I. Introduction

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration by the five original Member Countries namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined the Association on 8 January 1984. Viet Nam became the seventh member or ASEAN on 28 July 1995. Lao P.D.R and Myanmar were admitted into ASEAN on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999.

The Bangkok Declaration united the ASEAN Member Countries in a joint effort to promote economic cooperation and improve the welfare of the people in the region. The Declaration sets out guidelines for ASEAN activities and defined the aims of the organization.


II. Organizational Structure for ASEAN Cooperation on the Environment

The organizational structure for ASEAN cooperation in the field of the environment consists of the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN), and its subsidiary bodies, the Meeting of the ASEAN Environment Ministers and the ASEAN Secretariat.

2.1. ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN)

ASEAN cooperation on the environment started in 1978 with the establishment of the ASEAN Experts Group on the Environment (AEGE) under the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST). AEGE was elevated in 1989 to become the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN). ASOEN meets once a year to consider the reports of its working groups, which also meet annually, and provide operational policy guidance on the various environmental programmes being pursued.

The cooperative programs and projects of ASOEN are carried out with the assistance of currently three working groups and these are the working groups on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity chaired by the Philippines, Coastal and Marine Environment chaired by Thailand and Multilateral Environmental Agreements chaired by Malaysia. In addition to the above-mentioned working groups, a Haze Technical Task Force, chaired by Indonesia, was also established to operationalize and implement the measures recommended in the ASEAN Cooperation Plan on Transboundary Pollution relating to atmospheric pollution which has now evolved into the Regional Haze Action Plan.

2.2. Meeting of the ASEAN Environment Ministers

To promote ASEAN cooperation and ensure that the decisions of the Heads of Governments relating to environment are carried out, the ASEAN Ministers for the Environment have met regularly at least once every 3 years since 1981. So far, the ASEAN Environment Ministers have met seven times. In between the normal 3-year intervals for the formal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (AMME), informal meetings of the ASEAN Environment Ministers have been held almost every year since 1994. In addition, the first ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Haze (AMMH) was convened in Singapore on 22-23 December 1997 to address the problem of smoke haze in the region caused by land and forest fires. The AMMH has already met seven times.

2.3. The ASEAN Secretariat

Issues pertaining to environment cooperation in ASEAN fall under the purview of the Environment Unit of the Economic and Functional Cooperation Bureau. The ASEAN Secretariat normally services the afore-mentioned working groups, senior officials and ministerial meetings as resource person and rapporteur as well as assists the above-stated bodies by providing substantive inputs in the planning, coordination, implementation and monitoring of various cooperative projects on environment undertaken by them.

The current organizational structure for ASEAN cooperation on the environment and transboundary haze are shown as Figures 1 and 2, respectively.


III. ASEAN’s Early Initiatives in Nature Conservation

ASEAN’s commitment to nature conservation, and protected areas management in particular, began in 1977 with the initiation of the ASEAN Sub-Regional Environment Programme (ASEP) through the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Two of the earliest activities undertaken in this regard were :

  1. Conservation of Forest, Plants and Animals in Southeast Asia with the collaboration of International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and UNEP.
  2. Survey and Establishment of Biosphere Reserves in Southeast Asia which was associated with UNEP and UNESCO.

During the period of 1978-1988, the ASEAN Experts Group on the Environment (AEGE) had deliberated on several major issues pertaining to conservation, namely :

    1. Draft Action Plan for the Conservation of Nature in the ASEAN Region.
    2. ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
    3. ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves
      • Declaration on ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves
      • Master Plan for ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves
      • Principles, Criteria, Guidelines for Selection, Establishment and Management of a Network of Reserves.

 

To further address the above major issues, several meetings and workshops were held as follows :

  1. The ASEAN Workshop on Nature Conservation of the ASEAN Experts Group on the Environment (AEGE), Bali, Indonesia, September 1980.
  2. Annual Meetings of ASEAN Experts on Nature Conservation (ANC), during the period of 1982 to 1989.
  3. ASEAN Workshop on Nature Conservation, Chiang Mai, Thailand, April 1986.

3.1 Draft Action Plan for the Conservation of Nature in the ASEAN Region

The ASEAN Workshop on Nature Conservation in the ASEAN Region was held in Bali, Indonesia, 15-19 September 1980 following the recommendation of the First Meeting of AEGE, 18-20 December 1978, Jakarta, Indonesia and approval of the Third Meeting of AEGE Manila, Philippines, on 19-23 May 1980.

