As in other regions of the world, harmful forest fires in South East Asia have caused enormous human, environmental and economic damage in recent years. In addition to the negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, forest fires have caused loss of human life and major health problems, disrupted livelihoods and adversely affected regional and national economies. An additional concern is the contribution of fire to global warming.
In early 1998 IUCN and WWF joined forces to develop a programme for Strengthening National, Regional and International Networks for Forest Fire Prevention and Management. Under the umbrella of the programme Project FireFight South East Asia, activities and projects were developed beginning in 2000. The project sought to secure essential policy reform through a strategy of advocacy using syntheses and analysis of existing information and new outputs. It worked at the national and regional level across South East Asia to support and advocate the creation of the legislative and economic bases for mitigating harmful anthropogenic forest fires. The project ended mid-2003. The model provided by Project FireFight South East Asia will be extended to South and Central America, Russia, the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa as funds and capacity become available.