View from Canopy - HoB Newsletter June 2013 issue
By: Dr. Tom Maddox
This month's contribution comes from the shadows of the snow-capped Teton mountain range in Wyoming, USA. Not perhaps the most obvious place to be working on the Heart of Borneo until you learn it is the location of WWF's 2013 Annual Conference where WWF country heads and programme managers from across the globe come together to plan how WWF will be moving forward into the future. And whilst a conference the other side of the world, even a WWF one, might not usually be of immediate relevance to a forest conservation programme in Borneo, it is quite possible this one is going to have a significant impact.
One of my first impressions upon arrival in WWF from a smaller NGO was the power and potential within of the WWF network. With offices in a hundred countries worldwide there is almost always someone, somewhere tackling similar issues to you and the range of expertise theoretically on tap is immense. But like many global organisations, WWF is struggling to harness this potential to maximum effect. And when attempting to tackle issues of such magnitude as climate change, species loss and deforestation, not operating at maximum efficiency is simply not an option. The Wyoming conference marked a key point in WWF's attempt to address this problem, with the WWF Assembly voting on a set of proposals for how WWF as a whole should be moving into the future.
The 'Truly Global' proposals were passed by an overwhelming majority and WWF is now formally embarking on a new way of utilising its resources for conservation.
So what does this mean for the Heart of Borneo? Firstly it means that the Indonesian and Malaysian WWF offices should be increasing in strength over the next few years. The Network has recognised that one of the best ways to bring change in a region is through empowered local offices and significant resources will be devolved to the national offices, building up capacity to engage with government, business and civil society. With the Heart of Borneo relying on WWF Indonesia and Malaysia's field staff to deliver most of its objectives this should be a significant boost. Secondly it means that funding will change from short term project-based operations to long term programmatic funds focused on priority areas, such as the Bornean rainforest. This is key for achieving many of the 'transformational' changes required in the Heart of Borneo like changes in law and policy which can rarely be achieved in a year. Thirdly it is going to require much more accountability from the field. Donor offices will be sending increased funds for longer periods, but they are going to need to be far more sure these resources are being put to the best use. Measuring performance and progress in a timely and transparent way is going to become a central component to any activity in the future. If the network follows through on these reforms, they have the power to release so much more of the potential that so impressed me when I first arrived.
Of course, there is still a long way to go to translate high level discussion in the US to conservation impacts on the ground, and of course even with all cylinders firing WWF is still just one piece of the Heart of Borneo jigsaw, but the proposals approved in Wyoming have set the WWF network on a significantly new path of development and this should yield significant benefits to the Heart of Borneo in the coming years. I left for the conference partially looking forward to the opportunity to engage with the Heart of Borneo's donor offices and partner programmes, but partially frustrated that there was plenty I should be doing back in Borneo. I am now set to return full of inspired refreshment, with the knowledge that I have potentially just witnessed a wave of new support being released from the mountains of Wyoming.