Malaysia is a fast growing developing nation and has the aspiration to be a fully developed by 2020 as envisioned in her Vision 2020. Vision 2020 highlights the need for fostering a balanced development that is ecologically sustainable. Malaysia’s natural resource base has always had a significant contribution towards the economy. Even as the structure of the economy has transitioned towards being driven by services and manufacturing sectors the economy is still very much reliant on natural resources. The major contributor besides crude oil and natural gas is palm oil, timber and rubber. These commodities have had an impact on biodiversity due to land use change. But Malaysia as a young nation had to uplift her socio-economic situation and these commodities had and continue to have a fundamental role in driving the economy. Nevertheless, in the same manner a balance must be attained so that the ecosystem services that biodiversity provides can continue to provide for Malaysia’s sustainable development and well-being in its overall development agenda. Like many other nations, Malaysia is faced with the fragile balance of promoting socioeconomic development while conserving biodiversity. To enable this, there have been many prescriptions in the past but this presentation will outline a three prong solution:
i) Enhance management of PAs through economic instruments including sustainable financing schemes;
ii) Creating linkages for Protected Areas; and
iii) Enhance CEPA to internalize the appreciation of Biodiversity.
The above solutions among others is based on 2 new GEF funded and UNDP supported projects in Malaysia. The proposed solution is intended for Malaysia to ensure that the growth of the nation is not in the expense of biodiversity degradation and to meet the Global Biodiversity Aichi targets and objectives of national policies related to biodiversity.
Malaysia has a federal system of governance where state governments have the right over land and water. A study conducted showed that there was a financing gap of between RM11 million to RM13 million for PAs. In terms of quantity of personnel, rough estimations for PAs alone suggest a staffing gap of about 546 to 672 personnel . Most of the PAs are managed and under the purview of the state governments which do not have adequate funds and personnel to manage these PAs. Hence innovative and alternative funding sources must be explored such as PES, ABS and REDD+. Besides this many of this PAs are fragmented due to land use change for plantation, roads and other developments and land use change. The driving cause of biodiversity loss in Malaysia is the lack of economic value placed on biological resources and ecosystem services, and the lack of any national accounting system that would allow such values to be considered in economic planning processes. In this regard, one of the ways to get all levels of government engaged in conservation is by having an alternative financing system which complements the traditional sources of funds (which means federal has to have an increase of allocation to states which have PAs). This approach complements: a) The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) b) Enhancing the Effectiveness and Financial Sustainability of Protected Areas Project (PA Financing Project) The BIOFIN Initiative and the PA Financing Project will be elaborated in later sections of this paper. In the 2014 budget the Prime Minister of Malaysia announced the setting up of a Conservation Trust Fund. It is envisaged with the setting up of this dedicated Fund, there will be more direct funding streams for conservation. Under the Central Forest Spine programme and a project funded by GEF and supported by UNDP, connectivity of these 4 major forest complexes will be pursued. The CFS is seen as the heart to conserve Peninsular Malaysia’s unique biodiversity which houses some of the most charismatic species in the world such as the Malayan Tiger. To ensure these corridors are created and managed, a legal, social and economic approach is needed. This GEF funded project specifically addresses the threats to biodiversity due to habitat loss, degradation and poaching in the CFS. The other issue is it is observed that in Malaysia, knowledge about environment and biodiversity is there. But what is lacking is appreciation and practice. Hence to create better awareness and to internalise the appreciation a powerful branding of Malaysia’s Biodiversity was launched in 2012. A logo was used to carry this branding and it was called “MyBioD: My Life, My Heritage, My Future”. ‘My’ is Malaysia’s internet country code top-level domain. This was creatively used in this branding.