The workshop discussed on the following issues:

  1. ASEAN Heritage Reserves.
    The delegates stressed the importance of adopting an action plan on:

        (1)common criteria in establishing reserve system of regional and national importance and of benefit to the local population;
        (2)transfrontier cooperation
        (3)management cooperation on share endangered species;
        (4)establishment of several major ecotype reserves in the region including marine network system;
      (5)establishment of a regional task force to start pragmatic work on the development of an Action Plan for the Conservation of Nature in ASEAN .
  2. The inventory of endangered species and draft convention on nature conservation.
  3. Information exchange programme.
  4. Training on Nature Conservation Management.

The workshop agreed to develop simultaneously an ASEAN action plan on nature conservation and ASEAN Convention on Nature Conservation.

A request was then subsequently made by the Interim Coordinator of AEGE to IUCN, to assist in the development of a regional action plan, following the recommendation by the workshop.

With financial assistance from UNEP, a IUCN staff-consultant undertook a short mission to the capital cities of the ASEAN States to discuss the elements of the Action Plan. The Plan was oriented at the regional level, and therefore considered only those ecosystems and species that are either significant to the region as a whole or requiring cooperation to effect their conservation.

The Draft Action Plan (DAP) elaborated on various issues, such as:

  1. Establishment of a Network of Reserves
  2. Development of Principles, Criteria, Guidelines for Selection, Establishment and Management of a Network of Reserves
  3. Inventory of ecosystems, critical areas and habitats in the region
  4. ASEAN Heritage Sites
  5. Accession to Global Conservation Conventions
  6. Meetings of Heads of agencies responsible for management of protected areas
  7. Species Conservation
  8. Legislation including Collation and analysis of international agreements relevant to nature conservation, ASEAN Convention on Nature Conservation, Collation and Analysis of National Legislation .
  9. Research
  10. Information Exchange
  11. Training

The DAP was adopted at the Fourth AEGE Meeting held in Singapore on 8-10 April 1981, with certain amendments.

3.2 ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

The First Meeting of the AEGE, 18-20 December 1978, Jakarta, Indonesia recommended the development of an ASEAN Convention on Natural Resources. At the Fifth Meeting of AEGE in 1982, the Meeting felt that the Convention would be difficult to implement and needed to be further studied by a Legal and Technical Experts Meeting. The Workshop of Legal and Technical Experts held in Manila on 3-5 November 1982 recommended and finalized the draft ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The Environmental Law Centre and the Commission on Environmental Policy, Law and Administration of IUCN provided the technical assistance in designing and drafting the Agreement at the request from ASEAN Member States.

The Sixth Meeting of AEGE in 1983 adopted the draft ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and informed Dr. Wolfgang Burhenne, Chairman of IUCN Commission on Environmental Policy, Law and Administration of the decision.

The agreement was ratified on 9 July, 1985 in Kuala Lumpur, by the then 6 ASEAN Member Countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore and Thailand. The agreement incorporates in its appendix, the ASEAN Endangered and Threatened Species Lists. Under this agreement there is a provision covering protected areas and their management. To date, only three of the original signatories (Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand) have ratified the Agreement and as such, it is not yet in force.

In 1986, the Karl-Schmitz-Scholl-Fonds (KSSF) for Environmental Law and Policy presented to Commission of European Communities (EC) a proposal for a project on Implementation of the ASEAN Agreement for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources to be carried out jointly with the IUCN Environmental Law Centre. In July 1990, a contract between KSSF and the EC was signed in which EC provided funding for the project to analyze the existing legislation on conservation and environment in five ASEAN Countries including suggestions for adapting the national laws to meet the requirements of the Agreement.

Subsequently, in 1996, ASOEN recommended that this agreement be further studied by the ASEAN Member Countries by reviewing the existing national legislations, and the agreement’s relevancy to other international agreements such as CITES, RAMSAR, CBD, etc. Two experts, Prof. Koh Kheng Lian and Dr. Francoise Burhenne-Guilmin, were requested to study this matter and they recommended that the ASEAN Agreement is still relevant and that it should be ratified by all signatories.

At its recent meeting in September 1999, ASOEN agreed that each country would inform its position on the ratification of the agreement and this matter would then be considered at the ASOEN Meeting next year.

3.3 ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves

The concept of heritage parks and reserves in ASEAN was introduced at the First Meeting of AEGE in 1978. The First Meeting of ASEAN Experts on Nature Conservation (ANC) in 1982 recommended the interim coordinator of the 5th Meeting of AEGE to coordinate the publication of the Draft Version of ASEAN Heritage Sites, and it was produced in October 1982 with assistance of IUCN and UNEP. The Draft of ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves was considered by the Sixth Meeting of AEGE in 1983.

