My Fellowship Experience: Attending the ASEAN Conference on Biodiversity (ACB) 2016

The 2nd ASEAN Conference on Biodiversity (ACB 2016) was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 15-19 February 2016 with more than 500 delegates from 10 ASEAN Member States: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore,Thailand and Viet Nam. Participants are mainly academics, scientists, research community, business sector, media and international conservation organization such as UNEP, WWF and GIZ. The ACB 2016 was organized by The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB, based in Manila, Philippines) in cooperation with the Royal Thai Government’s Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment.

With the theme of Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, ACB 2016 aims to provide an opportunity for biodiversity stakeholders to enhance partnerships and form new alliances; discuss ways and means to financially sustain biodiversity conservation in ASEAN; and engage more sectors in biodiversity conservation and advocacy.

The conference features plenary sessions on biodiversity and their inter-linkages with sustainable development, health and business. The breakout sessions provided more in-depth discussions on the Aichi Targets; application of the ecosystem-based approach to biodiversity conservation; biodiversity information management; access and benefit sharing; sustainable finance; expanded role of the ACB Scientific Advisory Committee; and climate change. Participants had a chance to see Thailand’s biodiversity conservation measures up close, which includes a visit to KhaoYai National Park, Thailand’s first national park and ASEAN Heritage Park and Khao Kheow Open Zoo.

Group photo with delegates
ASEAN-US Biodiversity Fellows enjoying at Access and benefit sharing of policy session

I had a chance to attend the Conference as an ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellow with the other fellows (Paul, Vanny and Jirawat) with financial support from PROGRESS (USAID- funded project). The conference was huge providing very limited question and discussion on presentations. The conference was dominated by high-ranking officials because of its decision making process and time limitation. Fellows have limited opportunity to learn, however we had a lot of discussion and communication outside of the sessions with various levels of scientists and organizations. I think these benefit us and meet our expectation in enhancing our capacity building, increased our science communication and networking. Discussions with government representatives and scientists will contribute to our voice as fellows at the conference. The Myanmar delegate was led by U Win Naing Thaw, Director and Head of Forestry Department, MOECAF took as a chair to many sessions in this event which I joined, and allowing me to see the ministry’s goal and action plans. I also participated in an open and friendly discussion dealing with biodiversity conservation and management plan, Aichi Targets implementation and other matters regarding regional biodiversity at lunch and tea time.

On 18 February, I joined a field visit to Khao Kheow Open Zoo.  The Zoo is fascinating and wonderful natural habitat located at green mountain forest in Chonburi Province; not only for enjoying their wildlife captive management but also experiencing presentation on their advanced technology for endangered species breeding and conservation program (AI, IVF, sperm and eggs preservation, DNA and Molecular Based) such as Clouded leopard, Panda and Eld Dear and so on.

Insight from ACB Conference will be part of the Fellowship recommendations for biodiversity sustainability to ACB and Host ministry (forestry department), such as

  1. Provide funding for taxonomy study by ACB and Forest Department, MOECAF Myanmar: Taxonomy is basically important to identify existing natural biodiversity among the region.
  2. The Forestry Department, Myanmar should take action against illegal wildlife trade.
  3. The Fishery Department, Myanmar with coordination with ACB, should strengthen the aquaculture and farming to ensure food security.

In conclusion, our experience in attending the ACB Conference focused mostly on information sharing, communication and networking, and seeing how to link science to policy making. The sessions were very informative and provided benefits to increase fellows’ capacity building and support the implementation of fellow’s action plan.

 

 

About the Writer: Ko Myint, a Fellow under the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellowship, is a Lecturer at Zoology Department in University of Yangon, Myanmar. He received his B.Sc in 2000 and M.Sc in 2002 from the University of Yangon, and continued his Ph.D study with a specialization on “Herpetology”. His dissertation title was “Ecology and Nesting Behavior of Sea Turtles in Ayeyawady Delta Region, Myanmar” and was awarded with a partial grant by the NEF (Nagoya Natural Environment Foundation, Japan) through a local NGO, Forest Resources Environment Development and Conservation Association (FREDA), Myanmar. After finishing his Ph.D in 2007, he teaches and conducts research on biodiversity conservation. He believes that reptiles and amphibians diversity and population study is interesting as venerable and lesser known species. Under the Fellowship, he is currently assigned to work with the Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division, under the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF). Ko Myint believes that the Fellowship is a great opportunity for him; not only to improve his knowledge and expertise but also to better understand the policy making process and to network within the ASEAN and the US scientists and policy makers.