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Monday, December 5, 2022
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    Connecting global priorities

    Danial Norjidi

    Healthy and protected conservation areas can have valuable contributions not only in facing the impacts of climate change but also with regards to wellness and healing, particularly amidst recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    This was highlighted by Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) Dr Theresa Mundita S Lim in a message delivered during the opening ceremony of the Seventh ASEAN Heritage Parks Conference (AHP7) held in Bogor, Indonesia on November 1.

    The message was shared by the ACB in a press statement issued in conjunction with One Health Day, marked on November 3.

    In the message, the ACB’s executive director noted that aberrant storms are getting more and more frequent. “Only last month, a super typhoon, with international name ‘Noru’, battered the Philippines with strong winds and heavy rains. It was the strongest typhoon hitting the Philippines this year, hoisting sustained wind speeds of 195 kilometres per hour tagged with heavy rainfall affecting the whole of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines.”

    “What was most interesting was what was caught on satellite – as soon as Typhoon Noru hit a protected area along the Philippines’ eastern seaboard – the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, including the southern portion of the entire mountain range, it was seen that the super typhoon weakened considerably. This is nature at work, a prime example of how ecosystems can contribute to climate action.”

    Inlay Lake Wildlife Sanctuary – an ASEAN Heritage Park in Myanmar. PHOTO: ASEAN CENTRE FOR BIODIVERSITY

    Dr Lim also underlined that nature as a solution is being demonstrated all over ASEAN. As an example, she noted that in Indonesia, the Raja Ampat Marine Conservation Area is a group of islands known for its megadiverse marine life, boasting of 75 per cent of the total coral species in the world, while also having unique mangrove areas and being a host of important seagrass beds.

    “It’s this ecosystem diversity – all of the coastal and marine habitats combined that would be most effective in moderating the impacts of strong waves and better deliver protection to coastal communities,” she said.

    “In fact, the Raja Ampat Islands Marine Conservation Area was recently conferred with the Blue Park Award by the Marine Conservation Institute at the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, along with the Apo Reef Natural Park in the Philippines. The Blue Park Award recognises outstanding efforts in marine biodiversity conservation, and we cannot be more proud that the ASEAN has two awardees just this year. We commend these conservation areas for their designation as thriving emblems of the ASEAN region’s remarkable marine biodiversity.”

    Dr Lim added, however, that it is not just in facing the worsening impacts of climate change that healthy protected areas can have valuable contributions. “Our ASEAN Heritage Parks also have their own stories to tell on how these protected areas all over the region have contributed to wellness and healing, especially as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    The executive director acknowledged the opportunity to gather at the conference to share AHP stories and to discuss the valuable links between protected areas and healing.

    “While the COVID-19 pandemic has limited our capabilities for face-to-face connections, it has given us the opportunity to innovate and be creative in finding the means to communicate and to act together to achieve a common objective – to heal nature and to heal ourselves.

    “That is why as the world charts the path to building a better normal, the ASEAN called for coordinated contributions as an ultimate objective towards a more inclusive and sustainable recovery, emphasising the importance of promoting nature-based solutions to increase the region’s resilience.”

    Dr Lim proceeded to note that in November 2020, the ASEAN leaders adopted the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) or the regional exit strategy from the COVID-19 health crisis that acknowledges the use of nature-based solutions, referring to actions to conserve, restore, and sustainably manage nature, including biodiversity as part of the region’s road to recovery and in building resilience against future pandemics.

    “As part of our contribution to realising the objectives of the ACRF, we convene this Conference – to give everyone a stake and a voice in demonstrating how nature – how biodiversity has, and can help us face global challenges such as new and emerging diseases, increasing incidence of climate-related natural disasters, and world hunger.

    “Our home, the ASEAN region, despite occupying only three per cent of the world’s total land area, is home to almost a fifth of all known plant and animal species in the world.

    ASEAN’s rich biodiversity – from the diverse species to the ecosystems of forests, wetlands, coasts, and seas – exemplifies the bounty and uniqueness of our region’s natural heritage.

    “We find ourselves immersed in this intricate web of life innately, that our cultural heritage and survival would not be possible without it. As the world gets back on its feet from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic while facing the looming threats of continued biodiversity loss, the intensifying impacts of the changing climate, and the possibilities of more pandemics, we have come to an understanding of our broken relationship with nature.”

    Dr Lim said that the conference theme, ‘Healing Nature and People’, emphasises the value of ASEAN Heritage Parks, and protected and conserved areas as part of our nature-based solution in building a sustainable future for all.

    She also stated that the discussions at the conference had been designed to highlight the strong links that make nature, make biodiversity all the more valuable for all – for human health and pandemic resilience.

    “The richness of biodiversity in protected and conserved areas, if effectively managed, may indeed be the game-changer that can turn the tide against emerging diseases by acting as buffers to contain pathogens, and also as natural gene pools that can be sources and inspiration for primary and adjunct treatments to illnesses.”

    The executive director shared that as the global community sets out to finalise the new biodiversity agenda in COP15, ASEAN as a region brings with it the hope of an ambitious yet realistic framework that can be used to guide their ways and measure their progress.

    She added that this will also come in timely as the ASEAN High level Task Force buckles up to work on the Region’s post-2025 vision.

    Dr Lim then emphasised that the ACB, as the region’s response to biodiversity loss, stands ready to remain as a reliable partner in supporting ASEAN’s resolve to meet global and regional biodiversity targets.

    According to the press statement, the ACB and Indonesia through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry-Directorate of Biodiversity Conservation of Species and Genetics, organised the AHP7 in Bogor, Indonesia from October 31 to November 3, in line with the region’s effort in adopting the One Health approach, an integrated strategy for tackling public health issues, fostering increased cross-sector and cross-pillar cooperation on issues of human, environmental, or ecosystem health.

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