The Shenzhen Foundation for International Exchange and Cooperation, usually known as ‘Shenzhen Foundation’ or ‘SFIEC’, started 4.5 years ago at the end of 2014. This foundation began as an idea from the Shenzhen government meant to address the lack of an organization dedicated to promoting the city and its domestic and international relations.
During the first three years, SFIEC dabbled in diverse fields, including trade and commerce, science and technology, education, culture, art, environmental protection, sister cities exchange, health and hygiene, etc. After three years, SFIEC was able to consolidate its resources and ideas and released two flagship projects at the end of 2017: CityPlus and the Shenzhen x Lancang-Mekong Initiative (S x LM Initiative).
Lancang-Mekong Initiative: Opportunities for Development and Improvement through Cooperation
Lancang-Mekong Initiative (LMI) is under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) is a sub-regional corporation mechanism that was first initiated in 2014 by China’s Premier Li Ke Qiang. The mechanism focuses on six countries along the Mekong River – Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China. Through cooperation and diplomacy, the project aims to develop each country and to create a win-win situation for all.
China raised the idea for a cooperation mechanism, prompting the other five countries to join. The overall goals of the initiative relate back to the goals that the United Nations has set out in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. While LMC works toward regional prosperity and stability, SFIEC wants to provide help wherever they can. This lead to the creation of SFIEC x Lancang-Mekong Initiative (SFIEC X LMI). Through their partnership, SFIEC contributes ideas for LMI’s projects.
SFIEC x LMI was created at the end of 2017 and is still relatively new. During this first wave of efforts, they came up with four projects:
Shenzhen Experience Sharing - Site Visit
Photo credits: SFIEC
Special Economic Zone Experience Sharing
This small project is known as the Shenzhen specialty since the city was the first in China to go through market reform in 1979 by Chinese President Deng Xiaoping. After forty years of development, Shenzhen became one of the most prosperous city in the country, behind the two municipalities of Shanghai and Beijing. Therefore, Shenzhen and SFIEC are very knowledgeable about economic development and policy design.
To help the other five countries within LMC, SFIEC organizes seminars, company tours, and site visits for the members of the government who specifically work in economic development sectors. This program works specifically with the governments of the other five countries, providing a think tank type of support. The project was met with open arms by many foreign officials and has gained official recognition from Cambodia and within the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.
solar product installation-Mekong River Sunlight Village Project
Photo credits: SFIEC
Mekong River Sunlight Village
In many places in Cambodia, electricity comes at expensive rates. What makes this issue even more difficult to address is the lack of electricity grids in remote areas. To build one would come at a very high cost for the cities and the country. What SFIEC brings to the table changes the game. In Shenzhen, the off-grid solar technology is very mature, making it possible for them to provide Cambodia with solar equipment. SFIEC worked with a local company called D.Light, to bring solar equipment to Cambodia.
By offering off-grid solar equipment, SFIEC x LMI promotes cheap and clean energy, thus meeting the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. This project was inspired after a SFIEC x Diinsider study found that children do not do homework because they do not have light sources in their homes. Lighting has brought more productivity to households because children are able to read and do schoolwork and women can sew. This project has provided 200 sets of off-grid solar equipment to families and 100 sets to public areas. To set up the equipment in Cambodia, the Civil Society Alliance Forum handled the training and installation processes.
Another by-product of this initiative is the successful partnerships among NGOs, private, and public sectors.
In terms of its next steps, the initiative signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Civil Society Alliance Forum to continue a second phase in Cambodia where they are hoping to increase the number of equipment in public sites. Eventually, SFIEC x LMI aims to bring this project to all five countries.
Eyesight Screening-Mekong River Brightness Action
Photo credits: SFIEC
MeKong River Brightness Action
The Brightness Action project focuses on providing cataract cures. SFIEC works with a Chinese-based NGO called Yu Panglin Charity Foundation to provide health services in rural areas. The services include eye disease screening, cataract surgeries, medical equipment donation, and medical training. The project has kicked off in Cambodia and the team hopes to do 17 screenings and provide 150 free surgeries. SFIEC x LMI currently works with volunteers and a local hospital called the Takeo Eye Hospital.
Genetic Screening for Thalassemia and Deafness
This project is still gathering funds and is relatively new. Its goal is to work with local health and medical NGOs to provide free maternal screening for disease prevention and control. The screenings will be for thalassemia and deafness, the two most common diseases that afflict mothers within the Mekong regions. SFIEC is hopeful that the program will launch in the Fall of 2019.
Alongside these projects, SFIEC is continuously doing amazing work in the Mekong region. This young foundation is proof that cooperation between NGOs, public and private institutions, governments, and nations can lead to positive effects and promising developments.
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