the documentation of events and seminars through briefs and video registrations, new research, and key critical perspectives that synthesize and analyze existing work.
The Mekong Land Research Forum, RCSD seeks to encourage research on land governance, connect researchers, and utilize their skills and knowledge to disseminate key messages on land relations in the Mekong Region. A Google Group has been set up to house a research network of 200 members, allowing exchange of important information (news, courses, funding, publications). The network helps to identify and review new articles for the online resource, and each year produce the Annual Country Reviews, highlighting the most pressing developments in land relations, and the most important issues for the researcher on land.
The Mekong Land Research Forum provides a variety of long- and short-form training programs and events to boost knowledge and skills on land, frequently making use of the online resource. As well as helping to create a new generation of land practitioners, the aim is also to support existing expertise, including those working in public, private or civil society institutions. Since 2016, a week-long summer school is held for academics, government officials and NGO/CSO workers from around the region. Class- and field-based work is used to build knowledge, develop research ideas, and create to strong cross-border network of land experts. Specialist programs are also held, for example in Thai language for Thai and Lao participants. The two-year MA Social Science (Development Studies) now includes a focus on land relations. First year coursework is followed by second year thesis research and reporting.