Through the GEF Funded project to enhance the management of PAs by establishing a performance-based financing structure it is envisaged to develop systemic and institutional capacities to manage and financially support a national PA system. Technical and institutional capacities to manage sub-national PA networks will also enhanced including capacities for effective financial management. These approaches will enable effective site-level PA management. This is will provide incentive to state and local level of government to manage and conserve PAs in a more efficient way in a win-win setting. The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) is an innovative and promising approach by UNDP to address the biodiversity finance challenge holistically by building a sound business case for increased investment in the management of ecosystems and biodiversity. BIOFIN initiative in Malaysia is pertinent as it among others addresses the very important issues of resource mobilisation when implementing policies, laws and other conservation initiates. Though being a global initiative, BIOFIN uses a bottom-up approach to ensure the prescriptions are in accordance with national circumstances. As for linking major forest complex and PAs, through the GEF funded CFS project it is planned to establish a sustainable forest landscape management of three priority forest landscapes within the CFS. This three landscape areas are Taman Negara, Belum-Temengor Forest Complex and Endau-Rompin National Park. This project will develop planning, compliance monitoring and enforcement framework for an integrated forest landscape management and diversification of financing sources for conservation. This project will enable the implementation of the CFS master plan adopted in 2011. It will also support the implementation of the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan at the same time build indicators for monitoring biodiversity health in these landscapes. The CEPA approach of using the MyBioD platform is embedded in all projects and activates related to biodiversity with the aim at changing attitude and actions towards biodiversity. It was a major outcome of Government of Malaysia (GoM) and UNDP funded project entitled Capacity Development for the formulation of a Policy and Regulatory Framework for ABS in Malaysia. This branding via a logo is to be used as powerful tools to not only create awareness but also to internalise the appreciation of Malaysia’s rich biodiversity among all Malaysian and the world community. This component also came up among others with pamphlets, innovative bookmarks with pins and also a short documentary for creating awareness on ABS among ILCs was also developed. This animated short awareness video documentary at the end of the project was at advance stage of production. This component also supported the yearly MyBioD seminar series, which is a platform to share and exchange ideas and latest issues on biodiversity management. It is now seen as an important platform to bridge the gap between science and policy. A talk programme called MyBioD Café was also an output of this project. This MyBioD Café is a programme to share the complex issues of biodiversity management and its scientific realm with simple plain language to be appreciated by everyone. Another avenue that needs to be approached is incorporating biodiversity studies at all levels of formal education. Some universities in Malaysia have already started introducing biodiversity and sustainability courses to other disciplines beyond environment and biology based courses.
- The need to engage with all stakeholders (levels of government, ILCs, NGOs and private sector) as they may have a different understanding of a project and priorities. Hence demonstration of benefits (tangible and non-tangible) is important;
- Need to get political and decision makers buy-in. The approach GEF uses to get country endorsement is beneficial. At the same time to get site level participation, endorsement from state governments has to be obtained to ensure commitment and the implementation process is clear and transparent;
- Targeted CEPA on biodiversity needs to be done to enhance the appreciation and followed by actions in support of biodiversity;
- The value of conservation, will emerge through these projects and also other related projects, nevertheless the mantra that conservation is also development need to take centre stage and this is where it is pertinent for science to influence policy making. This will require a multi-disciplinary approach involving the sciences, social, sciences, economy, law, sociology and other related fields;
- Projects implemented would need the lead agency to dedicate staff (not just a project director) and time (some on a fulltime basis) and not leave it to the hired project manager (such as National Technical Advisor) as this will probably show positive implementation during the project lifespan but will not have continuity and follow through after project ends;
Both the PA and the CFS project have just started. Nevertheless during the project development phase we have witnessed positive feedback from stakeholders and also commitment at all levels of the government to implement these two landmark projects. This is itself is an achievement and by the end of this 2 projects in a couple of years’ time, it is hoped that biodiversity conservation will be enhanced in line with the Aichi Targets. The MyBioD CEPA initiative is showing some positive feedback as the visibility of biodiversity in local TV and also from the events held. A KAP study will be done under another GEF funded project on ABS which will start this year and through this KAP study we can capture some tangible data on this CEPA initiative. Some of the key impacts by engaging with many stakeholders at all levels, is the creation of the Conservation Trust Fund (CTF) as announced in the 2014 budget. The CTF is now going through the process of obtaining Parliament approval. Besides that the government has agreed for the establishment of a National Biodiversity Centre. The government also through the preliminary work done for both the PA and CFS project has used the blue ocean approach by getting multiple enforcement agencies to fight against wildlife crime and illegal poaching. This is among the initiatives taken under the National Blue Ocean Strategy.