In July 2016, a 5-day land research summer school was held at Chiang Mai University, bringing together young academic professionals and researchers from Thailand and Lao PDR. The intensive academic writing and research training workshop focused on issues on and related to land: land rights and ownership, land use, tourism, Special Economic Zones, resource management, urbanization, labor, and climate change. This has resulted in the formation of different research clusters (such as ‘cash/boom crops’ and ‘urban/peri-urban’) within which certain proposals will receive further funding. The Mekong Land Research Forum pulls together research on key themes around land governance in the Mekong Region, seeking to bring research and policy closer together. It does this by making research more accessible and distilling key messages and points of debate. The workshop, organized by Dr. Philip Hirsch and Tubtim, consisted of facilitator-led seminars on key land-related questions and literature in the Mekong Region, lectures by invited speakers on key issues in researching on land, practical exercises (on searching and selecting key land-relevant literature, individual reading-based assignments: annotating key articles, group literature review exercises), topic sharing and development by participants, and conceptual and practical issues in planning an article or structuring a research proposal.
The Summer School on Land Relations in the Mekong Region received 106 applications containing a wide range of practitioners, academics, NGO workers and other land-related individuals from around the Mekong Region and in some cases beyond. After an extensive selection process, 25 participants attended the week-long intensive course. Participants from Cambodia. Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam attended under funding support from MRLG. Other participants were from Thailand, China, and Holland. The three MRLG-funded Master’s students also attended, supporting their specialization in land issues as part of the International Master’s Program at Chiang Mai University. The summer school took place at Chiang Mai University from 24th-28th July, and included four days of lectures, exercises and a one-day field visit. It aimed at equipping early-career academics and advocacy-oriented researchers in the Mekong region with key concepts, access to existing research outputs, and knowledge of current land issues across the region in order to strengthen individual and networked research that is oriented to more inclusive land governance and secure access to land amongst the region’s rural and urban poor.
The Mekong Water Governance Summer School was organized in an effort to encourage critical thinking regarding five key themes: gender, hydropower, impact assessment, safeguards, and transboundary governance. Participants were not only academics, but also practitioners and professionals working on water governance issues within the region. A primary goal of the week’s activities was to understand how the conceptual approaches discussed could be adapted and applied in each individual’s own context. Through the establishment of a common understanding of the five key themes and their relation to water governance, dialogue can be facilitated in a more constructive and effective manner. The summer school provided an opportunity for participants to share their experience, perspective, and knowledge across six regional countries, and varying sectors and scales. In addition to attending the summer school, participants were asked to disseminate the information learned beyond this program to their colleagues, students, etc. The method of dissemination was further developed into a training outline in the final session of the summer school.