“Conservation goals can be achieved across international boundaries through cooperative models, including enhanced nature conservation outcomes, sustainable socio-economic development and the promotion of peace”. This was the core of a statement made by Todd Walters on behalf of Maja Vasilijevic of IUCN’s Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group at the International Symposium on Biodiversity Conservation and Peace Building in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The symposium took place during the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity that has just concluded in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.
Dr Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group spoke on ‘Harmonization of Biodiversity Conservation and Peace in Transboundary Protected Areas’, signalling the support of international organisations like IUCN to support transboundary dialogue at local, national and regional levels.
“It is crucial that we engage all relevant sectors of society in the governance of transboundary conservation areas,” said Walters. “Through participatory approaches we can generate social, cultural and economic benefits for local communities and Indigenous Peoples. The Symposium gave us the opportunity to encourage mutual cooperation and the exchange of knowledge among scientists, protected area managers, civil society and other interested parties from the Korean Peninsula and other countries in the region.”
“Looking forward, we want the Korean DMZ Eco-Peace Park to be at the heart of cooperative efforts in north-east Asia. This will help people recognise the important natural and cultural values and the historical importance of the area as well as connecting it to biodiversity conservation in the wider region.”
IUCN encouraged the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to work towards consensus and to apply for international recognition of the DMZ as an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It was also suggested that the two countries work towards establishing a permanent ecological monitoring station and sites within the DMZ to foster scientific and educational cooperation between scientists, professors and students and the international community.
The long term strategy is to secure the sustainability of biodiversity values in the DMZ and adjoining areas while carefully balancing socio-economic progress and conservation, and undertaking a coordinated approach in planning the future of the DMZ.