LOS BANOS, 20 January 2015 – Governments of ASEAN Member States (AMS) have increasingly recognized biodiversity’s extreme importance to human survival. National and local governments are taking individual steps to preserve flora, fauna, and other biological resources. With biodiversity knowing no boundaries, ASEAN Member States acknowledge that working together is crucial to addressing common problems.

In 1999, the need to establish an ASEAN institution to promote knowledge sharing about best practices and common efforts in the biodiversity sector had become apparent. It led to the first regional conservation initiative:  the ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (ARCBC) Project. Before the end of the ARCBC Project, AMS agreed on the need for a permanent institution that will institutionalise the gains of the project and create a regional mechanism in response to the challenge of biodiversity loss. This promptly translated to the creation of a regional institution of excellence – the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) in 2005.

This year, ACB is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its establishment. The Centre continues to strengthen the capacity of AMS in reducing the loss of biodiversity, fulfilling their obligations to relevant multilateral environmental agreements, and promoting the sustainable use of biological resources.

“At the core of these accomplishments is our strong collaboration with the ten AMS. We thank the ACB Governing Board for providing us the much-needed policy guidance and support and the ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity for giving us technical guidance,” Atty. Roberto V. Oliva, ACB executive director, said. “We also express our gratitude to our National Contact Points for their active participation in ensuring the success of ACB activities in their countries,” he added.

Through a Host Country Agreement signed in 2009, the Philippines is home to the ACB Headquarters at the campus of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources of the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna. Since its establishment, ACB has supported AMS through a variety of programmes covering a range of biodiversity thematic areas of global and regional importance, including Access and Benefit Sharing, Agro-Biodiversity, Biodiversity Information Management, Business and Biodiversity, Coastal and Marine Biodiversity, Public Awareness, Ecotourism, Taxonomic Capacity Building, Invasive Alien Species, Protected Area Management, promoting The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Urban Biodiversity, Wetlands Biodiversity, and Wildlife Law Enforcement.

For the past 10 years, ACB has contributed to the enhancement of policy cooperation on biodiversity across the ASEAN region; strengthened institutional capacity within the ASEAN on regional and global biodiversity issues; promoted biodiversity information management and sharing; and boosted public and leadership awareness of the values of biodiversity and the need for conservation and sustainable management.

ACB’s flagship initiative is the ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHP) Program. The program is a network of protected areas of high conservation importance, preserving in total a complete spectrum of representative ecosystems of the ASEAN region. As part of its capacity building support to ASEAN Member States, ACB conducts trainings and workshops to strengthen the implementation of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans and facilitate common understanding of global biodiversity issues and concerns so that they can meet their obligations to the Convention on Biological Diversity and other relevant multilateral environmental agreements. ACB has drawn the support of many countries in carrying out its work.

As part of its mandate to promote the exchange of good practices, ACB holds ASEAN Conferences on Biodiversity and AHP conferences. It publishes the ASEAN Biodiversity Outlook, which reports the progress, gaps and successes of ASEAN Member States in reducing the rate of biodiversity loss. ACB promotes biodiversity information management and sharing among ASEAN Member States. It maintains a regional biodiversity information clearing-house and electronic library which assist countries in policy and decision making for biodiversity conservation and in promoting the global biodiversity targets.

ACB has developed applications which enable users to access AHP information from the web, online and from mobile phones running on Android platforms. The Centre has established partnerships with global biodiversity data holders in order to populate the species and protected areas databases, keep abreast with global developments, and conform to globally accepted formats in recording species and protected areas data.

Further, ACB helps AMS to communicate the values of biodiversity as conservation is not the sole turf of governments and conservation organizations but everyone’s responsibility. The Centre promotes Target No. 1 of the global Aichi Biodiversity Targets which states that “by 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.” This is being done through communication trainings for AMS, production and dissemination of communication materials, and the use of electronic and social media in reaching out to the general public. ACB recognizes outstanding contributions to biodiversity conservation and advocacy through the ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity awards.

According to the ACB Executive Director, 2015 is expected to be another milestone year for the Centre. “As we celebrate the 10th founding anniversary of ACB, we will continue to build upon prior activities and lessons learned, while providing a long-term perspective for biodiversity conservation in the ASEAN region,” Atty. Oliva remarked.