Mekong Region Land Governance Project

Summer School Success for Land Issues in the Mekong

Summer School Success for Land Issues in the Mekong

The interest in joining the MRLG-supported Summer School exponentially increased this year and we wish all the participants an informative and motivating week-long session. This will be the third such land summer school program and will run from 15 – 19 July 2019 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The collaboration between MRLG and Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) of Chiang Mai University in Chiang Mai, Thailand started in 2015. RCSD is an active partner to the MRLG project, and since then, joint activities and initiatives by RCSD have raised awareness on the importance of land tenure. They offer various platforms for academic and broader discussions and debates, including a regularly updated online repository of land-related publications, news announcement, hosting of conferences, a sponsored International Masters degree with land specialisation, and a re-vitalised ‘Summer School’ for research in land governance. 

In 2017, 109 candidates applied and 24 people filled the places available. With a very positive response from the course, and other activities such as the academic GIZ and RCSD sessions that have been held at both MRLG convened Regional Land Forums 2016 and 2018, there was an overwhelming level of interest by 328 applicants for the third Summer School. 24 of these candidates have been accepted to join the event from 15 to 19 July 2019. 

“We received many applications this year because of good publicity, whether from the forum in Bangkok, feedback from participants in the 2016 and 2017 summer schools, or promotion through our networks both via MRLG and RCSD” said Professor Philip Hirsch, the program’s key instructor.

Empowering colleagues in the Mekong region in support of improving tenure security, particularly for smallholder farmers, is being realised through an ongoing partnership between the Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG) Project and Chiang Mai University’s, Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD). 

When the land focused week-long Summer School was first offered in July 2016, the classes were conducted in Thai language and open to Thai and Lao participants. It was then run again in July 2017 in English language to attract a broader regional cohort from the 6 Mekong countries. It was designed specifically to equip early-career academic and advocacy-oriented researchers with key concepts, access to existing research outputs, and knowledge of current land issues across the Mekong. It aims 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.

With the high number of applicants this year for the 24 places, the selection process was focussed on those with land related experiences from various sectors including academic and other research institutions, civil society organisations (CSO), and government. The mix is designed to promote a lively dynamic among the summer school participants.

The largest number of applications were from Vietnam (138), followed by Myanmar (92), Cambodia (35) and Laos (24). There were 8 from Thailand and 3 from China. There were also applications from other Asian countries as well as from Africa. This summer program provides full scholarship (travel, accommodation and tuition fee) for the successful candidates from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, while the candidates from other countries will need to cover their own travel and accommodation while tuition and most meal costs will be covered for free.

After attending earlier summer school programs, some alumni have adapted the approach to support research on land issues in their own countries. A nice example is an alumnus from Myanmar who works for the Land Core Group and is now equipping young people with skills in land research and advocacy. This is a 10-month activity that takes the LCG interns through the research process from start to finish and has been organising for 2 years now.

MRLG also continues to build academic and research capacity in the region by funding 3 full-time Masters students at RCSD. The first cohort started in 2017, with, two from Myanmar and one from Vietnam, and is expected to graduate in 2019 with an International Master’s in Social Sciences (Development Studies) with their thesis topics specifically relating to local land governance issues. Four more are starting in 2019, and funding has been set aside for another cohort of four students to commence in 2020.

The Mekong Region Land Governance Project is a mandated project by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to Land Equity International. LEI implement the project in collaboration with GRET. LEI’s Director, John Meadows, is the in-country Team Leader. Follow MRLG on Facebook , Twitter or www.mrlg.org/production_before_migration_2019

For further information on the Summer School follow the Mekong Summer School Facebook page or email the Mekong Land Research Forum via: mekonglandforum@gmail.com.

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