I wrote the last introduction of the Newsletter from the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, and I write this one from Suncheon Bay in the Republic of Korea, which is hosting the 8th regional level training workshop for wetland and flyway site managers in East and Southeast Asia, supported by EAAFP and Ramsar Regional Center - East Asia. It has been a very busy time!
Site managers from 16 countries are sharing their experiences, challenges and successes in wetland management. The presentations and discussions are very illuminating and one of the questions we often get relates to the role of site managers in EAAFP. This is indeed an extremely important question. We have identified a network of sites (almost 1,000) throughout the Flyway that are of international importance for migratory waterbirds, with the hope that, if conserved and well-managed, this network can support the continued migration of different groups of migratory waterbirds into the future. But it is the site managers who have the on-ground responsibility for management and they are often doing a great job under sometimes difficult circumstances. These kinds of workshops, bringing together site managers from different countries, or, as recently in Indonesia, bringing together national site managers in local-language workshops, are very important in building confidence and capacity and encouraging site managers that they are part of a larger, interconnected community addressing shared and common concerns. So, how to build on and strengthen support to site managers, once they return from the workshops? How to develop, if you like, a Flyway Site Managers Network, that can provide a semi-formal framework for future cooperation and information and experience exchange?
Well, communication is an issue, given that we have so many different languages in Flyway countries, but there is an important role for EAAFP Partner focal points in promoting national partnerships that include site managers and also national or local NGOs and others supporting migratory waterbird conservation objectives. Several EAAFP NGO Partners have local affiliates or partners in different Flyway countries. Intergovernmental organizations, such as Ramsar have focal points and national committees. The challenge then is build a “bottom-up” network of site managers in and across countries to feed into these processes. Hopefully, this is an issue that can bring useful discussions to MOP9 in Singapore next January. It is certainly something that we will discuss here in Suncheon!