View from Canopy - HoB Newsletter October 2013 issue
By: Dr. Thomas Maddox
This month’s newsletter comes a little later than usual in an effort to cover two important steps of refreshment and revitalisation in the Heart of Borneo.
In September the 7th Heart of Borneo Trilateral meeting (T7) was held in Brunei and, for the first time since the launch of the Heart of Borneo in 2007, it was accompanied by a meeting of the three Ministers with responsibility over the Initiative. This was followed in early October by a WWF workshop on the HoB to clarify how best we can play our role in helping the three governments deliver on their new pledges.
At T7 and the Ministerial Meeting the Bruneian hosts were keen for the meeting to represent the beginning of a new phase of commitment to the HoB and, to a large extent, the meetings certainly delivered. Highlights of the first meeting included decisions to commission the first formal review of government progress, agreement on a common position on green economies and approval of a proposal to increase the role of civil society in the Heart of Borneo. The latter represented a particularly important step as it was jointly presented by Indonesian and Malaysian representatives from the HoB Dyak community, invited to the trilateral for the first time. A proposal on a suite of new time-bound targets for each of the governments was tentatively supported but disappointingly a decision was postponed pending further clarification. The accompanying Ministerial meeting was hosted by the Crown Prince of Brunei with great ceremony. The meeting effectively ‘rubber stamped’ the new proposals and topped them off with a new Declaration. This was not intended to replace the original Declaration but instead reaffirmed continuing commitments – an important step considering all the current Ministers have inherited the Initiative from predecessors who have since moved on.
From a grand event hosted by an acting head of state to a workshop in Jakarta hosted by WWF Indonesia, the WWF HoB workshop was a slightly more low key affair than the trilateral meeting but also represented another important step forward for the HoB. Delivering the Declaration is a vast task. When it comes to changing the way people interact with their environment across three countries simultaneously, WWF can only ever hope to play a supporting role to government leadership. But with an annual spend of several million dollars across around thirty HoB projects it is also important this supporting role is coordinated as efficiently as possible to bring maximum impact. The Jakarta meeting brought the three key WWF entities providing this support together – WWF Indonesia, WWF Malaysia and the Global Initiative core team – to discuss how best to achieve this. A joint strategic plan was agreed and roles and responsibilities were fleshed out, painting a picture of two national offices working together towards one plan, with the core team playing a bridging role between the two.
But in a month where the focus was on the institutional structures delivering the HoB, developments on the ground must not be forgotten. Soon after the new commitments from the three Bornean governments came a disturbing paper from Australia, “Extreme Differences in Forest Degradation in Borneo” on new levels of deforestation in Malaysian HoB. WWF’s own Environmental Status report, the second edition of which is currently in production, supports the findings and highlights similar habitat losses in Indonesia too. The recommitments and refreshments from the governments and from WWF are all very well but it is up to us to now translate this energy and goodwill into making a difference on the ground.