The IUCN and UNDP regional coastal initiative Mangroves for the Future (MFF) held its 14th Steering Committee meeting in Yangon to assess achievements over the past year and discuss the programme's sustainability beyond 2018.
Held from 28 to 29 September, and hosted by the Forest Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, the meeting began with an inauguration ceremony. Guests of honour at the ceremony included Mr Khin Maung Ye, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation; Dr Nyi Nyi Khaw, Director General for the Forest Department; Ms Aban Marker Kabraji, Regional Director for IUCN Asia; Mr Gordon Johnson, Regional Cluster Leader for UNDP in Asia and the Pacific; and Dr Steen Christensen, MFF Coordinator.
“Being a member of Mangroves for the Future is important for Myanmar as we work towards the effective conservation and management of coastal resources,” said Mr Khin Maung Ye. “With great expectations we gather here at this meeting to share the experience and knowledge gained by each member country, as well as present best practices that are beneficial for local communities through ecosystem-based management approaches,” he added.
“Today we are all fairly clear about the issues facing the long-term sustainable management of Myanmar’s coastal resources, and the need for coordinated collective action to address them. This is not only for the long term interests of Myanmar, but for the interests of the global environment as a whole,” said Ms Aban Marker Kabraji in her opening remarks.
Following the inauguration, the Steering Committee reviewed the progress made by the programme over the last year. Emphasising the importance of sharing experiences and best practice across the programme, the committee recommended that a regional thematic knowledge exchange event be hosted during 2018 to communicate lessons learned with a wider audience.
On the second day of the meeting, the participants discussed strategic priorities and expectations for the programme’s sustainability through 2018 and beyond. The regional secretariat provided updates on the programme’s sustainability plans, which focus on institutionalising the unique governance platforms of the programme, seeking opportunities to integrate MFF approaches into policy and planning, strengthening engagement with the private sector, and pursuing additional funding to support the programme vision of healthy coastal ecosystems for a prosperous and secure future for coastal communities.
The MFF programme continues to evolve and address priority issues in coastal ecosystems management. MFF plans to build on the success of the initiative over the last 10 years and address the role of these ecosystems, particularly mangroves, in both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) has already committed to funding the inception phase of a new component of the MFF programme which focuses on integrating mangrove forest ecosystems in climate change mitigation responses. Asia has the largest extent of mangroves in the world, with significant capacity to capture and store carbon, particularly below ground. However, Asia also has the highest rate of mangrove deforestation of any region in the world. When mangroves are cleared for other land uses, the carbon stored in the trees and soil is released into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. By including mangroves in mitigation initiatives such as REDD+, there is an opportunity to reduce these emissions and also reinforce the ability of both ecosystems and communities to cope with climatic variations.
Following the meeting, on 30 September, MFF hosted a learning event led by Mr Timothy Boyle, the UN-REDD Regional Coordinator for UNDP Bangkok. Attended by more than 50 coastal management practitioners from across Asia, participants enhanced their knowledge of REDD+ and discussed how and where mangrove forest ecosystems complement the REDD+ agenda from a policy and practical perspective.
A field trip to the Gulf Of Mottama, one of the world’s largest mudflats and a Ramsar site, was also organised for meeting participants to learn about community-led coastal management activities being implemented there.
Mangroves for the Future (MFF) is a partnership-based regional initiative which promotes investment in coastal ecosystem conservation for sustainable development. MFF focuses on the role that healthy, well-managed coastal ecosystems play in building the resilience of ecosystem-dependent coastal communities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The initiative uses mangroves as a flagship ecosystem, but MFF is inclusive of all types of coastal ecosystem, such as coral reefs, estuaries, lagoons, sandy beaches, sea grasses and wetlands. MFF is co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, and is funded by Danida, Norad, and Sida and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Thailand.