  • Declaration on ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves

The ASEAN Declaration on Heritage Parks and Reserves was adopted at the Second ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment on 29 November 1984 in Bangkok, Thailand and signed by the six member countries at that time, namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The Declaration was made in consideration of “the uniqueness, diversity and outstanding values of certain national parks and reserves of ASEAN Member Countries that deserve the highest recognition so that their importance as conservation areas could be appreciated regionally and internationally”. The designated heritage parks and reserves were as follows :

Brunei Darussalam

      1. Tasek Merimbun

Indonesia
1. Leuser National Park
2. Kerinci-Seblat National Park
3. Lorentz National Reserve.

Malaysia
1. Kinabalu National Park
2. Mulu National Park
3. Taman Negara National Park

Philippines
1. Mt. Apo National Park
2. Iglit-Baco National Park

Thailand
1. Khao Yai National Park
2. Tarutao National Park

 

  • Master Plan for ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves

It is stated in the declaration that a master plan should be drawn up for each park, which included but not limited to management guidelines. The Master Plan for ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves was first initiated at the 2nd Meeting of ASEAN Experts on Nature Conservation (ANC), in Manila, on 11-14 October 1983. The 3rd Meeting of ANC in Surabaya, on 22-24 October 1984 agreed to involve the Commission on Natural Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA) of IUCN, UNEP and U.S. National Parks Service (USNPS) to give assistance in developing the general guidelines of the Master Plan. The title of the project was changed to Management Plan of ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves at the 6th ANC Meeting in 1987.

The general guidelines for developing master plans for conservation and management of the ASEAN parks and reserves were formulated by the AEGE and ANC in cooperation with UNEP and USNPS, as a contribution to the ASEAN Declaration on Heritage Parks and Reserves.

The goals of management of the parks and reserves were :

  1. To maintain ecological processes and life support systems;
  2. preserve genetic diversity
  3. ensure sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems
  4. maintain wilderness that is of scenic, cultural, educational research, recreational and tourism values.
  • Principles, Criteria, Guidelines for Selection, Establishment and Management of a Network of Reserves

The Principles, Criteria and Guidelines for Selection, Establishment and Management of a Network of Reserves were finalized at the 8th Meeting of AEGE in 1985. It emphasized that there should be sound planning and management of the reserves, and particular attention should be given to the maintenance of the essential ecological processes, life support systems, sustainable resource use and management, protection and preservation of biota and protection of unique and threatened species and their habitats.

  • ASEAN Workshop on Nature Conservation, Chiang Mai, Thailand, April 1986.

The workshop exchanged information about conservation management efforts and associated problems and the sharing of the benefits of conservation among all ASEAN countries.

The topics of the workshop included :

  1. problems caused by people living in and around protected areas,
  2. protected area management for promotion of tourism and recreation,
  3. wildlife management and methods of conserving endangered species,
  4. national park management problems. 

IV. Recent Developments in Nature Conservation in ASEAN

To enhance ASEAN cooperation in environment, the AEGE was elevated to become the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN) in 1989.

From then onwards, the issues of protected areas have been tasked mostly to the ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation (AWGNC). Some specific issues on protected areas of the marine environment had also been deliberated by the ASEAN Working Group on ASEAN Seas and Marine Environment (AWGASME).

The Fourth Meeting of ASOEN in 1993 agreed that a new ASEAN Action Plan should be developed taking into accounts new developments following the outcome of UNCED. The ASEAN Strategic Plan of Action on the Environment (SPAE) was developed and had been implemented during the period of 1994-1998. It consists of ten strategies. The strategy pertaining to protected areas is as follows :

Strategic Thrusts Action/Programmes
Strategy 5 Establish a regional framework on biological diversity conservation and sustainable utilization of its components. 5.1. Promote the development of a framework for the protection and conservation of heritage areas and endangered species.
5.2. Strengthen capacities for R&D to enhance biodiversity conservation in the region.

On 15 December 1997, the Second ASEAN Informal Summit in Kuala Lumpur adopted the ASEAN Vision 2020 which sets out a broad vision for ASEAN in the year 2020. Action plans are to be drawn up to realise this vision. The Hanoi Plan of Action (HPA) is the first part of action plan with a six years time frame from 1999-2004. The HPA was adopted at the Sixth ASEAN Summit in Hanoi in December 1998.

The action plan for the environment is incorporated in the Section 6 of the HPA, and specifically HPA Statement 6.5 concerns protected areas :

“Promote regional coordination for the protection of ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves”.

