Governments of ASEAN Member States have increasingly recognized biodiversity’s extreme importance to human survival. National and local governments are taking individual steps to preserve flora, fauna, and other biological resources. With biodiversity knowing no boundaries, ASEAN Member States acknowledge that working together is crucial to addressing common problems.
In 1999, the need to establish an ASEAN institution to promote knowledge sharing about best practices and common efforts in the biodiversity sector had become apparent. It led to the first regional conservation initiative: the ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (ARCBC) Project, with funding from the European Union (EU). The five-year project conducted researches on biodiversity and promoted biodiversity conservation collaboration among ASEAN Member States and with relevant EU institutions.
Before the end of the ARCBC Project, the ASEAN Member States agreed on the need for a permanent institution that will institutionalize the gains of the project and create a regional mechanism in response to the challenge of biodiversity loss. This promptly translated to the creation in 2005 of a regional institution of excellence – the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).
This year, ACB is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its establishment. The Centre continues to strengthen the capacity of ASEAN Member States in reducing the loss of biodiversity, fulfilling their obligations to relevant multilateral environmental agreements, and promoting the sustainable use of biological resources.
Through a Host Country Agreement signed in 2009, the Philippines is home to the ACB Headquarters at the campus of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources of the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna.
Since its establishment, ACB has supported the ASEAN Member States through a variety of programs covering a range of biodiversity thematic areas of global and regional importance, including Access and Benefit Sharing, Agro-Biodiversity, Biodiversity Information Management, Business and Biodiversity, Coastal and Marine Biodiversity, Public Awareness, Ecotourism, Taxonomic Capacity Building, Invasive Alien Species, Protected Area Management, promoting The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Urban Biodiversity, Wetlands Biodiversity, and Wildlife Law Enforcement.
For the past 10 years, ACB has contributed to the enhancement of policy cooperation on biodiversity across the ASEAN region; strengthened institutional capacity within the ASEAN on regional and global biodiversity issues; promoted biodiversity information management and sharing; and boosted public and leadership awareness of the values of biodiversity and the need for conservation and sustainable management.
ACB’s flagship initiative is the ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHP) Program. The program is a network of protected areas of high conservation importance, preserving in total a complete spectrum of representative ecosystems of the ASEAN region. These areas are established to generate greater awareness, pride, appreciation, enjoyment and conservation of ASEAN’s rich natural heritage. As program secretariat, ACB promotes effective park management of these natural treasures. Today, there are 35 AHPs all over Southeast Asia.
As part of its capacity building support to ASEAN Member States, ACB conducts trainings and workshops to strengthen the implementation of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans and facilitate common understanding of global biodiversity issues and concerns so that they can meet their obligations to the Convention on Biological Diversity and other relevant multilateral environmental agreements. ACB is also implementing a secondment program for ASEAN nationals to promote direct participation of government officers and representatives from academe in carrying out selected regular functions of ACB through short-term assignments.
ACB has drawn the support of many countries in carrying out its work. Germany supports ACB’s programs on climate biodiversity and climate change and small grants for AHPs. Japan collaborates with ACB in its taxonomic capacity building initiatives for ASEAN Member States. China helps ACB and ASEAN Member States in sharing good practices in the implementation of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans while in India supports the sharing of good practices on conservation. The European Union, which supported ACB up to 2010 is coming back this year for a five-year commitment to strengthen ACB as an institution so that it can continue to provide services to ASEAN Member States.
As part of its mandate to promote the exchange of good practices, ACB holds ASEAN Conferences on Biodiversity and AHP conferences. It publishes the ASEAN Biodiversity Outlook, which reports the progress, gaps and successes of ASEAN Member States in reducing the rate of biodiversity loss.
During the past 10 years, ACB has partnered with the European Union, Germany, Japan, India, Republic of Korea, People’s Republic of China, France, Asian Development Bank, ASEAN Foundation, East and Southeast Asia Biodiversity Information Initiative, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-Global Environment Facility, United Nations University-Institute of Advanced Studies, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the Group on Earth Observations-Biodiversity Information Network (BON), the Asia-Pacific BON, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network, Freeland Foundation, Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia, Secretariats of the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity, Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, Global Partnership on Business and Biodiversity, Japan Business Initiative for Biodiversity, Sirindhorn Foundation of Thailand, Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia, and the East Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership, among others.
ACB promotes biodiversity information management and sharing among ASEAN Member States. It maintains a regional biodiversity information clearing-house and electronic library which assist countries in policy and decision making for biodiversity conservation and in promoting the global biodiversity targets. ACB has developed applications which enable users to access AHP information from the web, online and from mobile phones running on Android platforms. The Centre has established partnerships with global biodiversity data holders in order to populate the species and protected areas databases, keep abreast with global developments, and conform to globally accepted formats in recording species and protected areas data.
ACB helps ASEAN Member States to communicate the values of biodiversity as conservation is not the sole turf of governments and conservation organizations but everyone’s responsibility. The Centre promotes Target No. 1 of the global Aichi Biodiversity Targets which states that “by 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.” This is being done through communication trainings for ASEAN Member States, production and dissemination of communication materials, and the use of electronic and social media in reaching out to the general public. ACB recognizes outstanding contributions to biodiversity conservation and advocacy through the ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity awards.
“At the core of these accomplishments is our strong collaboration with the ten ASEAN Member States. We thank the ACB Governing Board for providing us the much-needed policy guidance and support and the ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity for giving us technical guidance. We also express our gratitude to our National Contact Points for their active participation in ensuring the success of ACB activities in their countries,” Atty. Roberto V. Oliva, ACB executive director, said.
According to the ASEAN biodiversity chief, 2015 is expected to be another milestone year for ACB. “As we celebrate the 10th founding anniversary of the Centre, we will continue to build upon prior activities and lessons learned, while providing a long-term perspective for biodiversity conservation in the ASEAN region,” Atty. Oliva said.
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