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RCEs and Biodiversity: Local Solutions Linking Education and Implementation
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RCEs and Biodiversity: Local Solutions Linking Education and Implementation

Date: Monday, 8 October 2012
Time: 13:15–14:45
Venue: Room G.01 - Ground level
Partners: RCE Partners

A meeting of selected RCEs from across the Asia Pacific region was organized by the UNU-IAS as a side event during the COP - XI held at Hyderabad in October 2012. The meeting shared experiences and best practices derived from a range of case studies that highlighted the work of the different RCEs within their areas of operation. UNU-IAS, as part of its series of publications “Innovation in Local and Global Learning Systems for Sustainability”, has compiled a book titled “Traditional Knowledge and Biodiversity: Learning Contributions of the RCEs on ESD”. A ‘pre-release’ version of the publication containing 18 success stories received from 16 different RCEs was launched during this meet.

The meeting was chaired by Mr. Kazuhiko Takemoto, ESD Program Director, UNU-IAS; Panelists included Dr. Rolando Inciong of ASEAN Centre of Biodiversity, Bangkok and Dr. Ram Boojh, of UNESCO South Asia Office, New Delhi; other participants included members of the UNU-IAS and speakers from RCE Cha-am, Thailand; RCE Chubu, Japan; RCEs Srinagar, and Chandigarh, India and RCE Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The event also attracted guests from a wide range of disciplines who were curious to learn about RCEs and the scope of the work undertaken by this world-wide ESD network.

The programme commenced with a welcome message by Dr. Unnikrishnan Payyappallimana, UNU-IAS. He welcomed the participants to the event and introduced the concept of RCE, and its structure and functioning for the benefit of the audience. He spoke about the RCE network, process of formation, vision, mission and objectives; membership registration, scope and outreach; and work undertaken by the RCE network. Following the introduction, he handed over the session to the Chair, Mr. Kazuhiko Takemoto, who spoke at length about ESD and the role of RCEs in implementing ESD. The Chair, while appreciating the efforts of the RCE network, hoped that though the DESD will come to an end in 2014, the established RCE network will, however, continue in the future as the need for ESD has been ever-increasing. He informed the house that the concluding event of the DESD will be held in Nagoya in 2014 and that we need to prepare for it.

Following the welcome message by the Chair, the representatives of the various RCEs presented the case studies that were shortlisted for the publication mentioned above and released during the event. The first presentation was made by Prof. Sonjai Havanond, RCE Cha-am, Thailand. He shared his experiences about the mangrove conservation activities that the RCE had initiated in its country. He also expressed his appreciation for the patronage of Princess Sirindhorn for her continued support for the restoration of the mangroves and local biodiversity. RCE Cha-am has been involved in biodiversity study “Education for Sustainable Development (ESDC)” in the Sirindhorn International Environment Park. They also work on issues related to eco-tourism, fisheries and agriculture, community uniqueness and indigenous knowledge; and widely promote the “Sufficiency Economy Policy”. Prof. Havanond shared numerous photographs that bear testimony to the phenomenal work that is being done by RCE Cha-am.

The next speaker to share her experiences was Ms. Ravleen Singh, RCE Chandigarh, India. She began by introducing her RCE and then proceeded to talk about a project on water hyacinths that not only enhanced the biodiversity of the region but also provided livelihood opportunities to many women. RCE Chandigarh works extensively on understanding wetland ecosystems and promotes the importance of a ‘hands-on’ approach in learning about wetlands. Their project aims to reach out to local communities to encourage people to protect and conserve wetlands as an important repository of biodiversity. The RCE hopes to gain public recognition for wetlands while promoting sustainable development and livelihood benefits from wetlands.

The third success story was presented by Prof. Kinhide Mushakoji of RCE Chubu, Japan. Prof. Mushakoji shared with the audience details about how using the internet and social networking sites went a long way in uniting people from around the globe to work for a cause. He read out a message that had been drafted over a period of one year in response to a message received from an indigenous community of America during the Tsunami that had struck Japan in March, 2011. RCE Chubu is involved in a Biodiversity Cyber Dialogue Project that makes optimal use of Social Networking Service (SNS) in order to develop a deeper common understanding of stakeholders in different world regions on the importance of biodiversity, need for changing lifestyle choices and socio-economic institutions. Important topics of cyber discussion include ‘Indigenous Peoples and Biodiversity’, ‘Gender and Biodiversity’, ‘Local Community Life and Biodiversity’ and ‘Traditional Wisdom and Biodiversity’.

The fourth case study was jointly presented by Ms. Lalita Siriwattananon and Ms. Sarurom Ran, RCE Greater Phnom Penh, Cambodia. They spoke at length about the RCE’s intiative to educate local farmers and children in the benefits of using bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides instead of chemical pesticides. They also displayed statistics to show survey results and impact assessments conducted by the RCE. RCE Greater Phnom Penh works with elementary schools and farmers in order to reduce threats to local biodiversity. Major thrust areas of the RCE include food, agriculture and environment education through awareness creation and capacity building programs.

This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Abdhesh Gangwar, RCE Srinagar, India. Dr. Gangwar shared with the audience his experiences in working at a Naga village in Khonoma. His main presentation revolved around the role that the RCE is playing in developing communication tools and strategies in the UNDP-funded project on conservation of medicinal and aromatic plants in the State of Uttarakhand, India. Medicinal and aromatic plants are under severe threat due to unscientific and unsustainable extraction from natural habitats, and require immediate attention for protection and conservation of species with high market demand. He stressed upon the fact that if the communication component of a project is weak, then the project may not be able to maximise its inherent potential. RCE Srinagar is involved in community-based initiatives for biodiversity conservation and disaster risk mitigation.

The Chair then requested the panelists to sum up the presentations made by adding relevant information from their side. Dr. Ram Boojh lauded the work being done by the different RCEs. He urged the RCEs to network with UNESCO and partner in activities, initiatives and networks that are hosted by UNESCO. He also urged the participants to try and connect biodiversity with cultural heritage in order to ensure holistic growth and development of the communities that the RCEs are working with.

Dr. Rolando Inciong spoke about various learnings that he gained from the presentations of each of the speakers. He lauded the work being done by all the RCEs present during the meeting. He also made some very interesting suggestions to enhance the visibility of the global RCE network and to build ‘brand RCE’.

Mr. Kazuhiko Takemoto invited comments from the audience and conducted a ‘question & answer’ session before concluding the meeting by extending a vote of thanks to all present.

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