To support the implementation of the Hanoi Plan of Action (HPA), the Fourth Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (IAMME), held on 20 November 1998 in Hanoi, requested ASOEN to prepare a detailed Strategic Plan of Action on the Environment (SPAE) for cooperation in environmental sector. The SPAE should be consistent with the overall direction and thematic areas in the HPA.

Under the topics of protection of heritage parks and reserves, plans are being developed under the current ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (AWGNCB) to implement the following :

  • Conduct seminar/workshops to review the status of ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves by April 2000
  • Draft and adopt action plan for the protection and management of heritage sites by January 2001

There are several on-going initiatives pertinent to protected areas and these are as follows :

  1. Management Plan for ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves
  2. ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves Training and Technical Assistance
  3. Management of Transfrontier Parks and Protected Areas in the ASEAN Region
  4. ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation

4.1. Management Plan for ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves

The ASEAN Experts Group on the Environment formulated a general guideline to help ASEAN Countries develop master plan/management plans for conservation and management of each park and/or reserve at the national level. The Project on Management Plan for ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves was proposed to ensure that implementation at the national level is achieved.

The objective is to assist the the governments towards the attainment of conservation objectives; and in protecting the biodiversity heritage of the country through the establishment of national integrated protected areas system based on scientific principles. The project has been implemented through national efforts with funding support form each proponent country for the management of their respective heritage sites

4.2. ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves Training in the ASEAN Region

The Project is a component of the project on Management Plan for ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves which is aimed to provide training and technical assistance on the management for ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves.

It was first proposed at the Eleventh Meeting of AEGE in 1988 and reformulated following the decision of the Fifth Meeting of the AWGNC. To date, the project has not received any funding assistance and activities are yet to be implemented.

4.3. Management of Transfrontier Parks and Protected Areas in the ASEAN Region

It was proposed at the First Meeting of AWGNC in Kuala Lumpur, 6-7 November 1990 that the areas adjoining Malaysia-Thailand and Malaysia-Indonesia be earmarked as transfrontier parks. Subsequent to the identification of such parks, it was noted at the Fifth AWGNC in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, on 20-22 April 1994 that the project had received funding support from ITTO for the areas of Lanjak-Entimau/Gunung Bentuang-Karimun of Sarawak, Malaysia and Kalimantan, Indonesia.

The objective of the project is to identify potential areas of cooperation on the management of transfrontier parks in ASEAN Member Countries. As part of the development of the project, the participating Member Countries have undertaken certain areas of cooperation :

  1. Inventory of flora and fauna had been carried out by Malaysia and Thailand for the area of Wang Kelian-Thaleban/Belum-Helabala and by Malaysia and Indonesia for the area of Lantjak-Entimau/Gunung Bentuang-Karimun in Sarawak and Kalimantan.
  2. Bilateral agreement between Malaysia and the Philippines to declare areas around Turtle Islands/Palawan Islands as Transfrontier Marine Parks for the conservation of marine turtles.

4.4. ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation

The Centre was proposed at the Second Meeting of AWGNC in Manila on 6-7 November 1991 and it was endorsed by ASOEN at its Fifth Meeting on 20-22 April 1994 in Bandar Seri Begawan. It became operational in 1999. The project is funded with assistance from the European Union (EU).

The Centre would serve as a focal point in creating linkages or networks of cooperation in the field of biodiversity conservation among institutions in ASEAN Member Countries and between ASEAN and EU partner organizations. This will be accomplished through the following four components:

  1. Networking and Institutional Building
  2. Training and Extension
  3. Research and Development
  4. Database and Information Management

It was also noted in the Ninth Meeting of AWGNCB that its priority project on ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves Project could be facilitated by ARCBC.

V. Conclusion

As indicated in the preceding sections, IUCN, UNEP, UNESCO, USNPS and several other organizations were instrumental in developing projects, plans and even an agreement related to nature conservation in the ASEAN region. As reflected in the Hanoi Plan of Action, ASEAN continues to accord high priority to environment and sustainable issues in general and protected areas management in particular. A number of on-going and new initiatives in the nature conservation area have already been mentioned earlier. It would therefore be a good opportunity for all the institutional parties and technical experts gathered at this forum to discuss ways and means on how to collectively move forward in implementing ASEAN-wide conservation activities. This would certainly provide an important boost for conservation efforts in Southeast Asia as we enter the new millennium. It could also very well serve as a platform for generating substantive inputs from a regional perspective for consideration at the Fourth World Parks Congress and the Rio+10 Summit, both scheduled