Building Biodiversity with IUCN

I joined the IUCN Viet Nam office on the Volunteering for International Development Australia programme at a busy and exciting time. My first week coincided with the 2008 Asian Wetlands Symposium, which was hosted by the Viet Nam Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), with core support from IUCN.

Samitha and a coworker at Ba Be National Park in northern Vietnam. Photo: IUCN

The Symposium brought together hundreds of participants from various sectors, including national and local governments, NGOs, scientific experts, the private sector, and local and indigenous people engaged in wetland issues to discuss challenges, approaches and priorities in wetland management in the Asian region, which has seen tremendous disturbance and decline in wetlands.

I was fortunate enough to be actively involved in the drafting of the Symposium Declaration, which identified urgent and immediate actions to address current threats to wetlands and challenges in wetland management in Asia.

The recommendations were disseminated at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in October 2008.

It was a wonderful opportunity for me to gain an understanding of the importance of wetlands in the daily life of people in Asia and the progress and challenges in wetlands management and conservation in the region.

Shortly after the symposium, I became involved in the development of a Decree on Biodiversity Corridors – to be issued under a new Biodiversity Law -- which IUCN is assisting MONRE develop. I was involved in co-ordinating consultation meetings to receive stakeholder comments and revise the draft Decree.

The first consultation was a Central Technical Working Group meeting with IUCN partners, members, and national and international consultants, held in Hanoi in July 2008.

The second consultation was in the province of Quang Nam in September 2008. It was particularly valuable because it engaged provincial and local authorities who are currently managing corridor initiatives.

A national level consultation meeting will be convened in April 2009 to finalize the Decree.

Though I have now returned to Australia, I am keen to follow the progress of the Biodiversity Law and the Decree on Biodiversity Corridors, which will provide a critical framework for the protection of Viet Nam’s extensive biodiversity.

My experiences have made it apparent that IUCN Viet Nam’s real strength comes from bringing together expertise from non-government organisations, government and other major stakeholders, including local communities, to work on achieving effective and equitable outcomes in biodiversity conservation and other areas.

IUCN’s reach to local communities has especially impressed me. It is widely recognised that local and indigenous communities highly dependant on natural ecosystems can and must play a role in conserving biodiversity and developing strategies to improve their livelihoods. Therefore IUCN’s active role in engaging with local communities to understand local issues and facilitate informed national level policy and decision making is extremely valuable, and I was proud to be a part of it.

Samitha Rao

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