Ecosystems and species do not recognise political borders. In the many cases where borders between countries bisect tropical forests, transboundary conservation programmes can make an important contribution to biodiversity conservation while supporting regional integration and economic development.
At the same time, transboundary conservation programmes present many challenges - to political leaders, on-the-ground managers, and local people. How can cross-border cultural, political and linguistic differences be accommodated? What can be done to resolve conflicting laws? How can bureaucratic delays in transboundary decision-making be overcome? What are the best ways to involve local people?
An attempt was made to address these and other questions at the International Workshop on Increasing the Effectiveness of Transboundary Conservation Areas (TBCAs) in Tropical Forests held in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand from 17-21 February 2003. The workshop, which was co-organised by IUCN and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), and supported by the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, was the first international forum to review experiences in transboundary conservation and brought together over 90 field practitioners and professionals from around twenty-six countries around the world.
The objectives of the workshop were to:
- Raise the profile of the TBCA concept, highlighting major issues and challenges as an input to the World Parks Congress;
- Evaluate international trends in the political and institutional arrangements for the development of TBCAs, including bottlenecks to political support;
- Identify the political, managerial and technical issues in transboundary management at the landscape level with a view to integrating TBCA into the broader landscape to ensure they are planned and managed in context;
- Make recommendations for improving formulation and management of ITTO TBCA projects on the basis of the IUCN 'good practice guidelines for transboundary cooperation between protected areas'; and
- Increase networking between ITTO-supported TBCA project staff, IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas, and other experts and practitioners.
Nine arguments were identified for extending conservation initiatives across national borders:
- Ecosystems: biodiversity crosses national boundaries and should be the basis for TBCA, although social issues may be the key entry point for TBCA development.
- Scale: increased size of protected areas helps ecosystem processes, environmental services, resilience and buffering.
- Mosaic: a range of sites allows integration of conservation into the landscape through coordinated management, which includes different PA categories and other land uses.
- Social: use of conservation as an entry point to sustainable development, to help poverty reduction and to increase human wellbeing.
- Cultural needs: traditions often cross national borders.
- Post conflict: joint conservation efforts in sites of wars or disputes can help heal political and cultural conflicts.
- Coordination: of management, environmental security operations, monitoring and research.
- Political influence: is often increased through joint approaches.
- Money: shared costs, pooled resources and increased visibility to donors can help finances.
The workshop programme included a one day high-level segment, three days of technical and policy discussions, and a field trip to Phatam Protected Forests Complex - a protected area in eastern Thailand sharing a border with Laos and Cambodia. Other working examples of TBCAs from Sarawak and Kalimantan in Borneo; Thailand, Laos and Cambodia in Indochina; Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo in the Congo Basin; the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi in the Great Lakes region; South Africa and Lesotho; and Peru and Ecuador were also presented. More examples and insights came from UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere and World Heritage programmes, the United Nations Forum on Forests, IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre and the World Bank.
The results from the workshop fed into the World Parks Congress in September 2003, with the TBCA Task Force of the WCPA playing a key role.
Download the workshop summary: A Meeting of the Minds.
Download draft presentation summaries.
Download the workshop agenda.
Download the IUCN publication on Transboundary Protected Areas for Peace and Cooperation (including IUCN good practice guidelines).