The importance of collaborative management, an approach that involves different stakeholders in the management of natural resources and is also known as shared governance, was highlighted at the first technical workshop of the Asia Protected Areas Partnership (APAP).
The workshop, hosted by the Ministry of the Environment Japan and held in Ishigaki island in Okinawa prefecture last November 2015, was the first technical gathering to have brought together protected area and biodiversity experts from APAP member organizations.
Participants from eight APAP member countries took part in the workshop: Bangladesh; Bhutan; Japan; Korea; Mongolia; Nepal; Pakistan; and Viet Nam. APAP is an informal, regional platform for sharing best practice in protected area management. Among other goals, it seeks to provide a forum for exchange and learning among protected area managers, policy makers and academics across the region.
The issue of protected area governance was widely discussed at the workshop. The exchanges revealed the complexity and diversity of conservation governance in Asia. It was recognized that the IUCN guidelines on protected area management categories and governance types have not yet been fully adopted by conservation practitioners across the region. However, it was also recognized that local wisdom and knowledge can contribute greatly to the fostering of a conservation ethic and the management of protected areas in an Asian context.
The workshop included presentations from each of the countries about the status and management of their protected areas. A field visit to Kabira Bay provided a glimpse of diverse coral reefs and well-managed marine tourism. The workshop also included a learning session at the Institute of Coral Reef Monitoring Center, where a strong case for science-based, community-inclusive and financially sustainable marine and coastal protected areas was presented. Participants then spent the rest of the day visiting different sites including the WWF Japan Coral Reef Conservation and Research Centre and Shiraho Coral Village.
Ishigaki island is a recognized model for collaborative management of marine and coastal resources. For example, local communities in the area play a significant role in helping with coral reef restoration and the promotion of sustainable tourism and fisheries. Integrated coastal management is also a feature of Ishigaki. Projects such as the creation of "Green Belts" in agricultural areas help to prevent sediment run-off to coral reefs. Through these and other examples, workshop participants learned that coastal systems are highly connected and that the involvement of multiple stakeholder groups is critical in order to achieve effective and sustainable management.
APAP is an informal network of government protected area agencies from Asia working at national or sub-national level. It serves as a platform to help governments and other stakeholders collaborate for more effective management of protected areas in the region.
The partnership was initiated in 2013 at the first-ever Asia Parks Congress held in Japan, and formally launched the following year at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Australia. It is chaired by IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and co-chaired by an APAP member organisation on a rotational basis, beginning with the Ministry of the Environment, Japan.