Thailand hosts IUCN forum on Asia’s environment
They came to Bangkok to help create a greener path to development. More than 300 participants from 26 Asian countries joined Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at its sixth regional forum in Bangkok last week to brainstorm solutions to Asia’s challenges in preserving natural resources, biodiversity, the environment and sustainable development.
Creating a more sustainable mode of development is crucial in Asia where burgeoning population growth and rapid industrialization has put an enormous strain on natural resources, resulted in environmental destruction and is contributing to climate change. And while hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty during the past half-century, many more are still not sharing in the continent’s growing prosperity.
The IUCN bills itself as the oldest and largest global environmental organization with more than 1,200 government and civil society members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in 160 countries. Founded in 1948, Thailand was one of the original 14 countries that signed the treaty that brought the IUCN into existence.
The three-day conference in Bangkok served as a regional preparatory meeting for the World Conservation Congress that will be held in September in Hawaii. At least 88 countries are expected to attend that congress.
At the Bangkok meeting, IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng warned that time is of the essence, because the planet’s ecosystems were no longer able to manage the growing stresses. He urged governments to renew their efforts to stem the losses in species, biodiversity and the environment.
“Can we be sustainable with [the existing] production pattern? Can we sustain with this [level of] consumption? So now it needs political will; it needs general awareness, it also needs a change of values. We must review, we must reflect, we have change in the production pattern, we must have change the consumption model, we have to build inclusive societies,” he said.
As one of the countries that the United Nations said has been most affected by climate change, Thailand has a strong interest in the work of the IUCN. Since 1957, successive Thai governments have worked in close cooperation with the IUCN on nature conservation. The collaboration includes multi-disciplinary undertakings by government agencies.
Thailand is one of the most biodiverse countries in Asia, but over the past century the Kingdom has lost much of its forest cover. In response, governments have declared many forests and protected areas, but these have frequently been encroached upon. The current government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been engaged in a rigid crackdown on encroachers, taking back forestland appropriated illegally and restoring it to its natural state. The government has also set a target to source 25 percent of the nation’s energy from renewables by 2021.
A number of Thai scholars and experts joined the forum and exchanged their ideas and experiences with other delegates. Thailand organized a side event to present innovations on protected areas and forest corridor management.
The Thai delegation also said a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and IUCN will be signed soon to enhance technical collaboration on sustainable marine and coastal resources management.
The IUCN in a closing statement urged governments, the private sector and non-government groups to work much closer in building solutions for communities and the natural environment.
Thailand Focus August 17, 2015
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