Pakse, Lao PDR— The Sixth ASEAN Heritage Parks Conference (AHP6) organised by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Lao PDR’s Department of Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, brought focus on the pivotal role of community participation in effectively managing protected areas and contributing to biodiversity conservation efforts in the region.

“The ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHP) Programme is not only a measure to conserve protected areas, but also a means to achieve harmony between humans and nature. Many communities, especially those living in or near AHPs, depend on the parks’ natural resources for their daily needs,” ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said in her speech before an audience of about 300 officials, protected area managers, biodiversity experts, stakeholders, and partners in stewardship from ASEAN Member States and across the world.

She added that some of the indigenous peoples and local communities in the ASEAN have traditional knowledge and practices that can help preserve the biodiversity in the AHPs.

With theme “Sustainability and Innovation for Parks and People—Celebrating 35 years of ASEAN Heritage Parks,” AHP6, which is currently being held in Pakse in the Champasak province of Lao PDR on 21-24 October 2019, celebrates the 35th anniversary of the AHP Programme, one of the flagship initiatives of the ASEAN. 

With support from the European Union (EU), the German Development Cooperation through the KfW and GIZ, SwedBio, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Japan Biodiversity Fund, AHP6 builds on the experiences and knowledge of protected area managers and international experts in the bid to improve the AHP network and strengthen camaraderie among AHP stakeholders and other dialogue and development partners under the AHP Programme.

The AHP6 also features the Marketplace and Exhibits, which highlight the milestones, successes, and key accomplishments of the programme, including biodiversity-based products and good protected area management practices. Communities in Champasak were also invited to sell locally made products in the Marketplace.

In a press briefing with Lao reporters, Lim said the ACB as the secretariat supports the continuing capacity enhancement activities for park area managers and stakeholders, engaging all sectors, including women, the youth indigenous peoples and local communities, local authorities and the private sector.

Meanwhile, EU Ambassador to Lao PDR Leo Faber in his speech stressed the EU’s commitment to the biodiversity conservation in the ASEAN through its Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas Project (BCAMP)

“The EU has put biodiversity conservation as one of the highest priorities in its cooperation agenda,” Faber said noting that as one of the largest contributors of biodiversity finance worldwide, the EU has provided EUR 1.3 billion for biodiversity-related interventions between 2007 and 2013.

The EU has pledged to double its assistance between 2015 and 2020 and increase it in the coming years.

As we know, the real costs of the depletion or degradation of natural capital are felt most seriously at the micro-level and particularly by the poor,” Faber said.

He added that the EU supports the effective management of the region’s natural capital and helps make sure that biodiversity conservation is mainstreamed across sectors, such as agriculture, marine resources management, and water management.

Preparations for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which is expected to be adopted in the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, also took centre stage at the AHP6.

“The AHP6 represents an opportune time for us to take stock and reflect the past. It also lays out ambitious hopes for the future, especially as we are taking on a new journey towards the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity,” said Ky-Anh Nguyen, ASEAN Secretariat’s director of the sustainable development directorate under the ASEAN for Socio-Cultural Community.

Apart from the ASEAN-EU Policy Dialogue on Protected Areas and Wildlife and the AHP Managers’ Meeting, AHP6 also showcases parallel sessions on accelerating progress on Aichi Biodiversity Target 11; species and wildlife conservation; innovative financing; business and biodiversity; women, youth, and indigenous peoples and local communities; sustainable livelihood and biodiversity-based products; and ecosystem-based solutions. In the ASEAN Cultural Night, the ACB and the ASEAN Secretariat will award the certificates of AHPs declared during the 15th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in September 2019 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Participants were greeted by Lao PDR officials Khambounnath Xayanone, vice minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and  Bouasone Vongsongkhone, vice provincial governor of Champasak, Lao PDR.