Under the theme of “Interaction among UNESCO Programmes toward the Sustainable Development of Biosphere Reserves”, the 10th Southeast Asia Biosphere Reserves Network (SeaBRnet) meeting gathered around 50 representatives from the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme stakeholders in Southeast Asia, including National Committees and Biosphere Reserves (BR) managers. They were also joined by representatives of other programmes such as UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGp) and World Heritage sites in the region. The meeting was organized by UNESCO Office Jakarta on 16 and 17 May 2017 in Jakarta, with generous support from Japanese Funds-in-Trust.
main objective of the 10th SeaBRnet meeting was to discuss how to jointly
promote BRs to serve as models for sustainable development through the sharing
of experiences from other UNESCO programmes; as well as how to effectively
develop MAB national action plans as a follow up to the implementation of the
Lima Action Plan (LAP) for BRs in Southeast Asia.
The meeting was opened by remarks from Prof Arief Rahman, Executive Chair of the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO, Ms Enny Sudarmonowati, Chairperson of the Indonesian MAB National Committee, Mr Kazuaki Kawabata, Secretary-General of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO (via video message) and Mr Hans Dencker Thulstrup from UNESCO, on behalf of the SeaBRnet Secretariat.
The first session was dedicated to keynote presentations. Mr Yoshihiko Iida from UNU-IAS OUIK presented on the roles and challenges of local implementation for UNESCO science programmes with the case of Japanese BRs; and Ms Claudia Binondo, from the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity presented ASEAN’s priority actions to achieve Aichi Biodiversity Targets, including the ASEAN Heritage Parks programme.
The next session of the meeting included MAB country reports from the SeaBRnet members: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam. Represented by MAB National Committees or BR managers, the countries presented their recent MAB-related activities, how they use the BRs to promote sustainable development in their countries, and their plans for the near future. The session was followed by a discussion where ideas for areas of action were suggested.
The last session of day 1 was dedicated to the sharing of experiences from other UNESCO Programmes, such as the UGGp -represented by the Asia-Pacific and Japanese Geoparks Networks, while World Heritage was represented by the Ifugao Rice Terraces in the Philippines. The UNESCO Regional Sciences Bureau for Asia and the Pacific explained the objectives and priorities of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP). Participants then discussed possibilities for cooperation among programmes, including the benefits and the challenges that multiple designations and integrated approaches bring.
On the meeting’s second day, focus was placed on Sustainability Science with a presentation form Ms Ai Sugiura of UNESCO Office Jakarta. Sustainability Science is an integrated, problem-solving approach that promotes collaboration between all the different stakeholders, including scientists, policy-makers, members of local communities and the private sector. It was followed by a lively discussion on how the Sustainability Science approach could be implemented in Biosphere Reserves and other UNESCO sites.
The participants were then divided into two groups to discuss the main priorities of their countries for the implementation of the Lima Action Plan for Biosphere Reserves in the next 10 years. After intensive and extended discussions, each group presented their conclusions in plenary. The first group, Indonesian participants, confirmed their commitment to demonstrate and effectively use BRs as models for sustainable development through a series of multidisciplinary initiatives, but also their focus on collaboration and networking with other stakeholders, improvement of communication to raise public awareness, and their plans for building a sustainable financing and partnerships system.
The second group, comprising participants from all other participating Southeast Asian countries, mapped their national priorities regarding the implementation of the Lima Action Plan in the region, which included as well the use of BRs towards achieving SDGs but also areas such as governance, involvement of local communities, partnerships and funding. The resulting table will serve as starting point for the process of developing national MAB action plans.
In its closing statement, the UNESCO Office Jakarta – as the Regional Sciences Bureau for Asia and the Pacific and SeaBRnet Secretariat – committed to compile, prepare and make available all the outputs of the meeting. Upon endorsement by the country members, the joint contribution from the SeaBRnet will be brought to the 29th session of the MAB-International Coordinating Council in June 2017.
The delegation from Thailand reiterated its offer to host the 11th edition of the SeaBRnet meeting in Chiang Mai – home to the Mae-Sa Kog-Ma Biosphere Reserve, in 2018. The offer was greatly appreciated and applauded by all participants.