Thailand’s Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPAs) are very important assets in terms of biodiversity conservation, economic development and livelihood security. Therefore a well managed, representative MCPA system in Thailand lies at the heart of achieving a balanced and healthy marine and coastal ecosystem as a foundation for sustainable development and livelihood security. In recognition of the need to improve management effectiveness in Thailand’s MCPAs, the Department of National Parks and IUCN are implementing a project called ‘Evaluating and improving the management effectiveness of Thailand’s Marine and Coastal Protected Areas’
This project seeks to evaluate the ways in which Thailand’s MCPAs are being managed in a comprehensive, systematic and participatory way, with the overarching aim of the project to strengthen coastal and marine stewardship in Thailand’s marine and coastal protected areas as a foundation for sustainable development. The project is a collaborative, inter-organisational process between IUCN and the Department of National Parks (DNP- part of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, MONRE), with support from Mangroves for the Future(MFF), Strengthening Andaman Marine Protected Areas Network (SAMPAN), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the French Development Agency (AFD).
Capacity building workshops were held in at the Department of National Parks Marine Operations Centre on Phuket from the 24th to the 26th and the 27th to the 29th of April 2011. The two workshops held in Phuket were the last two out of a total of three, with the first having been held in Chumphon National Park on31st March- 2nd April. The workshops facilitated the testing of a “project site tool” for Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) , where the Superintendants from each of Thailand’s 23 Coastal and Marine Protected Areas were in attendance with the purpose of evaluating the ways in which each of those Protected Areas are being managed, and how successful they have been in protecting the values for which each of the parks was designated.
Dr. Robert Mather, Head of the South-East Asia Group within IUCN, was present at the second workshop in Phuket on the 24th April and provided a bit more context about the importance of the MEE process: “Evaluating Management Effectiveness can benefit park management in many ways. First of all it can provide an objective basis for PA superintendents to develop proposals and request budget support either to address areas of weakness identified by the MEE process, or to continue to build even further on identified areas of strength. Secondly if the approach is formally adopted by the Department of National Parks, future evaluations, say every 3-5 years can be compared with this baseline and changes in effectiveness can clearly be identified and tracked. Having a system like this in place will also help address Thailand’s obligations as a Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity. And finally, if a model approach to Management Effectiveness Evaluation can be developed in Thailand, then DNP, IUCN and other organizations can also collaborate to spread the approach from Thailand to neighboring countries in the region”.
Mr.Ratchada Suriyakul Na Ayudhaya, Director of the National Parks Office, was also present at the first MEE workshop and said:“The MEE workshops were held to brainstorm between technical experts, government representatives, community representatives, individuals from the private sector and representatives of the tourism industry from 23 Marine Protected areas in order to understand the MEE process. The Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plants (DNP) expect that the results of the MEE process will not only aid day-to-day management but also improving transparency in management with the stakeholder participation process. These evaluation outputs will be used to improve the protected areas management policy framework and DNP planning systematically and sustainability in the future. ”
The project seeks specifically to analyse the effectiveness of not only individual MCPAs, but also the wider system; therefore identifying issues which affect the overall operation and effectiveness of the MCPA network. Through the development of a tailored methodology specific to Thailand, the MEE program also seeks to develop concrete recommendations to address management concerns, as well as demonstrating best practice management improvement activities at MFF showcase sites. The process aims to build an adaptive management process and integrate the MEE methodology into DNP’s National monitoring and evaluation processes, so that there is scope for MEE to be carried out internally within DNP. The results of the MEE process will be available to stakeholders; promoting transparency and accountability within Thailand’s MCPA network. Lastly, in a climate of uncertainty, the MEE process will better equip Thailand’s MCPA network to withstand negative impacts including climate change and development pressures, whilst also positioning Thailand as a leading exponent of contemporary MEE processes, and producing a MEE system for other countries to adopt.