Brunei's Strong Leadership, an Engine to HoB
Brunei’s commitment to the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Initiative has been reiterated in the recent international meeting attended by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during the Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting in Sri Lanka. The Sultan mentioned that the cooperation with its neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia through the HoB Initiative is part of Brunei’s contribution towards mitigating the global effects of climate change.
Minister of Development Pehin Dato Haji Suyoi bin Haji Osman repeated his country’s pledge at the COP19/CMP9 in Poland, “... We would also like to reiterate our continued commitment to implement our Heart of Borneo Initiative, where we designate 58% of our forest area to be conserved - a proud initiative that has also been highlighted by our leader, His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei, at the recent Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting in Sri Lanka. We would like to see Warsaw as a pivotal point for implementation of decisions..."
Strong leadership an example to follow
Flashback to the past, it was Brunei Darussalam hosted a ground-breaking workshop, in 2005, bringing all 3 Bornean governments - Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei - together for the first time to discuss the HoB and its future. Just after the HoB Declaration was signed in 2007, again Brunei hosted the very first trilateral meeting after the Declaration.
In 2011 high level ministers representing the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA
) pledged their continuing support for the conservation and sustainable development aims of the HoB. Finally 2013 saw Brunei Darussalam hosted the trilateral meeting delivered a refreshed commitment to the HoB, expressed in the Bandar Seri Begawan Joint Statement
. It was the statement by the three government ministers, for the first time after Declaration in 2007.
Under Brunei HoB Initiative, the development of the forest is subject to Brunei HoB sustainable management regime and guiding principles of sustainable development through the HoB National Council, comprising of the relevant ministries was established with His Majesty’s consent reflecting His Majesty’s support in pursuit of HoB vision.
Sultan’s leadership has laid a solid foundation for conservation policies in Brunei. It is the strong leadership of Brunei Darussalam Sultanate and his government that plays instrumental part in bringing the HoB a flagship conservation initiative in the country and even more between the three Bornean countries.
Aneta Nikolova from UN ESCAP once said this about HoB and Brunei, “For us, Brunei is the heart of Borneo, and Borneo is the lungs of the Asia-Pacific. This is the last tropical forest in our region that has been (kept) intact and the efforts of the Sultanate here is a remarkable example for the whole region."
Small but profoundly significant
Brunei’s forests are known the best preserved in the region, with seven forest types including peat swamp forest, it stands a unique country, as it is surrounded by those large variants of forest nearby its capital city. Estimated of 90,000 hectares, the Brunei's peat swamp forest covers almost 20% of the entire area of eastern part of Belait District and its canopy’s edge forms as a natural physical feature boundary between Belait District, and Miri or Baram in Sarawak, Malaysia.
The preservation of the Belait peat swamp forests is of global importance, as it is a carbon sink, so important in the mitigation of climate change, and could possibly be the best conserved forest of its kind in the world.
Being a small country with a land area of 576,532 hectares, such a limited land resource, is definitely a big challenge to Brunei Darussalam to promote sustainable development. Although at the moment Brunei enjoys revenues from oil and natural gas, and that forest exploitation on a big scale is not required yet, Brunei recognized that any improper development for economic reason will cause immediate devastating impact to the overall ecosystems and the loss of its long-term advantages in the future.
“Therefore development of the forest must follow the Brunei HoB sustainable management regime and guiding principles of sustainable development through our HoB National Council,” said Mahmud Yussof, CEO of the Heart of Borneo Centre
“We are promoting environmental education and awareness, with focus on community outreach program including preservation of indigenous knowledge. We realize those factors are essential to effectively protect and conserve Brunei’s forest areas.
We have to convince that protection of Brunei’s forest areas, as national treasure, is actually the economic development itself. Within the context of ecosystem-based economic approach, carbon payments from these areas can provide a sustainable source of income to support the country’s economic diversification efforts. On the other hand, the local communities will also benefits from the conservation governance, because the rich diversity of mammals, birds, orchids, insects and amphibians on these areas will attract a steady inflow of ecotourists and nature enthusiasts. These activities will provide an additional income for the local communities.” Yussof further explained.
Cultivating supports from Brunei youth people
In September, the International School of Brunei
(ISB) donated $30,000 to support the HoB community-based forest rehabilitation in Brunei Darussalam. Over one million trees have been planted in Brunei alone under the initiative, and HoB has acted as an important platform for the awareness and advocacy of environmental conservation.
ISB is an active supporter of theHoB Initiative and have been involved in pursuing domestic nature conservation action with “A Million Tree Planting Project” not only in Brunei area, but also extending the effort to help similar campaign in their Malaysia’s Sarawak and Sabah. This is part of a global campaign led by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called The Billion Tree Campaign.