Rachel Jolly:  My Heart Will Always Be In The Mekong Region

Oxfam is working with an organization called CLICK in southern Lao PDR to help 20 communities to document traditional commercial activities such as fishing techniques, raising chickens, and making fermented fish, a traditional local delicacy in Don Sahong Island along the Mekong River. Photo: Savann​Oeurm/Oxfam

Rachel Jolly: My Heart Will Always Be In The Mekong Region

Rachel Jolly is the First Secretary for Development Cooperation at the Australian Embassy in Vientiane, Lao PDR and she is also the manager of the DFAT funded Australia Greater Mekong Water Resources program. Rachel has been managing the Water Resources program for three and a half years. She led the new design of the program in 2014 and her role is to make sure each of the different parts of the program, including Oxfam Inclusion Project are being managed well and implemented to bring the different pillars together, so each pillar can learn from each other.

“I am leaving in January [2017] which is very sad for me because I really enjoy working on this program and I am passionate about the issues but also I am looking forwards to taking a long break with a road trip around the US and sailing in the Mediterranean.  I’m going to take five months leave and just relax and then I am going back to the Australian Government in Canberra in a different role but I think my heart will always be in the Mekong region,” said Rachel.

Every six months, Oxfam Mekong Regional Water Governance program team has a Steering Committee meeting with Rachel and the DFAT Mekong Water Resources team and this last meeting with her was held in Phnom Penh. She was interviewed before she leaves as following:

How has it been working with Oxfam on the Water Governance program for the past 3 years?

My impression of Oxfam under DFAT Mekong Regional Water Governance program is that Oxfam is one of the core partners looking at strengthening civil society voices and water planning and decision making. My impression of Oxfam over the last three years of working with the Inclusion project is that Oxfam has really good expertise and a wide network with civil society groups working on the issues and Oxfam has become a leader on water and gender in particular. So I have a good impression from working with them for the last three years.

What advice would you give us for the future work?

After three years of strong implementation, it is important to  spend some time taking stock on what has worked successfully and what hasn’t and focus a little bit more on a few keys areas, the key priorities where the program really wants to see changes. That could be at the community level working with fishery communities on how the community manages water and fisheries or it could be to identify key policy priorities to engage with and support civil society engagement policy on those issues.

If you could have one wish for the Mekong River basin what would it be?

My wish for the Mekong basin would be the region as a whole being able to balance the very necessary economic development drive and priority of the region with looking after local livelihoods of people who rely on the river and also ensuring appropriate environment protection of the Mekong river as a whole.  So that would be my one wish for the Mekong river basin.