When I first came to IUCN Viet Nam, it was a confusing place. The people traveled extensively – Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Vietienne, Phom Phenh, Bangkok and even farther afield – coming and going from the office daily. Acronyms fly about even faster than people. IUCN Viet Nam works on almost too many projects to count.
On a most fundamental level, I had trouble understanding the structure of IUCN, as it combines forces with government departments, non-governmental organizations, and other members and partners. What is going on, I asked to anyone that would listen? How does this amorphous organization function with so many pieces moving in so many directions? Luckily, my first month was perfect for showing me how the staff of IUCN Viet Nam weaves together these disparate threads to create a fabric for the future.
Soon after my arrival, I helped to write a scoping paper and attended a workshop designed to identify some of the regional threats to biodiversity. Government leaders and others had signed a pledge in 2002 that they would work to “save biodiversity” by the year 2010; Countdown 2010 is a global IUCN initiative that helps people remember and recognize this commitment. These are the same issues being grappled with by IUCN Country offices in Africa, in South America, all over the world.
The workshop really helped me see that, at some point you have to take a step back and ask, what are the main issues confronting our combined goals? How can they be overcome, and how can those methods be communicated? And, perhaps equally as important, how can we make sure that every else stays motivated to work towards the goals for 2010? The event helped me understand the way in which IUCN Viet Nam is globally connected but regionally focused.
Later in the month, I attended a workshop focused on a major regional initiative. The Biodiversity Corridor Initiative is the result of a few different organizations (all those acronyms!) getting together to establish biodiversity corridors in the Lower Mekong Region.
It may be easy to agree that biodiversity corridors are a good idea, and that Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Viet Nam would all benefit from their existence. But questions remain: what is a biodiversity corridor? Who gets to define it? Who is responsible for implementing it? How do these biodiversity corridors affect long term growth in the region, economically or environmentally?
After this month, it seems to me that IUCN’s greatest value is in getting a variety of people, whether they are from the government or NGOs or other members, to agree on basic ideas so that, going forward, the major players in the region can have a consistent foundation for their work. And all the coming and going is an integral part of making this happen.
From the editor:
Graduated from Princeton University in the USA in June 2007 with a major in the History of Science, Bayley also spent a lot of time in the Environmental Studies Department. Her academic interests, combined with her love for the outdoors, inspired her to work for an organization such as IUCN.
Bayley travelled to Viet Nam with her family in 2002 and enjoyed the country very much. When the Princeton in Asia Program helped find a position as a Programme Assistant with IUCN in Hanoi, she jumped at the chance to come. Bayley enjoys living in Hanoi immensely.