Why transboundary conservation matters | WWF
Why transboundary conservation matters

Posted on 28 September 2018

Although Star Wars is a science fiction story from a galaxy far far away, there are lessons that can be learnt in how we need to address the challenge of balancing development without imparting negative repercussions to achieve human empowerment that sustainably respects the nature.
By: Iwan Wibisono (Heart of Borneo Leader) and Aditya Rahman (Program Development Consultant of WWF HoB Programme)

George Lucas’s cult classic Star Wars often depicts Master Yoda as a Jedi master who always teaches his padawan (Jedi in training) to keep the balance of the force between the light and the dark side; essentially good vs evil.   

The potential power of the force is strong but is easily misused and trap people to cross to the dark side of the force. In the real world, economic development can be illustrated as the light side with virtuous impact as an instrument to improve people’s welfare and eradicate poverty. But when those efforts are implemented unsustainably, it risks of crossing to the dark  side  and  become  a  driving  force  of  natural  resources  degradation. Unsustainable practices  of  development  are  transforming  the  industry  just  like  when  Anakin  Skywalker transformed into Darth Vader.  

Although Star Wars is a science fiction story from a galaxy far far away, there are lessons that can be learnt in how we need to address the challenge of balancing development without imparting negative repercussions to achieve human empowerment that sustainably respects the nature. To achieve this, joint efforts is key to ensure that human development stay within sustainable or green corridors.  

The Jedi always work collectively, as it can harness and unlock limitless potential when put into  the  context  of  impact  that  can  be  achieved  when  three  or  more  Countries combine forces for the sake of transboundary conservation and low carbon development. 

Global rise of temperature readings shows that in 1901, the planet’s surface warmed by 0.7-0.9˚  Celsius  per  century,  yet  that rate  has  doubled  in  1975  to  1.5-1.8˚ Celsius  per century according to the international State of the Climate in 2017 report.  

The warming, resulting from trapped heat within the earth’s atmosphere (the “greenhouse effect”)  is  primarily driven by human activity, in accordance  to the findings present  in  the Intergovernmental  Panel  on Climate  Change  (IPCC)  Fifth  Assessment  Report.  Beside  the energy sector, agricultural and land conversion activities are among the contributing factors to this trend. 

This is a challenge faced by everyone, as natural resources destruction and degradation and its adverse effects are affecting ecosystems globally and not only isolated in countries where industrial  activities  are  most  active.  This  is  why  there  is  little  disagreement  among conservation  scientists  today  that  conservation  efforts,  especially  those  aimed  to  most effectively protect habitats and biodiversity should occur at the ecosystem level.  

This  train  of  thought  have  led  to  the  need  to  transcend  political  and  administrative geographical boundaries. Beyond all the complexity that lies in the road ahead, for the sake of the future of biodiversity and species, transboundary conservation is not an option, but a necessity. 

Declared  in  2007,  the  Heart  of  Borneo  (HoB)  Initiative  is  a  transboundary  collaboration among Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia to unlock conservation and sustainable development that  improves  social  welfare  while  minimizing  deforestation,  forest  degradation, and associated loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. 

The HoB Initiative is crucial not only because it is the pioneering model for transboundary conservation in Southeast Asia, but due to the fact that the Initiative covers approximately 30% of the Island’s land area, more than 22 million hectares of tropical rainforest spanning across three countries will see benefit if the cooperation and commitment between member states comes into fruition.  

Furthermore, the transboundary tropical forest is home to an astounding 6% of the world’s biodiversity and is one of the planet’s richest treasure troves. 

Due to the complexity of it being an international cooperation in nature, a priority challenge faced by the Initiative is the need to harmonize plans under HoB with current national and sub-national development plans to ensure that efforts being done reflect economic, social, climate, biodiversity, and poverty reduction objectives. 
 
Yet it is alarmingly necessary for HoB and its member countries to overcome such barriers. Economic activities are having significant repercussions in the area’s natural capital and is causing degradation to its capacity to sustainably provide ecosystem goods and services. 
 
“Business-as-usual” practices that often pivots on unsustainable use of natural resources are without  a  doubt  causing  negative  impacts  on  ecosystems,  biodiversity,  and  the  quality  of social health and livelihoods especially forest-dependent communities.  

Yet even if each respective State develops their own strategy in conserving the ecosystem, as pointed above these areas transcend political border meaning that actions in one part of the area will undoubtedly affect other parts of the area. This is where a proverbial handshake is  necessary  between  States  to  at  least  ensure  that  what  is  being  done  in  each  of  their respective  geographies  is  aligned  with  one  another,  to  prevent  backlash  and  counter-productive actions. 

This will be the focus of this year’s Trilateral Meeting among HoB members, to be held on 27-28 September 2018 in  Miri,  Sarawak,  Malaysia,  with  a  particular  focus  to  reignite  the Initiative  in  conjunction  to  the  global  momentum  of  international  commitment  to  fight climate change.  

Even  beyond  intensifying  cooperation,  one  of  the  focuses  that  the  Trilateral  Meeting  will look at is how to secure financial sustainability that is in line with low-carbon development in the area, as there is massive potential to be unlocked when participation from the public and private sector are increased.  

This starts with high-level signals to help drive support and commitment at local level, which is a key recipe for the success of a transboundary sustainable development and conservation approach such as the HoB Initiative.  

A  strong  and  wise  Jedi  master  like  Yoda  or  Obi  Wan  Kenobi  is  nothing  without  the cooperation and commitment of all its Jedi Warriors, much like how the HoB Initiative will not  be  able  to  achieve  significant  progress  if  not  supported  by  its  member  countries  and relevant  stakeholders  in  order  to  facilitate  transboundary  cooperation  for  sustainable development and conservation. 
Domini Wirz, Heart of Borneo, HoB, INKO
Deep in the Heart of Borneo
© Domini Wirz/INKO/WWF-Indonesia
Raymond Alfred, WWF Malaysia, Sabah, Borneo Elephant, Heart of Borneo, Malaysia
Elephants often travel through palm oil plantation.
© WWF-Malaysia/Raymond Alfred
Gunung lumut, heart of borneo, central kalimantan, hob, kus ed herianto, photovoices
A view of the community forest at Muara Mea Village. Many tree species are found in this forest and used by the community for building houses and boats. During the bird season, many types of bird species such as Greater Green Leafbird (Cucak Hijau) and others, can also be seen
© Kus Edi Herianto/Photovoices Intl-WWF/HoB
Proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus). These monkeys are living highly specialized lives in the mangrove forest. Endangered species. South-East Asia.
© Martin Harvey / WWF