ASEAN is one of the richest regions in terms of biodiversity and natural resources. Three of the world’s twenty five recognised biodiversity hot spots are within the ASEAN region, which occupies only three per cent of the earth’s total surface but is home to over 20 percent of all known plant, animal and marine species. These species provide us with essential ecosystem services that not only ensure the health of the environment but also of 600 million people in ASEAN. It is also a valuable resource with immense potential to significantly contribute to the social and economic development of the region. However, the rich biodiversity in ASEAN region is at risk with many species facing internal and external socio-economic stresses.
“ASEAN considers biodiversity as a key area of importance in regional and global environmental cooperation. ASEAN fully recognises the importance of conservation and sustainable use of our rich biological resources. We have embarked on various regional programs to conserve our biodiversity. These include the ASEAN Heritage Parks Program, the Heart of Borneo Initiative, the Coral Triangle Initiative in collaboration with our neighbouring countries, and the development of ASEAN Marine Water Quality Criteria. Our priority on biodiversity conservation is reflected by the establishment of a dedicated ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity in 2005 to act as the regional centre of excellence on biodiversity and provide operational support to ASEAN Member States to implement many of the programmes in the region,” said H.E. Pehin Dato Haji Suyoi Haji Osman, Minister of Development of Brunei Darussalam, during the first ASEAN-India Environment Ministers Meeting (AIEMM), held last week in New Delhi, India.
In the same meeting, H.E. Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge) of India, remarked “India and the ASEAN region harbour approximately one third of the global biodiversity. We constitute a major part of the Like Minded Group of mega-biodiversity countries. The biodiversity available in this region constitutes an important natural asset on which the economic development of the region depends. Our commitment and actions, therefore, matter significantly to protecting our natural resources and form the basis for collective decision-making at multilateral processes.”
As one of the commemorative activities to mark the ASEAN-India 20th Anniversary of dialogue relations, AIEMM focused on biodiversity. The theme ‘Learning from the Past, Assessing the Present and Planning for the Future’ was chosen following the conclusion of Rio+20 Summit and the forthcoming Eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on 8 – 19 October 2012 in Hyderabad, India.
Accordingly, the AIEMM discuss four themes: Achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets: Progress at National Level and Resource Mobilization; Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, Livelihoods, Poverty Reduction and Food Security; Coastal and Marine Biodiversity; and Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
ASEAN-India dialogue relations have grown rapidly for the last 20 years, reflected by significant progress made in several cooperation activities, including environment. The AIEMM noted the successful conduct of the ASEAN-India Expert Meeting on Climate Change on 27-29 June 2012, the Workshop on Nagoya Protocol on Access, and Benefit Sharing and Traditional Knowledge on 4-5 September 2012, marking milestones in the expanding ASEAN-India cooperation on environment-related issues.
The AIEMM adopted the New Delhi ASEAN-India Ministerial Statement on Biodiversity expressing commitment to mutual cooperation with a view of achieving the objectives of CBD to conserve and sustainably utilize biological diversity in the region.
The AIEMM was co-chaired by H.E. Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan and H.E. Pehin Dato Haji Suyoi Haji Osman from Brunei Darussalam, as the country coordinator for ASEAN-India dialogue relations. H.E. Dato’ Misran Karmain, Deputy Secretary-General for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, and ASEAN senior environment officials were also in attendance.