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The workshop on Integrated Community Development for the Mekong Region: Regional Development through Rural Industrialization and Networking among Stakeholders was organized by the APO in Fukuoka, Japan, 11–14 December 2007, in collaboration with the Kyushu University Asia Center and Fukuoka prefectural government. It was attended by 20 participants from the four Mekong region member countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam. The opening ceremony was graced by Dr. Masaharu Yanagihara, Trustee and Vice-President, Kyushu University. Governor Wataru Aso of Fukuoka prefecture and APO Secretary-General Shigeo Takenaka welcomed the participants at a dinner reception on the first evening.
The APO has been implementing its Integrated Community Development (ICD) Program since 1996 with financial support from the Japanese government. Based on the experience of the ICD Program, ICD for the Mekong region was initiated in 2005 as the first rural community development effort in the region. In 2005 and 2006, the program focused on the promotion of the One Village, One Product (OVOP) movement in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam. In 2007, the third year of the program, the APO aimed at providing local leaders in Mekong region countries with broader views on how to revitalize the regional economy in the age of globalization, in addition to the OVOP movement initiative. Fukuoka prefecture, the cohost of the workshop, is one of the most active areas in developing and applying various regional development models such as linking agriculture, industry, and consumers and networking among different development actorrs including industry, academia, and the public sector under a cluster approach.
The specific objectives of the workshop were to: 1) provide participants with an opportunity to learn from various regional development models through rural industrialization and the cluster approach in the host country; 2) share experiences in rural development and promote mutual learning among Mekong region countries; and 3) discuss key issues and challenges in promoting sustainable regional development in the Mekong region. To achieve these objectives, the workshop included an introduction to the cluster approach and other regional development models through resource paper presentations, sharing the Mekong region’s regional development status through country paper presentations, field visits, and a half-day workshop to formulate future regional development strategies for each participating country by integrating the inputs from resource papers, country papers, and information gained from the field visits.
The highlights of the program were the site visits demonstrating Fukuoka prefecture’s determination to push forward innovative initiatives for regional development. At Kitakyushu Eco-Town Center, participants heard presentations on its experiences in environmental preservation and recycling industry accumulation. Kitakyushu Innovation Gallery and Studio exhibited industrial technology aggregation and the preservation of Kitakyushu. The visit to the Fukuoka Agricultural Research Center increased participants’ understanding of breed improvement and intellectual property rights for agricultural products. Participants also toured the Kurume Research Park, which is the centerpiece of the Fukuoka Bio Valley Project, and finally the Biotechnology and Food Research Institute at the Fukuoka Industrial Technology Center.